TREES are the focal points of our gardens, providing much-needed shade and screening from the elements. They cushion the rest of the plant family, making it conducive for them to thrive. Trees also beautify our otherwise mundane designs by adding a component of height and size. With a tree in your garden wildlife also finds a refuge, bringing motion into your garden. But how do we provide the care they need? What are the needs of this wide group of plants?
The very first step, of course, is to establish your tree.
Dig a hole, the larger the better but you can make it 1,5m wide and 75cm deep as the standard size. Make your hole any shape square or circle it makes no difference. The idea is just to loosen the soil as the roots are still tender to break through the hard layers of the soil horizon.
The other component of course is fertility of the soil. Since the topsoil really extends to about 50cm, the underlying subsoil is usually very infertile. If you can remove the topsoil first to the mentioned depth (place on the side) then replace the underlying subsoil with topsoil. Incorporate compost and fertiliser at this stage as well before returning the topsoil into the hole.
Mix the soil with 15-25kg compost and 500g of a general fertiliser (compound D). You can also add 250g single super phosphate.
After returning the mixed soil make out a small space to plant the tree. Remove the tree from the plastic sleeve without disturbing the roots. Plant your tree and make a ridge for watering purposes. Ensure that you maintain the correct depth of the tree.
Do not cover any part of the stem. I have seen trees planted way too deep with almost all of the stem covered. The tree will struggle and it won’t grow well at all, never to reach its full height.
Always water your tree immediately after planting with at least 50 litres.
Thereafter, water your trees regularly from 20-50 litres twice a week until the rains descend. During the rainy season resume watering if there has been a dry spell for two weeks. In March to May water once a week with 20- 50 litres, but from June to July once a fortnight with 20 litres only.
There are other aspects of tree care that we cannot really delve into now such as staking, pruning and spraying, but will do so at a later date.
Your tree will need periodic feeding during the year depending on whether it is rain fed or watered regularly. If it is watered often feed with a general fertiliser rich in phosphate, 250g in August, 150g in December of a nitrogenous fertiliser and 200g of a general fertiliser in February. These fertiliser amounts must be multiplied by the age of the tree.
If the tree is rain fed, feed with the same amounts of fertiliser but do it in October, December and February. Also lessen the fertiliser for February to 100g of a general fertiliser rich in phosphate since the rains will be almost coming to an end.
Your tree also deserves that much attention just as the rest of the garden, so take the time to do so and reap the rewards from a happy garden tree. Enjoy!
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