Tree planting help

Tree planting help for shade or fruit; or simply beauty; it's fun.

This page was last updated by Bernard Preston on 7th February, 2019.

By Bernard Preston

They add so much to any and every garden, but your choice must be wisely made. Perhaps it's for shade from the hot summer sun, but will it make you too cold in the winter? Perhaps a deciduous plant that loses its leaves might be the solution.

The first I would plant in any and every garden is a lemon, but of course in Chicago it would have to go into a pot; for the beautiful golden fruit, the exquisitely scented blossom and what the fresh juice does for any salad, or hummus for example, it's top of the pops for me.

Perhaps you are planning a tree planting memorial, and the spot you've chosen is in middle of an existing lawn. Where you can enjoy memories of your loved one every day.

Or just beyond the swimming pool where we have our "Family Tree". My mum and a dear friend's ashes are buried in the roots of this Yellowwood tree. I fancy them peeping out at me between the leaves. All the world's a bit queer, bar thee and me, and I'm not so sure about thee.

Can you see the pair of famed Hadeda ibis hooking crickets and earthworms out of the lawn?

Tree planting memorial

The yellowwood tree is the memorial where my mother's ashes are planted.

Clear the jungle

But perhaps you have to clear the jungle for planting avocado trees, as I have to do. It's hard work, and there will be considerable burning of the brush. Any half rotten sticks will be carefully garnished for the pit we are about to dig, or for composting with sticks and garden refuse. The alternative is inorganic fertiliser.

This page may give you some ideas for the larger garden and a Compact Compost Tumbler.

Tree planting may start with clearing the bush and making a compost heap.
Clearing the invader species trees, and much as I hate it burning the trash was necessary before we could plant fruit trees.

Tree planting help

Tree planting help suggests give an avocado for Christmas or a yellowwood for a memorial.

Having cleared the ground, plan where you want to plant your tree. Your tree planting instructions are:

  1. Keep in mind not the tiny seedling, but imagine a full grown tree, bearing fruit or flowers.
  2. Not where it will shade your home in the winter.
  3. Not too close to your neighbour's boundary unless you come to an agreement to share fruit.
  4. Not where it will shade your vegetable garden, or
  5. Another smaller, slow growing special tree, like that Yellowwood. It's twenty five years old and less than seven metres tall.

It is of course impossible to think decades into the future; having made the decision to build a solar generator on our roof, this Tulip tree may have to be topped. I'm sad because it is nearly a hundred years old and very majestic; but in the winter months, when the sun courses much lower over the horizon, it shades our photovoltaic panels.

Going green, planting trees, harvesting rainwater, building a solar farm has been one of the most rewarding aspects of our retirement.

But lopping the top off this old friend isn't going to be easy; right now the decision is on hold.

This tulip tree shades the solar panels but is far too special to remove for planting fruit trees.

Tree planting instructions

So, with plenty aforethought from your friendly tree planting help, mark out the spot, about a metre square. Three feet. And, keep in mind, ONE METRE DOWN!

Tree planting tools

All you need is a good strong spade, and a wheelbarrow to bring in the compost; oh, and a strong back! More about that later. 

This guide to tree planting recommends a hole a metre deep filled with compost.

Prepare thyself says your Tree Planting Help elf.

You are about to put your body through some pain thresholds, though the mind will be invigorated and the spirit refreshed! So keep in mind why you are doing this to yourself. The fruit that is to come. Are you planting avocado trees, as I am? Think of the blessings that will be yours in a year or two. Are you planting evergreen trees? Year-round beauty.

Now you are going to bend your back. This pit will be cubic.

One spade x one spade x one spade deep!

Why square? Your tree planting seedling will almost certainly have come in a round bag, with roots in a spiral. For maximum root growth your tree planting guide says you have to persuade your baby tree to get out of that limited circular thinking. Just as we should. The bigger picture...

Planting avocado trees

Planting an avocado tree does require some help; type A, or B, or both?

The first level

Having marked out your pit for the planting tree seedlings, or whatever you have in mind, start to remove the topsoil, placing it on one side of the hole. You'll probably encounter plenty of roots, small rocks and stones. There were other surprises for me. Someone else had been gardening right here, probably a century ago... this garden was laid many, many years ago going by the size of the azaleas and the liquid amber.

