I planted 10 Rowan trees the other day, which leaves me about another 30 to go along with some Italian Alders. The Rowans were in pots and this is an ideal time for planting pot grown trees. There’s just time for the roots to establish a bit before winter hits.
The ten trees are down the side of the track up to the house and in about 5 years they should, with luck, be large enough to provide some shelter from the wind. When I planted them I dug a hole about twice the size of the pot and broke up the soil at the bottom.
To fill up I used compost from my Hotbin composter which should encourage the roots to spread and feed the tree for the spring. In the spring I’ll top dress with wood ashes and slow-release fertiliser to really give them a boost.
Why I keep planting trees
The reason I’m planting so many trees is that, eventually, it will improve the growing conditions here which are pretty challenging. The biggest problem is the wind. We’re near the coast which tends to be windy and being 600 feet high just makes it worse.
Trees forming wind breaks will reduce the velocity of the wind. The thing is that wind causes wind chill which reduces the effective temperature. So shielding from the force of the wind will increase growing temperatures.
Although I have planted some evergreens, most of the trees I’m planting are deciduous and lose their leaves in winter. These leaves will add to the humus in the soil, improving its structure. As the structure improves, levels of microbes and worms etc. will increase. These further improve the soil and we’ll begin to establish a virtuous circle.
The ground slopes and when it rains heavily sheets of water come down the field, sweeping particles of soil down and reducing topsoil depth. Incidentally, the UK loses 2.9 million tonnes of topsoil every year. Tree planting could really bring that figure down.
The band of trees, mainly willow, at the top of the slope should eventually help control the water. The roots absorb water but more importantly they break up the soil and sub-soil allowing water to sink in rather than flow across. Forestation is now being used to reduce flooding problems in many areas of Britain.
The shelter of the trees, berries from the Rowans etc. will encourage birds and small mammals. Perhaps not directly related to growing but a general improvement in the environment isn’t a bad thing.
Long term planning
Left to themselves the sheltering trees will improve the soil and growing environment but it’s a very long job, most probably a longer job than I have left on the planet. So, to speed things up, I’m improving the soil in other ways as well.
It’s very acid so I’m adding lime to correct this and raise the pH towards neutral. Just reducing the acidity improves growth as plants can take up more of the available nutrients. Even the grass grows better and whilst mowing is a chore, the clippings are great for mulching.
There are other things I plan to do such as growing green manure crops but I’ve learned that taking too much on in one go results in less being done. I’ve a lot of other jobs to do here over the next couple of years. So for now, I’m mainly planting trees.
Hello about two years ago I planted a Rowan. It’s on the top of a hill, gets hit full force by all the elements, whilst its about 20miles from the coast it get everything that comes with that
Its doing well, but I want to give it a boost, can you suggest anything?
Hi Pauline. Couple of things that will help (apart from moving or building wind breaks!) Apply an after planting mycorrhizal innoculant. This will really encourage root growth and help.
The other suggestion is some fertiliser. If the soil is poor, a general fertiliser like growmore or blood, fish & bone. A couple of ounces in the spring spread around the tree. If you have a woodburner or access to wood ashes, these really help. Trees use a lot of potash which wood ashes contain.
How far apart should rowan trees be planted?
I don’t know if there is a correct distance as such. They can grow very large over the years. We’ve planted a couple of metres apart on the basis that when they get too big we can fell alternate trees.