Here we are in February 2021. Despite the new lockdown and need for more resilience to weather this pandemic, I feel a sense of optimism - Having set out to plant 360 trees (If you haven't read Part 1 yet, you can read it here ), we have now planted 290 trees with 70 to go! I must confess to now feeling addicted to planting trees. There is a great sense of calm and connection to the land and the tree’s own personality when you are out planting, as well as working together with other humans to make it happen. I can’t describe it - but I feel so differently about this field now, its identity, and how it will evolve with a little encouragement and coaxing.
I can’t wait to see the first flush of leaves and blossom the trees produce, the summer shade and light, and the winter colours with crab apple baubles. There was great excitement from the birds when we planted too - an anticipation of things to come.
Woodland field- 270 trees planted November 2020
In part 1, we set out why we started this project of planting trees, and why we set ourselves the target of planting 360 of them during this tree-planting season (November 2020 - March 2021). We still have a few more trees to plant, but we hope to reach our target by March 2021.
A bit about our process...
So, how did we go from discussing the idea, to actually enacting it?
The preparation and planning took much more time than the actual planting. It was necessary to plan out how best to use the features of the existing landscape and enhance them. The coloured drawing below is one of my very rough site plans with a broad view of the woodland and landscape layout in relation to our house, garden and field site - to give context - and a rough section to get a sense of scale, topography, views and existing boundaries.
I used this drawing and overlaid it with more details on numbers of trees, species, paths and connections etc (as the black and white rough drawing below). We have a badger run across the field, which became our crossing path (the most direct), and we settled on the idea of a glade running diagonally up/down the hill to connect the views down to our pond (not filled yet- a work in progress), and to the majestic existing mature Ash and Willow trees. A brilliant sledge run too, as we gleefully found out this last snowy weekend.
Picking the trees and placing our stakes
Once we had worked out an overall strategy, we discussed the types of trees we wanted to plant. This decision was influenced largely by what kind of trees already grow in our area, and their availability from the Woodland Trust (see Part 1). We enjoyed learning and identifying these (and many more) species out on local walks together. There's no better indicator for what grows well in a specific soil type and setting than looking around at what's already there.
We walked the field many times and set out the tree positions with bamboo canes, tying coloured ribbons where we imagined more prominent larger trees - like the Oak trees - and arranging where blossom drifts may one day be of Buckthorn, Hawthorn, Cherry and Crab Apple. In our design, we celebrate our beautiful Ash tree, giving it space to continue to thrive hopefully, but planning for succession planting with Oak and Goat Willow for future specimens, as Ash Dieback sadly is taking hold nationally and across Europe.
Getting the space ready, digging & planting!
Our first delivery of 270 woodland trees arrived in November 2020! We unpacked them and stored them upright in a sheltered area in the garden, but before we could start planting the rough grassland needed to be cleared around each stake - we did this mostly by mowing. A first cut was done by our neighbouring farmer with his tractor, and a second, closer cut with our old lawnmower. We also hand-pulled grass and weeds around the stakes.
We had a good, pointed spade, which was great for the rough, hard clay soil that we needed to dig for the saplings. We dug small squares (you can use the slit or T-shape method for very big projects where you need to save time, but digging a small square is best!), weeding the dug area and making sure the saplings were covered to just above the root. Stakes were placed South-West of the sapling to give protection. The trees we bought came with free plastic tree protectors. We did research bio-degradable ones, which we would have preferred to use and which the Woodland Trust are now also investigating, but they’re not available yet. We aim to re-use the protectors in an innovative way (for example, we are currently compressing any of our thin, non-recyclable plastic waste into bottles known as ‘Ecobricks’).
Our latest additions
Our 20 orchard trees arrived in January bare-rooted and we planted them quickly in a more sheltered corner of the paddock, alongside some of our existing fruit trees. This time we dug wider, deeper holes, and used proper stakes with ties (low down), as these were larger maiden trees about 120cm high. They look settled and have stood up well to the stormy weather we have had over the last month. These should produce their blossom this spring, the smallest woodland saplings will take more time and will need encouragement to take root and thrive!
The Orchard corner: 20 ‘maidens’ - Pears, Apples, Greengage, Medlar, Juneberries, Wild Plums, Crab Apples. Planted January 2021.
I go out and check the trees most days, and I feel that I’ve got to know this piece of land with growing affection. Trees do have a phenomenological effect on you. I feel they have taken root in me and that we are growing together.
We have 70 more trees to plan for and plant, so we will be keeping you updated on our progress in the coming months!