Tree planting tools.

Tree Planting Help


Tree planting help separates the top from the subsoil.
Tree planting help recommends keeping the subsoil separate.

About 20 to 30 cm down you will strike the subsoil. The colour and texture will be quite different. This is the part of the hole that you will have to enrich with compost, half rotten branches and leaves; the subsoil is deficient in nutrients and is much more compact; hard for the new young roots. It's also harder to dig out.

Suddenly, I hit something hard and metallic. And old spade. The going is now much harder in this clay, and it serves as a reminder to be kind to my tree planting tools. I don't want to break off my spade like that long-forgotten gardener's spade. I wonder who s/he was? Thank you friend, your efforts were not in vain, and not forgotten, despite years of neglect in this jungle during the interim. We'll get it back to its former splendour. See the old spade?

Tree planting guide says look out for some old treasures in that hole you are digging.

The going gets harder says Tree planting help ...

The clay is now very compact; it's hard to dig and there's very limited room in the hole for me. It's heavy to spade out and, dangerously, it starts to stick to the spade. When throwing the clay the unexpected extra weight gives a nasty jerk to the shoulders and lower neck.

Going deeper into the clay so you can plant your tree and give it a good start.
See how the subsoil sticks to the spade? Careful or you may get a clay-shovellers' fracture.


Apparently in days of yore, clay shovellers would regularly have a fractured spinous process of C7 when a pat of clay unexpectedly stuck to the shovel; your tree planting help guide warns you to be careful not to do yourself a mischief.

It still occurs in trauma, but in itself is not very significant. It can cause instability of course because of the affect on a powerful ligament that runs between the spinous processes, maintaining the so-called "lordosis". This view was taken in extension, so it's impossible to gauge the lordosis.

X-ray of a clay-shovellers' fracture in the cervical spine; can happen to tree planters if you're not careful.

Your Tree Planting Help reminds you that the end is in sight... The last spadefuls are a devil, and I'm beginning to feel it in the small of the back. Fortunately, I have another Chiropractor living in our home! My daughter. But I did my lower back exercises faithfully this morning so all things being equal (they never are!) I'll be fine; just a bit achy.

Bernie Preston's lower back exercises on YouTube ...

Use the Site Search function to find the links to those topics highlighted in bold.

Nearing the end of the pit for planting your tree.

This clay is very dense and difficult for the young roots of your new tree to penetrate. So go the extra mile... until the handle of the spade is below the level of the ground. You want your tree to be firmly rooted and not fall over in a storm because it's roots never went deep enough. It's worth the extra effort... and a few visits to the chiropractor!

Seriously, next day my back was fine, but then I walk and cycle and do my lower back exercises EVERY day. I never miss. NEVER. I'm a big baby, and I don't like pain. I'd rather do a couple minutes of exercises every morning, and have a regular, occasional maintenance Chiropractic adjustment. Sitting at this computer and in the car, and giving a lumbar roll is what's hard on my back, not planting trees and shrubs.

Now for the compost and small decayed branches.

Take it from Tree Planting Help, this is the easy part and shouldn't take long. Just fill in your hole about half way up with dead leaves, twigs and branches, well-rotted manure, compost, kitchen waste... the more decomposed the better because not much aerobic composting will occur two feet down.

Plenty of rough compost before planting your tree.
Old sticks keep the ground porous for the tree roots after planting.


Then cover your compost material with the sub-soil, perhaps add more compost and then if you have it, I added a couple shovelfuls of ash, left over from burning back the jungle. It's rich in minerals... but you certainly don't have to have it. If you're not fanatical about organic, like I am, then chuck in some fertilizer.

Our wood burning stove provides a regular source of ash for our trees and plants, and so goes into the worm farms to lessen the acidity of the kitchen waste that we feed them on.

Toss some ash and leaves into the pit before planting your tree.
More ash before planting your avocado tree.

First the subsoil

Twit, I omitted to take a photo, but first replace the sub-soil and then above it the topsoil. Mound it up about 6 inches above the ground, it'll soon settle.

