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From the cell grown tree on the left, we can offer support, help and advice right the way to the mature woodland

From the cell grown tree on the left, we can offer support, help and advice right the way to the mature woodland

Why Cell Grown Trees? 

Cell grown trees were developed in Canada 30 years ago to allow the following: 

  • An extended planting season
  • Roots systems protected by compost plug
  • Easier storage
  • Easier handling and planting
  • Higher survival rates

The traditional bare rooted tree whips have a fairly short planting season, whereas cell grown trees can be planted pretty much all year round. The root systems grow into a plug of compost so protecting root fibres from drying out and damage. Storage is less complex and its not so critical to get trees planted quite so quickly. Handling plants after they have arrived on site is easier and less likely to damage. Planting cells is easier because of there regular size, and with the right type of spade (a planting spear) the risk of air pockets is less. Survival rates are higher due to coming together of all the above. Prices are generally a few pence higher but I hope all the above benefits make it worth while for you.   We grow our trees in peat free compost. Cells are 10cm tall and varying widths according to the tree type.  The trees themselves start at 20cm above the height of he cell, and vary in height according to species of tree.


Looking after your trees when they arrive with you.  

When your trees arrive with you there are between 15 and 25 in a black bag, like the one in the picture and one plant label to identify the species. Bags are usually packed into boxes or a larger bag for ease of transport.

Trees should be handled with care, kept upright and not through around. Cell grown plants are ideally kept by a North facing wall away from strong sunlight and out of the wind. They will need to be kept moist, but rain should take care of that.  In dry and windy times plants may need to be watered using a normal rose on a watering can. The best way to judge how damp plants are is to pick up a black bag of them when they arrive and use that as a a reference. Please be aware that plants should be protected from mice and other animals who quite like to eat them. It is best to plant your trees within a week or two weeks of arrival.


Ground preparation.

How much you need to do depends on what condition your ground is currently in, based on what the land has been used for up to the point your plant it. For instance if vehicles have been driving over the ground it would be sensible to loosen the soil up. If the area has been grazed it should only need attention to the grass and weed growth. Sites that have no weeds bigger than grass, only need the area one meter around the tree clearing of grass and weed. Areas that have brambles and/or gorse should be cut down to ground level, removing as much of the roots as possible to reduce the amount of regrowth.  The reason to clear the ground like this is to ensure rainfall gets to your tree rather than to the grass and weed. If not dealt with your tree will either die or stand still and not grow and taller.

I had to remove small areas of gorse which I did with a saw and loppers and 6 years later it hasn't grown back(much!). I had areas of brambles which I had flailed, this didn't work so well as flailing does not deal with the roots, so I keep it under control by cutting with an Austrian scythe each year. This gradually reduces the total amount of brambles each year.  

If you plan to spray/mulch/mat before planting you should mark where each plant is going to go so that when you come to spray/mulch/mat you know where you are going.  Hedges are similar if planted into the ground, slightly different if planted on the top of a new bank.  Newly created bank should be allowed to settle for a year to reduce the amount of air spaces in the bank.  I cover ground preparation on my courses


Planning to plant trees?

What do you want to achieve by planting woodland/trees.  Will it be for wildlife, timber production, firewood, carbon offsetting, amenity, visual and wind screening, game cover, legacy and most likely a combination of a number of these.  Try and vision what you have in your mind now will look like in 10, 20 or 40 years time. Does it affect how you might plan your planting now?

Each reason for planting you have can be put together with others to produce a multipurpose planting.  Your objectives will help determine what species to plant, at what spacing and what rides to plan in.

Getting a map of the proposed planting area will help you decide how many of which trees go where, for instance growing trees for coppicing or mixed shrubs for the woodland edge. Using a map allows you to try out  and mix different ideas together to help get a visual idea  of how it might turn out.

I cover a great deal of issues on my courses, which will give you a good grounding if you are Planning to plant trees              I


Planting Trees.

Planting cell grown trees is easy and fun.  There are few things to do right rather than wrong! 

The traditional planting season is from late autumn to March/April.  Cell grown trees and shrubs can be planted almost anytime during the year, only avoiding dry periods of weather. Once you have got your trees and other supplies on site and you are ready to plant. 

Assuming you are using shelters or spirals to protect your plants, mark out where you are going to plant each tree. Use the tip of the stake or bamboo (you can lay them on the ground) or press lightly into the ground. DO NOT put trees out at this point.

Once you have marked out the whole area and you are happy with your plan you can think about planting. Prepare the Rootgrow. I divide up the granules and the powder into smaller quantities (so you still have appropriate quantities by the time you get to the bottom of the bucket!) Lay out no more than one bag of trees at a time.  Do not expose the cell to bright sunshine or wind for more than 10 minutes. Planting cell grown plants is best done with a planting spear, it makes life much simpler, I sell them here if you want one. You can use a regular spade, its just slower and not as effective.

I am assuming you are using a planting spear,  the principles are the same if you use another type of spade. Place spade into the ground push/tread the point to 1cm more than the depth of the cell, wiggle forwards and backwards then turn the spade through 180 degrees. You then have a round hole in which to put your cell. 

Dip cell in Rootgrow mixture (3.5g per cell!) (enough to pick up 10-20 granules) and place cell in the hole. The cell should be at least 1cm below the top of the soil level. Use soil from the spear to cover the top of the cell. The cell needs to be well enough in the ground that its not easy to pull out, to ensure this happens put spear back in the ground 50mm from the nearest side of the cell to the depth of the cell then lever against your boot to squeeze the soil onto the cell. You should have no air gaps (roots don't grow in air)

Protection. Spirals or shelters. Principle is the same for both. What follows is for rabbit spirals.  Plant cane to one side of the cell (not through the cell) wide end down (it will last longer) so it is firmly in the ground. If you have a very exposed site place cane on the windy side. Slide spiral of the top of cane and tree. There is a right way up and a wrong way up. Ensure that all side shoots and the main stem are pointing upwards.  Grind spiral 1cm into the soil, this makes it harder for mice/voles to get in and eat the bark

Protection. Weed mat. Prepare ground so its roughly flat (not doing so may allow the wind to rip the mat) Wrap mat around the spiral and peg down to the ground.