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How to plant trees

Course: How to plant trees on your farm | Last Updates: 7th March 2017

Helen Chesshire
Senior advisor
The Woodland Trust
Biography >>

It’s important to make sure you plant at the right time of year; trees planted when it’s too warm will be much less likely to survive.

The best time to plant trees is between November and March when the trees are dormant. Avoid planting on a frosty day.

Prepare the ground where you want to plant by breaking up densely compacted soil.


Decide your spacing and mark out planting positions for your trees using the protective canes provided or spraying the ground.

To provide reasonably rapid canopy closure, place your trees between 2 and 2.5 metres apart. If you are planting a hedge, place your trees in a staggered double row approximately 50cm apart, with each row 45cm away from the other.

When moving around your farm, keep the trees in the packaging and transport them in a bucket.

Make sure the roots don’t dry out in the wind. Some sites may require “topping” if overgrown with tall weeds. This involves cutting everything down to a certain height to make planting easier.


There are many different ways to plant a tree, either as part of a shelterbelt, hedgerow or copse. Below is a step-by-step guide to pit planting.

1. Use a small spade and take cut of turf out of the ground, turn it over and split it almost in half. This pit needs to be several centimetres wider and deeper than the trees roots.


2. Dig the rest of the hole and “free up” the soil in the foot of the hole.

3. Hold the young tree in the hole, roots first, push back the soil and gently press it down onto the roots.


4. Look for the “collar” on the sapling – this is the point where the tree has grown above ground. Place this level to the top of the soil.

5. Put the turf back into the hole with the split either side of the young tree and stamp the ground with your foot to firm it in.


6. Put the turf back into the hole with the split either side of the young tree and stamp the ground with your foot to firm it in.


7. Keep the base of your newly planted trees weed free to make sure that their immature root systems can access as much water as possible.

8. Leave a ring, like a polo mint, of vegetation approximately 10cm wide directly adjacent to the base of the tree. This can help protect the roots from scratching by hens.


The Woodland Trust offers free advice and support for tree and hedgerow planting on your farm. This includes choosing species, identifying where to plant and assisting with grant support where available.

For more information and expert advice on how to plant trees on your farm, visit or email

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