Protect Hero


In their first few years, there are several steps you can take to ensure the trees you have planted have the best chance of thriving. To help with this, it may be beneficial to appoint tree stewards, or someone responsible for taking care of the tree.

The needs of trees will vary as they grow, so below we have divided the small tasks you can carry out during these different stages.

The first three years

To avoid accidental damage, make sure to communicate to all those involved in maintaining the space are aware of the trees you have lovingly planted.


Watering is one of the most important things to ensure successful establishment after planting a tree.  Whips planted will require little additional watering, however the bigger the tree planted the more watering is required. Be mindful that newly planted trees do need watering, even if it has been raining!

A newly planted tree should be watered when planted in the autumn or winter, at the point of bud burst in the spring and should be watered throughout the spring and summer until the leaves have fallen in autumn.

During summertime, newly planted trees should be watered at least 2-3 times a week with at least a full watering can. Watering is advised for the first 2 summers after planting, after this the tree should be able to get enough water from the surrounding soil.

Where possible use a watering can with a rose attachment on the end or another method that will administer water slowly and at a low pressure, mimicking rainfall. If regular watering using this method is not possible, tree watering bags can be purchased from many nurseries which help by releasing water slowly.



Weeds compete with trees for light, nutrients and water so keep at least a meter diameter weed-free. Your trees will need all the nutrients they can get to survive. Be careful though as it is easy to damage a tree, especially with weeding tools such as strimmers. A great way to reduce the likelihood of weeds growing and to retain moisture is through using “mulch”. There are different types of mulch but also avoid a build up of mulch around the stem of the tree.


A great way to reduce the likelihood of weeds growing and to retain moisture in the soil is through using mulch. Mulch helps to keep weeds at bay, while helping to retain moisture in the soil. Aim to use somewhere around 4 to 6 centimetres depth of mulch spread over a meter diameter around the trunk of the tree. This will need topping up each season as it breaks down.

Check your tree

By keeping a close eye on your tree, you will be able react quickly to any unwanted developments. To prevent strong winds toppling your tree, check your guards and stakes are still placed firmly in the ground. Remove any grass that has started to grow inside the guard and any pests, having the guards should help with pest reduction.

Years three to ten

As your tree grows, eventually the spirals or guards will split. Before they begin to disintegrate, remove and dispose of them responsibly, recycling where possible.


Established trees can be pruned to encourage upwards growth and create a diverse canopy structure, though this is not essential. Please note, this step involves dangerous equipment and should only be carried out by a responsible adult. The majority of trees are best pruned in winter. However, species such as cherry and walnut need pruning in summer to reduce risk of disease and sap bleeding. If unsure, always seek expert advice.

Threats and Conservation – Grey Squirrels

Grey squirrels negatively impact the health of the UK’s trees and woods through bark stripping. Damage creates open wounds, weakens, stresses and kills trees. This is a serious problem at a time when the UK is working to increase its tree and woodland cover for the many essential benefits trees provide.

Grey squirrels were introduced to the UK from the 1870s. They cause environmental and economic damage and are replacing red squirrels through competition and transmission of the squirrel pox virus. This is a disease they rarely contract, but which is almost always fatal to red squirrels.

High densities of grey squirrels also threaten the health and survival of important tree species. Their bark stripping and girdling behaviour weakens and kills trees, and the open wounds created are susceptible to infection from pathogens.

For more information visit UK Squirrel Accord.