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Gimme Shelter

Trees serve many purposes in the garden. Whether it be providing excellent punctuation in your borders, housing a throng of blackbirds, or even hiding an unsightly feature on your Eden’s horizon, they are a gardening necessity, albeit perhaps an expensive one. However, this need not always be the case, though you may not be prepared for the growing-from-seed option which, while cost effective will see many a winter before producing results. One means of saving money on your larger vegetation is to seek out the bare rooted alternative to container-grown planting.

image of bare root trees

Obviously the preparation phase will be more time consuming but what are we gardeners if not lovers of the graft? Fortunately the techniques you’ll employ before, during and after the planting are universal to all sizes and species. Obviously the type of tree you choose will be entirely at your discretion, however, I might suggest some tips for the sake of quality control. – look out for signs of fungal growth such as toad stools or white growth under the bark. Healthy foliage is important too-although if you’re shopping through winter this may be difficult to check – if the leaves are tufted or there’s any evidence of branch die-back, then find another specimen.

image of planting a tree

Once you’ve secured your tree it is always best to plant it as soon as possible, but if that is not going to happen, you ought to check the roots by hand and if they feel brittle or dry then soak them in a bucket of water for a while and store them in their bags until planting.

When it comes to the planting hole, it may seem illogical, but while digging your planting hole too shallow is a common mistake that leaves the young tree open to drying out, digging it too deep is also a grave one. A good tip is to put half an inch between the soil and where the bark proper begins, soil here would rot this outer shell causing sap deprivation to the upper limbs and a speedy demise.  A good marker is to dig as deep as the high water mark on the stem/trunk.  This mark will generally fall slightly below the trees’ root collar and the collar should be level with the lip of the hole. Make sure the roots go in dripping and place them into the hole, spreading them out carefully.

image of a staked tree

As a buffer against harsh wind conditions or heavy rain fall, it is also suggested you use stakes to offer support to the sapling and also ensure it grows to an aesthetic shape. You ought to place the stakes at a diagonal with the main trunk and securely fastened with ties to avoid chafing of the trunk.

However all this isn’t worth a paper hat in a rainstorm if your hole is not properly filled out and pressed down. Make certain that soil is sufficiently compact, as this is the surest method of protecting your trees foundations. In terms of nourishment, it wouldn’t go amiss to also mix your soil with a rich organic mulch or loam and then dust the whole job with a layer of compost. Water heavily for the initial few days as your main concern is making sure that the tree is well fed while it adjusts to the new environment. After a week or so of good watering the ground will stay wet for several weeks, but that early water is crucial for the trees survival.

So go on – plant a tree and enjoy for years to come.

By Josh Ellison

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