“Plant a tree in ’73, bundle of sticks in ’76” is a refrain that is etched upon my mind. A recent query from one of our supporters about survival rates amongst the 6m trees we have planted under our Jubilee Woods project only served to reinforce the point.
I take any tree loss from schemes that we are involved in very personally – I’ve always made a point of revisiting sites that we have planted over the 19 years that I have been with the Trust and thankfully they are all in the main flourishing, and in many cases I am actually surprised by how well they have developed.
What are some of the key issues to think about in order to establish a new woodland successfully?
- Are trees actually right for the site or is the site more valuable as the habitat that currently exists there?
- Understand the site – soil type, depth and condition, water regime, slope, elevation, aspect and exposure will all impact on the species and provenance of tree that may grow there – good planning is essential to select the right tree for the site. Look around at what trees are already growing on and near the site – they will give good clues as to what will grow there and may also be a vital source of natural regeneration which in most cases will establish much more effectively than a planted tree.
- Use good quality nursery stock with a good balance between root and crown. A 1 or 2 year old tree will establish much more effectively than a taller, older specimen which will take much longer to adjust to its new site. Handle planting stock carefully on site and particularly don’t let the tree roots dry out on bare root stock
- Plant correctly in the right season and in the right weather conditions – watch our ultimate down-to-earth ‘How To’ film
- Maintenance: of all the above this is what probably gets forgotten about the most. Young trees will struggle for moisture in their early years so effective weeding/mulching is of paramount importance. Trees may also need firming in and straightening and ties, supports and protection checking
- Worry about your trees – if you do this you will visit them regularly and check them – if you forget about them they are far more likely to fail
- Above all focus on quality of planting rather than quantity.
We annually review all the planting we have carried out on our own estate and take a random sample of a percentage of the planting that we support on other peoples’ land to assess success rates, and what lessons we might need to learn from failures. We also send out an annual newsletter to remind and advise those we have planted with to carry out appropriate maintenance.
Still, there are always lessons to learn so what else might we do?
John Tucker, Director of Woodland Creation