The hole for planting your tree is complete.


If everybody starts doing my lower back exercises, riding their bikes and walking to the store instead of getting in the car, and eating our authentic hummus recipe, fish soup and chicken bones stock (wonderful for healthy cartilage), and I find myself without a job, I could always be a grave digger!

Fortunately there are still horses and vacuum-cleaners, motor cars and staircases... they provide a steady income!

Those poles are to shade the young tree from the fierce African sun, and protect it against the first few winter frosts.

Growing Avocado Trees

Send granny out to plant the avocado tree with help from the grandchildren.

Planting tree seedlings

Avocados are very high on my agenda. The oil is very high in mono-unsaturated fats, the good stuff that coats all your nerves.

But avos bear in alternate years. So this year, this devious chiropractor gave She-who-must-be-obeyed an Avocado tree for Christmas! Rationale? It's good for her nerves too!

Using your trusty tree planting implement, the spade dig out a small hole in the centre of your mound. Peel off the bag in which your tree came, sacrifice the bag, trying not to disturb the roots, and carefully slide it into the hole. Get the height of the soil in the bag the same as that of the surrounding soil. Tread down the soil firmly and pour a couple buckets of water over it.

Two years and we'll have our first avo...

GROWING AVOCADO TREES is so rewarding; our seedling is now seven years old and we're enjoying the first of over 200 fruit this autumn.

One year later you can see the lush growth on our Pinkerton... that's what digging a proper hole, and filling it with the proper goodies will do for your tree. Next Spring we'll have the first flowers...

Growing a Pinkerton avocado tree.

And here she is at three years; about fifty fruit set, but were knocked off by hail. See the fennel in the foreground; enjoy as wide a variety of fruit and veg as you can.

The Pinkerton avocado tree at 3 years.

Plant a lemon tree

Could you use a little tree planting help when planning to plant a lemon tree?

Growing lemon trees is so rewarding for the fruit and deeply scented flowers.

The improved Meyer lemon tree makes the most beautiful decorative tree, the scent of the flowers is simply divine in the Spring, and lemon juice is a must in every kitchen. GROWING LEMON TREES should be the first chore when moving into a new home.

The mandarin orange tree is a delight in every garden too.

Trees for bees

Beehives in the autumn need trees for nectar.

All these flowering fruit trees mentioned above provide nectar for honey. In addition it's wonderful to plant indigenous trees for bees.

Lower lumbar back pain

When do you rush off to the doctor or chiropractor if you are suffering from lower lumbar back pain, and when do wait a few days and see how things progress? It's a hard call frankly. Tree planting help demands you first start with some exercises, and don't even attempt the task if you instinctively know it's beyond your limits.

If you have pain in the chest, don't wait. You might be dead in an hour. Likewise, if you KNOW you've done yourself a mischief then it's best to get to the chiropractor quickly.

A saw a lady this morning for her third consultation. 80% better. Five days ago she had a sharp stab in her low back which passed in 2-3 minutes. The next day she was vacuuming... and the sharp stab didn't pass. She was crippled with pain and in her own words, she KNEW she had done something.

She arrived two hours later in severe pain, unable to drive, and having difficulty walking. All the orthopaedic tests pointed to a lumbar disc herniation at the lowest level. L5-S1. Slump test was strongly positive. There was no pain in the leg. Yet. Six months ago she had a severe sciatica for several months.

The next day, after the first treatment she felt 40% better. Today 80%, and she could bend without pain, and the Slump test was negative.

Reducing a herniated disc before the swelling and inflammation sets in, usually means that nothing much comes of it. We have started with the rehab exercises, and she understands that despite having little pain, she will have to be sensible for six weeks. Get some tree planting help from someone with a stronger back.

Two weeks ago, her sister's horse fell on her, smashing her pelvis... horses and vacuum cleaners, and don't forget there's a rail running down next to the staircase. It's there for a very good reason...!


Obviously MAKING A COMPOST PILE so you have plenty to go in the hole will provide you with more and better quality organic fruit.

  1. Bernard Preston
  2. Tree planting help

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56 Groenekloof Rd,

Hilton, KZN

South Africa