How to.... plant a tree

Why plant trees?

From ancient gnarled oaks to the fresh vibrance of young saplings, trees never cease to provide enjoyment.
Besides their aesthetic appeal trees serve a number of 0th er beneficial functions. They play an active role in improving air quality, provide shelter, prevent soil erosion and reduce noise pollution. Most British flora and fauna evolved in association with trees or woodland, be it on the trees themselves or in their linked rides, glades or shrubs. The wildlife benefits of trees are innumerable, ranging from the oak supporting hundreds of insects to the often unique homes trees provide for rare lichens and fungi.
Britain is one of the least wooded countries in Europe and tree cover has declined considerably over a long period of time. So, by planting trees, this trend can be reversed and the benefits of a more wooded country will be reaped. Planting a tree or woodland is a long-term investment and for it to be successful careful planning is required.

Which trees and where?

It is important to consider the planting location. If an interesting wildlife habitat is already present then one must consider the value of what is being removed to be replaced by trees. If the area is already good for wildlife, it is best to leave it as it is and perhaps consider planting elsewhere.
Select native trees to plant, as they fit well into the landscape and provide homes for a richer variety of wildlife than foreign species. Other factors to consider when selecting appropriate species include soil type, climate and exposure.
Although it is tempting to plant larger ~standard" trees, 60-90cm high "whips" will have more chance of establishing successfully and will grow much faster than taller trees. They are also much cheaper.


The best time to plant is between November and March as this is the period when trees are dormant. Avoid planting in very cold or windy weather and never plant in frozen or waterlogged ground. Never let the tree's roots dry out whilst planting.
For small trees and whips, notch planting is recommended. Simply cut a notch in the ground with a spade and, whilst holding it open, slip the tree in and spread the roots. Make sure that the root collar is level with the soil surface. Tread the split closed and check that the tree is firrnly planted.
For larger trees, pit planting is recommended and a stake may be required. Stakes are needed for trees over l.5m high, spindly plants or trees in exposed places prevailny tree stake
Pit planting
Dig a hole large enough for the tree's roots and loosen the soil in the bottom. If using a stake, drive it into the ground until it is firm before inserting the tree. The stake must be no higher than one third of the height of the tree's stem. Place the tree in the hole up to its root collar level (ensure that the stake is on the side of the prevailing wind) and spread out its roots. Replace the topsoil whilst occasionally gently shaking the tree to ensure the soil is in contact with the roots. Firm in the soil and if using a stake attach it to the tree with a tie.
Planting info

Extra care

Tree shelters give the tree a good start by acting as a mini greenhouse and protecting it from grazing animals. To keep moisture in and prevent weeds from growing, put down a mulch of bark or use a mulch mat up to 50cm from the stem.
Guarding a tree
Long-term care of newly planted trees is important. Water trees immediately after planting and then ideally weekly during the first growing season. Regularly weed around them and check the stakes and guards.
Finally, sit back and enjoy your tree flourishing throughout the seasons. At the very least, for the next 50 years!
Illustrations from The Wildlife Trust's Wildlife Action Pack

This guide has been written by Victoria Scott, Reserves Officer of the Cornwall Wildlife Trust. For further information, call the Trust on (01872) 73939

Education & publicity | Contents | Reserves report