The hole should be square rather than round – this enables the roots to break out of the corners. It should be 30cm/12″ wider than the root spread.
There should be 7cm/3″ of loose soil in the bottom of the hole.
Hole depth should be deep enough so that the root-collar is just below the soil surface after planting (see diagram left).
Note: TOO DEEP AND THE TREE WILL DIE.
If the ground is frozen solid then don’t plant. A thin layer of frost is fine but if you have to fight your way through inches of permafrost then wait for the weather to warm up.
After planting if there are any periods of severe frost, once the cold spell has ended, check for frost-heave and re-firm the ground if necessary.
Once the hole is dug to the correct depth stand the tree in the hole and rotate it so that the most favourable aspect of the head is facing the direction you will look at it.
Bear in mind that most of the tree’s head development will be to the south. If you plant the tree so that you are looking at the bare northern side from the north, it is very unlikely that you will get head development on that side.
Having decided on which direction the tree will face look for a gap in the roots on the windward side and stand the stake in that gap. Lower the tree out of the way and drive the stake in. If the ground is particularly difficult it may be worth shortening the stake slightly before banging it in. The top of the stake should be just below the head of the tree when it is driven in.
Potted trees will require staking at an angle (approx. 60° degree) with the top of the stake facing into the prevailing wind.
The tie should be at the top of the stake, make sure you use the block supplied, and ideally a small nail should be put through the tie into the stake to prevent it slipping down. Ties 15cm down the stake allow the tree to roll around in the wind and get badly rubbed on top of the stake.
Improving the backfill, unless done over a very wide area, is not beneficial for the tree. In essence you are creating a pot in the ground which does not encourage rooting out and produces a tree more prone to windblow and drought.
Slow-release fertiliser incorporated into the backfill combined with a good thickness of surface mulch (well-rotted cow manure) is ideal. Leave a small unmulched collar around the bottom of the trunk to eliminate any risk of rot.
When backfilling, after staking, ensure the backfill is well-firmed and that there are no air pockets around the roots, if soil is very lumpy you can buy tree planting soil from your local Garden Centre, or use John Innes No3.
When deciduous trees are dormant and leafless they have no transpirational requirement. The only moisture required is that to prevent the roots drying out, it would be a very exceptional winter if that wasn’t present in the soil naturally.
Once the trees are in leaf if the weather goes very dry in April/May then a good soaking once a week in the surrounding area is far better than a small quantity of water every other night next to the trunk.
After decent rainfall, unless the soil is very sandy, the mulch would keep the soil sufficiently damp for 2 to 3 weeks. Wilting leaves are a good indication that water is required.
Beyond mid-August there is no need to water.
Trees must be kept grass and weed free around the base for a metre for at least two years.