Are your trees planted in soil or dirt?

Soil is akin to a living organism, called the Soil Food Web, which is present in the soil. This takes composting organic matter (i.e. mulch) , moisture and air, then with the help of bacteria, nematodes, insects, worms and fungi. The fungi include Mycorrhizal fungi that symbiotically help tree by extending there root system.

Dirt is dead soil or soil seriously depleted of the Soil Food Web, it typically has no organic matter composting into it and can be compacted. It is very difficult to establish plants in dirt, unless inorganic fertilisers are used to replace the Soil Food Web. If compacted it will also need to be aerated. Once a soil is fertilised it is more problematic for the Soil Food Web to become established (even with composting organic matter), as it upsets the Soil Food Web.

We can aerate soils and add the complete Soil Food Web (apart from insects) and mulch to provide the best environment for your trees. This can be installed to existing trees and as trees are planted.

How long to care for a newly planted tree or transplanted tree ?

Once a tree is planted or transplanted it will need help establishing.

Established is the point at which a tree has developed a root system with which it can support itself.

It can take around five years for a tree to extends it’s root system to this point. For larger trees or those in sub optimal planting locations, this could necessitate a much longer period.

During this period the tree needs primarily watering to compensate for a reduced root system and its much reduced ability to collect moisture.

There is also the complex issue of soil health, the Soil Food Web and fungi extending symbiotically the root system of the tree. Without these elements any tree will struggle. The soil should be aerated and have a supply of organic matter (leaves or mulch). These with moisture will create the right environment for a healthy soil. We can add all the elements of the Soil Food Web apart from insects to ensure it is present in the soil.

A tree should have sufficient rooting area and of satisfactory quality to support the tree. Without these elements the tree will always struggle.

Cheering up trees with aeration, boosting the soil food web and mulching

As arborists we love trees and hate to see them stressed and in decline.

In addition to the aeration with Air Spades and deep Air Probes, we now offer the service of introducing the complete soil food web (apart from Arthropods (but we are working on this), into the aerated soil.

A healthy soil is crucial to the health of trees. It is estimated the 90% of the problems with the tree is below ground. This improvement to the soil, followed by mulching and the leaving of leaves is the best help a tree can get.

We are now able to provide industry leading help for stressed trees, throughout the UK.

Re-pleaching / Pruning Pleached Trees / Management of Pleached Trees

Pleached trees will always try to revert to being trees. They require management.

In addition they often need re-pleaching (tying in and pruning) to increase the density of the screen or to extend the screen laterally or higher.

This management of pleached trees will also retain the formal nature of the pleached screen.

At the foot of this are images of a pleached Hornbeam aerial hedge before and after re-pleaching.

Pleached Beech will benefit from repleaching in late summer to maximise the retention of leaves through winter.

Pleached Evergreen Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) will try to create it’s natural sparse canopy so will always need management.

Pleached Hornbeam, Pleached Photinia, Pleached Crab Apple, Pleached Evergreen Oak, Pleached Camellia and Pleached Liquidambar will all need this management.

Our expert teams of Arborists can undertake this management of pleached trees and many clients use our services annually to prune or hedge pleached trees. We can extend the screens laterally or vertically (our current tallest are 9 metres plus!).

In addition our teams can remove the bamboo frames and transfer the pleached trees onto either a wire framework (much less visible) or one of Willow/Hazel/Poplar branches.

Once the desired aerial screen is in place, we can them hedge the screen to retain the form. When the branches are sufficiently rigid to hold their form we can remove the framework, leaving you with a narrow, formal, pleached aerial screen.

We also offer this service for ‘table top’ / parasol trees.

If you would like a quote, please send images of the pleached trees, your location, their height and number, if you would like them pleached taller or wider and your contact details to

Re-pleaching of pleached Hornbeam hege to return it to it’s desired form

Re-pleaching of pleached Hornbeam hege to return it to it’s desired form

Lack of rainfall this spring

At most in the South East we had under 50% of the average rainfall in April, after a slightly below average March.

The forecast rain is also below average.

Watering should have commenced on planted and transplanted trees, that were planted in the last five years and all containerised trees.

Available moisture in the soil from prior will be getting depleted, faster than normal.

We need days of rain to redress the balance

Decompaction of Tree Roots and boosting rooting areas

We offer services to help with the aeration of compacted soil and to boost the health of soils around tree roots.

With Air Spades we can decompact down to around 30cm, by moving the soil in situ (so exposed roots do not desiccate) and adding nutrients and soil fauna.

Ruskins now also offer deeper aeration/decompaction with a Vogt Soil Probe that can reach down to 1 metre and deliver pressurised air to fracture the soil. The air can be used to soil ameliorants to improve the quality of the soil and therefore the roots of the tree.

One of the soil ameliorants we can offer is biochar, which can improve the structure of the soil and be used as a vehicle to add mycorrhizal fungi, seaweed, wormcasts and potassium phosphite.

We recommend that all treated trees are mulched, have the leaves retained to compost down and if suitable are fenced off to prevent re compaction. Ideally they are also watered during periods of extreme heat and drought.

