PLANTING CONTAINER-GROWN TREES AND SHRUBS
Prepare the planting hole
Remove any perennial weed cover before planting. This may involve applying a herbicide or digging out deep-rooted weeds. The next step is to prepare a planting site well in advance. For trees, a month in advance is recommended.
On light, sandy soils, dig in organic matter at a rate of 9-16kg per m/sq. This may include spent compost, leafmould, farmyard manure or green manure to enhance the soil quality.
On heavy, clay soils first improve the drainage problems before adding material to improve the fertility of the soil, such as leaf mould, old grow bag compost, and garden compost. Add this at a rate of 2-3kg per m/sq, preferably in late autumn, allowing it until spring to break down. Letting the soil settle will improve its aeration and texture.
Once these preparations have been completed, dig a planting hole three times the width and twice the depth of the existing root system. Although this may not always be practical, it is worth getting close to this as the rapid establishment of your tree or shrub will most certainly depend on the quality of the planting hole. The easiest way to mark out the hole is to skewer a stick into the centre of the proposed planting hole and attach a piece of string, the length of which is at least three times the width of the existing root system. Mark a circle of the ground with some sand or bark. Then get digging!
Prepare the plant
Soak the root ball thoroughly, in the container, before planting, as peat and several peat substitute composts are extremely reluctant to take up water once they have dried out. Soak for 1-2 hours – certainly until the last bubbles have finished rising.
Let it drain properly before removing the pot, otherwise a rush of water might disturb the root ball and cause damage.
Prepare the “planting mixture” on a day when the soil is reasonably dry and friable (forms into crumbs) – 1 part topsoil, 1 part moist peat substitute (or leaf mould, old grow bag compost or garden compost) and 3 handfuls of Bone Meal per barrow load. Keep this mixture in a shed or garage until you are ready to start planting.
Fork over the bottom of the planting hole and fill the base of the hole with “planting mixture” up to the level required in order to leave the correct height above it for the plant/tree.
Place the plant so that the nursery-mark (the old soil level) is level with the soil surface. In fruit trees make sure that the union between rootstock and the grafted stem is kept well above the ground level. Cut down the side of the container when it is stood on the base of the hole and remove it carefully.
For trees and large shrubs, drive in a wooden stake, that has been treated with preservative, at 45 degrees to the stem, on the side away from which the prevailing wind blows. Alternatively two short stakes can be used with a cross-bar. Tie the stake(s) to the stem.
Fill the space between the soil ball and the sides of the hole with planting mixture. Never use ordinary soil. Firm down the planting mixture with your hands, or toe of your shoe (not the heel, as it is strong enough to break roots) as you fill in the planting mixture. Only when you get to the top surface can you use your heel to tread in the planting mixture. (The roots need oxygen around them, but large air pockets will fill with water and turn to ice during a prolonged frost and will damage the root hairs.) Create a slight ridge around the edge of the planting hole, so creating a shallow water-retaining basin.
Once planted the new tree or shrub should be watered thoroughly.
In spring place a mulch of well-rotted manure around the base of the tree or shrub – not touching the bark, and extending out at least as far as the original planting hole.
During the first growing season keep the soil moist and occasionally spray the leaves on warm evenings. On fruit trees, remove all blossom in the first spring after planting.
Check the ties at least once a year to make sure the stem/trunk is not being strangled.