It’s so heartening, as well as rather amazing, to see many saplings beginning to emerge from our native tree seed experiment, especially since it was such a hot, dry spring and summer in 2018 when they were sown.
We sowed half an acre of tree seeds in a project run in conjunction with The Woodland Trust, Jenny Phelps from FWAGSW and Forestart, which specialises in seed collection from sources throughout Britain. Jenny Phelps’s father and the Woodland Commission had previously experimented with this novel way of growing trees which has several advantages over the traditional method of planting saplings.
Firstly, seeds are collected from a wide genetic base, making the trees hardier and healthier. We are also keen to find a different way of growing trees that doesn’t require plastic tree guards and gives a more natural scattered growth pattern, rather than the man made lines in which trees are usually planted. In preparation, the field was ploughed in the winter and rotavated before the seeds were broadcast by hand in April and then rolled in. Buckwheat was sown with the seeds to act as a nurse crop. An annual plant, the fast-growing Buckwheat provided an umbrella shelter for the tree seedlings before dying off during the first winter. The area was also deer fenced.
The native species of tree seeds which were sown at Honeydale Farm are:
Common Oak (Quercus robur), Mountain Ash/Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia), Common Beech (Fagus sylvatica), Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), Common Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), Crab apple (Malus sylvestris), Dog Rose (Rosa canina), Field Maple (Acer campestre), Guelder Rose (Viburnum opulus), Hazel (Corylus avellana), Silver Birch (Betula pendula), Wayfaring Tree (Viburnum lantana)