Planting and Care Guide

Establishment of your trees


Because of the unique climatic conditions in and around Oxford, Canterbury and other parts of the country the time of year you plant your trees will have a huge bearing on whether they survive the first few seasons.

Planting from April to mid August is optimal. This allows the tree enough time to establish small microscopic roots that it uses for the uptake of water.

If you plant too late into spring there is a stronger chance of striking hot, adverse conditions which will put the tree under stress.

Regular Watering

Regular watering is essential, especially in the first season of planting. Regular watering will allow the trees roots to establish more readily, helping the tree save valuable energy needed for leaf and shoot growth. We recommend deep weekly watering during hot dry periods in the trees first few years of establishment. Short daily watering may not penetrate down through the root ball causing shallow service roots to establish. Deep periodic watering encourages the trees roots to go down enabling it to find water during dry periods.
When planting the tree it is important to form a concave area above the root system, and not to mound the soil around the trunk.

By forming a concave reservoir above the roots you allow any rain / moisture to seep
through to the roots and not away from the roots.

Be careful not to over water!

Reduced Competition

Competition can severely compromise your tree and cause a slower establishment time.

In grassed areas where trees are establishing, it is necessary to spray an area of 1-2 m around the trunk of the tree.

Planting new trees close to large existing trees such as pines or gums can severely impede the new trees establishment. Large established trees have well developed root systems that steal away valuable moisture and nutrients. Freshly planted trees cannot compete under these situations.

Shelter from wind

In most cases shelter is essential from the hot North-Westerly winds.

The Nor-West winds coinside with the spring equinox which also happens to be the time many trees break bud.

These fresh, new leaves are highly susceptible to the hot dry Nor-West winds.
Shelter can take on many forms; from a permanent pine hedge to temporary wind cloth for the first few seasons of establishment.

Your trees establishment in exposed sites will be as good as your shelter or your choice of tree species.

Planting your tree

Preparation of the planting hole.

Dig a hole approximately 50% larger than the root ball. Loosen the soil in the bottom of the hole, to allow for initial drainage and root penetration.

Root Ball Preparation

Before planting a tree ensure the tree is well hydrated before planting. Do this by watering the tree several times while in its bag.

Remove the tree from the planter bag. Take a pair of secateurs and slice downwards all the way around the outside of the root ball, cutting any matted or girdling roots around the outside of the root ball. If the bottom of the root ball has thick matted roots, cut these off with a sharp spade or saw.

With your hands, fluff out the roots on the outside and underneath.

This will help eliminate root curling and girdling and help with the regeneration of new roots in the surrounding soil.


Before adding the soil, ensure the root ball is at the correct depth, the top of the root ball should be at ground level.

Place the root ball in the hole and start backfilling the root ball. With your foot firm the soil placed back in the hole. It is important to firm this soil so the root ball will not move when soaked with water. Gradually add soil and firm until the root ball is entirely covered.

Most of what comes out of the hole is what should go back in, once it has been well worked over, unless you have extreme soils i.e. heavy clay or very sandy. If this is the case adding some well composted material may be beneficial. No more than 30% should be used and mix it well into the remaining soil. This will help improve structure, drainage and fertility.


Form a concave area (or basin) with the left over soil around the top of the root ball. This will allow any water to pool around and seep directly into the roots. Water the tree after planting to ‘settle’ it in then follow advice given from our ‘Regular Watering’ guide.


Forming a layer of mulch over the soil, above the roots is an excellent way to save soil moisture during hot, windy periods.

Form a 100mm layer of material over the roots, at least 1.5m in diameter. Do not put the mulch up against the trunk of the tree as this can rot the bark.

This not only saves soil moisture but acts as a buffer to soil temperature extremes. It also controls weeds and replenishes organic matter and nutrients in the soil
Many types of mulch can be used. These include bark waste, tree chip, and pea-straw. Make sure the bark mulch and wood chips are well composted. Saw dust and grass clippings are not recommended unless composted first.


The Gorge Nursery trees are grown so they do not need staking. However if you live in a very windy location and are planting a tall tree with a lot of sail it may be beneficial to stake the tree down low to stop the root ball from rocking as this can break the new fibrous roots and slow the trees establishment.

When staking make sure you drive the stakes into the ground outside the root ball where the ground is firm. Using Hessian tree tie (or other biodegradable material)
tie the tree approximately 1/3 of the trees height from ground level. Make sure the tie is not too tight as this could damage the trunk and not allow for trunk expansion. A little movement is required to stimulate calliper growth and correct trunk taper.
In most cases, staking used for anchoring should be removed after 12-18 months.


We do not recommend fertilizing your tree in the first year after planting as this can burn the roots and hinder the trees establishment.

If the soil is naturally fertile there is probably little benefit in fertilizing, if however the soils are poor and your tree doesn’t look as healthy as it should (in its second growth season after planting) then an application of a broad spectrum slow release fertilizer on the surface, may be beneficial.

Reasons for Tree Failure

There are many circumstances out of The Gorge Nursery’s control that may affect the survival of your tree once it has left our nursery. For these reasons no guarantee can be given. Listed below are some of the things that can have an affect on your tree.

• Planting at the wrong time of year ie. summer
• Tree drying out at any time before or after planting
• Root damage at time of planting or after planting due to movement eg. wind
• Damage during transport
• Over watering
• Poor drainage
• Use of herbicide around the tree or due to drift
• Planting in the wrong location or the wrong climate for that particular species
• Incorrect pruning or pruning at the wrong time of year
• Incorrect planting eg. To deep or to shallow
• Compaction of soil either before or after planting
• Vandalism
• Mechanical damage eg. Lawnmowers
• Wind
• Soil contamination eg. Residual chemicals, toxins, salinity from tidal activity