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The secret to planting trees

Planting trees is a great way to add some instant impact to any space, follow our step by step guide to ensure your success.

Preparation of the planting hole

The adage “dig a $100 hole for a $10 dollar tree” rings true. Hole size and depth are critical. The diameter of the hole should be at least three times the size of the root ball. This reduces soil compaction and helps the roots to spread quickly and anchor your tree. Generally, the depth should be no greater than that of the root ball. The base of the hole should be loosened to allow root penetration. The shape of the hole is important. The hole should taper, like a wide-rimmed bowl. In clay soils the side of the hole should be broken to avoid constricting the root ball. If planting in heavy soil or waterlogged sites, trees can be planted on a slight mound to reduce waterlogging.

1 - Dig hole shape: Dig a round, tapering hole three times the size of the root ball.
2 - Hole depth check: Check the hole is no deeper than the top of the root ball.
3 - 
Root ball check: Check the root ball for matted or spiralling roots.

Root ball preparation

Before planting, thoroughly soak the tree in a bucket of water or, even better, diluted seaweed extract. A tube-stock tree that is ready for planting should need no pruning or teasing.
If the tree has congested roots, delicately tease them out or slice vertically with secateurs to remove any spiral roots. Check the bottom of the tube for matted roots, these can be sliced off with minimal disturbance to the tree, preventing root girdling.

Planting and backfilling

Inoculation with mycorrhizal fungi can greatly improve a tree’s uptake of nutrients. It is worth applying 5g of MycoGold below the root ball before planting. Ensure the root ball is at the correct depth and centred in the hole. If planting in a clay soil, ensure clods are broken down to avoid large air pockets that will dry out the root ball. Try to use soil from the site when backfilling — sand as backfill in clay creates a bucket effect that can lead to waterlogging. The addition of a small amount of compost is beneficial, but add no more than a third and combine well with the soil.
Back fill and thoroughly firm down.

Watering

The hole needs to be thoroughly watered. This eliminates large air pockets. Creating a basin of soil around the plant helps to keep the water around the root ball and mitigates runoff caused by hydrophobic soils or sloping sites. Hand watering is best for establishment. Apply diluted seaweed extract from time to time to maintain plant health during establishment.

Mulching and fertilising

Fertiliser is unnecessary for initial tree establishment in soil that is not nutrient deficient. Fertiliser is best applied a month or so after planting. This avoids the danger of burning roots and promotes deep root growth. Mulch is crucial to keeping moisture in and preventing weed competition. Be careful to keep it at about 5cm deep and clear of the tree trunk to prevent waterlogging.

Staking of trees

If you plant tube-stock trees with a good, strong, central leader, you should not need to stake them. Staking is for stabilising large advanced trees — it should not be used as a crutch, as this leads to structurally weak trees.

4 - Add soil life: Add mycorrhizal fungi below the root ball before planting.
5 - Back fill: Ensure the root ball is centred at the correct depth as you back-fill the hole.
6 - Water in: Water thoroughly to eliminate air pockets around the root ball.

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