Helping young trees to survive.
Our Tree Care Campaign runs from March to September and highlights the need for better care for all trees, in order to ensure their survival and increase the number reaching maturity. It was launched in 1999 to urge anyone who has planted trees in the past 5 years to revisit them and carry out a few simple tree care tasks, such as clearing weeds, mulching and checking ties. These actions can save young trees from dying and allow them to develop into mature trees that enhance our urban and rural landscape, provide shade and local climate change, and support biodiversity.
Caring for your tree
It’s crucial that your tree gets the care it needs to thrive. You should check on your tree at least once a year and carry out any simple maintenance needed.
As long as you plant at the right time of year and have mulched and weeded well, you usually won’t need to water unless there is a very dry spell of more than a few weeks. In drought conditions or if you’re planting somewhere with poor soil quality or that’s exposed to the wind or full sun, it’s best to water regularly in the summer to help the young trees establish successfully.
Young trees need moisture, nutrients, light and space and weeds can compete with them for these. It’s important to keep an area of about one square metre around the growing tree weed-free for at least the first three years. You can do this by hand, uprooting grasses and other weeds or ensuring there is a thick layer of mulch. Don’t be tempted to cut the weeds back or mow them as this encourages growth!
Mulching is a simple, effective way to control weeds, protect the tree’s roots from extreme temperatures and keep the ground moist and cool. It means you can avoid using chemicals on any weeds and there’s no need to use a lawn mower or strimmer near the tree, which can risk damaging the bark. Organic mulches include things like leaf litter, lawn clippings and composted bark. You should spread it around the base of the tree just after planting – a layer 50mm thick in a circle about 1m in diameter. Leave a space around the stem to avoid rot! You should top up your mulch every year to maintain its effectiveness. You can also buy mulch mats or, if it’s a small tree, leftover roofing felt or old carpet will work too.
Exposure to a cold wind can kill the roots of a young tree so check on your tree after storms or hard frosts and in the early spring and make sure roots are covered. Adjust trees to upright and heel them back in if they have moved after any storms.
If you’re planting a young tree, a guard (also known as tree shelters, spirals or tree tubes) may be necessary if it is in an area where animals like deer or rabbits could damage it by eating the tree. If you’re planting in a pot or your back garden, it’s likely that the risk of this will be minimal so you may not need tree protection. See our guidance on The Tree Council’s for tree protection measures most suitable for your planting.