Trees are usually hardy things, but just like us they start off small and fragile. Taking proper care of a newly-planted sapling is the best way to ensure it grows into a healthy, attractive tree.
Trees growing in the wild usually spend years and years as small saplings, gradually building up the energy and root networks to stake a claim for a spot in the forest canopy.
By contrast, a nursery-grown tree is usually planted with a limited (or even damaged) root network. As a result, newly-planted trees are very often vulnerable to wind, drought or competition from other plants.
To help build your sapling’s root network, avoid pruning it for its first few years of growth. To grow roots, your tree needs energy — and to generate energy, your tree needs all the leaves it can get.
Nearly all trees are vulnerable to high winds. Young trees, however, are especially susceptible to wind-induced root damage, which can be fatal. “Staking” your tree by binding it to a long, straight pole when you plant it for the first time will help to anchor it in place until it can stand alone for good.
Another risk to newly-planted trees is simply drying out. Once in place, it’s usually hard to over-water a sapling. They can gulp as much as 30 litres of water a day in summer! Liberally watering a young tree will help to make it healthy and vigorous when it’s older.
Usefully, laying a mulch around the trunk of a young tree both improves the ground’s water retention and prevents competitors like grass from crowding it out underground.
To summarise, then: when planting a sapling, avoid early pruning, use a stake, don’t spare the hosepipe and lay down a good mulch. Good luck!