Blog - Woodland Activities
Carbon Impact of Tree Planting
Every year humans release 40 billion tons of greenhouse gases (like methane) and carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, something that needs to change if we’re going to stop the effects of climate change from worsening. As we all learned in science class, trees remove carbon from the atmosphere during photosynthesis, making planting them an excellent way to offset our carbon emissions. The carbon offset of one tree (at maturity) can be up to 22lbs per year during its first 20 years of growth, meaning a hectare of trees removes between 5 and 45 tons of carbon in the same timespan. In England, the government plan to plant 180,000 hectares of trees by the end of 2042 as a means of reaching their goal to become carbon neutral by 2050. The question is, where should these trees be planted and how can the public help to reach this target by planting trees themselves? Right tree in the right place In the coming years it might be tempting to encourage, on an individual and national level, as much tree planting as possible in order to backtrack the effects of climate change, but tree planting needs some consideration in order to offset carbon emissions, taking into account which species, or combination of species, can store the most carbon and which areas are the best for planting. There are certain places where trees shouldn’t be planted, not just because they might interfere with our homes and infrastructure, but because planting trees in these areas could actually have a negative carbon impact. One example of this is Scotland’s peatlands, which hold 20 times more carbon than the UK’s forests; planting trees in these areas would necessitate their draining, and result in more carbon being released than the forest planted would be able to absorb. [caption id="attachment_34388" align="aligncenter" width="650"] Stream flowing through peat moorland[/caption] Instead, trees should be planted in areas where they will benefit the surrounding area and be able to store the most carbon. Luckily there are lots of low-risk areas available for planting trees to offset carbon in the UK, such as low-quality agricultural land, marginal land or existing forests that are under managed. Around 1/3 of carbon sequestration needed for the country to become carbon neutral by 2050 could come from improving the management of existing forests by encouraging carbon storage and resilience in existing trees and helping younger and better trees to thrive. Planting trees on agricultural or ex-agricultural land can have similar benefits. [caption id="attachment_38247" align="aligncenter" width="675"] Carbon impact of tree planting[/caption] Urban tree planting There are also potential benefits to afforestation and tree restoration in urban areas. Global warming has come with the rise of urbanisation, causing tree coverage to become sparser in urban areas. As trees have a cooling effect, cities have become hotter, developing ‘heat islands’ where roofs and dark construction materials absorb solar energy and radiate it back. Planting trees in areas with asphalt can reduce this warming, and provide more shade and water. Afforestation to reduce air pollution is an effective strategy in urban areas, as trees absorb pollutants. Be aware that certain species, such as Eucalyptus and Pines, emit high volumes of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in particular environments, such as when combined with high temperatures and high nitrogen oxide concentrations (i.e. urban centres), so can contribute to the formation of ozone and carbon monoxide. Tree planning in urban areas should prioritise increasing the number of low-VOC emitting trees and those with long life spans that require minimal maintenance. Which species to plant? No matter where you’re planting trees, planting native species is often encouraged; those which have been a part of the UK ecosystem for thousands of years. In the UK broadleaf species are native, and some species, such as oak and beech, have huge carbon storing potentials as they grow slowly, locking in significant volumes of carbon over time. Though some tree planting schemes have favoured faster growing trees like Sitka Spruces (as these will offset carbon more quickly), they may not yield such long term benefits over a longer timeframe. An important factor is not how fast a tree grows, but how much carbon it’s able to store when it reaches maturity. It is also important to grow a diverse range of tree species in order for a forest to be efficient at offsetting carbon. Biodiverse forests store twice the amount of carbon as monocultural forests, so growing a combination of species such as broadleaves and Sitka Spruce will allow for more carbon to be fixed; with each tree species introduced to an area, there is an increase in 6% of its total carbon stocks. Different species grow at different heights and speeds, so this will provide more tree coverage and have short and long term carbon offset benefits, as well as providing habitats for a larger range of animals and improving the soil and climate conditions. [caption id="attachment_38248" align="aligncenter" width="675"] Carbon impact of tree planting[/caption] Get planting! As you can see, planting trees has great potential to offset carbon emissions, but where we plant trees and what types of trees we plant defines just how effective trees can be at storing carbon. Whether you’re planting trees in your back garden or buying land to plant trees, it’s worth considering which species of tree you’re planting and whether the land is suitable for planting, ensuring the project has the best chance possible of removing carbon from the atmosphere!
