Were you thinking of planting any trees or shrubs - perhaps to replace a dead or   diseased plant, or even to produce a change?  If so, it has now become very urgent.  It is important to get most bare-rooted subjects planted at the latest, by the middle of March, so that they get well established before any hot or dry weather arrives.  By May it is often necessary to give these freshly planted trees and shrubs a good soaking.

Trees and shrubs, once planted, usually occupy their site for years, and it is therefore necessary to prepare the soil well before planting.  This preparation consists of loosening the soil usually to about two spits deep (spade blade depth is a spit).  While this is being done, incorporate into the soil as much compost as can be spared.  A scattering of good general fertiliser mixed in the soil will also pay dividends.  Take care to remove any perennial weeds and roots that may be growing near the site.

When planting take out a hole large enough to accommodate the roots when these are well spread out.  The depth is also important, deep enough so that the finished levels are such that the bush is at approximately the same depth as it was in its nursery plot.  Next examine the plant.  Prune off to a dormant bud if possible, any damaged twigs or shoots.  Now examine the roots.  If any of these have been damaged, again prune off.  It is now ready for planting.  Spread out the roots round the hole, making sure they are all travelling in a downward direction.  If any roots are left in an upward direction they may produce suckers at their highest point, and these will become a nuisance.  Generally, if the bush is planted a little deeper than it was in the nursery bed, it is OK.  It will allow for settlement.

There are, however, exceptions:

Grafted plants are normally grafted either on to more robust stock to increase the root size, or on to weaker stock to decrease its size.

Rose trees, grafted to increase the root size, I find are better planted deeper to encourage further roots, even covering the graft.  This has a further advantage that when the tree becomes old, a pruning back to ground level will not remove the graft, and vigorous shoots of the 'good' rose will be produced.  With fruit trees - apples, pears etc the grafting is done to reduce root growth, and it is important that the graft is well above the soil to discourage the productions of roots.  The grafting union is usually quite easily seen on young plants as a swollen area just above the roots.

If planting trees, these generally will need a post as a support.  The post is driven  into the hole.  The new tree is arranged in the hole with its best side towards the front.  The main stem of the tree should be on the leeward side of the prevailing wind.  This will help to avoid it rubbing against the support.  Plant the tree as detailed previously.  Firm the soil while covering the roots.  Use a broad strapping to fasten the tree to the post, allowing a certain amount of slack for stem growth.  Some tree types such as willows and ornamental cherries are very shallow rooted.  This may become a nuisance in lawns where they may grow to the surface, or get caught by the mower and often produce suckers well away from the parent tree.  Another fault with these types of trees is that their roots find cracks in drains, enter and, enjoying the moist conditions, extend rapidly and block the drain.

PRUNING  -    After planting these shrubs and trees, they will require pruning to balance their inevitable loss of many roots.  This operation is best left until late March.  Roots by then have been well 'activated' and the reduction of top growth will encourage good balanced growth.  Generally, about one-third of the top growth is cut off in the pruning.  Buds may now be bursting, sap rising fast and a general surging of new life.  Prune some shoots back to either side shoots or buds.  Crossing twigs, which could become future crossing branches, can be removed and the general shape of the plant made more balanced.

SOFT FRUIT BUSHES may need special treatment:

BLACKCURRANT   -    A very young bush may have 3-6 or more shoots from low down.  Prune these shoots well back to 2 or 3 buds, leaving a total of say 12-15 buds.  If left unpruned, the existing shoots will not form a good mature fruiting bush, one which will never produce enough fruit for even a small pie.  One year's fruit forfeited in this early stage, will be rewarded in future heavy crops.

RASPBERRIES   -    These are usually planted in a single row, to be supported by post and wire.  After planting the usual single stemmed plants, wait until the buds begin to burst and then cut back the cane to about 10-12" above the ground.  This encourages early production of suckers, very necessary in raspberry cultivation.  These suckers should be well protected.

BLACKBERRIES, LOGANBERRIES and their hybrids, are fairly similar to raspberries: they all fruit on young branches or shoots produced the previous year.  Newly planted specimens are pruned back to about half their size.  These will then produce suckers from under ground, or long shoot from the stem just above ground.  These are carefully preserved, and in the autumn or early winter are tied in to wire and post, making a framework of plants for fruiting during the following summer.

REDCURRANTS AND GOOSEBERRIES   -   These both fruit on old and new wood.  The aim when pruning these is to make a good framework of branches on a single stemmed plant.  Maintain a good balance in future years of young and old wood by removing an old branch or two, and encouraging replacement young branches.

Two bushes each of blackcurrants, redcurrants and gooseberries, 1 blackberry, 1 loganberry and a row of about 8 raspberries should give the normal family a fairly plentiful supply of fruit for immediate use, and enough to store, either as jam or frozen fruits.