Trees are the largest, longest-lived garden plants of all and once planted, a tree may remain in it's position for many years, in some cases, several hundred. It is essential to choose a suitable species in the first place, to plant it correctly, and to give it the best possible growing conditions.
Position is everything. Don't plant trees close to the house, near plumbing or sewage pipes, paths or pavings and don't plant those with a large growth habit underneath power lines.
Choosing A Tree Type
Never chose a tree unless you are sure how high and how wide it is likely to reach at maturity. What seems to be a tidy, little tree in the nursery can eventually turn into a monster that darkens the house, fills the gutters with leaves, kills the lawn and uproots the driveway. Choose a tree that will harmonise with its surroundings, not only in size and form but in the shape and colour of its leaves
and the colour of its flowers, fruit or bark.
Deciduous trees generate lots of mulch in Autumn, they let in the warming winter sun and their bare branches look quite striking during the winter months. Too many evergreen trees may mean too much shade and an overall sombre effect. On the other hand, an evergreen tree is the perfect choice to cover an unattractive view all year round. For small gardens, trees that do not reach more than about 6m in height are the most suitable.
Buying A Tree
Check that the tree is good and healthy and has vigorous, dense foliage with bright new shoots. Do not buy a pot-bound tree with roots spiralling around the inside of the pot. Always check it at the nursery before bringing it home.
Check that the tree is clearly labelled and that the label tie or price tag is not going to eat into the bark and girdle the tree. Container-grown trees may be planted at any time, except during drought or frost-prone periods.
If planting into lawn it may be necessary to use a mallet to loosen the lawn before you can dig a hole. Remove a large circle of lawn so it doesn't invade the base of the tree. The planting hole should always be at least twice the width of the container. Also make it a few centimetres deeper than it needs to be because you need to add a good amount of compost and that will build the plant up the the right height. The bottom of the hole should be broken up to allow the roots to grown down easily. Place slow-release fertiliser and a good rich compost in the base of the hole and mix it with the loose soil in the bottom of the hole - the fertiliser should not come into contact with the roots of the tree as this can cause a fertiliser burn. The root ball should be thoroughly watered before planting. Gently tease out roots which are tightly clustered around the edge of the root ball to enable them more easily to spread outwards and penetrate the surrounding soil. The top of the root ball should be just level with the soil surface. Add a bit more compost, backfill with soil and firm in. Cover the soil surface to an area about 30-45cm larger than the tree's root system with a good organic mulch. Keep the mulch clear of the stem, creating a well. A small well allows you to place some water there that will soak gradually into the soil.
Staking newly planted trees is necessary only if there is a risk of the root ball moving in the ground; movement prevents the establishment of new roots and impedes growth. Otherwise it is better to allow young trees to flex in the wind, and so develop a sturdy, flexible trunk with a proper tapering shape from base to top.
If staking is necessary, using a mallet, hammer two or three stakes outside the area of the root ball, remove the twist ties, label and supporting stake. Ties should be broad and soft; hessian webbing or old pantyhose are ideal as they stretch - AVOID any material that could cut into the bark of the tree. The ties should be tied in a figure-of-eight form around the stake and the tree trunk - this allows the trunk to move whilst still offering the tree support. Place ties high enough to stabilise the tree but low enough to allow some trunk movement. If necessary prune off any weak or low branches.
Keep the area around the base of the tree free of weeds and grass for the first few years. Regular watering is required until the tree is established. A tree's roots need to be encouraged to grow deeply so that it is properly anchored and this is more likely to result from a deep soaking once a week than an ineffective light spraying daily.
Selecting the right tree for the right site and following the above tips will almost certainly result in low maintenance, good growth and a stress free long-life for the tree.