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Time to plant deciduous trees and shrubs

Now is a good time to plant fruit trees and roses. As they will be with you for a very long time, it is worth taking some time to make sure you pick the right spot and be fussy about their planting.

Being careful about where to plant them means they will have less problems with diseases and pests.

Start with the planting hole, which needs to be wider than the roots and about 400mm deep. Soil deeper than this is normally of low quality, so you don’t need to go further. If you do need to remove some of this subsoil, to get your depth, replace it with good quality topsoil from somewhere else in your garden. Digging into clay, as we do, can be an issue, as it could create a well which retains water which could rot young roots. If this is the case, either plant into a low mound or make a simple drainage channel on one side of the hole to drain the water away.

Most deciduous trees and shrubs will need to be supported for the first few years. Drive stakes into the base of the hole before the planting. This will minimise the risk of driving them through the roots. Wooden stakes are best as steel or waterpipes will cause issues through heat or cold transmission, and can be hard to remove.

You can spread a layer of feathers, hair or wool waste in the base of the hole and then cover with dolomite limestone. This will provide the tree with slowly released elements, which will be good for a developing tree. Then place a good layer of soil and weeds over that.

Try the tree for size, and if any of the roots are too long, make the hole larger, don’t bend them to fit. Put some good soil over the roots and then agitate to settle the soil around the roots. Sprinkle some blood and bone, not too much and not on the roots, and water in to stabilise. Then backfill to the top of the hole and gentle push down so it has firm contact with the roots.

Tie the main stem to the stake with material that will rot away, so it will not strangle the tree as it grows and attach a label, so you remember what was planted and when. Then prune by removing at least two-thirds of the top growth, preferably to buds that are pointing away from the centre canopy.