Gardening, How To, Paul Peacock - Mr Digwell, Planting

How to Plant a Bare Rooted Tree

Dig a big hole
Dig a big hole

November is the ideal time for planting bare rooted trees. Essentially this is a tree grafted onto a root that controls the growth of the tree.

In recent times there has been a move away from grafted plants, especially in roses. You can buy ‘own root’ roses, mostly imported from America. But the majority of trees and shrubs come with grafted roots. The root is called the ‘stock’, the shoot is called the ‘scion’. The joint is usually a little lump known as the graft.

Some roots produce small trees, and are known as ‘dwarfing stock’ some produce whoppers. For the majority of gardens, and fruit trees, I would go for a ‘semi-dwarfing stock’ that gives a plant of around eight to ten feet.

Dig a hole twice the size of the root in depth and three times in diameter. Half fill the bottom with a good rich well rotted compost and then position the plant with the graft just above the level of the soil. Infill and firm in, firm in a lot with the heel of your boot. Give a top dressing of compost as a mulch and then knock in your support, well away from the root.

Use a proper tree tie, rather than a bit of string, to hold the tree in place.

If it is a fruit tree, feed in the Spring, but do not let fruit set – just pull them off. Don’t collect any fruit for at least three years, but keep feeding well in the Spring and mulch in the winter. It sounds a long time, but remember you will collecting fruit for a good decade or two, so it’s worth the wait.

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Paul Peacock studied botany at Leeds University, has been the editor of Home Farmer magazine, and now hosts the City Cottage online magazine. An experienced gardener himself, his expertise lies in the world of the edible garden. If it clucks, quacks or buzzes, Paul is keenly interested.

He is perhaps best known as Mr Digwell, the cartoon gardener featured in The Daily Mirror since the 1950s. As Mr Digwell he has just published his book, A Year in The Garden. You can also see more about him on our Mr Digwell information page.

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