November is the time to plant trees - or to get someone else to do it for you!
For most people who work outdoors, the busiest times of year tend to be the spring and summer when the warmer weather and increasingly long days provide the best conditions for getting jobs done. However, for woodsmen such as Dan Williams, it is November that kick-starts his busiest time of year.
This season of mists and mellow fruitfulness also signals the start of the dormant period for trees and shrubs, allowing transplantation and planting of new woods, hedgerows and orchards without interrupting the plant growth cycle. This gives the new plantings (or 'bare root stock') the best chance of getting established and flourishing in later months and years, and so providing a great source of pleasure for us as well as new habitats and food sources for our wonderful wildlife.
One of the reasons that Dan is kept so busy is due to the number of grants available for tree planting. Government agencies, trusts and charities all offer these, with the Forestry Commission's English Woodland Grant Scheme being one of the biggest. One of the stipulations of this grant is that the type of woodland planted must be native to the area in order to provide the best environment for wildlife and to help maintain our natural British landscape.
For Devon a new native woodland will usually be formed by planting oak and ash on 60% of the area, 10% broadleaves, (perhaps field maple, rowan, birch, cherry and crab apple), 10% woody shrubs, (eg hawthorn, guelder rose, dogwood and hazel), whilst leaving 20% open space to provide glades for insects. It is vital that the new plants are protected against damage from deer, rabbits and weeds to give the woodland the best start possible.
Planting fruit tree orchards has become more popular in the last couple of years, and there are also grants available to help with this. When planting orchards again it is vital to protect the saplings from wildlife and livestock who are attracted by the tasty bark. Hand-built guards using stakes, barbed wire and stock netting usually does the trick.
Before planting any tree, all weeds should be removed and the area directly around the trees kept weed-free until they are established. Many people think that grass is not a problem but they fail to realise that it's the root competition that the tree has to fight against.
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Dan collaborates with other environmental professionals such as ecologists and woodland managers to ensure each element of tree planting, whether it be for one tree or a whole woodland, is addressed. And when it comes to job satisfaction, he certainly has no problems. "I recently returned to a site where I planted 10,000 trees 14 years ago when I first started, and to see it now as this huge thriving woodland is the most amazing feeling."
For more information on tree planting contact Dan at DRM Williams Trees and Gardens on 01404 44245 or 07974 385 834.
Where to buy native woodland trees
Perrie Hale Nursery, Honiton
Where to buy fruit trees
Thornhayes Nursery, Cullompton (01884 266746
Over 200 varieties of apple including many local types, 70 cider varieties, 30 plum, 30 pear (including perry), Devon specialities including mazzards and Tamar Valley cherries.
St Bridget Nurseries, Exeter
24 varieties of apple, pears, cherries and plums.
Talaton Plants, Talaton (01404 823185
Over 100 varieties of apple trees, that can be sent out mail order. Also plums, gages, damsons, pears and cherries.
Visit www.forestry.gov.uk for more info on government and other grants, but be prepared to be confused by many abbreviations!
The Royal Forestry Society ( www.rfs.org.uk) has an extensive list of grants sources in its publication Grants for Trees, which is available online;