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Planting a single tree

  • Think about where you’re planting in relation to your house, your neighbours, and any other buildings.
  • Consider the ultimate size that the tree will grow to. Will it still fit the space you have in mind?
  • Some roots and branches may spread beyond the boundaries of your property and trees can cause structural damage. Be aware of places where limbs may fall or roots might grow.

Larger planting projects

Make sure you are clear on your reasons for planting and how you will maintain the woodland longer term. This will impact your tree planting plans.

You will also need to consider the following carefully:

Do you own the land you want to plant on?

You will need permission to plant from the legal landowner.

Is your land suitable?

There are some places you mustn’t plant trees, such as:

  • archaeological sites – speak to your county archaeologist if you’re unsure
  • sites with rare or protected species
  • grassland that has never been ploughed
  • wetlands
  • heathland.

Buildings and services

Be aware of any under or above ground services and design your planting accordingly. Growing trees can interfere with electricity cables, building structures or underground pipes so leave plenty of space.

Planting position

It’s important to think about the final size and spread of the trees and how you will use the site as the trees grow. Avoid planting under existing trees, as shade and lack of water will seriously restrict growth. Allow plenty of distance from existing hedges as they could swamp the growth of new trees, and  you’ll need access to the hedge for future maintenance. 

Some species like poplar, alder and willow grow well in damp areas but no trees like permanently wet ground. If you are considering planting near a main river you will need to talk to the Environment Agency or equivalent, as tree planting may not be allowed.

Spacing

Spacing will depend on what you want from your trees. We recommend you plant in wavy lines and vary the spacing across your site. This will enable you to balance more densely planted sections with open areas for a natural look and feel. Plant small groups of the same species together – this will help reduce competition between different species as they grow.

We recommend planting about two metres apart, but you can plant 1-5m apart depending on your space and plan. If you’re planting a single hedge, place trees 30cm apart. For a thick hedge, plant a double row of trees in a zig zag pattern. Space your rows 50cm apart, with 40-45cm between each tree.

Planning permission

Regulations differ across the UK so it’s best to check with the Forestry Commission or equivalent if you aren’t sure.

In England, planning permission isn’t needed if your project is under 2ha and in a low risk area. Check your area using the Forestry Commission land information search. If you are in a low risk area but over 2ha, or if you are in a sensitive area, you will need to contact the Forestry Commission about completing an Environmental Impact Assessment.

Fencing and stock

If livestock are near your planting areas, fencing is essential to prevent tree damage.

Glades

Leaving some open spaces in your woodland will encourage different habitats and enhance biodiversity value. A glade is an ideal place for wildflowers, while planting shrubs around the edge will benefit species such as butterflies, bats and birds.

Footpaths and access

Including a footpath in your new woodland will allow you to easily enjoy the trees as they grow. They may need to be maintained by mowing, so consider any access needed now and in the future.

The local community

Your new woodland will impact the local landscape too, so consider how it may affect other people. You may want to talk to neighbours about your planting design to avoid future conflicts, or consider holding a planting event for the community. Avoid planting in areas where ball games will be played or where activity could hamper the growth of your saplings.

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