Planting a tree

By Martyn Cox

Autumn is a great time to plant both container and bare root trees as they will take advantage of the warm, moist soil and start to establish before winter arrives.
Planting a treePlanting a tree

Although tree planting isn’t difficult, trees can often struggle to grow if planted poorly, so it pays to get them off to a flying start by ensuring your method is up to scratch. Here’s my foolproof guide.


Before planting remove any weeds from the site, either by hand or with a special weeding device if there are any stubborn, deep-rooted perennials. Herbicides may be necessary on ground that is infested with weeds. If you’re planting into a lawn, strip away a circle of turf 1m (3½ft) in diameter.


If planting a container-grown tree, dig a hole that’s twice the width of the tree’s root ball and a bit deeper. If the bottom of the hole is compacted, break the soil up with a fork and prick the sides to allow roots to penetrate. Place the tree in the centre of the hole and fill with soil, firming it as you go. When the hole is full the top of the root ball should be just below the surface. Firm down the soil with your heel, water and finish with a 5cm (2in) layer of bark chippings.

Bare root trees, which are lifted from the nurseryman’s field, can be planted in the same way, but you need to ensure the tree is planted at the same level as it was growing before. To do this, put a cane across the hole to ensure the soil mark on the stem is level with the surface. Add or remove soil if necessary.


Small trees up to about 3ft do not need staking, but any larger and they will need some support. Use tree stakes hammered into the ground vertically for bare root tree and stakes at 45 degrees for container grown trees. Secure to the tree with plastic buckle ties, PVC tubing or expanding rubber belts.

You will often see trees that have been staked for many years, but as a rule stakes should only be in the ground for 18 months before they are removed. You often see trees on the street that are staked for years, but this is unnecessary and if needed, it usually implies that there’s something wrong with the tree or in the way it was originally planted out.


Keep plants well watered and remove any weeds that appear. Check ties regularly during the growing year, especially over autumn and winter when windy weather can loosen ties – it will also be necessary to relax ties as stems expand to prevent them restricting growth.


  • Pear tree

    How to grow pears

    Thinking about planting a pear tree? Val Bourne explains how to get the best results

    Read on

  • Apple in tree

    Grow your own apples

    Growing your own apples is every gardener's dream and it's easy to make it come true if you adhere to a few ground rules.

    Read on

  • Birch tree

    Which birch tree to choose?

    Val Bourne recommends the best birch trees and explains how to choose one.

    Read on

  • Prunus Kursar by Val Bourne

    Prunus 'Kursar' and other cherry blossom trees

    Read gardening expert Val Bourne on the best cherry tree blossom, including a look at the award-wining Prunus 'Kursar'.

    Read on

  • Hawthorne

    Which ornamental tree should I grow?

    "I want to grow one small ornamental tree but I'm not sure what I should plant" writes a reader.

    Read on

  • Platinum thumbnail

    Platinum credit card

    Low rate and 0% foreign currency fees on transactions.


  • Peter Lowrie

    Posted: Tuesday 09 October 2012

    There is such waste in suburban gardens with fruit like apples and pears left to rot on the ground.We hear reports on the TV of people going hungry, unemployed and loneliness abound in our society.I wasn't born when Britain was fighting the 2nd world war but I understand these ills did not exist then and if we wish to address them we can use the the lessons learnt during that time.Fruit can be grown in public places & gardens.Hunger, Loneliness and unemployment can be fought.Lets do something.


Type your comment here

 characters remaining.

Saga Magazine app

You can now read your Saga Magazine on a huge range of mobile devices - from the Kindle Fire to an iPhone or iPad.

Gardening masterclass

Gardening expert Martyn Cox shares his tips and tricks for getting the most out of your garden.

Saga Magazine e-newsletter

Sign up to our free newsletter today

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter for all the latest recipes, gardening tips, prize draws, interviews and more delivered to your inbox every Friday.

Gardening Q&A: how do you prune lavender?

Val Bourne advises a reader on the different ways to prune French and English lavender correctly.