How to Plant and Stake a Tree

Trees are the largest and longest living plants in your garden. In small gardens, it's a good idea to choose a tree that has more than one season of interest. You'll also need to think about where you want to plant a tree when choosing one. Trees bought from the garden centre are usually container grown and so can be planted all year round; they can also be left unplanted for several weeks provided that the soil is kept moist.

Some trees worth considering for the smaller garden includes: Amelanchier lamarckii - bronze young foliage, white flowers in spring and great autumn colour. Betula utilis var. jacquemontii - light-canopied delicate tree with clear white bark even on young trees. (Larger and with less striking white bark is the native Betula pendula). Acer griseum - good autumn colour and 'snakeskin' bark. (Less impressive with corky bark is the native Acer campestre). Acer pensylvanicum - good autumn colour and 'snakeskin bark'. (Not for limey soils). Eucalyptus gunnii or niphophila – although they can grow very large the can be cut back every 3 to 5 years for evergreen multi-stems. Laburnum sargentiana - fantastic tree! Sticky buds in winter, large heads of white flowers, bright red autumn colour. Sorbus forminalis is larger but with good autumn colour.

To plant and stake a tree you will need: Your tree; a fork, spade; peat-free compost; horticultural grit; watering can; stake; tree tie; secateurs and heavy mulching bark.

Step One: Place the tree where you want it to grow. Mark out a hole about 4 times as big as the top of the container, using the blade of your spade to draw a circle on the soil. If planting your tree in grass, lift the top few inches of turf.

Step Two: Dig out the hole making it about 1.5 times the height of your tree's container. Pile the soil to one side of your planting hole. If you have poor soil, mix together 4 parts topsoil, 2 parts compost and 1 part horticultural grit. With your fork, loosen the soil at the bottom of the hole.

Step Three: Hammer the tree stake into the hole, just off-centre, and on the windward side. Add some compost to the hole and fork lightly into the soil in the base of the pit. (If your garden is very windy, or the tree will be very exposed, you can use a shorter tree stake put in at an angle to the trunk after the tree has been planted).

Step Four: Before planting give the tree a long soak in a bucket of water, the roots must be moist before planting. Without breaking up the root ball, loosen the small side roots around the edges and remove any weeds.

Step Five: Hold the tree in place next to the stake and spread the roots out around it. Check the planting depth by laying a cane across the planting hole. The tree should be planted at about the same depth as it was in its pot - adjust how it sits in the hole by adding or removing some soil.

Step Six: Backfill around the tree with the topsoil you dug out or add the new topsoil mix. Do this in stages, firming the soil around the roots of the tree as you go. Use your hands or a foot (gently). Finish off the surface by lightly forking it over and water well around the tree Remove any damaged side shoots; attach a rubber tree tie around the plant and the stake. Apply a 5-7cm layer of heavy bark mulch around the tree. This will help to conserve moisture around its roots and suppress weeds.