March/April is the ideal time of year to check young trees. It takes just 5 minutes to provide aftercare which may help prevent a young tree from dying after the time, effort and money taken to plant them it the first place.
- Fill in any gaps in the soil around the roots and use a foot to firm the new soil.
- If the soil has been lifted by frost, firm it down.
- If the soil is waterlogged, channel/drain the excess water away from the tree.
- Look for damage caused by pests and diseases.
Tree guards are intended to stop animals (such as mice, rabbits, deer or horses) damaging young trees by eating the shoots and leaves or stripping the bark.
Check the guards in spring and autumn to ensure they are effective (no bark missing or twigs bitten or broken off) and not rubbing or cutting into the tree.
- If a guard is inadequate or the risk has changed, consider different protection, e.g. a taller tube to protect against deer, or fencing to keep off cows and other farm animals.
- Repair/replace damaged guards.
- If a guard is damaging the tree, adjust, modify or replace it.
- Remove the guard when there is no longer a risk of damage and clear away any material that has built up inside.
Careful pruning can prevent problems in later life.
- If a tree has two competing upright shoots, remove one at an early stage to leave a single main shoot. This can save the tree from possible future branch failure.
Check the stake and the tie.
- Is the tie too tight? The tree stem should not be under pressure from the tie, and should not rub against the stake or guard.
- Does the tree still need a stake? A young tree should only need one until its roots have grown into undisturbed soil to give it stability, which generally takes a year.
- If the tree stays upright without a stake, release the tie and remove the stake.
- Pull up any grass and weeds for a radius of at least half a metre around the tree. Take care to avoid damage to the tree’s roots.
- Early in the year, when the soil is moist, cover the cleared area with a mulch mat, bark or brushwood chippings, or old piece of carpet. This helps retain moisture near the roots, reduces competition from weeds, and means there is no need to use grass-cutting machinery near the tree where it might damage the bark.
If the tree looks dead, check for green under the bark. If it is dead, try to work out why it died before planting another one. Seek advice from an expert, if necessary.
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