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Plant Trees and They Will Grow...

There's a popular Chinese proverb that says: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.”

This photo was taken on 6th September 2022 at Euston Estates.

A quote taken out of context perhaps, but it is relevant to what has been achieved by Carbon Plantations at Euston Estate this year. Following a short, but very productive, period of laying the infrastructure, including drip irrigation, the trees were established in two tranches, one month apart: over 50,000 saplings at the end of May and over 60,000 at the end of June.

Of course, Mother Nature will always run its course, and we had the driest and hottest summer on record in Suffolk this year. There was no significant precipitation throughout until 14.5mm fell on August 25th. September has seen further rainfall, but the ground remains dry, and I am sure every farmer will be very much hoping for a wet winter.

Importantly, our irrigation infrastructure protects the trees against long periods of drought, and has proved its weight in gold this year. In fact, we required less than 50% of water under contract with the Estate, which is equivalent to 1 acre/inch in ‘old money’. It’s worth noting that we are only irrigating 12.5% of an acre due to the precise process of drip irrigation. Water is increasingly a precious resource and we are very conscious not to over irrigate.

The trees themselves have flourished, if not to a uniform height, which is expected during the establishment phase. Some have grown over 2 metres within two months, with the average height across the plantation being just under a metre. There will be a technical cut taken in late spring, sympathetically, and not necessarily to every tree. This will both promote growth for the following year and strengthen and straighten the dominant stem.

The key parameter has been the establishment itself and that has been a success. It was important to note that planting of the second delivery of the trees, into warmer soil and climatic conditions, enjoying long hours of solar radiation, has yielded particularly positive results.

The trees themselves have been regularly fed, via the drip irrigation, laid earlier in the year. This has promoted both excellent root growth and a darker green leaf structure, which indicates the good health of the young tree. Each leaf acts like a natural solar panel capturing carbon dioxide. In some areas mulch has been applied around the tree to reduce competing weed growth.

Preparation for the pollinator-rich grass understory has been delayed due to the dry conditions, but will be established before next season. This will support the biodiversity metrics of the project.

In the coming weeks, the leaf will fall to the ground as the soil temperature drops below 10 degrees Celsius, and the trees will go dormant for the winter period, enabling our team to carry out winter maintenance. The leaf itself will provide excellent organic matter, or ‘feed’, for the soil, which in itself provides an improving bio-diverse environment.

As importantly, we will also be, during this period, planting native mixed trees around the woodland to support and extend the existing ancient woodland on the estate.

And so the winter season begins in earnest.

Nigel Couch

October 17th 2022.

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