Slit Planting – The Method We Use

Here is one of our Tree Champions showing how we plant trees at TREFFEST events.

Planting Trees FAQ

Plastic Tree Guards – Really?

Most of The trees we are planting are saplings, known as whips. They are young trees grown from seed or cuttings and are about 2 years old. These are supplied to us by The Woodland Trust complete with tree guards and treated wooden stakes. At this tender age the young trees are only about 30 to 40cm tall and are vulnerable to being eaten by rabbits and deer. To help protect the little trees, on planting we install the tubular translucent plastic tree guard around them. This acts not only as protection from being eaten, but also acts as a little greenhouse protecting the tree from wind and extremes of heat and cold. The guards can give the whips a boost as they establish themselves in the first few years of growth. The stake helps support the tree and keep the guard upright against the wind.

The big downside is that the tree guards are made of plastic! We hate using plastic and putting so much of it into the environment. This plastic will require collection and recycling  when it has finished it’s service life

We think Thunderbox Dave Wood explains it all very well in this video from Tiverton Tree Team.

Biodegradable Alternatives?

We have been actively looking for biodegradable alternatives, but up to now have not been able to find a tree guard that can offer all the advantages of the plastic benefits such as long life, and green house type protection. But biodegradable plastics that rival the qualities of traditional fossil oil based plastic are now beginning to become available and we hope soon we will be able to offer fully biodegradable tree guards with all the advantages of the plastic ones.

Some useful links;

Who Looks After The Trees?

After we have planted the trees and put the protection around and securely staked them, it is the responsibility of the land owner to make sure the ongoing survival of the trees and that they are looked after until they become established.
If it is very dry this might mean watering them and providing ongoing protection from rabbits and browsing deer.

If some trees are lost it is also up to the land owner to replace them. After about 5-7 years, once the trees have established themselves and grown, the tree guard should have done its job. The tree will be growing well and will be big enough not to need it’s protection. The guard can be cut along its length and removed. Unfortunately removal renders them useless to use again as tree protection, but they can be recycled and made into useful and durable agricultural products.
It is the landholders responsibility to remove and recycle the tree guards.


Forest In A Box

At TREEFEST 2020 we launched the Tree by Tree Forest In A Box tree nursery project.

We planted more than 200 locally harvested Acorns using a method inspired by the copy nature forest floor seedling incubator system employed in The Woodland League ‘Forest in a Box’ project. This system provides a growing environment that will optimise the health and vigour of saplings by recreating as much as possible the forest floor in which they would naturally be growing as part of natural regeneration.

This practical solution for landowners willing to reforest areas of their land gives them the opportunity to do so over the coming years, not just at the one-off TREEFEST event. And it is also a great opportunity to re-use tree guards!

Each time we hold a tree planting event, we also pledge to plant more forests in boxes – planting it forward, tree by tree.

The landowners hosting TREEFEST will need to be committed to caring for the seedlings and after 2 years, the whips will be ready for planting out on the land, or at a future TREEFEST event.

What Is A Forest In A Box Tree Nursery?

Forest In A Box is a mini tree nursery allowing people to grow from locally harvested seed a large number of seedling trees in a small space  (1m x 1m = 200 trees).

A development of the Dunemann bed system, the basic principle is to create ideal growing conditions for tree seeds, free from negative competition and predation, and so increase the chances of successful propagation.

The Dunemann system was developed by a German forester who noticed trees growing naturally on the natural forest floor were extremely healthy due to the conditions provided by nature in the natural forest. He then decided to experiment by copying this natural way to grow trees with great success. The intention is to optimise the health and vigour of the saplings by recreating as much as possible the forest floor in which they would naturally be growing as part of natural regeneration.

The loosely packed woodland soil medium allows for easy root penetration and most importantly promotes healthy relationships with mycorrhizal fungi. Additionally, the bare root whips are easy to lift from the soil, without damage, when ready for planting. Shade provided by the high sides of the box encourage the young trees to reach for the light, as well as offering protection from wind and cold in the saplings’ first 40cm of growth.

Forest In A Box is ideal for growing common native UK tree species such as Oak, Ash, Beech, Sweet Chestnut, Hazel, etc. In 2 years  you should have up to 200 seedlings ready to plant out to grow on to become a woodland, or to be a resource for any other tree planting scheme.

Forest In A Box mimics the woodland floor and soil system and, as such, is a valuable teaching resource. It demonstrates how soils work and encourages understanding of natural environmental systems in a practical and positive way. Growing seedlings promotes a sense of achievement and connection to nature.

Forest In A Box consists of an open topped wooden box approximately 1m x 1m x 80cm tall. It has a cover/lid with rodent proof mesh.

How Is A Forest In A Box Made?

Inside, the box is loosely layered with growing medium consisting of;

  • First, a deep bed (about 40cm) of pure local woodland leaf mould. If leaf mould is unavailable a peat type compost mixed with very well rotted woodchip can be used.
  • Next a layer of fresh acorns (about ¾ of a bucket full) or other seeds.
  • Seeds are covered with another 10cm of leaf mould/compost
  • Add earthworms, mycorrhizal fungi (such as ‘Rootgrow’) and seaweed dust.
  • Finally, a 10cm layer of leaf litter. Water thoroughly and attach the cover to protect the seeds from rodents and birds.

Maintenance is simple and consists of periodic weeding and watering as necessary..

After two years most of the acorns will have grown to be 40-60cm tall and can be planted directly into their final home or planted outside the box and grown on to be replanted when bigger.