Have you ever wanted to plant a tree? Here's how you can get started

Have you ever wanted to plant a tree? Here’s how you can get started

Planting a tree is an act of optimism. With it comes hope that a seed or stick will grow, find the water and food it needs, soak up CO2 from our planet and grow strong and healthy. When you plant a tree, you expect it to cool the land with its shade, provide a home for birds and beetles, offer food for countless creatures and, when it blossoms, offer fruit and seeds for all living things, including humans.

Now more than ever before we need the generosity of tree planting.

Planting a tree could help save the world. It offers a small declaration that you believe humans will be here for the life of the tree to love it, enjoy its shade and care for its needs.

A tree is a gift to the planet. Now more than ever before we need the generosity of tree planting. Those who will sit beneath it or pick its fruit may not be you or your family — or even human.

You might not have the power to perform the vast acts that will change the sixth great extinction of Planet Earth but you can offer plenty of small acts that lead to large ones. The benefit of a single tree is too small to measure but, if the acts of your life are ever weighed in the balance, planting a tree will be a great one.

How to plant a tree

Step 1. Choose a site that needs a tree either for shade, beauty, fruit or birds.

Step 2. Choose the perfect tree to fit all the criteria of step one and find a site. Ask your local nursery for advice on what will grow best with the amount of care, wind, rain or lack of them the tree is likely to get. Don’t forget to ask about the tree’s height, root spread, invasiveness, possible falling branch habit or survivability in cyclones, hailstorms, salt winds or other climates in the area. In the future, the climate could get about twice as bad as it is now.

Step 3. Dig a hole twice as deep as the pot it’s in and twice as wide. Sift out any rocks. If the soil is more like concrete, dig the hole four times or even six times as deep as the pot. Deep means a more stable tree that’s able to cope with storms and wind. Deep is also where there might be subsoil moisture in a drought with trace elements that the shallower-growing plants have already used up. It’s also where the moisture will go when you water it, encouraging the roots to grow fast and downwards.

Step 4. Loosely pack in all but “one and a little bit” (a highly technical term) deep.

Step 5 (optional). Insert a wide pipe from the bottom of the hole to just above the top (ensure it’s not a trip hazard). You can pour water down the hole and know that the deep soil is getting the moisture and it’s not running off as the ground bakes or evaporates. This will also tempt the downward growth of roots.

Step 6. Remove plant gently from pot. Snip off any broken roots. Tease the roots out a little bit if tangled.

Step 7. Place the plant upright in the hole; gently push the soil around and under the roots then fill the hole.

Step 8. Now, stop being gentle. Firmly tamp the soil down but leave a small circular lip around it so that water will pool there for about 10 minutes — no longer, or the trunk/stem may rot.

Step 8. Water very gently for at least 20 minutes until you are sure the complete hole and surrounding soil are damp.

Step 9. Mulch with something that small amounts of rain can penetrate such as lucerne much or pea straw.

Step 10. Scatter on a little fertiliser or poke slow-release plant food among the mulch.

Step 11. If you can, water and feed your tree often. If you can’t, plant the tree anyway as others may tend it or it may survive as trees have done for much longer than humanity has been around.

Step 12. Finally, gaze at your tree and imagine a planet where your tree is growing and flourishing. A place where countless small differences have created major change for the environment and humanity. A world where humans are flourishing, peaceful and beautiful, just like your tree.

Last week, I drove past a house I briefly lived in nearly half a century ago. I planted trees in its back and front yard but saw that most of them have been removed. It was a leap of faith to plant them but there are groves of leaves and glorious trunks in the back and front. Optimism won.

Jackie French

Jackie French

Jackie French is a gardener, ecologist, honorary wombat, 2014-2015 Australian Children's laureate, 2015 Senior Australian of the year and passionate believer in the need for all humans to feel part of the earth around them, by understanding the plants that sustain us.

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