Planting Trees

Planting Bare-root Trees

Choosing Trees:

Carefully select your trees in accordance with what you can see  – Very few sites will be suitable for a wide range of species. Decide upon your objectives – perhaps conservation, timber production or shelterbelts – and plan accordingly.

If you live in an exposed site, or near the coast, your choice of species will be restricted. You may have to create shelterbelts in order to introduce species which are not already present.

New Native Woodlands

We cannot expect to create, by planting, the complete bio-diversity of ancient woodlands, but by the sympathetic planting of locally native species, we can establish habitats within which flora and fauna will flourish.

Plant locally native species (see www.nhm.ac.uk/science/projects/fff) with perhaps 60% large trees (oak, ash, hornbeam etc.), 30% mixed broadleaves (birch, rowan, crab apple, field maple etc.) and 10% woody shrubs (hazel, thorn, spindle, guilder rose etc.)

Plant about 1600 trees per hectare, but leave areas of open space to encourage biodiversity. An irregular planting pattern will produce a more natural effect with open spaces producing sunlit glades for ground flora.

Oak planted at closer spacings (1.5m – 2.00m apart) will produce an earlier canopy which benefits wildlife; whereas shrubs planted at, perhaps, 4 metres apart on the edges of the paths produce bushy feeding sites for birds and butterflies.

Timber Production:

Consider planting a mix of trees suitable for coppicing for firewood (ash, alder, willow) with trees that can be left to grow as standards (i.e. sweet chestnut). In this case, planting in rows (2.5m apart) will allow the plantation to be thinned and managed in the future


Quick growing species such as willows, alders and poplars can provide a good nurse crop on the windward edge. A mixture of pines (radiata, corsican and scots pine) perhaps beech, evergreen oak and chestnut can produce a more permanent belt on the leeward side.

Planting and aftercare:

Generally speaking, small planting stock will survive better and grow faster than more established trees. On reasonably fertile sites there is no need to introduce compost and fertilizer into the planting hole. Indeed, on heavy ground, this can do more harm than good by producing a waterlogged planting site.

It is important to remove all existing weeds from your proposed new planting site before you start planting. Weeds and grass will compete with your new trees for nutrients and moisture and will detract from their growth. A radius of 50 cm clear of weeds should be sufficient. Therefore, if you can in September/October the area needs to be marked out and the weed or grass removed. This can either be done by spraying with an appropriate broad-spectrum herbicide or if you are organic, needs to either be hand-weeded or rotavated before planting.

Plant trees at the depth that they were planted in the nursery and, if necessary. It is a good idea to use a short supporting stake to anchor the root, the tree should be staked low down and at a 45 degree angle into the wind.

Weed control is vital – trees will grow up to three times faster in weed-free conditions. Herbicides are relatively cheap and easy to use, but you may prefer to use artificial or organic mulch to produce a metre circle of weed-free ground around the planted tree.

Trees need to be protected against stock and vermin until established by fencing or tree shelters. See Hedge and Tree Protection for more information.