Gardening Year, How To, Liam, Planting, Plants, Trees

How to plant bare root tree

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.

Giving the Roots a Soak Before Planting

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.

The Correct Size and Depth of the Hole Relative to the Roots

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.

The Hole Filled in with Stake in Place

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 at PrimroseLiam 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.

See all of Liam’s posts.

Garden Tools, Gardening Year, George, Hiring Help in the Garden, How To, Trees, Wildlife

how to deal with falling leaves

As anyone with deciduous trees in their back garden will know, autumn can be a beautiful, but laborious, time of year. As the foliage turns to stunning shades of reds and yellows, it begins to drop, and drop… and drop. Learning how to deal with falling leaves is a challenge every gardener must face, so to help out we’ve rounded up the best tips for you.

Why do you need to sweep up leaves?

Fallen leaves can smother the lawn, suffocate plants and introduce diseases into the soil. If you can’t see the top of the blades of grass, or if over a third of the lawn is covered, then it’s time to clear away the leaves.

Remember leaves will continue to fall throughout the season, so it’s worth planning a day to clear up the leaves every few weeks until winter.

Are leaves good for wildlife?

Some creatures do like to use fallen leaves as shelter, particularly worms and other insects. So it’s good to do your bit for the local wildlife and leave a small patch of leaves undisturbed.

wildlife in leaves

Is it OK to mow over leaves?

Yes, mowing over leaves can help to shred them and make them easier to mulch. But heavy falls and wet leaves can be tough to mow.

Watch out for pine needles

Pine needles will decompose into an acidic mulch, which is only suitable for certain plants. So it’s worth sweeping these up and bagging them separately from the leaves for later use. Helpfully, pine needles usually drop first.

How to clear up fallen leaves

  1. Rake the leaves into piles. You can use a leaf blower to help create rough piles first (or blow the leaves straight back into woodland).
  2. Rake the piles onto leaf bags or a sheet and gather up. The folding Leaf Eazi Leaf Collector is a great tool for this.
  3. Drag these bags off the lawn and store for later use.

A leaf vacuum is another useful tool for collecting autumn leaves. Look for one with a shredding function to make disposing of the leaves even more efficient.

raking leaves

Should you rake wet or dry leaves?

You can rake up leaves when they are wet or dry. If they’re wet, they’ll form a more grabbable solid lump, but be much heavier to move. Beware wet leaves can also contain mould or mildew, which can set off allergies. To use a leaf vacuum the leaves will need to be dry.

What do you do with leaves after you rake them?

The best thing to do is turn fallen leaves into compost. This saves waste and returns the nutrients back to your garden. Firstly, make sure you remove diseased leaves from the pile and bin them to avoid spreading the infection. If you can, shredding the remaining leaves will help speed up the decomposition process. Then put the leaves onto the compost heap to biodegrade. Use the fresh compost on your flowerbeds the following spring!

Are leaves good for garden soil?

You can mulch some of the leaves directly into the lawn, provided there is not too thick a layer, and send their goodness straight into the soil. You need to see at least half the grass through the leaves for this to work. Start by aerating the lawn. Then chop the leaves into small pieces using a lawn mower. As the leaves mulch, they will decompose and their nutrients will run straight down into the soil.

mulch

If you have plants that like a lot of mulch (like shrubs, garlic and roses) you can make the mulch and then rake it straight onto the flowerbed. The best time of year for mulching is in the autumn, to help protect your plants over the winter frosts.

Help for dealing with falling leaves

If all else fails you can hire a professional leaf cleaner. But clearing up the leaves is a rewarding task, and with the help of our leaf collectors, should be done in a breeze!

George at PrimroseGeorge works in the Primrose marketing team. As a lover of all things filmic, he also gets involved with our TV ads and web videos.

George’s idea of the perfect time in the garden is a long afternoon sitting in the shade with a good book. A cool breeze, peace and quiet… But of course, he’s usually disturbed by his energetic wire fox terrier, Poppy!

He writes about his misadventures in repotting plants and new discoveries about cat repellers.

See all of George’s posts.

Dakota Murphey, Gardening Year, Grow Your Own, Hedging, How To

Wild food foraging

Who doesn’t have fond memories of collecting blackberries along an overgrown pathway? Even city dwellers will have come across an alleyway with a siding of brambles somewhere. Of course the countryside is the best place for foraging, especially woodland, and getting the family out of the city for a day without spending a fortune is a great idea, if only for a breath of fresh air.

