In this extract from the October issue of The Country Smallholder magazine, Wade Muggleton looks at the choices you need to make when it comes to planting trees on your smallholding.

Tree planting has never been more high profile; headlines about climate change, carbon storage and government targets for tree planting abound. We have Jubilee Woods, a National Forest and community orchards popping up across the country. Yet here in Britain, we have a miserly thirteen percent tree cover, one of the lowest in Europe, only Holland has less, whilst our neighbours like France, Spain and Germany all have over thirty percent tree cover. As a nation, we need to up our game and plant a lot more trees. So as smallholders can we accommodate new trees on our land without compromising our other activities?

Whatever size holding you have, there are probably opportunities for new trees in some form. It is finding the right place and putting in the right type of tree that is important. There is a saying in the tree planting and conservation movement that it should always be a case of the ‘Right Tree, in the Right Place for the Right Reason’.

When it comes to selecting possible trees to plant, there are a range of considerations. What do see around you? Look at the view from your land and notice the trees. What is growing in the surrounding landscape will be the best guide as to what might be suited to your holding. Some tree species do well on heavy clays, others prefer lighter sandy soils, so if there’s an abundance of good English Oak trees around you then Oak may well be a good choice. If you never see a Beech tree anywhere, there may well be good reason in that they are not suited to your patch. Do some research on soil type.

There are two factors to consider here, such as trying not to lose grazing land or shade out cropping land. Field corners, those awkward slopes or spaces that are a pain to graze or mow could be possible tree planting sites.Then think about whether there are any jobs trees can to do for you to improve your holding. Trees can provide shade, fodder, fruit, intercept run off, screen unsightly neighbouring features and of course increase biodiversity. So, getting the right trees in the right place can fulfil multiples of these roles. For example, fruit trees are great for wildlife, will give you a crop and can act as shade, shelter and a screen.

As we have said, tree planting is currently high profile and there can be a tendency to think it is a good thing to do everywhere. But there are locations where tree planting is utterly inappropriate and should never be carried out. Meadows, heathlands, and some wetlands could all be ruined by tree planting, as the trees would grow up and dry out or shade far more valuable habitats. So, asking yourself whether this is the right place and are we planting for the right reason, is key.

This article extract was taken from the October 2023 edition of The Country Smallholder. To read the article in full you can buy the issue here.

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