Article - The River Blog

How to… plant native trees and hedges

Author: Jeanette Dyson
Categories: Tree planting

We need our rivers to be healthy. After all, healthy well-cared for rivers provide food, shelter and a breeding ground for invertebrates, fish and mammals. In turn, they provide food for larger animals, which is all vital for a healthy, functioning ecosystem.

In our series of ‘How to…’ blogs, we’ll be giving you tips, advice and ideas about how you can help to play your part in keeping our rivers and streams, healthy.

How to help our rivers by planting native trees and hedges

It might not be immediately obvious how planting a native woodland, or hedges in the hills above Holmfirth can benefit our rivers. Yet, in the right circumstance, planting trees and hedges can help to make our rivers healthy.

Native trees and hedges planted on hills above rivers can act as a natural form of flood management. Trees and hedges take water from the ground to grow and thrive. During periods of heavy rainfall, trees and hedges can reduce and delay the amount of precipitation that might otherwise run off the hills, overwhelm rivers and lead to flooding.

All trees and hedges capture carbon dioxide (CO2) as they grow. One native tree will capture around 0.2 tonnes of CO2 as it grows to maturity – that’s approximately the amount of C02 emitted by driving a car 5,000 miles.

There are also many benefits to planting trees on or near riverbanks, which you can read more about here.

When to plant native trees and hedges

The planting season for trees and hedges is early Winter through to early spring – November to March. This gives them the best chance of survival. Planting trees and hedges when the weather is too warm and dry puts stress on the young tree.

Which trees and hedges to plant

It’s important that you only plant native trees and hedges. These are species that would naturally occur in the region and have evolved to support a wealth of animal and plant life.

Planting non-native trees and hedges can lead to soil degradation and a reduction in biodiversity – as animals and plants are not well-adapted to feeding or living off non-native trees.

Trees and hedges native to the UK

If you’re looking to plant native trees and hedges in your garden here’s a selection we recommend:

  • Blackthorn
  • Field maple
  • Silver birch
  • Hawthorn
  • Hazel
  • Holly
  • Rowan
  • Silver birch
  • Wild cherry
  • Oak

How to plant trees and hedges

Make sure you have the right equipment

  • Native sapling tree or hedge
  • Spade
  • A protective tube either a spiral guard for protection of the tree from rabbits, or a 0.6m tube for hares and rabbits or a 1.2 metre tube for deer.
  • Support cane for spiral guards
  • Support stake for tree tubes
  • Lump hammer (for knocking in support stakes)
  • Gloves, sturdy footwear and suitable clothing

Seven steps to planting your native trees and hedges

Step 1:

Make sure you know the height of the tree when fully grown and locate it in a suitable location (A few tips: avoid power lines and underground services, avoid planting in close proximity to buildings and infrastructure).

Step 2:

Dig a square hole approximately 20cm by 20 cm (spade width) and approximately 30cm deep (the depth of the hole will depend on how long the roots of the tree are).

Step 3:

Place the tree in the hole, so that the point where the roots meet the trunk is level with the top of the hole.

Step 4:

Refill the hole and firmly, but carefully, press the soil down around the trunk.

Step 5:

Push the cane into the ground or knock the stake into the ground with a lump hammer (depending which tree protection measure you are using), close enough to your tree so you can install the tree protector.

Step 6:

Install the protective tube – wrap the spiral guard around the tree and cane or slide the tree tube over the tree and attach the tube to the stake with cable ties. Ensure the tubes and spirals are pushed into the ground.

Step 7:

Leave to grow and move on to the next!

  • If planting hedges, plant 6 plants per metre in a double row (zig zag pattern) and leave a gap of  approx 30cm between the two rows.
  • If planting trees, leave approx. 2-3 metres between each sapling.

Our How to… series of blogs is part or our Holme Improvements, year long project, which is funded by an award from Postcode Local Trust, a grant-giving charity funded entirely by players of the People’s Postcode Lottery.

Our Holme Improvement project is intended to improve the River Holme catchment.

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