Tree Planting: Some things to consider
So, you’ve decided to plant trees, or maybe you want to buy land for tree planting, but you’re not entirely sure exactly how to plant trees correctly. There are several things that need to be considered when going about planting trees, including choosing the right tree, deciding where to plant it, and making sure it takes root and grows successfully. Once you’ve planted it, you need to keep an eye on how it establishes itself in its new location. When is tree planting season? It’s best to plant trees with before the spring and summer. The rainy spring and hot summer conditions can spark the tree to grow, so it’s important for you to establish the tree in its new location before this change in conditions. As a result, the best time to plant trees is from November to March, with planting in November giving the tree a bit more time to get settled (for its roots to establish) before the warmer seasons. Though you can technically plant a tree in the summer, this could increase the chance of it not establishing. It’s best to plant trees when the weather is cool. Where is the best place to plant trees? You have several options for where to plant a tree, whether that’s in your garden, on someone else’s land or on tree planting land that you have recently bought. When deciding to plant you must consider what the space has to offer; for example, if you have less space, like a small garden, it might be best to choose a smaller tree that’s easy to prune and that won’t interfere with the infrastructure of your house or its surrounding area. If you have a larger garden or a plot of land you’ll have more options, and could consider things including the topography, soil type and aspect, when selecting species. Though many trees can survive in any conditions, some prefer specific conditions. If you don’t own the land you’re planning to plant on, you will need to get permission from the landowner before doing so. If you do own the land, you won’t need planning permissions unless your project is over 2 hectares in size, at which point some environmental assessments may be necessary. There are also some places where you can’t plant trees, such as on archaeological sites, or sites with rare or protected species. Grasslands that have never been ploughed, wetlands and heathlands are not suitable for planting trees. Planting next to some rivers could also be regulated, but you’ll need to talk to the Environment Agency to make sure. If you’re unsure about whether you can plant on your land, you can check with the Forestry Commission. What species to plant? When it comes to selecting species, there is no right or wrong answer, and different species can flourish equally in the same location. People often prioritise planting native broadleaved species, which is widely encouraged, but not essential. Planting a range of species can improve resilience and resistance to disease, while also having excellent carbon storing capabilities! A diverse mix of deciduous trees will also be beneficial to wildlife. In the UK there are lots of options for native trees. Examining what’s already growing in the surrounding areas will give you an idea of what will grow successfully. You might have a specific goal in mind when planting trees, such as attracting more wildlife to an area - a tree with nuts and berries (such as rowan, elder, blackthorn, or hawthorn) will be best for this - or maybe you’re looking to reduce flooding, in which case alders and willows are good options; particularly next to watercourses. The size of the space you have available is important to consider, as larger trees may eventually encroach upon your home once they reach maturity, so may not be suitable in a back garden. For smaller gardens, consider trees such as crab apple, alder, bird cherry, dogwood, elder, or goat willows, which are naturally small, or trees that can easily be pruned back to the desired size like holly or hazel. What do I need to plant a tree? Not a lot of equipment it required to plant a tree: you’ll need a spade, a tree (which could be bare root, cell grown on root ball), a tree guard for protection and a cane/stake for support. If there are browsers or grazers in the local area (such as deer) then stock proof fencing around the perimeter of the young woodland could be useful to keep them out. A mulch (or equivalent material) is also important, to keep down the grasses and weeds which can provide unwanted competition for young trees. Mother nature will almost always take care of the watering required, but some irrigation (from a spring, river or mains connection) can be handy in particularly dry spells. Rain water collection systems could also be utilised. Steps to plant a tree Preparing the land & choosing a spot Before you dig a hole to plant your tree in, prepare the soil for planting. This involves cutting any grass short and weeding the area, which prevents the tree from competing with other plants for water and gives it the best chances possible! After working out the density at which you would like to plant, it’s sensible to mark where each tree will go with a stake. This should be a safe distance away from any buildings, other trees or infrastructure (don’t forget about power lines and pipes!). Planting density can vary on species, as well as desired outcomes, but it’s worth bearing in mind that the denser you plant, the sooner you will get a closed canopy, which is a nice milestone in the development of a woodland. Either 2m or 3m gaps are fairly standard. For hedge planting smaller gaps are advised, with 30cm or so between each tree; for thicker hedges make a double row of trees in a zig zag pattern with 50cm between the rows. Digging a hole Once you’ve done your preparation, it’s time to dig the hole! There are several tree planting methods, including pit planting, spiral planting, and t-notch planting. Pit planting works on all soil types; spiral planting works on bare soil and grass and is good for stony soil; and t-notch planting is a quick method for grass-covered ground. Pit Planting Dig a hole deep enough to take the length of the roots of the tree. Pick up the tree by the roots and place it in the hole, pushing it to one side to see how deep it is in the hole and to ensure all the roots are covered. Using the heel of your boot or your hands, firm the soil around the roots, making sure there are no air gaps. (Another way to prevent air gaps is to spray water on the soil after backfilling halfway, and again once you have completed filling the hole.) Place the tree guard around the tree and hook it around the stake, and push it around 1cm into the ground. Spiral Planting Press the depth of your spade into the ground, pushing forward to create a slit that’s deep enough for the roots of your tree. Using the spade to keep the slit open, place the tree inside the hole with the top of the roots 2cm below the ground. Remove your spade and push the soil back around the roots of the tree, again checking that there are no air gaps. T-Notch Planting Create the first ‘notch’ by pushing the depth of your spade into the ground. Then, to create the second ‘notch’ do the same thing at a right angle to the first notch, creating a ‘T’ shape. Return the spade to the first notch and lever it upwards, parting the section of soil. Hold your spade there, placing your tree in the space created before removing the spade to allow the soil to fall into place. Ensure that all roots are in the hole and adjust the tree so that it’s at ground level, before firming the soil around it. How To Plant A Root Ball Tree If you’re planting a ball root tree, or a tree from a pot, dig a hole 2-3 times the width of the roots, but no deeper than the length of the roots. Break up the clumps of the roots so that the roots don’t grow circularly. You might choose to leave 25% of the root ball higher than the surrounding soil level, and taper the soil so that it covers the roots before adding a layer of mulch. After Planting Mulch Mulch is a good way to retain the moisture of the soil surrounding your tree. It can keep the roots cool, and protect the roots of your tree from extreme weather conditions. Mulch will also keep competitive weeds and grasses at bay, which can be problematic for a young tree. Alternative options to mulch include bits of old carpet, sheep’s wool or anything that will keep the light off the soil and prevent growth around the base of the tree. If you choose to use mulch, leave around 1-2 inches of space around the base of the tree, and place mulch about 1 sq/m around the tree. Watering Watering your tree correctly is extremely important for it to grow successfully. You will need to ensure that you water your tree correctly until its roots are properly established in its new location. This can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, up to a year. Here in the UK, in autumn and winter, our rainy climate is usually sufficient to enable the trees to establish and flourish on their own. Some additional irrigation from a stream or water run off can be helpful if it is particularly dry. Pruning Before you plant your tree, you might choose to prune branches, but you shouldn’t do so immediately after planting. Wait until after a full season of growth to do ‘corrective’ pruning. Plant Around Your Tree The area surrounding your tree provides the perfect environment to plant other shrubs and plants. Planting wildflowers can help attract diverse wildlife and creates a variety of food and shelter for different species. If you’re planting several trees, the space between your trees will encourage different habitats to form and improve the biodiversity of the area. It could be nice to form a footpath between your trees so that you can easily access them and enjoy the advantages that come with being surrounded by nature. Go, go, go! Now that you know how to properly plant trees, get planting! Don’t be discouraged if the tree you’ve planted doesn’t grow successfully- there are endless variables that can affect why this might happen, but if you follow the above tree planting tips you should be on the right track. There will always be a certain percentage of trees which fail to establish. There are so many benefits to tree planting on your physical and mental health, and is one way to do our bit to help the protect the environment from the effects of climate change, so there are plenty of reasons to keep trying!
Making walking sticks – from stems picked out of the woodlands
Woodlands.co.uk is 'republishing' this blog, as contact details for the Jones family are now available and several people have expressed an interest in having a walking stick 'custom made'. The blog originally appeared in 2014. Contact email address is pj451324(at)gmail.com Peter Jones and his sons make walking sticks on a serious scale using sticks they come across in the woods, where they do their forestry work. They use chestnut, silver birch, oak and hazel. But they avoid using willow, as it goes brittle once it's aged. Apart from finding the right stick to work on they need a steamer for bending the tops of the walking sticks and a good supply of sealant and varnish for protecting the finished sticks. "Honeysuckle makes the best twist sticks" advises out Peter Jones, who comes across a lot of twisted stems in Kent and East Sussex. As a result, he is able to trade these with fellow stick makers in more northern English areas - they give him carved tops for walking sticks in exchange for good twisted shanks. But even among twisted sticks there is variety: the slower growing trees such as holly and oak twist more slowly whilst the fast-growing chestnut twists quickly. Though he also corrected me pointing out that the maker of walking sticks should really be called a "stick dresser" Read more...
Of owls and dormice
Dave and I bought our lovely wood in Kent in 2019 because we wanted to surround ourselves in nature and have somewhere our children could visit to decompress from their busy lives. In due course, we hope our as-yet-unborn grandchildren can come and explore amongst the trees to root them firmly in the natural world. One day, we wish them to become the custodians of this beautiful space. But it was more than that for us. Dismayed by on-going news of threatened wild spaces, we wanted to play our small part to protect, cherish and encourage the biodiversity that calls our wood its home. Understanding how the wood ticks throughout the year was a steep learning curve for us and one that we shall still be climbing for many years to come. We have dug several small ponds, put up bird feeders and a large number of bird boxes, as well as clearing some glades and coppicing the hazel through the winter. Trail cameras have been sprinkled liberally around, all the better to find out what the wildlife is up to when we are away. We have found that there is a thriving population of Hazel Dormice in our wood and there are several badger holes and fox dens. [caption id="attachment_37873" align="aligncenter" width="640"] A Hazel Dormouse that has made a nest in a bird box[/caption] Green Woodpecker nest in the same hole in a cherry tree every year and this spring we have the thrill of a pair of Tawny Owls setting up home in one of our owl boxes. [caption id="attachment_37874" align="aligncenter" width="623"] A Tawny Owl hunting for worms on the woodland floor[/caption] White Admiral and Silver-washed Fritillary butterflies glide majestically through the woodland glades in August and Woodcock and Redwing fly in from distant lands to spend their winters here with us. We feel that the wood has given us so much - the joy of a deeper understanding of the woodland habitat, a space to clear our heads, bountiful aerobic exercise, and, in a small way, the opportunity to give a little bit back to the world.
Tree Planting Spades
So, you’ve decided to plant some trees and are wondering what tools you’ll need for the job. Whether you’re planting a select group of ornamental species, a bountiful orchard of fruit and nut trees or a new broadleaved woodland, there is one key aide which will take you a long way – the humble tree planting spade. This is a short guide to what you might find on the market and the differences between various spades. Spade or Spear? Most tree planting tools will fall into one of two categories: Spades - those shaped like a traditional spade with a curved head and a flat cutting edge at the bottom. They will look similar to a normal garden spade but much smaller. Spears – those with a flat face and a point at the end, designed to create a slot in the ground when pressure is applied to the tread by foot. Spades can be used to dig holes for planting and move soil around, making them more versatile tools, whilst spears are excellent for planting cell-grown* or bare root* stock, but are somewhat limited to this sole function. If planting larger trees with established root systems (root-ball* trees), then a spade is definitely the tool for you, as the slot created by a spear would not be sufficient to house the root system without causing crushing. In contrast, for those looking for an efficient method to plant lots of small trees quickly, for example when establishing new woodland for carbon offsetting purposes, then a spear should definitely be considered. Comfort is key Like many things, it often comes down to personal preference and what you feel most comfortable with. There is no right or wrong tool to use, as long as the tree is planted in a way that does not damage it (for example by burying the root collar) then you’re on the right track. Planting trees is a wonderful thing to do and as much as possible, you should work with tools that make the process a pleasure, which hopefully means you’ll spend more time doing it! Other factors to consider An often-overlooked detail is the length of the shaft and handle, which for those who are slightly taller or have the odd back