Planting a natural woodland

Woodland is very important for the earth it is where most of the regulation for the earth’s climate, it is also the habitat for many creatures as well as been the place where get resources to build with. These habitats have gone through a lot of abuse due to bad management and the idea that if trees and shrubs grow there then people can grow food there. This is not a generalisation of any group of people but this can be seen all over the world from the birth of farming in the British Isles where they would remove the trees and then have pig till the ground. Some places in the where in a fine balance and this meant that when the trees where taken away and crops were planted this destabilized the fine balance creating an endowment with very little nutrients that retained water and even farming could not be stained.

Another place like this is the amazon basin you would think that a place where there is a network of rivers would be very abundant in nutrients as soil get washed of the Andean mountain range. This would be true as many place where rivers nutrients do get washed down stream in the river mud. But in the amazon basin when the trees are taken away they sandy drought prone soil finds it hard to keep nutrients through loss of nutrients in the river to along with farming the soils cannot handle agriculture without the adding of bio matter and fertilizers in higher amounts than other soils.


So what looks like very fertile soil when you look at it is not that fertile, this is manly for one resin and that is plants get most of what makes them from the air itself. Trees like all life forms on earth are made from Carbon, but unlike most other forms of like plants take the carbon that they need to grow from the air itself. This means that plants help to regulate the CO2 levels in the summer CO2 goes down and in the winter the CO2 rise as the trees and other plants go dormant for the winter.


As well as this vital CO2 cycle the forest is a place of great bio diversity it is also a place where we are finding many great compounds that could help our civilisation. This makes them very important places for both us and the wildlife that lives in them.


Good and bad planted woodland


Many things need to be decided when planting woodland let’s think about some of the points.


  1. The location of the new woodland
  2. The environmental factors
  3. The type of plants and trees suited to the environment
  4. The impact of the planting on the environment including its animals


There are many time that I have seen woodland that has been badly planted and managed these places are dark, where trees are planted to close to each other. The trees are that close they race to the sky while under their light clogging canopies only fungi and the odd animal lives but only at its fringes.

This is the sort of thing that a lot of tree plantations for paper and cheap timber fall into where they use evergreen trees to grow timber fast. In the UK this was a common practice of Pinus contorta (lodge pole pine). This comes from bad habit and limited knowledge of plants that make up woodland and how they grow.


The woodland’s location


Woodlands vary on where they are planted, the first thing is the topography of the land, and this includes the height from sea level. The soil depth to how much moisture is held by the ground to the pH of the soil. Now you need to think of climatic conditions this is annual rainfall, the annual temperature variation of the site from dry and wet seasons to if it snows or has long periods of drought


The types of trees shrubs and herbaceous


When you are thinking about this where you are is a big factor look at other places where woodland had grown naturally these will have species that are adapted to the environment this will ensure that you encourage the colonization of the woodland by animals and plants around in your local area.


This like what I have spoken about will vary greatly from if you live in the temperate zones or I in the tropics.


Planting from a mono culture field to a woodland


I will boing through the problems that I have encountered and have or are overcoming them. First of all I live in a temperate zone in the northeast of Scotland this poses a lot of problems from hot summers with verging rain fall and cold winters to the point where the snow drift up to 1.5m (5ft) this means I need to find species that grow in this environment.

First of all let’s think of the herbaceous this needs to be picked to what is local if not you can get an infestation very quickly killing off the native plants. These plants are from other countries manly and when placed in a different environment there is not the predators that graze on them or they have very mild environment compered to where they come from so they grow out of control.

The major one I am having a problem with is Chamerion angustifolium also known as fire weed of rosebay willow herb this is a native to North America and can become a big problem as it takes over vast stretches of ground.


I have tried many ways to gain control of the plant on a small scale it can be done by digging it up but the only way to get rid of big infestations of this plant is to spray it off. You may need to get a person in to do this properly.


I went for a general mix of wild flower that grew in location around me I asked farmers if I could collect seed off of wild flower before they sprayed their fields. I must add this was done with permission of the land owners and was only taken from places where the plants and seed where been killed off by spraying.

Also the legality of taking plants and seed from the wild is different from place to place, one way to get wild flower mixes is to check for registered seed growers of meadow flowers mixes these are not that expensive and can be purchased quite cheaply compared to other plant seed. But I do stress is not to take large amount of seed and plants from the wild as this can destabilize the environment.


Let’s talk shrubs and trees one of the main woodland shrubs that grow in my location is sambucus nigra  elder berry. This is a good shrub for birds and mammals it supply’s shelter very quickly as it grows fast and it also give a vast bounty of berries that good as a food sores ilex aquifolium, cytisus scoparius, Creataegus mongyna, Myrica gale to name a few good for wild animals. Also there is some plant even though not native will help in making habitat such as Symphoricarpos albus  it forms thickets that small game birds like to hide under.


The trees I have chosen to plant are a mix of type and habits this means that bio dverserty will be higher and also if one type of tree does not take there are others that will. The main one are Fagus sylvatica, brtula pendula, Aesculus hippocastanum, Prunus avium, Corylus avellana, quercus robur, malus sylvestrus, sorbus aucuparia, Pinus sylvestris. These are mainly the one that I am consentraiting on planting.


Bio Diversity


What is meant by the term Bio diversity well it means the abundance of many different type of plants and animals in an ecosystem. Put simply the more there are and the more diverse they are means the ecosystem is healthier. The less species of plants and animals the weaker it is and when it is placed under stress dieback starvation of animals is more common.

This is why you need to plant a wide number of plants trees and shrubs to encourage living woodland and not a barren plantation of one type of tree.

As well as multiple types of trees you need to think of planting, how dense to plant which can vary for species and type if you look at oak trees they have a big spread compared to a birch tree which likes to grow close together at about 1m apart at it minimum for a healthy shape and spread.


Also when I plant out trees I tend to like to place a tall tree in the middle with the smaller trees radiating out in a circular motion this looks more natural. Then throughout the woodland planting place some of the shrub cans small trees so that they will grow and establish.

This is a better way of doing it as if you plant in straight lines you tend to get a very unnatural look and it stats to resemble a tree nursery not a woodland . If done right it will establish quickly and healthy, you should start to see a difference in about 6 to 8 years. Where places’ are too thick with trees just take out one or two trees this will encourage the others to grow thicker trunks and allow light into the wood during times when leaves are on the trees.


Also you need to think about tree guards these come in many types’ choses the ones you like use. They range from price to use. Some are bio degradable others see through and some made of a mesh. There is one for every budget and I do advice to use them they may not protect from all animals like deer but they will agents rabbits which are the main pest for trees. Rabbits are introduces animal and not native to the UK, so are most deer species as well. They were brought in by the Normans when they invaded in 1066AD and have naturalised themselves but rabbits are the most destructive and can destroy the environment very quickly that is why you should have a healthy population of predators, such as birds of prey, foxes, badgers, stoats and weasels. Also to encourage them, the beast way is to have places where they can see prey animals easily. Also crows will help in the control of some pests such as rabbits, they won’t commonly pray on them but they have known to.


Also the final tip plant the trees over a period of a few years this will give you varied height and give it a more natural look


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