"90% of the problems with a tree are related to below ground issues"

Whether it is 90% is up for discussion, it is certainly a very high percentage.

We have an Arb industry overwhelmingly concerned with the visible issues, i.e. pruning.

It is acknowledged that we are dealing with the unseen world below the surface, but there are clues:

Soil health underpins the health of a tree. Yet most trees in an urban environment are:

Planted with access to inadequate rooting zones

Have their leaves removed each autumn instead of the natural composting down and feeding the soil.

Are planted in isolation, whereas in nature trees are in groups (woods) usually with the same species nearby, which are linked by roots to help each other.

If they have soil around them, it is often compacted.

There are parties in the industry that have recognised this and there are suppliers who will provide materials to create large rooting zones. This however can add thousands to the cost of planting a £300 tree. In addition through free pdf drawings of a standard tree pit, trees are now being planted with unnecessarily expensive specifications.

A drainage layer on a drawing will not work, unless it has somewhere to drain to, no matter how many technical drawings are produced showing it. These same drawings tend to show the tree planted lower than ground level to accommodate grilles, which is against good practice.

It is our view that these drawing should also state the aftercare that the tree should receive as per BS8545. They should also allow for larger areas where soil is the finished level and encourage, the leaving of leaves to compost down.

We should plant trees more in line in how they grow in nature.

Tree Planting Service

Our expert teams can supply and plant our trees or either plant trees that our customers have sourced or only deliver our trees.

We are used by many of the largest landscape companies, garden designers and landscape architects to supply and plant or just plant their trees. Particularly our expertise is sought for large trees and awkward planting locations.

Often we make the delivery of trees from other sources easier for our clients, by collating their orders from different sources, collecting their trees or taking delivery of their trees off site. This allows our teams to attend site with the trees, making them more efficient as they do not have to wait for a delivery. It also takes away from the client concerns over taking delivery of them on site. Frequently it also avoids a 40ft artic turning up outside site.

We are also able to unload your trees on site and plant them,

With the delivery only option, we can also locate trees in planting pits or adjacent for other to complete the planting.

Now is the perfect time to plan for tree planting this autumn

It is reassuring the the modern world, with most people detached from nature, existing in a built environment, far, far away from our farming ancestors that they know not to plant in hot dry weather.  

We are however approaching the optimum time for planting, that commence as soon as the heat fades from summer, to start planting.  

This will provide the trees with the maximum length of time prior to the summer to begin to establish. 

By contacting us now, you will have time to reflect on the selection of trees, prior to planting.         

Watering Trees

In the south east we had 6% of the normal rain in June and upto local thunderstorms on 26/27/28th July only 1% in July.

Currently it is the young and semi mature trees, especially newly planted trees,  that are suffering most, due to their smaller root systems.  Whereas mature trees have much larger and deeper root systems, combined with the decent rain we had earlier in the year, as at present (we believe) meant that water tables have not dropped.  This may change and water tables drop.

We urge you to water every small and semi mature trees daily at present,even if they are in the pavement outside your property.

For trees and shrubs in containers, they should be being watered 1-2 times a day and ideally moved into the shade.

If trees are losing leaves, this is both a natural response and a cause for concern.   In very hot/dry weather, trees will lose less important leaves to reduce transpiration / water loss.  They could even drop all leaves.  These trees should also be watered. 



Can I transplant my tree/ shrub / hedge ?

Yes, unless it is at a size you need an expert like us to help!

Small trees and shrubs can be 'easily' moved providing the following are considered:

1) A sufficient rootball will be needed to support the plant its  new location.  A good guide is what you  would be happy with if you were that plant!

2) Try to keep the soil together when you move it, wrap in hessian or another natural fabric

3) Move during the period September (ideally November) to mid March, preferably as early in this timescale to provide the plant with the longest period before the following summer. 

4) Cut the roots cleanly at a point just after where it subdivides.     

5) When planting, plant at the same level as it was at the donor location.

6) Add Mycorrhizal fungi to areas  adjacent to the  roots.

7)  Understand that the plant needs help whilst establishing. It will need to expand it's root system to that of a unmoved plant.  Whilst this establishing the plant will need watering, especially during hot and dry weather.  This could continue for years (2-3 for small trees and shrubs)

8) Mulch   

9)  The plant may be stressed, it may defoliate or die back, even have smaller leaves or a less dense canopy.  Whilst this is occurring keep watering etc. Check the cambium (the thin grey layer beneath the surface of the bark), if it is there the branch is still alive.  This blog contains plenty of other advice on how to help establish a plant.

10)  You have one back, call in friends to help move plants if needed!  Use good manual handling techniques.

Slide in preference to lift and triple check the depth of planting pit against the rootball, you do not want to lift it out again to amend the pit!

Modern Slavery Act

How this is applied is a prime example of a repeating error by the government, copper plating everything rather than finding a pragmatic solution.

Why does everyones website have to declare that it abides by this law on the front page of their website?

If this law, why are we not made to declare that we will not murder, kill, torture, poison.....

The press coverage of the businesses that use 'slaves' are very small, irregular companies, not British Airways etc.

