Sunday, 28 January 2018

More Winter planting .

Now the marathon roadside hedge planting is finished, we've returned to a focus on the interior of the wood. We have about 5 weeks  left until the end of the planting  'window', so we're concentrating our efforts on the track through the birch, which was cut in 2015 to enable timber extraction during the Scots Pine thinning operation. We aim to create a structurally diverse, shrubby woodland edge habitat along the entire length as it winds through the birch. We've begun with some hazel planting.  We'll also try pollarding some of the birch behind  the hazel and other shrubs we'll be planting, though the results are hit and miss. Birch don't always like being pollarded and instead of sprouting new shoots, they just die off, which is disappointing. Maybe we could  plant some sallow (willow) and pollard that, as we've had great success with willow pollarding elsewhere in Old Copse.

Looking north through the birch track.

As usual we'll have to protect everything we plant with tree tubes. Although there is still plenty of evidence of deer in the vicinity, their damage to the woodland appears to be reducing slowly, possibly because the deer stalkers have made them more wary, but we can't risk exposing new planting to the chance of deer depredation. However, tree tubes aren't perfect. While creating a micro climate which aids growth, they can also lead to an unhealthy damp atmosphere in which disease can develop. Mesh tubes are better, but deer can easily nibble the leaves that grow through the mesh.

One of the 'scallops' we've created along the track  which we'll front with hazel and other shrubby plants.

Bare root plants are surprisingly cheap, but tree tubes/shelters and stakes are expensive, so we have been using as many recycled tree tubes as possible. We've found a good source of these not far from us, in a young wood which hasn't been very well looked after. While some of the trees have grown well and burst out of  their shelters, there have been many failures to thrive, or the tubes have simply fallen down, dislodged by deer. The ground is littered with them, and many of them are re-useable.  So we collect them, take them back to Old Copse, give them a good scrub, and they're ready to use. It takes time to do this rather than buy them new, but we feel it's worth doing. It saves money of course, quite a lot when you're planting in the many hundreds, thousands even, but also because it's always good to recycle if possible. The tubes are starting to break down, but they're still strong enough to deter nibbling deer. Plus, the woodland we retrieve them from looks a lot better without  them lying all over the ground, slowly disintegrating.They are pinkish coloured rather than green like the new ones, but it doesn't seem to matter what colour they are, and oddly enough the pink ones blend into the woodland better than the green.

We were planting on a mild, mostly sunny day, and it felt like Spring was on its way, though still only January. Evidently other woodland inhabitants agreed, especially mallards  on the hammerpond making their first appearance for a while, sizing each other up for the forthcoming mating season, though some have been paired off since Autumn.