Let the Planting Begin!

by Three Hagges Wood Meadow in Flora (Plants), Management, Trees 0

Although our first tree planting date, 2nd December, 2012, makes us feel like we are really getting started on the creation of this new woodland, we have already done a great deal of behind-the-scenes work on the site, firming up our aims and mission, and the plans to fulfil them.

Since we are using only native species, the selection of the trees is relatively straightforward – there are, after all, only 30-odd trees that qualify as native, along with a dozen or so tree-like shrubs.  These are the ones that colonised here in the wake of retreating glaciers at the end of the last Ice Age some 8‑10,000 years ago (there are more refined definitions, but let’s keep it simple).  The actual planting technique is also a well-proven piece of cake.  Had we wanted to create a plantation, the challenge would simply have concerned the logistics of getting some 10,000 trees into the ground, with spaces between for people to walk in.

We would so much rather create a naturalistic woodland than a plantation, to enhance the landscape and provide a haven and resource both for wildlife and our human neighbours.  An entirely worthy aim, but is the mass planting of trees alone sufficient to achieve this?

No, actually not.

We’ve all seen sadly neglected or misplaced plantings characterised by tree tubes empty but for dead saplings, vole nests and clumps of vigorous grasses or more pernicious weeds.  And we have observed plantings which, at semi maturity, are carpeted beneath with a rank and impenetrable understorey of bramble, ivy and nettles.

We can certainly recognize the features that distinguish a natural woodland and a broadleaved plantation:  the real thing, like the woodland shown above, is an ecosystem that includes an interdependent tapestry of trees, shrubs, herbs, invertebrates, mammals, and birds, not to mention myriad creatures and microbes beneath the ground.  In nature, it may have taken many hundreds of years to mature.

How can we achieve something that approximates to this from an arable field?  Not without a carefully considered planting scheme and long term management, combined with an educated approach based on ecology – and all the practical skills provided by our team.

As our planning has progressed, at each stage we have been faced with a number of dilemmas that have forced us to think laterally, from the ground up, and to discover a whole range of possible solutions that we will chart here in the blog.