Why are we forced to declare we will abide by the law?  If this one why not other ones.  In no way am I implying the slavery is acceptable, but surely there is a better way of targetting it.  


Reading the press and social media brings home the passion people have for their trees.

Sheffield residents are in an impossible situation. The contractor employed by the council has taken a hard nosed look at their tree management. Due to the length (and wording)  of the contract and disregard for local opinion, they are within theirrights to fell all mature trees.  

The residents are using all methods to try and bring normal tree management to their city. 

The contractors should be made to change their approach and value large trees, but how this can be achieved is beyond me.

One good thing will come out of this. No other council will ever create a contract like this and the protection of trees will be enhanced.   

How do I tell if my tree is stressed by hot/dry weather (or just stressed)

Hot and dry weather can induce stress into trees (and plants).

This is due to either the heat and the lack of moisture (or both).

To start with the leaves can look limp/wilted and/or lose their lustre.

If the situation is not rectified (watering, moving potted plants into shade (and watering), the next phase is the tree thinking, it makes more sense to loose some leaves that keep loosing moisture through them. Some of the leaves (sometimes all), turn their autumn tints and then fall.

If any of the above occur your tree is stressed.  You need to water (taking care you do not over water), frequently, ideally morning and evening, until the weather has passed.  Then continue watering over summer at a reduced rate.

The loss of leaves is a reaction to the conditions, typically the tree keeps the branch alive*, new leaves may be produced this year or next.  If the stress is extreme the tree will dieback in then canopy to a size that it's root system can support**.

Another reaction that the tree could produce to being stressed is basal or epicormic growth. These are new young branches that appear from the base, trunk or bases of branches. These grow fast and straight as they are diverting energy that the tree does not think is worth sending to the canopy.  For  this reason they should never see a Sunday, prune leaving a small collar (to make the surface area smaller and easier to repair).

* You can check if a branch is still alive  by scratching the bark to see if a small green layer just below the bark is present (the cambium). If it is the branch is still alive. If it is not the branch has died back to this point.

** If this occurs, let the tree dieback (whilst watering etc), it will withdraw reserves in its branches as it dies. If you proactively prune back before the branches die back the tree will lose this energy.

Black tubes (and caps) with planted trees

These tube are installed to encourage the formation of deeper roots, by delivering air and water lower down. This is advantageous for the tree, when drought conditions occur.

They are an unintended consequence though:

It is often used as the way to water trees, to the exclusion other methods.  The person watering is of the belief that when the pipe is full, the tree is watered.  WRONG.

When new trees are planted 100% of their roots are within the rootball.  It is these that should be watered, not the soil around and below the roots.  Watering through the pipe waters these areas only, outsides the rootball. Only a tiny percentage helps the tree.

For the first year 80% of the watering should be undertaken slowly over the top of the rootball. The 20% should go down the pipe. The watering should be undertaken to avoid runoff.

As the tree establishes the area around the rootball can be watered to encourage the roots to spread out.  





The RHS Chelsea Flower Show

We have nearly completed our stand at the Flower Show.  It is always interesting to see what trees have been planted in the show gardens, as the designers strive to create a winning garden.

I will report on personal highlights, ignoring the media frenzy at the show. What I hope for is more natural looking trees.

If you are visiting please call into our stand we would be delighted to talk trees with  you or catch up with  customers and friends.  We are in the usual place,but with a new stand number AR514, in the top right corner of the showground.    

Water your trees and shrubs!

We have had an incredibly dry March and April, following on from a relatively dry winter.

Please water your trees and shrubs if they have been planted or transplanted in the past five years or if they are showing signs of stress.

This will need to continue until we have a substantial, lengthy period of rain. This is not forecast. Any rain showers etc will have minimal effect.

It is possible that this dry period will extend into the normal  dry mid-late spring and summer, at which time watering of these trees will be needed.     

Sweet Chestnut Blight

This has been found for the first time at two sites in Devon. This will kill Sweet Chestnuts and can kill Oaks  in close proximity.

Unlike Oak Processionary Moth, where it was detected in the UK and the Government  failed to commit sufficient resources to keep the cat in the bag.  It is a great example of Government incompetence.   A larger upfront investment could have stopped a much bigger bill trying to get the horse back in the stable.

The fungus  Cryphonectria parasitica is spread by wind, rain, birds and insects.  The Government has to be prudent, clever and wise, spend the £ now, to stop this.  

Then a blueprint will exist on how to deal with other such problems.      


Trees - Noise Reduction

We get many requests from clients to plant trees to reduce noise. 

To get trees to reduce noise you need to plant a deep belt of trees (15 metres I read in one Austrian study).

The best way to reduce noise is either acoustic fencing ( ) or a soil bund (bank of soil).

Trees  mainly  only work in the mind to reduce noise, by screening;  if you cannot see the source of the noise, it seems to be less of a noise.

It is also important to understand the noise can only really be addressed at two locations, close to the source or close to where you are (as it bounces around).

We often recommend that a  noise consultant is used to provide expert advice, prior to any attempt to solve the problem.