Plant
ing is easy

 

In this section you will find information on the following:-

 

1. How to treat your tree on arrival - unpack your Eucalyptus

2. Whether or not to improve your garden soil prior to planting your tree

3. Why traditional tree staking methods are bad for Eucalyptus

4. Being supportive - how to secure your Eucalyptus

5. The process of planting

6. Planting on the side of a hill

7. Removing cross stake and belt

 

 

 

 

Planting a Eucalyptus tree is easy, but it is not like planting a Birch tree or a hedging conifer.  Eucalypts require a little more consideration and you will get very good results if you follow our instructions below.

1. Unpacking your Eucalyptus tree

Immediately upon receipt of your new tree (assuming it was delivered by courier), remove it from the box and stand it in a bucket of clean tap water for twenty minutes to rehydrate.  Remove and let drain.

Stand your tree somewhere light, cool, frost free and out of cold winds until you are ready to plant it.

Keep your tree happy and plant it or pot it on within three days of arrival.


2. The debate over whether or not to improve the soil in the planting pit.

If you have really good friable loamy soil or the type of soil that can easily be packed back into the hole around the Eucalyptus root ball without leaving air pockets, then we would say don’t bother to add compost and grit/sand. Just plant your tree directly into your garden soil following the instructions below, but leaving out the bit about compost.

On the other hand, if you have soil like ours, which is extremely heavy sticky clay (ours is yellow clay; red clay is better and our commiserations if you garden on blue clay), we recommend that you improve the soil by adding grit and compost, but you need to mix it thoroughly as you would mix the fruit into a fruit cake!  You don’t want to use a great deal, because too much compost can result in a range of other problems.  The sooner your new tree roots out into the surrounding soil the better it will be anchored and stable.

On our soil, we have found that we have to dig a hole, discard the soil and add a good quality clay loam as back-fill, because our soil will not break down to pack around the root ball, it stays in large sticky lumps in spring and autumn and by summer it has become like pieces of concrete.  It is vitally important not to leave voids in the planting hole because they fill up with water in the winter and the roots drown, the air gap hinders root establishment and in drought, shrinkage will tear the roots.

So we leave it as your decision whether to improve the soil or not.

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3. Staking and why traditional staking methods can be a bad thing

The usual nursery practice of growing a tree with a cane is designed to encourage a straight leader and trunk, but most Eucalyptus are capable of growing with a straight leader under their own steam.  Growing a Eucalyptus strapped tight to a bamboo cane in the nursery will produce a straight leader, but with a weakened trunk. We  can verify from first hand experience that once the cane is removed, the trunk bends over like it’s made from rubber; the only thing to do it cut it down and grow it back up again.

We certainly dispatch our trees with a supporting cane, by courier, but you need to remove this when planting.

In the nursery we try to grow the trees without canes. Not only do they weaken a developing trunk, but the young Eucalyptus views the stake as competition and actively tries to grow away from it.  Nobody said Eucalyptus were rational thinkers!

When planted, Eucalyptus benefit from a little swaying in the breeze; it strengthens the trunk and encourages the roots to anchor, making for a better tree in the long run. However, Eucalyptus can blow over, especially when planted in windy locations. See previous important notes on How to Grow Eucalyptus - choosing where to plant - windy exposed conditions.

So if planting in a very windy exposed location, firstly you need to have selected the best species for that environment. Secondly, planting a smaller tree is better than a large specimen, because wind rocking will be greatly reduced. Finally, deploy the most appropriate method of anchoring your tree to prevent socketing and windthrow.

See also notes on Pruning a Eucalyptus living in windy conditions

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4. Being supportive - how to stake

1 litre stock do not (as a rule) require staking support.

Planting 3 litre or 9 litre stock in a windy exposed location, we recommend cross staking with a short 1m long x 50 mm diameter stake, with third to half above ground. Secure the tree to the stake about 300 mm up the trunk, using a very soft tree tie and remove this restraint after about six to nine months of growing season i.e. long enough for your new tree to have established a root system into your garden.

If you wish to plant a larger specimen in exposed locations, it may be worth your considering a subterranean tree anchor system to secure the rootball in place. This means no unsightly tree stake, the belt of which could well cut into and damage the soft bark of your Eucalypt.

DIY timber raft: Using 50mm x 90 mm timbers, a triangular raft is constructed over the top of the root ball and screwed to three timbers of equal dimensions set vertically in the ground. This pushes the rootball down into the ground.  Over time,  the timbers will rot, but for the first six months they should prevent the rootball from rocking violently in high winds and allow new roots to establish into the surrounding soil.

Strap and Ratchett: Alternatively, you could look at using something like Arborguy subterranean ratchett and soft strap system

Platipus root anchors for stabilising the root ball in the ground.

Platipus do a small system ideal for domestic tree planting, as well as larger systems for the landscaping professional.

