Trees and woodland

Planting and management


To avoid future conflict, the first decision to be made when considering planting a tree is whether the location is appropriate for a tree or would shrubs be better? If the site is suitable for a tree, consider the mature height of the tree and how much growing space is available; should the tree be a small, medium or large growing species? Also, consider your neighbours land and do not plant where future problems or damage may result.

Nursery stock - sizes, types (BR, RB, pot), establishment success. Trees can be planted in a variety of sizes and forms.  Some are better than others for successful establishment and some are more expensive than others. Sizes can range from a transplant which is usually a two year old seedling 45 - 60 cm's high (cheap) through to Semi-mature trees which have a trunk girth in excess of 20 cm's and a height in excess of 6 metres (very expensive).  Trees can be bought bare root (cheaper), root-balled or in a container (expensive).

The best time to plant is in the dormant season between November and March when they can be planted bare root. Planting can be done at other times but the tree will have to be containerised and will need additional aftercare particularly watering.

Most trees (except transplants) are planted in a pit which should be carefully dug to sufficient size and depth to accommodate the tree roots. It is important to ensure adequate drainage and place the tree at the same depth at which it had previously been grown. Larger trees will require staking to hold the roots firm while they establish. The stake does not need to be any higher than about 600 - 1000 mm long above ground as it is important that the stem is allowed to flex slightly to develop properly.

Woodland is usually planted using transplants which are notch-planted at between 2 - 3 metre centres. This involves cutting a 'T' or 'L' shape in the ground, lifting the soil, placing the roots in the gap and firming down.  Many hundreds of trees can be planted in a day this way. They are protected by a rabbit spiral or a deer tube which are held by a cane or small stake respectively. The area around the base is kept weed free to remove competition usually with herbicide but mulch-mats can be used.

Planting the tree is just the beginning in the process of establishing a healthy mature tree. Regular checks should be made to ensure that it has not be loosened in the ground by wind, that any ties to the stake are correctly placed and the trunk is not rubbing, the ground around it is kept weed free and if the weather is dry it should be watered. Applying a mulch of compost, bark, old carpet or proprietary mat will help to suppress weeds and keep the ground moist.

The Council welcomes proposals to plant trees, particularly new woodland and will offer advice and guidance. There are grants and advice available from the Forestry Commission and from the ELWOOD partnership to assist both woodland planting and management.


Trees and woodland generally do not need anything to be done to them on a regular basis. However, when trees are grown in close proximity to buildings or other infrastructure, conflict between the two can occur and action has to be taken. To avoid future management problems plant the right tree in the right place.

Trees are long-lived and during their lifetime land use around them can change and problems which were not there originally can develop later. For example, housing may have been built after the tree was planted and there may now be issues such as shading or restriction of television signal.  Appropriate pruning can usually overcome these issues.

When a young tree is planted, the first two or three years are crucial to its successful establishment. Key tasks are watering, weeding and keeping the tree firm and upright. Minimal formative pruning may be required to maintain a single leading shoot.

Trees are susceptible to various hazards, some natural others man-made, which can be damaging to the tree and which may result in the need for pruning or even felling.  Snow falls and high wind can result in branch damage or whole tree loss whilst lawn mowers or thoughtlessly stored material can cause physical, chemical, or physiological damage.

Common pruning techniques are:

  • Crown lifting - involves the removal of lower branches to increase ground clearance leaving more clear trunk
  • Crown thinning - removal of smaller branches to open the crown to allow more penetration of light and wind
  • Crown reduction - this has to be done very carefully by cutting back to a suitable side branch to ensure the future shape and health of the crown is not compromised. It is NOT the same as 'topping' which involves the complete removal of a significant portion of the top of the crown which then leaves flat-topped cuts which can decay, the resultant proliferation of shoots is unsightly and structurally weak and is expensive as it will necessitate further work in the near future. The loss of leaf area and large pruning wounds is detrimental to trees. Topping harms trees.
  • Dead wood removal - this is done to avoid the risk of die-back or decay spreading back into the sound wood and also for safety to remove falling wood hazard

Pruning cuts should be clean and with sharp tools and made to a side shoot or back to the branch collar. The wound should be left open to the air and not painted with anything as this can seal in disease. Trees have their own defence mechanisms against decay and, providing the pruning cuts are correctly made, the healthier the tree the more effective this will be.

British Standard 3998 (2012) gives recommendations and guidance on good pruning practice.

Woodland requires different management through its life and varies depending upon the type of woodland, be it timber crop or amenity. It is usually planted with transplants which are notch-planted at between 2 - 3 metre centres which is too close for mature trees. After approximately 10 years (maybe more depending upon species, ground type, elevation and exposure) the trees will need to be thinned by removing the less vigorous or bad form trees to allow development room for the best trees. Thinning should be in phases over a few decades until final spacing is achieved which varies depending upon species. For example, Birch will be closer spaced than Oak.

Remember, if you are considering undertaking some tree pruning or felling, you should first check that the tree is not protected by either Tree Preservation Order or Conservation Area by contacting the Planning department. If the tree is protected you must apply to us in writing to get consent for the work before you start. Failure to obtain consent is an offence under the Town and Country Planning Act (1990). Woodland work may require a Felling Licence; contact the Forestry Commission for advice.

See the links below for further information:

For information on the Forestry Commission and its grants and licences go to:

The Arboricultural Association provides advice on tree care and maintenance go to: