How to plant an Instant Hedge or Semi-Mature Tree

Planting and caring for a new hedge is very similar to that for any new tree. Good soil preparation beforehand will give your hedge the best start in life.

Soil preparation

  • Prepare the ground by digging over a continuous trench or pit ideally 1.5m the width of the root ball.
  • When digging out the trench or pit keep the top soil and subsoil separate as you do not want to backfill the plants with the subsoil.
  • Remove all weeds and old roots from the site to allow for good root growth
  • Loosen the bottom and sides of the trench to make it less compact for the roots to penetrate and easier to get established, this is mainly for heavy clay soils of such like.
  • Add in a good quality compost to the soil you are backfilling the plants with, this will allow the trees or hedging to root in well for better establishment.

Unloading the hedging or trees

When unloading the trees of hedging, lift by the root ball and if strapping, cover the stem with a hessian sack or such like to avoid any damage, as this will cause significant problems with its health.

Planting

  • Do not remove any hessian or wire from the root ball as this will keep all the roots together and bi-degrade quickly with the roots growing through it, only the plastic container if they are containerised.
  • It’s always best to have the depth of the trench just slightly shallower than the depth of the root ball, as this will allow for a natural drainage and settling in the soil, you do not want the root ball to be under the existing ground level, as this could cause water logging.
  • Lower the rootball into the planting hole, so the top of the rootball is approx 5cm above the existing ground level.
  • Add in any rooting compound, such as a RootGrow feed which can advise on.
  • If you are using an underground irrigation system or anchoring system, this should be installed now.
  • Backfill the plants lightly to straighten up the tree of hedging and then firm down the soil around the rootball to ensure it are secure using the clean top soil and compost, not subsoil.
Planting Diagram

How to ideally plant your instant hedging, pleached trees or topiary to give the best start

Aftercare & Watering

  • Aftercare is doubly important for hedging and trees as the establishment phase can be longer (three years or more) than with smaller trees.
  • Water-in the hedging or trees to give a good first water and settle the soil around them.
  • Ensure plants are well-watered during dry spells for the next two years.
  • Top-dress annually with a general slow release fertilizer and re-apply mulch as required, which we can recommend.
  • Mulch the top of the hedging or trees approx 5-8cm deep to retain the moisture, but leave a small ring around the stem, as not to soften the bark in time.
  • Top-dress in late winter with a granular slow release fertilizer which will soak down into the soil over a period of 12-18months, giving your trees the nutrients throughout the year.
  • Weed a free circle of at least 1.2m in diameter around the tree to avoid competition for water from weeds, lawns and other plants.
  • You may have to re-apply the mulch on an annual basis, as you do not want heavy rotted mulch that becomes too hard in dry conditions and restricts water to the roots, it should be free-draining.
  • In some areas it is necessary to protect trees from damage caused by rabbits or other animals. Either surround the tree with a barrier of wire netting secured to stakes or place a proprietary tree guard around the tree trunk, this will also help with strimmer damage.
  • With hedging, it is a good practice to lightly clip them after planting, as long as you avoid extreme weather conditions, such as frost/snow or hot/direct sun. This will give them an even line for growth and bud out well in the spring.

Remember

Here are a few things to remember in order to get your hedging or trees off to the best start.

Establishment: Good growing conditions are essential to get your tree off to the best start once planted into your garden or containers. Ensure it has adequate water, fertiliser, light and good soil to begin with, and you shouldn’t encounter many problems.

  • Planting too deep: This is a common cause of tree death. It is imperative to plant at the same depth that the tree was growing in the nursery.

Pests and diseases:

  • Deer, rabbits and voles can readily ring-bark a young tree so fitting a tree guard immediately after planting is vital.
  • Brown leaves can cause worry, as can a greyish-white coating to the foliage which usually indicates a problem with powdery mildew.