Tree Planting and Rewilding: A How to Guide.

How to Plant a Tree

If you’re planting bare rooted whips you can simply cut a slit with a spade, drop one into the depth it was grown in its original site. Then tread the soil in around the whip, whilst also gently pulling the whip upwards, this ensures that the soil settles evenly around and under the whip.

Planting bigger trees needs a bit more effort, whether bare rooted or container grown. Dig a square hole that’s more than big enough to take the  bare root system or root ball with compost intact. The roots of trees planted in round holes may have a tendency to grow out to the edge of the hole then turn and remain contained within the looser soil, as if they’re in a pot. In a square hole they will at least be more likely to grow out from the corners, even if the surrounding soil is more compact. Loosen the bottom & sides of the hole to give the roots the best chance of spreading. Incorporate into the soil removed, any compost, fertiliser or topsoil that you have to hand if you wish to improve the soil condition. Put a very small amount in the bottom of the hole, place the tree in position, check the depth is the same as it was in its original growing situation, and backfill around it, trending down to firm the fill in layers. It is important to put the mass majority of any compost etc. you are using around the tree as a mulch. The mulch must not sit on the trunk of the tree as this may cause rot. If too much compost is added to the planting hole this prevents the roots from growing strong as they will not need to move away from the tree to look for nutrients. The mulch primarily helps with moisture retention and gives a slow release of nutrients into the surrounding soil whilst also acting as a weed suppressant. If planting a tree in a lawned or grassy area remove all grass within 500cm of the tree.

Trees more than about 1 metre tall may need a stake to hold them in place against wind or unwanted attention from people. If rabbits or deer are present, any size tree might benefit from a protective tube or wire cage. We should try to avoid plastic tubes if possible! If staking, don’t drive it in through the roots as you’re likely to damage them. The stake can be driven into the bottom of the hole before the tree is put in, driven at an angle into the firm soil beside the hole, or for larger trees consider a stake each side of the hole with a wooden cross-bar fastened to them. The tree should be strapped to the stake or bar with something that won’t cut into it such as a strip of fabric, old bicycle inner tube, etc. This will damage the tree if it gets tight so will need to be checked annually. Don’t be tempted to support the tree high up on its stem. They need to move a bit with the wind to develop a strong root system for later life when they outgrow the support.

New trees will need to be watered frequently in dry weather at least for the first year, maybe two if conditions are very dry. Generally, a bucket full once a week is good practice, over watering, as with excessive compost in the planting hole will prevent strong root growth.

Tiny Forests

Also known as ‘Miyawaki’ or ‘Green Lungs’ is a Japanese approach to planting various tree and shrub species to have the highest, positive impact on increasing biodiversity developed in the 1970s. Tiny Forests are dense, fast growing woodlands of native species. The forests themselves can bring all the  environmental and social benefits of a forest as well as providing a rich habitat for our local wildlife within a small space in an urban setting. 

Through using this approach, our project aims to provide small areas where biodiversity can be dramatically increased whilst these trees establish themselves. With minimal maintenance in the first few years the trees are eventually left to grow as nature intended. These forests will provide a nature rich and accessible greenspace for Fordingbridge to allow people of all ages to reconnect.

Rewilding

Planting a new tree has its own carbon footprint. The energy used at the nursery, transport and the manufacture of materials such as stakes, protective tubes, or ties are just some of the examples. The maintenance of the tree and surrounding area after planting, perhaps with strimming, watering, mulching, weeding also take manpower, cost money and use valuable resources too. 

Rewilding by definition, is the process of restoring an area to its natural and uncultivated state. It may be preferable to leave a site to allow natural regeneration of trees from seeds or suckers produced by mature trees if there are some nearby. In order to achieve this, the site will need to be left for at least a year without mowing, strimming, digging or trampling to determine whether there is a suitable seed bank in the soil already. It may therefore need to be fenced, perhaps with a notice to advise passers by why it is being left undisturbed. As a bonus, the site might then become a haven for wild flowers or brambles which are themselves, an important habitat for nectar feeders and pollinators, seed eating birds, and a refuge for small mammals and other creatures; a small patch of biodiversity in itself. 

Brambles should be seen as protective nursery cover for young trees rather than an unwanted intrusion to the area. They will protect against deer and children playing nearby for example. They can be carefully cut back on one third or half of the site each year to help maintain a rich layer of other wildflowers, without damaging the trees among them. 

Trees grown in this way are unlikely to require watering or maintenance which transplanted trees will, don’t need staking, and are more likely to be successful.

Wildlife Gardening

You can have a positive impact and increase biodiversity within your own space through various means, whether you have a large garden or a restricted area. Encouraging local wildlife into your space is an incredibly rewarding process. 

Try planting native wildflowers and nectar/pollen rich plants in your garden or in pots and containers. Leaving areas of your lawn unmown will also encourage various native plant species to establish. Wildflower seeds are now readily available at local garden centres and with some management you could create a wildflower patch which will return year after year. A key species of establishing a wildflower meadow is yellow rattle (Rhinanthus minor). As their roots develop, they suppress the growth of grasses allowing other wildflower species to establish. 

A Peacock butterfly (Aglais io) on verbena.

Creating bug hotels will provide shelter for insects and various bee species. A small pond will establish over time and provide a home for a majority of aquatic invertebrates as well as frogs or newts. Ponds also provide a valuable water resource for mammals and birds visiting your garden.

A Common frog (Rana temporaria) in a homemade pond using recycled materials. 

FAQs

What can you do to make a difference? 

You can have a positive impact on the environment and local biodiversity through various methods, however big or small. Whether you plant a pot with nectar rich flowers on your porch, leave a small section of your garden to go wild, or have space to plant out several different tree species. However big or small, the cumulative effort with our local community can be huge. 

When is the best time to plant a tree? 

The tree planting season runs from mid November to  early March, but it is always best practice to avoid planting when the ground may be frozen as this can damage young, less established roots and prevent the absorption of water. Trees remain dormant throughout winter, and start to grow again during the spring. 

Donations

Our Project is dependent on working closely with our community, and we would welcome any donations of native whips, saplings or young trees. We are also looking to work closely with local businesses and property developers. 

Resources & Contacts

Please join our Facebook Group if you wish to be kept updated with all things FGL; https://www.facebook.com/groups/www.fordingbridgegreenerliving.org/). 

Email fgltrees@gmail.com if you would like to volunteer or wish to contact us with anything tree related queries.