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The amount of site preparation necessary will depend on the previous site use. This will also heavily influence the methods needed.
On former agricultural land, you may only need to carry out relatively basic preparation, such a spot spraying to remove weed competition, while on sites that have been clear felled, more significant work may be necessary. The Forestry Commission has produced an information note on Forest Ground Preparation (Information Note ODW 10.01) with examples of best practice and indicative costs (though it was written in 2002 and the relative costs will have changed since then).
Planting should be carried out when the tree is dormant. This means that there are no fixed dates that define exactly when it is appropriate to plant, the “Planting Season” usually lasts from around mid November to early March, but this will depend entirely on the site and weather conditions. Most native broadleaf species are entirely dormant after they have shed their leaves until spring, while conifer species are usually dormant if the average day temperature is lower than about 5 degrees.
All trees are vulnerable to root damage while they are being planted, but bare rooted tree stock is particularly susceptible. The critical factors are dryness, and frost damage. Don’t plant in snowy or hard frost conditions and make sure that all trees have the roots covered at all times by a plastic bag to prevent drying.
You should be planting trees at the same depth that they were growing at in the nursery. The easiest way to do this is to make sure that the “collar”, where the roots meet the main stem, is at ground level. If you are planting into clay soil, make sure that the spade has not left a smooth unbroken face on the side of the hole as this will restrict root development. Once the tree is in the ground make sure that the soil is properly pressed in around the root system, to prevent air pockets. There is a more detailed set of notes available from the Forestry Commission:(Tree Planting Information Note ODW 10.02).
There are a number of different things you can do to help newly planted trees to establish well and grow quickly. These measures are largely to decrease competition from other plant species, and deterrence of pest species.
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