Planting a tree is a decision made with many, many years in mind. With that being said it is essential to give your young tree the best possible start so it can grow to its full potential. With this guide we will show you you how to plant a bare root tree, which, like most plants, requires some initial TLC.
Bare root trees are uprooted and sent out around November to March, while the tree is dormant. Therefore it is around this time you’ll be planting them, however, avoid days when the soil is frozen or waterlogged.
On receiving your bare root tree you will want to plant immediately. If this is not possible then it is essential to check the roots to see whether or not they have dried out. If they have then dunk in a bucket of water for 5 minutes and then return it to the plastic packaging, making sure it retains its moisture.
The tree’s nutrients are critical to the survival of the tree and its ability to establish itself are stored in the roots. When the roots dry out the tree will suffer severe damage and may even die. For this reason it is a good idea to soak the roots in a bucket for up to 30 minutes before planting. Equally the tree needs to breath and so leaving it in the bucket for much longer will suffocate it.
When picking a site for your tree, ideally you will want somewhere which is going to receive full sunlight and will be sheltered from harsh, drying winds. Make sure you pick a spot where the roots will have a chance to grow and spread out. If training against a wall then leave at least 1ft of space from the base of the plant.
Dig a hole with a diameter roughly 3x the size of the roots and with the same depth. If planted too deep, the lower trunk of the tree may become susceptible to disease. The graft-point of the tree should be above the soil.
A square hole allows for the greatest root penetration and growth. Loosen up the soil at the bottom of the hole with a fork and also the sides if they appear compact.
You can plant a stake by the side of the rootball to give the tree some additional support if required. For a bare root tree we only recommend using one stake as their roots are more spread out. If planted in a sheltered site it may not be required and we advise not using a stake to improve the tree’s strength and flexibility. See our guide to staking a tree.
Take the soil you have dug and mix in compost so that it is three parts original soil, one part compost. You can add some further compost to the bottom of the hole and then fill in with your soil. There is no need at this point to apply a fertiliser, you can however sprinkle around the roots with mycorrhizal fungi (Rootgrow) to stimulate root-growth.
Place your tree in the hole and then fill in with your soil. Every now and then gently heel in so that the soil is touching the roots. Air circulation is essential so don’t compact the soil too much.
After this form a bowl with the soil around the tree and fill with water. This will ensure the water doesn’t spill off and go directly to the roots. In the first few years it is important to look after and regularly water your young tree, especially through periods of extended heat. Once the roots have grown out and the tree has established itself it will require less maintenance.
Liam works in the buying team at Primrose. He is passionate about studying other cultures, especially their history. A lover of sports his favourite pass-time is football, either playing or watching it! In the garden Liam is particularly interested in growing your own food.