pain, can make a big difference! A nice long handle will take the strain off those sensitive back muscles, as well as offering a bit more leverage which can be of assistance when planting in heavier soil types. The materials and quality of construction is also important; try wherever budget allows to buy once and buy well! Some cheaper tools made from inferior parts may not stand the test of time, or worse still let you down when you’re out in the field with a bag full of whips. A solid wooden handle (or better still stainless steel) with a galvanised steel head is a good option, ideally with a double-riveted socket which will provide greater strength. Where to buy and how much? Tree planting spades are available to buy at most garden centres and agricultural supply stores, such as Mole Valley. They are also widely available to buy online from specialist tool suppliers. Whilst you could pick one up from as little as £20, and pay up to £100 for the very best, you will be able to buy an excellent spade for around £30-£35. Bulldog Tools are a reliable supplier and would be a good option to consider. Do what works for you! Planting trees is good fun and of benefit to the planter, the wider community and the environment. A communal activity and a great form of exercise, the more trees we can all plant, the better! This means that you should use a planting spade (or spear) which is comfortable to use and gets the job done. If possible, try out a couple of different designs and manufacturers (borrow from a friend or neighbour where possible) before making the decision, but always remember they are in essence doing the same thing – making a home for a tree where it will live for many years to come. *Tree types Bare root trees – Produced by sowing seeds into outdoor beds. During development, seedlings are undercut to encourage a healthy root system. When ready, the trees are lifted and shaken by a machine to remove the soil, revealing the ‘bare’ roots of the tree. They can only be lifted and planted during the winter months when they are in a state of dormancy. A cost-effective option. Cell grown stock – These trees are developed in a compost ‘cell’ or ‘plug’ and can be seen as an intermediate option between bare root and pot grown. When removed from the cell, the fibrous root system is contained with the compost which remains on the roots. More expensive than bare root but generally has a higher success rate and can be planted all year round. Root ball or pot grown – These trees are the most developed and largest of the three options and are delivered with a significant ball of soil surrounding an advanced root system. The root ball will be encased in a biodegradable material. Great for those who want more established trees from the offset, although there is a price to be paid for this benefit.
Sorry, you’ve bought a woodland?
That’s the most common reaction among friends, family and colleagues when mentioning our latest project. So I thought it would be fun to share a little about why we have in the hope it will help others who may be considering it. We’ve always had a love for the outdoors; I grew up practising my Scout skills on Dartmoor and Exmoor and my wife hiking and living on the North York Moors. Fast forward 19 years and with boys of 8 and 11 we had spent days and days during Co#%d outside. We’d chat about the environment, ecology, camping and escapism amongst other things. I’d dreamt of owning a woodland for years and we could now think about making it a reality. I must confess that it’s taken a year or so of convincing my wife that rather than having money sat doing nothing in savings, thinking about a camper-van or extending the house - it would be much more prudent to leave something for future generations and critically much more fun to learn about and apply our ideas from those Co#%d chats in our own woodland and more so to share some of that with our family and friends. What blew me away in the process was how much the boys would help. The ideas were flowing; camping, hammocks, making fires Bear Grylls style, bird/owl/bat box making and installing, planting new trees, wildlife trail cameras, dens, bird hides, benches, swings, obstacle courses, tree houses, a pond, a zip line, a zip line over a pond! You get the idea. The boys’ ideas have spurred us into investigating and learning about the interconnectivity of many of these ideas; bracken control by digging a pond to encourage a new natural wetland habitat, new wildlife, opening an area above for bats and birds, the potential for new mammals, creating an area for relaxation and quiet reflection. We might also be creating entrepreneurs as the boys have realised they could earn some pocket money by selling poles or netting kindling or even one day carving spoons. They’ll keep us on our toes that’s for sure. And how about something for me? Apart from the gadgets I’ve been secretly buying, the latest project is a compost loo with a view - made from old pallets. Ticks off the categories of environment, sustainability, ecology and escapism all in one hit. And we’re only at the beginning, what else might come in the future? Four weeks have rolled by since the purchase, many of those same friends and family now say things like “it’s so great how much the boys are into it!”. Isn’t it just?!…and in reflecting on the title of this post; no, we’re not sorry at all! Far from it! To track our progress and time as a woodland owning family please follow us on Instagram @grange_close_wood. Jethro.
