I don’t need to recite the 101 reasons why you should plant trees – I am sure you are familiar with most of them – but, if you were thinking of doing so some time in the near future, may I suggest that NOW would be an even better time. We all know the maxim that ‘the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago’, but most of us have failed miserably on that one.  

However, it is never too late to put things right – and THIS is the time of year to plant bare-root trees (ie trees that are field grown and sold with their roots exposed).  

5 bare-root lime trees, as delivered

November to March is the only time of year when the nurseries stock bare-root trees, because the trees have to be lifted and subsequently planted in late Autumn/Winter when they are dormant and the ground is fairly cool and moist. This helps the trees to establish sturdy root systems over the winter before the hot(!) summer weather comes and diverts their energy into producing foliage and fruit.  Because they take up relatively little space and are easy to ship, nurseries usually have a good variety of bare-root stock available, which will obviously not be ‘pot bound’, a potential problem with container-grown plants. The biggest advantage to the consumer, however  – THEY ARE CHEAP.  A small whip will probably cost you considerably less than a fiver from a decent nursery – 3 metre tall ones don’t cost a huge amount more. Why wouldn’t you do it?  

Assuming you have now bought your mini-arboretum, it is important to keep the roots moist and plant the trees as soon as possible before they dry out (prepare the ground ahead of time if you can). If this can’t be done immediately, store them in their plastic bags in a cool, dark place for a day or so, or heel them into a temporary bed until you are ready to plant them.  

When you are ready to plant,(and this bit it really easy!),  dig a hole tree to the same depth as the tree was planted in the field (you should be able to see the soil line), and wide enough to take one and a half times the root spread.    

If the tree is fairly large, it will need to be staked for a year until securely rooted. Before planting the tree, hammer a metre-long stake into the ground at a 45 degree angle and for three quarters of its length, in a position so that the top of the stake is above where the tree is being planted. Then tie the tree stem to the stake with a rubber tree tie.  

If you are planting into a lawn, be sure to leave at least half a metre all round the trunk free of grass in order that the tree doesn’t have to compete with anything for the nutrients from the soil. Place the tree in the hole and spread out the roots, then backfill the hole gently and firm the soil as you go by pressing it down with your hands.  Leave a slight depression around the tree to hold water, then water generously to saturate the soil around it.  

Once your tree is established, lay a 2 to 3-inch thick layer of mulch around it to conserve moisture and deter weeds, but leave a few inches bare around the base to allow it to breathe.The article below is on hazel coppicing – one good way of using bare-root plants!