At our house warming party, I made a drunken plan with a neighbour to embark on a tree planting campaign in our valley. My neighbour also happens to be a forester, so he knows a landscape that is short on young trees when he sees one.
This morning we planted (with the land owner’s blessing) fifteen trees, a mixture of field maple, oak and ash, along the side of a bridleway that divides two fields, one arable, one grazing horses. It took us about 25 minutes. The trees were two years old. I had never planted a tree before. It was simple and low tech. I now know that you need a spade, a tree guard, a stake to support the guard and a club hammer to knock in the stake.
Here are my notes from the morning, for my own benefit and for anyone else’s who might be interested:
- Budget £2.50 (incl. VAT) for one tree, guard and stake
- It’s all about water – trees need lots of water to grow quickly. But not too much.
- Plant in winter, ideally November to mid-January.
- The bigger the tree, and the more buds it has, the bigger the root system needed to sustain it. When planting, the earth should cover the top of the roots. If you plant the roots too deep, the tree will die.
- Spray Roundup in March to kill the grass a metre diametre around the base of the tree – if you don’t kill the grass in this way it will deny the tree all the moisture it needs to thrive. If you just cut the grass it will grow back, using even more moisture as it does so. If the summer is dry, you can also spray in June / July.
- Other than thirst, the greatest danger to a young tree is small animals gnawing away at its roots and trunk. Beware mice, voles, rabbits, deer. The guard is there to prevent access, but beware mice living at the base of the guard and feeding off the tree.
- Stop grass and other detritus from growing up inside the guard.
- Give the tree time – it will need it.
We’ve set ourselves the target of 500 new trees before the end of the year; 485 to go …