Tree Planting and Climate Change by Garden Designer Tim Brayford

Oak tree 1

The government has launched a £ 50 Million campaign to encourage farmers and landowners to plant more trees to help tackle climate change but is this a good idea, and what are the options?

Forestry

Tree planting is a long term investment, some native species such as Yew can live for thousands of years and even the non-native Sitka spruce commonly grown in commercial forestry may live past six hundred years although in the UK they may be typically harvested between thirty and fifty years of age. If it is intended to produce timber this may follow a clear felling operation on previously forested land, on peat bog moorland or on more productive agricultural land.

Spruce forest

If sequestration of carbon is the main objective according to scientific research pasture sequesters 30% more carbon than forestry and this grass land may be grazed by the animals that provide us with dairy products and meat. It would seem to be counter-productive to plant trees in the UK if this merely resulted in forest clearances elsewhere in the world so that food may be grown for us to import instead?

Cord Wood 1

What about the rewilding options, how can they help to fight climate change?

Around ten thousand years ago after the climate had warmed at the end of the Ice Age the tundra habitat that had then prevailed in the UK gave way to the primeval woodland that we consider to be native today, remnants of which may be found in what are defined as ancient woodlands, those deemed to be over four hundred years old. This process occurred through natural regeneration, the spread of both flora and fauna from warmer latitudes.

Ancient woodland 1

These woodlands are rich in species diversity containing complex interdependent ecosystems, far better than any man-made creation. They have proved to be resilient in the face of the ongoing post Ice Age climate fluctuations, thriving during the extremes of cold, heat, wet and drought that have occurred since. If allowed to do so these woodlands can expand outwards to regain their former territory through natural regeneration, with the seeds distributed by the wind and in the droppings of wild birds and mammals such as deer.

roe & bluebells

Tree Planting

Nursery grown trees provide an instant visual impact, in the short term is quicker and gives control over what species are planted although the choice may be somewhat limited. If the trees are not local to the area they may bring new plant diseases with them. Planting may be both costly and labour intensive with the trees requiring unsightly stakes and guards, and they may require careful watering and weeding for the first few years until well established.

Tree guards 3

In the 20th century following the devastating loss of the nation’s Elm trees to the imported Dutch Elm disease the government promoted new tree planting, so what became of it? In short the trees failed to thrive:-

Plant a tree in ‘73

Plant some more in ‘74

Still alive in ‘75

Dead as sticks in ‘76

Natural Regeneration

Natural regeneration can be slower to establish and care must be taken to remove any alien invasive species such as Sycamore, however the emerging scrub will provide valuable, diverse wildlife habitats in which declining species such as nightingales may thrive. Survivability will be good in the long term with the scrub gradually transitioning into mature woodlands from which future generations may benefit. Much of this work is currently being pioneered on the Knepp Castle Estate in Sussex.

knepp livestock

Making a choice

Whichever method is used to establish new woodlands there needs to be clearly defined objectives about what this tree planting is supposed to achieve. Is it to be a commercial timber crop that may be used to produce renewable energy wood pellets or is it to be part of a rewilding scheme managed to benefit biodiversity in the future? Each will sequester carbon and both have their advantages and disadvantages, it is however essential  to decide which route to follow before embarking on such a project.

Tim Brayford Landscapes were established in 1980 and we are British Association of Landscape Industries National Award Winners for Garden Design & Construction. For more photos, advice & stories about gardening please visit our  website  email timbrayfordlandscapes@gmail.com  phone 07890 869918

www.timbrayford.co.uk logo & name 26.10.21

Rewilding with Trees by Garden Designer Tim Brayford

Ancient woodland 1

Ancient Woodland

Rewilding with Trees

What is rewilding?

Rewilding has been defined as restoring healthy ecosystems by creating wild, biodiverse spaces. It rebuilds ecosystems that have previously been modified by human disturbance, using the plant and animal life that would have been present had the disturbance never occurred. When such ecosystems are restored at a landscape scale it can help to mitigate climate change, and provide socio-economic benefits for communities.

