22nd April – World Earth Day 2021
Today poses the ideal time to review what we have been up to at Cae’r Bryniau, particularly with trees, and consider our future plans. This winter was a quiet bare root tree planting year – only ten and no hedges. The ten were: two greengages, a witch hazel, three yews, a wych elm, an aspen, two corkscrew hazels. The latter have been planted near the first hazels we planted – five years ago – which had their first proper catkins this February.
Instead of a huge amount of planting this winter, we decided to focus on clearing around the bottom of our other young trees and hedges and applying a thick mulch of bark. About six tons of bark was required… that’s a few wheelbarrow loads! Apart from lack of water (and the Anglesey wind), the main threat to young trees is getting swamped by grass, so mulching gives them a better chance.
We have just been given some more baby oaks and a crab apple by our lovely friends, Dave and Jan, so once we have had some proper rain they will need to be planted pdq! They are currently heeled in in one of the veg beds – along with 27 more baby oaks… which we got after applying to “Save the Oaks” through Sawdays. It is a great chance to rescue them, but it will be unusual to plant them so late. I hope that with some mychorrhizal fungi and lots of watering in we’ll be alright; although we may have to get some rabbit guards as Peter Rabbit has been spotted near the polytunnel on a few occasions in the early mornings. So far the chicken wire (to keep Old Speckled Hen out) has also foiled Peter, but you can never be too careful!
The extra oaks have made us have a re-think about bottom field – where the new meadow and large pond are. We will probably dot them around the edge of the field to create an oak glade and add some hazel in between them next winter. We already have a few oaks and hazels in that field – with their roots supposedly carrying truffle spores… we shall see!
We are watching the progress of our baby sea buckthorn and manuka bushes, planted last year, and if they grow well we may look to plant more of these in the future. When we finally get bees, the manuka would be fabulous and the sea buckthorn would add interesting diversity in this land of gorse and blackthorn. Where we have left areas to re-wild here, those are the two main shrubs which appear. Wild plum sometimes pops up and the occasional hawthorn, so if we want to increase the range of trees and shrubs, we need to plant them. At first we started off planting natives only in our wild patches, but we quickly realised that if we were happy to plant foreign fruit and nut trees (e.g. cherry and walnut), why not increase diversity with any tree or shrub that would be happy here. It won’t be everything that will cope with our “fresh” breezes, but we try to buy small, young specimens so they have a chance to acclimatise and get their roots deep down before they get too tall.
The Scots Pines, pictured here, were planted as tiny one year old whips (30 cm tall) five years ago. We have since inter-planted them with gooseberry and currant bushes – part of our fledgling forest garden scheme.
That’s the tree update for now. But we’ll sign off with a picture of a mature avenue of Scots Pines we saw at Ffin y Parc, near Llanwrst, the other weekend, with a bountiful amount of wild garlic about to burst into flower. Inspirational!