In March last year, a team of volunteers and farm staff planted just over 1,000 trees as part of a new initiative at the farm. Over the course of this 3 year project, we will be planting more trees, and we are looking for volunteers to help us plant them and maintain them over the year. Our trees need quite a bit of TLC so that they stand a chance against adverse weather, tree-nibbling creatures and grasses and weeds which deplete the soil surrounding each sapling.
The tree planting project was developed together with the Woodland Trust which also provided a grant to supply the trees.
Why are we planting all these trees at Tablehurst?
We all know how essential trees are for people, wildlife and the environment and we are learning how they also increase landscape resilience and sequester carbon. At Tablehurst, we also want to provide essential shelter for our animals from the wind, sun and predators (did you know for example that many of our chickens have been targeted by hungry buzzards up in Clay Field where they live?) The trees will also provide forage for bees, food for wildlife and a home for many invertebrates. As we are planting fruit and nut trees, livestock also benefit by having a richer and more diverse diet. Eventually the new trees will be produce timber which can contribute to the farm’s future income.
Last year we planted a number of native species such as oak, birch, holly, hazel, apple, pear, plum, cherry, willow, aspen and crab apple . A few other species were added particularly for the chickens including a shrub called Siberian pea shrub!
The trees are also medicine to our animals. The forage trees such as willow and aspen have leaves highly concentrated with micro-nutrients so the cows can self-medicate by nibbling on them. They also eat holly leaves which helps with ringworm.
How do we plant the trees and care for them?
The first step is to mix up the varieties so that we achieve a naturalistic planting. We then dip each sapling into a special mixture containing mycorrhizal fungi, the ‘internet of the soil’ – it lives in a symbiotic relationship with the roots of plants creating a stronger and richer connection between the roots and the surrounding soil and other plants in the vicinity. It’s amazing - if one plant is lacking in nutrients or moisture, another can pass it on via the mycorrhizal fungi, like a soil food web.
The trees are planted 2m apart and, after they are well dug in, a tube is wrapped around the main stem and attached to a stake to hold it upright. A compostable mulch pad goes around the base of each sapling so that it is well protected against the elements and any inquisitive and hungry animals nibbling at the bark. Rabbits and deer, we are looking at you! The tubes will eventually break away from the tree after about ten years as the trunk grows in diameter.
Maintaining the trees is relatively simple but requires quite a bit of effort and people power! Since we planted the trees back in April last year, some of our regular volunteer Wednesdays have been dedicated to the trees. We spent some time mulching around the trees (to supress weed and grass growth) which involves many a wheelbarrow trip to the mulch pile and back. Then regular weeding and reinstating of the stake or tube is required as strong winds can blow them over.
Where are we planting the trees?
So far the trees have been located in two fields above the café garden, one either side of the track, and in Clay Field (where our chickens are reared) which is further up the hill (turn right at the Pericles building). This year we will be planting the trees mostly in our pastures, the first being in the field alongside the café garden.
Thank you to our amazing volunteers!
We would like to give a huge shout out to our volunteers who helped us last year with the planting and also to those volunteers who have helped maintain the trees throughout the year. We simply could not have done it without you! And thank you to all our volunteers who have made such an impact at the farm, we are extremely grateful for everything you give and for your dedication to Tablehurst.
Come and help us plant more trees now!
This year we have two tree planting days. The main event will be on Sunday 16th February. Everyone is welcome, but any children must be supervised at all times. We will meet outside the cafe at 9:30am so that work can start by 10.00am. There will be hot soup for lunch and we will finish around 4pm. It will be in any weather! Last year it rained all day and our spirits we not dampened! All tools provided, please bring your wellies, and gloves if you have them! Please let us know if you would like to come (for catering numbers) by emailing Zoe at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Saturday 22nd February, we will have a second planting event, specifically aimed at (accompanied) children. Camilla, who leads the Tablehurst Young Farmers initiative, will be present to guide the children in what to do so that they can get really involved. Note that we cannot take unaccompanied children for this event. Please meet outside the cafe at 10.00am and bring a picnic. The event will end at 2.00pm.
Please do join us at one or both of these events if you can!