The first Woodland Creation project to be planted with our own trees was carried out over spring 2020 and completed spring 2021. Now the 17,500 trees have been planted the next step is the maintenance and after care. Going in and cutting back or digging out the brambles to begin with has helped the next step. The next step being cutting back the bracken. It is unfortunate that the most fertile ground does mean that you have to compete with the bracken. We have gone in and cut round the trees by hand as they are small sitting below the bracken and only have vole guards on so any other way would most likely mean chopping the trees too. Although a few trees had a wee trim where the bracken was so thick you couldn’t see or the spacing wasn’t quite what you thought it was going to be! Hard work but very rewarding to see that so far, the success rates have been at least 95%! I was super concerned as right in the middle of planting we had the longest cold snap I remember with the ground being frozen solid for a week meaning the trees already planted must have got frozen and also the trees we had stored in boxes on site had also frozen. Then a month later we had a heat wave and a near drought! Then when the wether has been a little more stable they have had to compete with everything else trying to grow. Despite these hardships the wee trees fight on for another year….
The large tunnel has served me well and is brilliant although I have found in spring especially when there is a mixture of seed trays and stock left to grow on for a further year it is impossible to get the watering right as one thing is either over or under watered… in an attempt to help alleviate this problem we have purchased a smaller tunnel as a germination area.
While I was waiting for the seeds to germinate and get to a transplantable size I started working on building the new tunnel. Many flashbacks were had to the head confusion the first tunnel caused mainly due to it being a commercial sized tunnel where normally you would get polytunnel experts come and put it up for you. I did not realise this when I purchased it! Anyhow, we managed with many volunteers helping out along the season, it just took a lot longer than I ever expected!!
This new tunnel however was quite the opposite as it is within the’hobby’ range and it came with a large instruction booklet, links to a video and each step of nuts/bolts/parts were all in separate bags or bundles with codes to the instructions – genius. It also made for quite a quick build even on my own with only a day or two having to ask for extra hands and the final part to put the plastic on.
The new tunnel has not sat empty for long and filled quickly in June with the first try at growing some conifers. We have a mixture of Scots Pine, Douglas fir, Western Red Cedar and Norway Spruce. The conifers are intended to be planted as part of a mix with native trees into the recently felled areas in our forestry plantation.
First seeds to germinate and be brave enough to poke their heads above the soil in the erratic spring weather was Sycamore on the 3rd of March! Roughly 3wks on they were ready for transplanting.
Next up was Hawthorn, followed by Rowan and Birch. Disappointing germination considering the quantity of seeds but then that seemed to be a running theme for most for 2021 spring.
Oak and Hazel have had fairly ok germination and seem to be a more reliable yearly species if the acorns and nuts are available. Below are what’s been grown inside the polytunnel in rootrainers compared to outside in seed beds. They seem to be of an equivalent size, health and germination rates.
I am very excited as we have managed to get Aspen growing for the first time in the tree nursery! It is a huge amount of work for the quantity but it is worth it as they are the most beautiful tree.
Firstly we went and dug up some of the roots and planted them into soil. Small suckers start to grow along the roots. Once the suckers are big enough you cut the stem and I did various trials some with an organic rooting hormone and some without. Then planted into sand/compost mix and once they have established roots transplant again into rootrainers or straight into rootrainers with a normal compost mix. Once the sucker cuttings have been taken they require to be kept under plastic and get a regular misting of water.
Cuttings without a rooting hormone were not all successful compared to using a rooting hormone. And both planting on techniques worked. In future I will most likely plant them straight into the compost mix in rootrainers to miss out the extra transplanting step.