This past autumn, our allotment association put forth an application to the Woodland Trust- Community Programme to receive trees and shrubs and we were successful! It is a great programme. By encouraging community groups such as allotments to plant more trees and hedgerows, the programme helps to create more habitat for wildlife, build community amongst neighbours and in time, provide a great resource for coppicing. I will take a beanpole from a coppiced British hazel over a bamboo cane grown in southeast Asia any day!
A few weekends ago my fellow allotmenteers at Beck Lane Allotment got to work to plant our new hedgerows.
In total we received over 400 tree seedlings, also known as tree whips. The tree packs came in bunches of twelve, wrapped in plastic.
All of the whips were well on their way with strong rootstocks. The packs included silver birch, hazel, hawthorn, oak, blackthorn, and rowan. Hawthorns are a particular favourite of mine because they offer a firework of white flowers in May.
The plantings were scattered across the allotment. In one stale and unimaginative area, a chain link fence does little to support wildlife. In a few years time though, the trees will grow and create a thick natural fence that is more pleasing to all. We also planted a few in steep embankments that are not ideal for vegetable growing but have a huge potential to serve as pocket retreats, harbouring birds and insects. The trees will maximise the use of the space and provide much more benefits compared to the traditional landscaped rocks.
Planting the whips was easy. Using a spade (a shovel for my American readers), create a “slot” in the soil that is the depth of the spade. Then insert the tree whip into the slot and firm up the soil. I always like to rough up the roots in the plug so that it encourages new root growth once planted. With a good watering, and a plastic tube for support, the job is done. Presto!