How to plant a memorial tree.
This is our 6 step guide for those who are thinking of planting a memorial tree. We offer memorial tree planting at some of our natural burial grounds and will give you all the advice and support you need when planting a tree with us, but we know some families would also like to do this at home. We thought it might be nice to share some of the tips we have learnt from planting our own trees at our natural burial grounds in a handy guide. You may find other ways that we haven’t suggested but this is just a helpful guide with the top tips we have learnt over the years.
Step 1 – Finding the right tree
We plant native trees at our natural burials grounds to help to support and encourage the native biodiversity in the area and if you are planting a tree with us we can discuss which trees will work well. If you’re planting a tree at home there are many beautiful native trees that you can choose to plant but make sure that you have enough space for the tree you wish to grow, including the roots. If you choose a big tree like a willow or an oak make sure it won’t interfere with the light and buildings. Some trees have special meanings too and you may find that the ‘Celtic Tree Calendar’ can help you pick a tree based on a special date. You may also wish to consider how fast you would like your tree to establish as some will grow much faster than others. While you may be tempted to buy a large tree, often smaller trees are the best size to plant, we normally go for around 4ft, they have a better chance of surviving and the roots have a better chance of establishing than larger trees which may not like being replanted. A general rule of thumbs is the bigger the tree the longer it takes to establish its root system and the longer it will need watering. Watering is recommended until the roots are fully established.
Step 2 – Finding the right spot
At our natural burial grounds we can help you find the right spot for you depending on where trees can be planted, however at home you may want to think about the best place for your memorial tree. Things to consider are the soil you have and how wet the ground is. How much light or shade the tree will have and how exposed it is to the elements. If there is a special place that you want to mark with your memorial tree you may wish to write these down and then find a tree that enjoys being in these conditions.
Step 3 – Digging the Hole
When digging the hole a square hole is ideal, this should be 2 to 3 times wider than the tree’s root ball. If you are placing the tree in a grassy area or an area you wish to keep tidy it’s worth finding a piece of cardboard or a plastic sheet to place the soil as it will keep the area around it nice and tidy. If there is turf take the turf off carefully as this will come in handy later, you are then ready to start digging your hole. The hole has to be deep enough to cover the roots, but don’t be tempted to plant them any deeper than they have naturally grown as this can hinder the tree’s growth or even cause the stem to rot and the tree to fail. If you look at the stem of the tree you will see the point at which the stem starts to flare where the tree originally came out of the ground, this is the point at which you need to replant it. The great thing about nature is it knows what it’s doing so we have to trust it.
Step 4 – Planting your Tree
When your hole has been dug, place your tree in the hole and the roots on firmly packed soil and gently fill and tamp the soil with your foot around the tree to get rid of any large air pockets but do not compact heavily so the new roots are aerated and able to move into the soil as they grow. If you have turf from the hole you can turn this upside down and place this on the very top of the hole. Make sure you have allowed enough room for the turf to sink so you are not covering the tree flare, this will help to inhibit growth around the tree giving it a chance to grow without any competition. If you are scattering ashes this is the perfect time to scatter widely around the tree base.
Step 5 – The Final Touches
Place your tree stake and guard if needed (to stop nibbling wildlife) which will help to support the tree as it takes root. There are lots of different types and sizes of tree guards including eco friendly options which are biodegradable. We arrange the stakes and guards for our tree plantings, but if you are doing something at home your tree supplier should be able to guide you on the size of stake and tree guard you need. Place the mulch around the tree being careful not to cover the tree base and water the tree as needed, make sure you do not over water it. There is lots of guidance online about how much and for hold long you need to water your tree to give it the best chance of surviving.
Step 6 – Placing the Plaque
We arrange plaques for all our memorial tree plantings, however you may wish to have a plaque if you are doing this yourselves at home. We have a very helpful blog on natural memorials that may be useful if you thinking about having a memorial tree planting at home: www.leedam.com/blog/natural-memorials-close-to-the-heart-and-home.
If you are scattering ashes
We offer scatter of ashes with some of our memorial trees, if you are combining a scatter of ashes with a memorial tree planting it’s important that you don’t place the tree on top of ashes because it does not have the correct nutrients and PH for the tree and can affect the tree’s growth or cause the new plating to fail and you want to give your memorial tree the best chance possible to take root and establish. If you wish to scatter the best time this is around the tree once it has been planted. If you scatter well around the tree you can then place mulch on top of the scatter and if the ashes are scattered well enough it also gives you the option to scatter wildflower seeds so you have a beautiful mix of colour at the base of your tree during the spring and summer months. If you want something during the winter months you may wish to plant snowdrops too.
If you are thinking about having a memorial tree with us you can find out more about what we offer at the natural burial grounds below: