So here’s a little encouragement to anyone thinking of planting a tree or two…Three years ago, we planted a tiny ‘copse’ of about 50 bare-root saplings, most only about 60cm high. Most of them are now taller than me (not that hard, I’m not very tall!), but this summer, the first trees grew taller than H (who is 6’3). This little bare corner of a field is becoming a place, to us. The trees now cast just enough shade for a smallish child to sit under on a sunny day.
We planted the copse with the aim of growing at least some of our own firewood, to feed the woodburner that keeps the older part of the house warm (well, warmer) in the winter. With that in mind, we put in fast-growing species that can be coppiced every 15 years or so, including plenty of alder and ash (of course!) There’s also wild cherry, bird cherry, two types of birch, and some willows that we were given as unrooted ‘setts’ about 5′ long. My little boy Os and I planted those bare willow sticks one chilly winters day last year, and here they are now.
In permaculture terms, this mini-wood is part of our ‘zone 4’ – that is, an area you visit sometimes, and take a harvest from once in a while, but don’t use intensively. So we placed it in the far corner of the fields, as we don’t need to go there regularly (although we do visit pretty often, just to admire the little trees and see how they’re getting on.) We did water the saplings a few times in their first year, and tried to keep the grass down around them. Apart from that, they’ve not needed any real looking after, just occasional checks that their rabbit guards are still in place. (We have a giant rabbit warren running along this field, and despite our efforts to control numbers, it’s pretty much Rabbit City.)
This is one of my favourites – its a little Common Alder (Alnus Glutinosa). I’ve been watching this one extra-closely, as its the tree I’m ‘following’ for Loose and Leafy’s Tree Following project. Today, it’s in full leaf, with the fruits that look like little cones swelling in the sunshine.
The cherry and birch are all looking chirpy.
The ash saplings given to us by H’s parents are doing well – no sign of ash dieback disease as yet, which is great news.
Now I know we are incredibly lucky to have the space to do this sort of thing. I’ve also heard of people putting in one or two willows or hazels on an allotment, to grow their own poles for plant supports – saves having to buy in bamboo canes shipped half way round the world. I like that idea – in permaculture terms, its a simple way of ‘closing a loop’ by growing or making something you need for your garden or home, rather than having to buy it in. In the old days, this was the norm, and woods and woodsmen were an amazing resource for their communities, creating firewood, charcoal, fencing hurdles, furniture, bowls, spoons – and on and on. It feels nice, in a very tiny way, to be part of that tradition.
Gardening – and particularly planting trees – is a long game. As my mother-in-law says, you don’t plant trees for yourself, you plant them for the next generation. It’s a bitter-sweet feeling – the trees we’ve planted will probably long outlive me. I won’t get to see them at their full height. But for the next while (a good long while, if I have my way!), I can enjoy watching them season-by-season. I can be be warmed by them once we start to harvest them. And I’ll always remember planting them – with both Granny and then Grandma visiting over a long weekend to play with the children while we worked, Grandpa toiling away helping to dig the holes for the new trees. If I’m lucky, perhaps I’ll get to watch my own Grandkids sit in their shade one day.
So go on, plant a tree today! If you’ve no room at home, I came across the lovely My Baby Tree project run by World Wildlife Fund Indonesia. For a US$15 donation, they will raise a seedling and plant it in one of their forest reserves on various Indonesian islands, aiming to undo the destruction to Indonesia’s forests one tree at a time. If you pay for a sapling to be planted, they will send you its location on Google Earth, so you can see your tree (well, the area it is in, at least). How cool is that?
And if you’ve got the tree-planting bug, here are a few more tree-planting projects I’ve come across:
Trees for Cities – Big Tree Plant – They have funding for community tree-planting projects, deadline is August 30th!
Woodland Trust – Dedicate a Tree – You can dedicate a tree to commemorate a loved one or celebrate a special day.
Trees for Life – Restoring Scotland’s Caledonian Forest to a 1,000 acre ‘wild forest’ managed for wildlife, not logging.
Have you ever planted a tree, or been involved in any great tree-planting projects?