Home to roost : an owl box.
In late winter, it’s good to put up new nest boxes and clear out existing ones, in time for the breeding season. In Ellekers Wood, as part of our management plan, we've been making lots of new boxes for birds and bats. Bats are currently having problems finding food to eat, plus many of their natural roosting places have disappeared. Building a bat box offers them :- somewhere safe to roost, a place to raise their pups and Sleeping quarters during the day. Our biggest boxes are the two tawny owl ‘chimney boxes’. Tawny (or brown) owls (Strix aluco) ‘own’ the classic owl hoot. They will nest in large gardens with trees, but woodlands are good for them. Their diet ranges from worms to rabbits. Tawny owls like a north east facing entrance, with a clear route. Our boxes are made from 1" thick, rough sawn larch planks. We followed the RSPB design. Each box is approximately 800mm long (measurements / specifications available here). Fortunately, Dan has a head for heights and he has installed the boxes in mature oak trees at a height of approximately 6 metres. The tawny owl typically makes its nest in a tree hole where it can protect its eggs and young against potential predators. They will occupy / nest in smaller cavities than barn owls and the design of the box reflects this. As tawny owl chicks start to explore their surroundings before fledging, it is important that the boxes are placed with easy access to nearby branches, so that they can climb over. As with many species of birds, tawny owls are sensitive to disturbance when incubating their eggs, and should not be approached as they can be aggressive. It is important that consideration is given to the siting of any box [embed]http://youtu.be/RfXIHXCyTNk[/embed] Full details of RSPB nest boxes for various birds can be found here : https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/advice/how-you-can-help-birds/nestboxes/nestboxes-for-owls-and-kestrels/
On buying a woodland
Recently, woodlands.co.uk asked me some questions about ‘buying a woodland’. So here goes : How did you find your woodland? As a local, I found the woodland by walking with my partner and our dog. My partner’s family lived in the village for a number of years. Were there surprises you found in the first few weeks of owning your wood? The biggest surprise for me in the early weeks was the expansiveness of my woodland, every time I would visit I would find something different. This could be a different tree species,a path or a bird. Did you set up a campsite and how did that go? One of my goals was to camp at least once a month, starting with my first month of ownership in January! Camping has given me the opportunity to spend more time in the woods, not just mornings / afternoons and appreciate the peace and quietness. How have you managed the woodland? Management so far has been cutting overstood hazel coupes for regeneration and collecting good firewood for home. Rotten or poor-quality wood has been collected and stacked for wildlife habitats, especially oak! The hazel rods have been for craft activities ,with the brush piles being left for insects. What are your future plans for the woodland? Future plan for the woodland is to introduce different native species of tree. I have around 20 saplings I have potted on at home, that will eventually be moved into the wood. With the regeneration of hazel, the crop I intend to use to create deadwood hedges for protecting young trees from deer. How have various members of the family got involved in the woodland? All of my family have visited the woods and helped in some way. Whether it be firewood, coppicing or bringing food to have with a hot drink! What practical projects have you done or planned for your woodland? How did you do these? My partner and I both enjoy wood craft such as pyrography and woodturning. A lot of oak limbs that have come down during storms have been used to make presents for friends and family, and decorations for our home. What advice would you give to someone buying a small woodland? My best bit of advice would be to wait for the woodland that has what you want. Woodlands come in all shapes and sizes; and getting the right patch can make your experience a lot more enjoyable. In terms of flora, what have you learnt in the woodland? I have learnt that woodlands like mine (broadleaf) provides a home for hundreds of plants, flowers and insects. The humid conditions in oak woodlands provides ideal conditions for rare / hard to find flowers such as orchids and so many types of fungi and lichens. David