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Planting out your new apple and pear trees

Rows of apple trees for sale Wales
Some regard the planting of any tree a sacred act and it’s certainly an act that will benefit not just ourselves and our environment but hopefully future generations. There is currently a pear tree growing at Llanvetherine Court, Monmouthshire, studied by the Monmouthshire ancient tree identifiers and believed to be one of the oldest and largest possibly in Europe. There aren’t many things we do in life with the potential for such lasting real-world effect, apart possibly from having children.

What you need for growing an apple tree

Here at the Welsh fruit tree nursery, it often feels akin to child rearing. Daily we care and nurture, worry and cajole the trees, helping them to sustain life at the early stages. Providing them with the best start in their lives, whether in your garden, orchard or farm is paramount. The analogy continues, as advice on tree planting as with child rearing can leave you in a whirl - ask three different people you’ll more than likely receive three different methods. We don’t presume to know “the best method” this happens to be our preference and produces desired results for us.

What you will need:

  • Your tree/s
  • A spade
  • Tree stake 3”/4” diameter, approx. 5’/6’ high
  • Flexible tree tie / old tights (with permission!)
  • Tree guards


  • Seaweed feed
  • Mulch

How to plant an apple tree

Once you’ve received your trees from us, try not to let the roots dry out, you really want to plant them out as soon as possible. If for whatever reason you are unable to plant out immediately, heel them into a pot of compost. You can also soak them in a seaweed solution prior to planting out, this helps counter transplant stress, (we use SM3 organic seaweed food). Try to keep the tree roots covered until the point of planting, wrap in damp cloth or keep moist in a bag.

When you’ve chosen your location, sheltered from the strongest winds, somewhere the earth will not be sodden throughout the wetter months, ideally where you can observe how each of the changing seasons bring delights to behold, you’re then ready to plant out.

The Hole

Create a hole slightly larger than the roots that will accommodate them without having to bend or damage them. Loosen the soil at the bottom of the hole and slightly around the sides, be mindful that the graft union remains at least 3” above the surrounding earth when filled. This is important, as if you accidentally bury the graft union it will establish its own root system dominating over the desired effect of the chosen rootstock. Don’t be tempted to fill the hole with lots of manure or compost, if you feel you’d like to give the tree anything at this stage we’d restrict it to a mycorrhizal root dip, this can be obtained amongst other places from the Agroforestry Research Trust.

Once you’re happy with the roots and none of them are bending back on themselves, it’s time to backfill the hole with the soil you initially removed. Use your topsoil to cover the roots and the subsoil to finish off the fill. It’s important at this stage to firmly tamp down the soil around each layer of roots. You don’t want any air pockets and you want the roots to radiate in all directions. This is a good juncture to look for the ideal placing of a tree stake.


To stake or not to stake, this is the question!!

There is a body of thought that if you are planting out maidens (1year old trees) using vigorous rootstocks (not dwarf varieties), a stake is not required. As a maiden has less branches and foliage than older trees they will be strong enough to sustain themselves in the wind and encourage the anchorage roots and stem to thicken and grow more vigorously than if staked, thus avoiding the risk of damage from rubbing. This being said, girth growth is at the expense of leader growth.

However, if you feel more comfortable using a stake, and are perhaps in a more exposed position, plant the stake about 18” below surface on the leeward side and about 6” from the tree. Once filled, heel in around tree and stake, giving it a good watering, this will help to eradicate any missed air pockets. Whatever you use to tie the tree to the stake ensure it is soft and pliable and can be adjusted as the tree grows. Tie it at about 3’- 4’ above ground, then remove any remaining stake to avoid rubbing. Regularly checking that no rubbing is occurring is definitely worth scheduling into your garden routine. Canker is notorious at finding these potential rubbing points and accepting it as an invitation to enter the tree.


In an ideal world we would protect the trees from rabbits by rabbit proof fencing around the entire orchard, however, as well as being an expensive option it’s not always practical. If this seems a little too ambitious, you can use spiral tree guards or fabricate your own. Spiral guards must, however, be checked regularly to remove any growth or debris from inside the guard to prevent the stem from rotting. Another option is to staple rabbit netting to the stake, approximately 2’ high and a diameter whereby you can easily put your hand in to rub-off the rootstock shoots, pegging the mesh into the ground. Bunnies and voles are rather partial to a nibble of an apple tree, this is not something you want to put-off doing!


It’s vital to the success of the tree that grass and weeds are kept at bay. They are unwanted competition and will most definitely slow down the establishment and growth of the tree. One of the simplest ways to do this is to peg down some cardboard/newspaper around the base of the tree and cover with compost and wood-based mulch, taking care not to cover the graft, leaving a narrow ring of bare earth or gravel immediately around the trunk.  You’ll encourage our friendly microorganisms and beneficial fungi, creating the soil food web, as well as helping to retain soil moisture during these warmer and drier times of late.

Another, but more expensive option is pea gravel. It keeps the weeds at bay, offers no protection for voles and in turn helps to stabilize the young tree, often falling into the sway holes that can be created from the tree blowing back and forth in the wind. Once the tree is older you can also look at planting living mulch around the dripline of the tree. For example, comfrey and borage, whose flowers the bees will enjoy once the apple blossom has blown away.

However you chose to proceed with your planting out, we wish you an enjoyable and rewarding experience and we’re always happy to help with any questions that might arise. You can contact us here.