It’s a great way to get the kids away from screens and indulge in some good old-fashioned fun. Much has been written about the health and developmental benefits of engaging children with nature, so a foraging adventure will be doing much more than you think.

Foraging for food can be risky if you don’t know what you are picking. Many plants, flowers and berries are poisonous and mustn’t be consumed. But don’t let that put you off. With a watchful eye and a little education you can safely pick the things that are edible and teach your children a thing or two about nature along the way.

Read through our safety tips, to be clear about what it is you are foraging for and you’ll have a fun and fruitful day. If you don’t feel confident, there’s plenty of information available from organisations such as the Woodland Trust. Or experience day companies, such as Into The Blue offer foraging courses with an expert (a great gift idea for the nature lover in your family).

foraging in the wild

Safety tips

  • Avoid picking plants from busy roadsides, near to landfill sites or close to stagnant water/foul ponds.
  • Don’t pick plants that look as though they have been recently sprayed – check for signs of wilting or residue on leaves.
  • Don’t consume diseased or dying plants, and never eat dead leaves.
  • Only take what you need, and try to pick leaves from several plants rather than all the leaves from one plant, so that the plants can continue to flourish.
  • Wash all your leaves and fruit before eating.
  • NEVER consume anything you aren’t able to 100% identify as safe. If in doubt, leave it alone!
  • There are some plants you should never eat raw, so do your research.
  • Wear gardening gloves to protect from spikes and thorns.
  • It is illegal to disturb or pick plant material that belongs to any protected wild plant.

Test your tolerance

Some people are extremely sensitive to certain foods and for that reason it’s really important to test your tolerance of a new food you haven’t tried before.

Take a small piece of the raw edible part of the plant (make sure it is a plant that is edible raw). Put it in the front of your mouth and bite on it a few times, then spit it out. Wait for 60 minutes. If you experience no bad reaction, proceed to the next step.

Now try a larger piece of the plant (edible part only!). Try boiling the edible part of the plant you are tolerance testing and eating and swallowing a tiny quantity of it (about a quarter of a leaf for example). Wait for 60 minutes and see how you feel. If you don’t experience any negative reaction, proceed to the next step.

Try a tablespoon mixed into a suitable recipe. If you do not experience any negative reaction after 60 minutes, your body should be OK consuming that specific wild edible plant in larger quantities. But don’t overdo it.

foraging tips

Here are some tips on a good old family hedgerow favourite to get you started. Good luck with your foraging!

Blackberries

Plump blackberries are a winner for the kitchen. A foraged crumble is the perfect treat after an afternoon of standing on tippy toes to reach the most luscious and juicy fruits on offer. These divine hedgerow berries are ripe for picking in August and September and are great in lots of favourite family recipes. Try cheesecakes, smoothies, hedgerow jams, or simply mix with roughly chopped almonds and plonk on top of a bowl of porridge. Yum!

High in antioxidants and vitamin C, blackberries have great health benefits too. Be careful of the blackberry bush thorns while you are picking, and beware the juice stains, so don’t wear your best clothes. Inevitably a few nicks and stains will be forgotten about when you get to eat the fruits of your labour. If you are out picking with younger children, be mindful of the height at which they are picking. Better to lift them up, than gather contaminated fruits at doggy-leg height! You get the gist!

Family tip: make some smoothies with blackberries. Your children can set up a stall to sell small cups at the end of your driveway, or instead deliver a surprise smoothie treat to neighbours. Soak your fruits in water for 30 minutes and rinse before eating, or using in recipes.

Dakota Murphey

Dakota Murphey is an independent content writer who regularly contributes to the horticulture industry. She enjoys nothing more than pottering around her gardening in the sunshine. Find out what else Dakota has been up to on Twitter, @Dakota_Murphey.

Dakota Murphey, Gardening Year, How To

self sufficient gardening

Homesteading is a growing trend in the UK, as rising energy prices and a changing climate encourage families to rethink their way of life.

For some, becoming more self-sufficient is about saving money and living within their means. Others relish the opportunity to get back in touch with nature, and transform practical skills and hobbies into a sustainable lifestyle. Self-reliance can also help environmentally-conscious families to reduce their carbon footprint, and provide endless hands-on lessons for children of all ages.

Whatever your reasons for becoming more self-sufficient, and regardless of how much space or experience you have, these six steps will help you on your way.