Always follow the manufacturers recommendations

On a final note: whatever staking or supporting system you use, do check it regularly over the next few months and again annually.  Hard plastic tree belts can cut into the thin  Eucalyptus bark and bad abrasions can lead to loss of branches and even the top half of the tree. 

Remove tree belts and tree stakes once your tree is established.

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5. The process of planting your tree

You will need:-

1 x  Kangaroot Eucalyptus tree

1 x garden spade

1 x border or garden fork

1 handful of bonemeal (½ the amount for a 1 litre pot)

2  gallons of clean water

Compost if you have heavy clay soil -  see ratios below for your pot size

Some form of support for trees larger than 3 litre pot grade - see ‘being supportive’ below

50 litres of bark chips for mulching

1 deck chair

1 cup of tea or something stronger as required


Compost requirement

If you have very heavy clay soil - you need to make a friable backfill to avoid air-pockets

Use either John Innes no.1 or the following compost/sand mix.

Compost = composted bark or coir fibre, old rotted garden compost or composted green waste (preferably nothing rich in nitrogen)

1   litre pot 1 litre of compost mixed very well with 1 handful of sharp sand or ¼ inch grit

3   litre pot  5 litres of compost mixed very well with ½  litre of sharp sand or ¼ inch grit

9   litre pot 10 litres of compost mixed very well with 1 litre of sharp sand or ¼ inch grit

20 litre pot 10 litres of compost mixed very well with 1 litre of sharp sand or ¼ inch grit

Being Supportive:

For a 3 litre and 9 litre plant you will also need:-

1 x Short sturdy stake - 2 inch square (50 mm) and about 3-4 ft (900-1200 mm) tall

                                    if in a 3 litre or 9 litre pot (not usually required for 1 litre pot)

Lump hammer / small sledge hammer for the stake

Soft Tree belt with buffer  - a proper one that is 1 inch wide

For a 20 litre or larger specimen we recommend a subterranean root anchor system.

Process

Dig a hole 200 mm (8 inches) wider than the diameter of your pot and 100-150 mm (4-6 inches) deeper than your pot.

Fork over thebottom of the hole, adding ¼  of the compost and sand mix .

Pour one gallon of water into the hole and allow to drain away (less for a 1 litre plant).

Meanwhile thoroughly mix the remaining compost etc. into the soil required for back filling around the tree.

Scatter the bonemeal over the surface of the back fill soil mix and stir a teaspoon’s worth only into the bottom of the hole. You don’t want to singe the roots!

Place the tree (still in its pot) into the hole. If staking, position the stake against the edge of the root ball, remove tree from the hole and bang in 300-400 mm the stake until firm, leaving about 450 mm or so out of the ground.

To remove the pot, un-do and remove the large plastic screw and gently unwind the pot from around the root ball.  If the pot has more than one screw, undo the bottom one first.

Do not attempt to pull the tree from the pot, because the roots will come off in your hand!

Avoid breaking off any roots and do not destroy the root ball—seriously bad thing to do!

Position the tree in the centre of the hole such that the root collar is 25 mm (1 inch) below finished ground level.

Back fill around the root ball with the soil mix. Firm down with your fist (not a size 11 wellie), ensuring  there are no air pockets.

Remove the transportation bamboo canes at this stage

Secure tree to stake (if required) with a proprietary tree belt at no more than 300 mm (12 inches) above ground level. This prevents socketing, which can result in the tearing of the roots around the root collar and long term instability (i.e. the tree will fall over when it is older).

Water in using the second gallon of water (less for the 1 litre pot).

Remove all grass and weed competition for a 600 mm diameter circle around the tree or to the diameter of the tree canopy, which ever is the greater.

Dress this area with 150 mm (6 inches) depth of bark chips to protect the roots from cold in winter and desiccation in summer. Bark also suppresses weed growth.

Avoid mounding bark up around the trunk—make it like a Polo mint,  with a hole.

Speak kind words to your tree and give yourself a pat on the back.

Sit in deck chair with drink and admire handy work.

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Other Thoughts

6. Planting on the side of a hill 

   Plant the tree as advised above, but ensurethat it is as upright as possible. The tree will quickly find the vertical and grow straight. However, to help avoid soil erosion and loss of rainwater (when/if it rains), we suggest that you build up an earthern wall or berm on the low side of the tree, to catch rainwater and assist it to percolate down through the roots rather than race down the hill, bypassing the tree.

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7. Removing a stake and belt.

   The stake and belt serve only to anchor the tree in the ground whilst it is establishing and should not be considered as a long term feature with the tree!  They should be removed as soon as possible, once the tree is established in its new location; which should take one growing season for a young tree and possibly a further year for the 9 litre specimen. 

    Next - see aftercare of trees

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Return to the Eucalyptus 'Growing Tips' page

Go to our on-line Eucalyptus Shop to view variety details and buy plants

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Grafton Nursery, Worcester Road, Grafton Flyford, WR7 4PW

office@grafton-nursery.co.uk

 

Tel: 01905 888 098

 

Copyright (c) 2012 Grafton Nursery. All rights reserved.