How to plant a tree
Follow our guide to three of the most successful ways to plant.
When to plant your trees
We always recommend planting trees when they’re dormant and so less likely to get damaged. Tree planting season runs between November and March, although it can stretch a bit longer in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
We sell single trees and small tree packs on our shop all year round as they have their own plug of compost to protect them and can therefore be planted at any time.
We don’t recommend planting a larger number of trees out of season though as it can lead to a higher loss rate, so our large scale planting projects are only available during tree planting season.
When your trees arrive
Store the trees upright, sheltered from frost and wind. If the roots look like they’re drying out, lightly spray them with water to keep them moist.
Prepare your site
- Before you start planting, mark out where each tree will be placed using stones, spray paint or canes
- If your planting area is overgrown, cut the grass short and weed. This will make planting easier and reduce competition for water, helping your saplings to thrive.
How much space do the trees need?
We recommend trees are planted about 2 metres apart, but you can plant them 1-5 metres apart depending on your space and plan. Wavy lines look more natural than regimented rows of trees. If you’re planting a single hedge, place your trees 30cm apart. For a thick hedge, plant a double row of trees in a zig zag pattern. Space your rows 50cm apart, with 40-45cm between each tree.
We recommend pit planting because it’s more thorough and ensures your trees have better contact with the soil. It is suitable for all ground types, especially areas prone to drought, but it can be difficult if you have stony soil.
To plant a tree you'll need a spade, a tree fairly obviously, a spiral to protect it and a cane to support that spiral and somewhere to plant it.
The first thing you'll need to do is dig yourself a hole. It doesn't have to be too wide but it will need to be deep enough to take all those tree roots. Make sure you're not putting your soil too far away because you'll need that again in a minute.
Once your hole's deep enough, take the tree and push it to one side I find is the easiest thing to do because then you can see how deep it is in the hole and that all the trees roots are going to be covered which is the most important bit.
Firm up the soil - you can use the heel of your boot to do that and make sure that all the air gaps are out. It needs to be nice and firm - you don't want any frost getting in there later on.
Once you're sure it's firm give the tree a little tug and hopefully it should stay put.
The next thing you'll need is the cane. You're going to push that in just next to the tree but not too close because you don't want to be pushing it through the roots that you've just nicely planted.
Lastly take your spiral, open one end up and hook it round the cane and the tree together. Then gently wind it up to the top, making sure you don't damage your tree while you do it.
This bit's a bit fiddly so you might take a bit of practice but you'll get there in the end. Push it down into the ground, maybe a centimeter or so, just to make sure that no vermin can get underneath it and ring bark the tree. And that's all there is to it.
This is a simple method that is suitable for bare soil and grass. It can be easier than pit planting if you’ve got stony soil.
Press your spade all the way into the ground, then push it forwards to create a slit. Make sure it’s deep enough for the tree roots.
Keep the slit open with your spade and place your tree inside with the root plug about 2cm below ground level.
Remove the spade and push the soil back around the tree.
If using tree guards or spirals to protect your saplings, this is the stage to add these. Press the protection firmly into the soil.
T-notch planting is another quick method suitable for grass-covered ground but not bare soil. This method is an alternative to pit planting in areas susceptible to drought, but is not recommended for sites with clay soils.
Push the spade fully into the ground.
At a right angle to the first cut, repeat step 1 to create a T-shape.
Take the spade to the original cut and lever it upwards, parting the turf.
Place the tree carefully in between the sections of turf.
Lever the spade back out and the turf will fall into place. Ensure all roots are taken into the hole.
Adjust the tree to ensure it is at ground level, and thoroughly firm down soil around the tree.
Explore more planting and care advice
Which species to plant
Different trees have different purposes and needs. Choose your species according to the land you have and what you want from your trees.
How to care for your trees
Once your trees are in the ground it’s important to care for them to help them thrive, particularly in the first few years.
Where to plant
The trick to successful planting is good planning.