Tree planting (practice run)

Getting a brew on

After our grand tour these past five years, 2013 is family Beale’s year of settling, observing and preparing.  We do have a long list of jobs but we can’t get them all done at once and we know that we need to plan ahead and prioritise rather than get stressed out about a mountain of work. I’ve also been working away a lot (not for much longer though, woohoo) and this has meant little time to get to the woods and get work done there too, much to my disgust.

Does not look like 600 trees

Come January and the whole 2012/2013 coppicing season being missed I was pretty urgent to have moved the woodland project along a bit so I ordered 600 willows as a practice plot for the wet not-much-useful-for-anything-else land that makes up the majority of our holding. The idea being that if they take ok then over the next 5 or so years we’ll plant up a large part of the land as a firewood coppice.

The trees sticks came quicker than expected and were then sat for a week in a large trug filled with water to promote root growth. I had 5 varieties. The plan being a large practice firewood – sorry ‘Biomass’ – coppice and the final 100 as a small trial basket weaving bed, the latter being planted much closer together to keep them skinnier.

Don't do this, it's bloody stupid.
Don’t do this, it’s bloody stupid.

Our – mine and a mate, Mel – first attempt was snowed off, we just got one fence post in the ground. Attempt 2 a week later got all 500 of the firewood sticks in, as well as 2 further days to get the surrounding fence sorted (this would have been a single day’s work for 2 people, instead it was one day each between Mel and myself). The fence proved to be essential as we didn’t use guards (too expensive) we figured on a single boundary to stop the rabbits.

Mel's awesome fence
Mel’s awesome fence

We left the sticks for a few days whilst we got on with other things, like earning money, and on next visit just 3 days later there were already signs of rabbit damage!

The final half day was with the entire family and we planted 100 odd sticks in a morning whilst lunch was in the slow cooker at home, using cardboard as a mulch.

It was a more expensive exercise than I’d expected:

  • 600 trees @ £450 though at the end of year one we’ll cut them all back (to promote multi stem growth) which should give us 3000+ more trees if we want them
  • Fencing material at £100. This was very low budget: VERY cheap & will immediately rust chicken wire, and all the fence posts were home felled & pointed. We definitely need some serious investment if we’re going to plant up 18 acres. This test plot was only 30 m2
  • 6 days labour spread between 2 people with a guest star appearance from the Beale clan at the end. This would be a lot quicker next time and the fencing is definitely the biggest job.

We ended up with the following species mix

for the basket weaving bed:

  • Harrisons x22
  • Flanders Red x21
  • Triandra x44
  • Q83 x18
  • Viminalis x15

and the much larger firewood bed:

  • Viminalis 10 rows of 27
  • White Tip 4 rows of 27
  • Q89 4 rows of 27

Let’s hope the rabbits don’t get them all!

Grow baby, grow
Grow baby, grow