How best to plant a tree

It can be quite daunting to plant a tree as one would like to give it every opportunity to flourish in the garden. By following these simple steps, your new acquisition should give you many years of pleasure.

The same principles apply when planting a tree from a tree farm or recycling a potted tree to the garden.  With mature trees, more sophisticated methods may apply and it is recommended to contact a tree expert.

First, dig a hole as deep as the root ball and twice as wide as the container.  The hole should be filled with water and left to drain to ensure that the soil is moist.  Mix the dug out soil with compost.  Now carefully remove the tree from the container, keeping the soil around the roots intact.  Place the tree in the middle of the hole, making sure that the top of the root ball is slightly lower than the level of the surrounding soil.  Fill the hole surrounding the tree with the soil/compost mixture, tamping down firmly to eliminate air pockets.    Create a water-holding basin around the tree and fill with water to drain off.  After this deep watering, mulch can be placed around the tree to retain moisture.  The soil should be kept moist and the tree will benefit from a deep soaking once a week, depending on the season.

Enhance the structure of trees by selective pruning

Pruning can be defined as ‘to cut off or cut back parts of for better shape or more fruitful growth’.  Trees are living beings and should be well maintained to ensure a long and productive lifespan.  As such, formative pruning can enhance the aesthetic value of your tree while shaping it for the future.

There are several reasons to prune a tree:

  • Shaping the tree
  • To improve and maintain tree health
  • Removing dead wood
  • Reduce the risk of falling and failing branches
  • Prepare nursery plants for transplanting

The best time of year to prune trees:

Trees are formatively pruned from the first year of growth until they are four to five years old. The best time to prune trees is during the winter season when they are dormant.

Winter pruning stimulates tree growth and enables quick healing of the pruning cuts. Trees can be pruned at any time of the year when there is need. However, it is not encouraged to prune trees during the rainy season as this exposes the wounded tree to fungal and bacterial infections. Excessive pruning during the hot summers should also be avoided as it stimulates development of new shoots and these shoots will be affected by the cold winter as they will not have sufficient time to harden off.