Why natural regeneration is best

Around ten thousand years ago after the climate had warmed at the end of the Ice Age the tundra habitat that had then prevailed in the UK gave way to the primeval woodland that we consider to be native today, remnants of which may be found in what are defined as ancient woodlands, those deemed to be over four hundred years old. This process occurred through natural regeneration, the spread of both flora and fauna from warmer latitudes.

roe & bluebells

Native roe deer in a bluebell wood

These woodlands are rich in species diversity containing complex interdependent ecosystems, far better than any man-made creation. They have proved to be resilient in the face of the ongoing post Ice Age climate fluctuations, thriving during the extremes of cold, heat, wet and drought that have occurred since. If allowed to do so these woodlands can expand outwards to regain their former territory through natural regeneration, with the seeds distributed by the wind and in the droppings of wild birds and deer.

Giving nature a helping hand

Sometimes it is advantageous to expedite this process, particularly if seed banks have become impoverished by intensive agriculture, forestry or previous building work. Ideally seeds and seedlings will be sourced from native trees, shrubs and ground flora local to the area, but before these are sown or planted take care to clear away any non-native or commercially derived species first. A sterile seed bed can be helpful in this respect and resist the temptation to add fertilisers, the truly wild plants just don’t need it and it can encourage the more vigorous species to become dominant.

www.timbrayford.co.uk New woodland (2)

New woodland planting with regenerated ground flora

Things to avoid

Straight row monocultures of similar aged species, especially of non-natives and commercial cultivars. Avoid using plastic tree guards if at all possible, over time they can degrade into micro plastics, find their way into watercourses and cause serious oceanic pollution.

Avoid using this method of tree planting!

Instead accept that some of your planting will be lost or retarded by being nibbled by both large and small herbivores. This is an entirely natural process and over time will lead to the development of the mosaic habitat most favourable to creatures such as dormice, red squirrels and woodland butterflies.

Butterflies thrive in deer grazed glades

 

Tim Brayford Landscapes were established in 1980 and we are British Association of Landscape Industries National Award Winners for Garden Design & Construction. For more photos, advice & stories about gardening please visit our  website  email timbrayfordlandscapes@gmail.com  phone 07890 869918

www.timbrayford.co.uk logo & name 26.10.21

Gardens and Deer by Garden Designer Tim Brayford

Gardens And Deer

One of the joys of a well laid out garden is that it will attract wildlife, and if you are very lucky you will occasionally be visited by wild deer. However, you can have too much of a good thing so here’s some suggestions of what you can do to ensure that you can enjoy both the deer and your garden.

There are six species of wild deer in the UK varying both in size and habits, one of the smallest, the Chinese Water Deer, is of a very localised distribution and is usually found on open arable land or in reed beds, it is the one least likely to be seen in a garden. Of the others the largest herding species, Red, Sika and Fallow are most often found in the more rural areas and are less likely to be found in a suburban garden although they do occasionally turn up in unusual places. The smaller native Roe and the alien Muntjac are the two most likely to be found in a garden.

Roe deer are sometimes seen in gardens

So how do you know that the deer are present? They are mostly dawn or dusk feeders, Muntjac can feed through the night and you may see chewed off plants and not know quite who the culprit is. Neatly bitten off stems similar to a cut from a sharp secateurs is indicative of a rodent attack, squirrels, rabbits or hares. If the stem is cut on to one side and torn off the other this is more typical of deer.

So what can you do to prevent this damage?

Planting things that deer don’t like to eat can be helpful such as Camellia, Rhododendron or Hydrangea, the RHS produces a comprehensive list of suitable plants.

Camellias are unattractive to deer

Tree guards and shelters are a wise precaution, particularly with new plantings. These will protect against both small and large herbivores, and to some extent carelessly used strimmers!

Fencing off the most vulnerable areas such as vegetable, fruit and roses gardens may be necessary, especially in areas where there are high numbers of deer. Stock fencing up to 6’/1.8m high is ideal, reinforced with 3”/75mm squared netting if Muntjac are present. Make sure the bottom wire is well secured to the ground as deer are known to push up under such fencing. A strand of the highly visible electric fencing tape used to contain horses on the outside of the fence can also be useful. Avoid using double strands of barbed on top of stock netting, deer are prone to getting caught up in this and suffer painful fatal injuries.

Repellents such as lion dung, ultrasonic screeching devices and flashing lights have all been mooted as deer deterrents but in reality their effect is short lived and the deer soon learn to ignore them. Greater details about deer in gardens are available on the BDS website

Tim Brayford Landscapes were established in 1980 and we are British Association of Landscape Industries National Award Winners for Garden Design & Construction. For more photos, advice & stories about gardening please visit our  website  email timbrayfordlandscapes@gmail.com  phone 07890 869918

www.timbrayford.co.uk logo & name 26.10.21