How to make sure your child’s new tree grows strong and tall!

Some children have naturally green fingers, and can grow anything from vegetables to trees. If your child loves nature, this post is for you!

 Tree tips for young gardeners. | Photo by Pedro Kümmel on Unsplash

If your child is passionate about gardening, why not help them grow their very own tree? Trees are easy to plant, and once your child has decided which tree they want, then choosing the ideal place to plant does need thoughtful consideration for the tree to thrive. You’ll need to consider correct planting practices to ensure the healthy survival of your child’s tree. We chat with Karen Heron, founder of Earth Probiotic, which supplies bokashi bins to South African gardeners, for her expert advice.

Bright light, full sun, or shade?

Most trees love full sunlight, while others enjoy dappled shade. The roots of most trees are quite shallow at around 2m deep, but depending on the variety can spread very wide when fully grown, and some spread much wider than their canopy. Usually, the best time to plant a tree is in spring (so you’re in luck), but some types require a different time of year. Once you have determined the type of tree, learnt its size and the depth and width of its root system, it’s time to plant.

  • Help your child dig a hole as deep as the root ball and at least twice as wide. The wider, the better, allowing the roots to easily spread in its search for food and water.
  • Remove any grass growing around the hole by about half a metre in diametre. While growing, it’s best for the tree not to have to compete with weeds and grass.
  • Fill the hole with water the day before your child intends to plant the tree. If the hole is still full, then the spot is not suitable as lack of drainage will kill the tree.
  • Having kept the root ball well watered, remove the tree from its container.
  • Set on the soil in the hole and spread out the roots around the trunk, removing any damaged ones and setting the roots onto the soil.
  • Add the soil back, making sure the crown is at soil level or just above and the tree is straight.
  • Firm the soil well and create a depression so water will pool there. Your child can push down the soil with their foot but watch they don’t stomp on the root ball.
  • Let your child water the tree as soon as you are finished planting it. If the soil settles, you can add more soil but don’t use your feet to firm down while the soil is wet.
  • Once you – and your child – are happy the tree is straight, has soil just below its crown, and is well watered, then add some compost on top of the soil and slightly beyond the hole you dug and add mulch.
  • Brush back any compost and mulch from the trunk.
  • Only stake if necessary and remove stakes and ties after about a year.
  • Remind your child that young trees need regular watering, weeding, and fertilising.

“The most important step once your child has brought their new tree home, is to not let the root ball dry out. This applies during storing the tree, while preparing the hole, planting it, and giving the tree its first watering in its (hopefully) final place in life,” says Karen.