Trees & Shrubs
Once you choose what tree or shrub you want to plant, head to your local nursery or garden centre to purchase it. When you are selecting plants, remember to:
- Look for plants with fresh looking leaves.
- Check for signs of insects or disease, especially on the underside of the leaves.
- Avoid trees whose trunk wobbles in its container.
- Choose trees with a straight trunk and straight leader. Don't worry about the crook near the base of the trunk. This is where the top of the tree was grafted onto the roots; the crook will disappear as the tree grows.
- Check the trunk for cracks or other wounds.
Once you have brought your tree home, you can begin planting.
1. Dig a large planting hole
- Until the hole is dug, leave the tree or shrub in its pot.
- Dig your planting hole as deep as the root ball and three times as wide. This extra space on the sides will encourage better root growth.
2. Place the tree or shrub in the planting hole
- Remove the tree or shrub from its pot by knocking it out gently. Do not pull the plant out of the pot by its stem; if necessary cut the pot away from the root ball.
- Avoid disturbing the roots as you pull the plant from its pot. If there are roots circling the pot, gently unwind some of the longer roots. If these roots are not unwound, they will continue to grow in circles and will girdle and kill the tree.
- Slit the bottom one-fourth of the root ball down the middle and fan the root ball out to its sides.
- Plant the tree or shrub at the same depth that it was in the container or slightly higher. This level is indicated by a dark stain - called the root collar - on the trunk which marks the difference between root and trunk bark. One of the most common mistakes in tree planting is planting the tree too deep, which can kill it.
3. Fill in the planting hole
- Backfill the hole with the same soil you took out.
- Fill the hole one-third full, then pack the soil down and then water to help the soil settle.
- Continue backfilling until the hole is about two-thirds full, then pack and water again.
- Finish backfilling soil to the root collar and pack and water once more.
- Once the soil has settled it should be up to the root collar and the soil should slope slightly away from the tree.
- Do not add soil amendments like soil or gravel as they can disrupt water movement between the planting hole and the surrounding soil.
4. Care for your newly-planted tree or shrub
- Apply mulch at the base of the tree or shrub to conserve water and keep down weeds. The easiest mulch to find is grass clipping or leaves. Apply the mulch so it is not touching the bark.
- If any weeds do grow around the tree, remove them by hand.
- To see if your tree or shrub needs water, check the soil around its base. If the top 5 cm of soil has dried out, it's time to water.
- During periods of little or no rain, water your new tree about twice a week. You should provide 5-8 litres of water per tree each time; shrubs need less.
- Water the soil slowly to allow the water to penetrate into the soil.
- Do not fertilize your new tree or shrub until it has recovered from transplant shock. This usually takes a year.
Only prune dead, broken, and misshaped branches when you plant your tree or shrub. The more leaves the tree has the more food it can produce to help it establish new roots. After a couple of years, the tree or shrub will have recovered from transplant shock and can be pruned.