How to plant a tree

shot of trees from below

Here at Possible, we think trees are amazing. As well as providing a key solution to the climate crisis by capturing and storing carbon, planting trees can help mitigate some of its effects, preventing flooding and soil erosion and providing key habitats for a whole host of plants and animals. However, if we’re to save the planet, we need to plant billions more of them.

Want to get involved?

Before you plant your own tree, there are a few things you need to think about. What species you choose depends a lot on where you’re planning to put it. If you want to plant a tree in a smaller garden, you should avoid larger species such as oak or beech, as their roots can damage the structure of your house and drainage systems. You should avoid planting anything too tall under power-lines, unless you want your neighbours to be knocking on your door when the power goes off!

liz west - https://flic.kr/p/gkJbXE

liz west - https://flic.kr/p/gkJbXE

Some smaller native species you could consider are rowan, hazel, crab apple or elder. Fruit trees such as apple or plum serve a dual function of capturing carbon and providing you with a tasty harvest each autumn. Have a look around your local area and see which species appear to be thriving. This can give you a good idea of what might grow well in your backyard. 

Found your perfect match?

two older white men smile as they plant a tree

The best time to plant a tree is usually from mid November to late March, when the trees are dormant for the winter. Aim to plant smaller trees around 3 metres from your house, and 2 metres apart from other trees. Larger trees can need much more space, so check online to see what is recommended for a particular species. 

  1. Dig a hole slightly wider and deeper than the roots and loosen the soil slightly around the edges. If you’re planting onto land that is turfed, you can chop up the turf you have removed and layer it in the bottom of the hole for extra nutrients. 

  2. Check for the collar of the tree - that’s the mark where it originally started to grow out of the soil - and make sure it’s level with the top of your hole. Too deep and the stem might rot, too shallow and any roots left above ground will die. 

  3. Hold the tree upright and fill in the soil around the tree, gently pressing it down around the roots. Careful not to compact it too much - you want to make sure water and air can still circulate.

  4. Finally, add a cane for support. You might want to add a sleeve or other barrier to protect your new tree while it grows. 

  5. For more advice, as well as alternative methods for planting trees on stony or other difficult terrains, check out the Woodland Trust website.

Don’t have a garden?

If you don’t have your own space in which to plant a tree, don’t panic - there are plenty of other ways to get involved. If you want to plant trees on land that’s not your own you’ll need permission from a landowner, but if you’ve seen a great spot it’s worth asking. Local councils, schools, or community centres can all be particularly receptive. If you and your local school or community group want to plant trees together, you can even get them for free!

Another option is to volunteer your time to help with an existing project. Trees for Life offer the chance to take part in Conservation Weeks, where you can help rewild the Scottish Highlands by restoring the ancient Caledonian Forest. If a week sounds too long, it’s worth carrying out a quick google search to see what opportunities are happening closer to home. We’ve compiled some of our favourite tree-planting opportunities here.

And if planting trees yourself is not an option you can always donate. In addition to supporting organisations undertaking mass tree-planting and rewilding projects, it’s a good idea to give to organisations working for indigenous rights. Reports have shown that areas owned and managed by indigenous communities store vast amounts of carbon, and these communities are best placed to protect these areas from threats of deforestation posed by governments and corporations looking to exploit land for profit.

Want to see other ways to combat climate change while working with nature? Click here to go to our challenge page.

Skye Goldingnature