1. Preparing your Home

Before embarking on your journey to self-sufficiency, make sure that your home is fit for the ride. Getting a professional EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) for your home will give you an indication of how well-insulated it is, and whether there are any immediate steps you can take to improve its condition. Double or triple glazing will prevent substantial heat loss, and upgrading the insulation in your walls, floors and roofs will go a long way to maximising the efficiency of your home.

Use technology to your advantage. Replace traditional bulbs with LEDs throughout your home, and invest in smart plugs and timers so you can easily control your electronics when they’re not in use.

2. Generating Energy

The biggest leap to becoming self-sufficient is managing your own energy supply. The up-front costs of off-grid equipment are usually quite significant, but considering you can recoup your costs within around 8 years, it can be worthwhile if you’re in it for the long run.

Solar panels and wind turbines both offer clean and inexpensive energy, with start-up costs setting you back between £3,000 to £8,000. While both systems will work fine in the UK, you will need to make a much larger investment before you can rely on them as your sole energy generator. Instead, consider them a boost to your mains supply, helping to lower your costs and reduce your strain on the system.

solar panels

Complement your electricity supply with a heating fuel you can control, like wood or oil. Growing trees for biofuel will provide you for a self-sustaining energy source for life, but isn’t practical for every homestead. Oil does leave you dependent on a supplier, but you will have a reliable fuel to fall back on throughout the year, and can easily monitor and control your consumption. The safest way to install an oil tank is to speak to a professional installer, like SG Tanks, who can help you choose the best storage options for your needs.

3. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

It’s a familiar adage, and for good reason. Habitually reducing, reusing and recycling the things you use will reap benefits for your home, wallets and the planet.

When you’re shopping, try to be more conscious of buying products with less packaging, resisting the urge to over-purchase and limiting the amount of disposable goods you choose. Before you throw something in the bin, consider whether it could be donated or sold instead. Or perhaps it could simply be washed and reused for something else? Worn out garments make great cleaning rags, and most non-recyclable food packaging can be used as storage containers. All biodegradable waste should go into a compost bin or heap, ready to use for fertiliser on your plants. The goal is to let as little go to landfill as possible, and make the items you buy (new or second-hand) work harder for your home.

recycle symbol

4. Growing Your Own

The easiest step in the direction of self-sufficiency is to start growing your own produce. You don’t need a lot of space or skill to get started, and the British climate is perfect for cultivating a multitude of fruits and veggies to supplement your shop-bought food.

Tomatoes, peas and strawberries are the perfect place to start, and as your thumbs get greener you can move on to more challenging crops. Brush up on your veggie seasons to make sure your supplies are steady all year round, and calculate how much room each plant will need. Herbs can be kept on a windowsill and strawberries in pots on the balcony, but you’ll need a sizeable patch of gardens to grow potatoes.

When your harvest gets larger than you can eat, start preserving them into jams and chutneys, selling them or trading them with friends and neighbours.

home grown vegetables

5. Talk to the Animals

Just like flora, choosing which fauna to cultivate will depend on your existing skills and how much space you have to rear and graze them. The key to successfully keeping animals is to start small, and build up the variety as your mastery develops.

Chickens are a good place to start, and can provide both eggs and meat with relatively little maintenance. If you don’t have quite enough room for a brood, quails are a smaller alternative. Similarly, a few cows can keep you stocked with milk and cheese, but so will goats if your garden is small.

Whichever animals you choose, make sure they are kept safe from free-roaming predators. Coops, fencing and a guard dog will be a worthwhile investment.

6. Helping Yourself

The last step is perhaps the most important, which is learning the practical skills to keep your home ticking over. Most people can manage a bit of flatpack furniture and turning the oven on, but for a truly self-sufficient lifestyle, you’ll need to learn a lot more.

First and foremost, is understanding how to look after your crops and animals, if you choose to farm any. Next, you should be able to manage your energy supply and make any basic repairs that the system requires – you don’t want to be learning this last minute when your boiler breaks or fireplace clogs up. Other incredibly useful skills include first aid, sewing techniques, and learning to cook nutritious meals using your own harvests. Any practical hobbies you already have can certainly be used to your advantage in sustainable living, and what better way to enjoy them?

There is no quick and easy route to self-sufficiency. It takes a lot of patience, and practice, and you will question your decisions more than once along the way! Just remember your reasons for doing it, and how satisfying it will be when you finally reap the rewards for your efforts.

Dakota Murphey

Dakota Murphey is an independent content writer who regularly contributes to the horticulture industry. She enjoys nothing more than pottering around her gardening in the sunshine. Find out what else Dakota has been up to on Twitter, @Dakota_Murphey.

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