Tree planting extraordinaire

How to plant 4,000 trees in a month!

March 2021

We were keen to get things moving on the farm and knew that adding diversity by adding (appropriate) trees would help on that front. We spoke to the AONB’s FiPL people about getting some help with planting and, after a few delays, were ready to get going by the beginning of March.

When trees arrive by the pallet load, you know you will be planting for quite some time!

We planted a series of hedges of mixed broadleaves in places that seemed obvious (fences that formed borders but provided no cover for small mammals and no wind breaks for the leeward fields). We also planted almost 2,000 trees in a shelterbelt at the south of one of the fields. This is not a regular shelterbelt that might be planted with a standard selection of broadleaves, spaced 1.5m apart and thinned every 10 years; we are looking to the permaculture approach whereby every element has multiple functions and we also recognise that having single-species woodchip, through a short-rotation coppice system, could be a very handy thing in the future once everyone else (shhhh) recognises the value of woodchip as mulch and compost. We therefore have a shelterbelt of alder, hazel and willow that will be coppiced on rotations appropriate for the growth rates (rates that we don’t yet know).

The willow was sourced from the fantastic Willow Bank in Herefordshire based at Ragmans Lane Farm and we thought we would add in a little experiment. The two willows we chose were Salix x dasyclados and Salix Viminalis as they are both very fast growing. We planted them in grids of 36 stems and alternated ‘no treatment’ with adding Carbon Gold biochar in the planting hole. Only time will tell if we can discern any marked difference!

Finally, we did actually manage to plant some of our first agroforestry rows (walnuts) that we then guarded with a double electric fence, albeit after the deer had a nice snack on some.

A lot of people were involved in this effort – Athene, Mike, Jessie, Paul, Denise and Miranda were invaluable in their resilience and waterpoofness in just getting on with it. Thanks also to the Makita battery auger that reduced the RSI somewhat!

While it felt like a never-again kind of experience, it seems that our ambition is growing as the memory fades and this season is likely to involve planting twice as many trees! But hopefully not all in March!