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How to prepare a site to plant a tree or shrub

Planting and growing a tree or shrub requires a certain amount of planning. There’s more to it than digging a hole, placing it in the ground and waiting for it to grow. Some plants require little maintenance , however, the majority of trees and shrubs will benefit from some planning and care. By taking a few things into consideration, your tree or shrub can have the best start in life helping it to become established quicker.

Pick the Perfect Location and Time

Before even deciding on what you want to plant, think about where it will go. Watch the space and see how sunny or shady it is. You can then pick your tree or shrub accordingly to the conditions it will have. Think about the future, trees and shrubs can grow tall and big, potentially blocking light or causing an obstruction on a driveway.

The best time to plant trees and shrubs is either in the autumn or early spring, to give the tree or shrub a chance to acclimatise to the weather before harsh temperatures arrive. Try to avoid planting after wet weather as the soil is likely to be muddy and could be tricky to fill back around the root ball.

Prepare the Ground

Now that you’ve found the perfect spot to plant your new garden addition, ground preparation is essential. Hoe any weeds, flowers or grass in the spot as they will compete with your new tree or shrub for nutrients. Make sure the area is clear and ready to dig a hole.

Watch: How to Plant a Fruit Tree:

Dig a Hole

Choose the right plant for the location and weather conditions and dig a hole. Ideally, the hole size should be double the depth and width of the root ball so that there’s enough space to fill back in with compost. The aim is to surround the root ball with compost.

Fill the bottom few inches of the hole in with compost first. You can use the soil from the hole to fill back in if the quality is good. If there’s lots of rocks or sand it’s best to use a new mixture. Homemade compost of at least 50/50 of compost and soil will suffice.

Place the Plant in the Hole

Remove the shrub or tree from the container and place in the hole. Gently tap the rim of the plant pot and turn upside down to edge the plant out safely. Make sure to centre the plant in the hole before placing. Loosen the roots to help them grow out and ensure the top of the root crown is flush with the ground.

Fill and Water the Tree or Shrub

Fill back in the hole with a mixture of soil and compost, filling all around the roots. Pat down the soil and compost mixture gently with your hands. Aim to end up with a slight bowl or depression at the end, this will allow you to water the plant effectively without the water washing away. Start by giving your new plant a generous watering then continue to water two to three times a week, more during hot spells.

Julien de Bosdari is the owner of Ashridge Trees, a mail order nursery that offers hedging, trees, bulbs, soft fruit plus much more.