Trees are the only solution that can be agreed upon to help reverse climate change.

25 Sep 2019

Climate change and how to halt it is finally beginning to gain traction. It is estimated that here in the UK we need to plant 50 million trees a year until 2050 to stand a chance of carbon neutrality. That is all well and good but maintaining these trees through their establishment phase to ensure they contribute to the cause is often overlooked. With this in mind here are a few tips to apply when planting a tree in your garden to make sure it thrives and makes a difference:

Never plant a tree deep. In nature a seed will fall to the ground and germinate in the spring with the root going down and the shoot going up. When planting a containerised tree the top of the compost should be at ground level, (with the pot removed), to ensure the roots are not deep within the soil profile. If you dig a deep hole the tree may sink into the voids as the soil consolidates so the emphasis is in width rather than depth. Tree roots want Oxygen and water blended in measure. Please look at this four minute planting video as a demonstration of how to plant a container tree.

Watch out for weed competition. Assuming your tree has been planted correctly into a soil that has been worked to give a viable structure, the best thing to do is water it in. Planting in the autumn and winter is always preferable for deciduous trees and root growth will consolidate even during the winter months if there is enough moisture and the temperature underground hovers above 10 degrees Celsius. However, by looking after your trees the weeds will also flourish. Grass in particular is very competitive when it comes to tree establishment so we would recommend at least a one metre radius around the tree should be kept completely fallow. This area can be topped up with a 5cm bark mulch to protect the soil from capping dry and to encourage a microbial exchange up through the soil into the mulch and back again, so maintaining a healthy soil structure. Try to avoid weed killers, this could be taken up by the tree as well and cause more harm than good.

Watering in the first growing season. The first taster we are getting from climate change is a shift to more extreme weather patterns. We get more intense hot spells and longer periods of drought, especially in the South and East of the UK. Trees have evolved to harvest rainfall so try and mimic this. A garden sprinkler does a good job to copy a cloud burst but this rate of application still gives time for the soil to grip the water so the roots can access it. I see little point in planting the tree in a load of plastic sundries such as watering pipes and root chambers as we are trying to mitigate carbon use not accentuate it. For its first summer, I would water your newly planted tree in this manner once a week. If you have a hose pipe ban then a good backup is our tree hydration bag which delivers water nice and slowly to the root system and surrounding soil.

With all this in play your tree should get away nicely and be a good contributor to lock up a little bit of carbon. Clive Anderson, an ambassador for the Woodland Trust, summed it up nicely at a recent event to encourage a ramping up of trees being planted in the UK. He said we did not need a new ‘clever bit of kit’ to solve climate change as ‘that device already exists. It's called a tree’.

It’s about all we can collectively agree on. Otherwise all that results from these environmental summits is paradoxically a load of hot air. Any worthwhile legislation to mitigate climate change is inevitably economically compromising so will not happen. Trees do not offend and do the job we cannot agree to fix.

 

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