Planting one or more trees in a lawn is a very good way to break up a large expanse of turf, and also provide some shade and shelter for birds and animals. And, of course, autumn is the best time to plant trees. But how do you go about planting a tree in your lawn?
1) Choose and buy your tree
There are a wide range of trees available, in different sizes, so think about what you might want before buying. Things to consider include soil type, size, and aspect, as well as whether you want something evergreen or deciduous, spring flowers, autumn colour, fruit, and so on.
2) Prepare the ground
Using an edging tool or sharp spade, cut a square of lawn turf where you want the tree, lever it up and lay it to one side. The hole needs to be big enough to fit your tree’s rootball in, with space all round. You will, ideally, want to bury your tree’s rootball under about 2.5cm of soil, so the depth will need to be rootball, plus 2.5cm, plus enough depth for some well-rotted organic matter such as compost or manure at the base of the hole. To avoid making your lawn very messy, dig the soil out onto a plastic sheet.
3) Settle the tree
Place the tree in the hole, and then fill in the soil. At this stage, it’s good to have a ‘willing helper’ to hold the tree straight for you. They can then step back and tell you if it’s not straight.
4) Cover, mulch and support
The turf that you set aside can now be cut into sections, and fitted back around the base of the tree. Place the turf upside down for 5-10cm all around the tree, to suppress the grass, and give the tree a chance to establish. Mulch with bark chippings or good quality compost.
A tree that is larger than about adult head height will also need support. For bare-rooted trees, use a single vertical stake about one third of the tree’s height, and make sure it’s about 60cm deep in the soil to anchor the tree properly. Keep it 2.5-3cm away from the tree, and secure them together. Container-grown trees generally need two stakes, on opposite sides, and secured to the tree with long ties.
5) Ongoing care
Water regularly during any dry periods, making sure the soil is wet right down to the roots. You can also help your tree to grow by planting perennial sweet peas around the base, as they provide nitrogen to the tree. Provide a support for the peas of chicken wire loosely around the tree to a height of 30-45cm.