We’ve planted well over 4,000 shrubs and trees at Vallis Veg since purchasing the site in 2003. The trees serve the following functions:
- wind shelter for our fruit, vegetables and livestock on our very wind-exposed site
- providing a sustainable source of timber through coppicing/pollarding
- providing wildlife habitat
- stock feed
- carbon sequestration
- creating a new field structure and field boundaries
- providing privacy screening for ourselves and the general public
We received small grants from the Forestry Commission and Somerset County Council for some of these plantings, which just about covered the costs of materials. These plantings were done in accordance with Forestry Commission/County Council requirements – for example, planting on an average 3 x 3m spacing in the case of the Forestry Commission plantings, which encourages straight, upright growth. The trees will require thinning and/or coppicing. They’re not quite ready for it yet, but we will be implementing a programme of thinning, coppicing and pollarding from 2014. We will also gradually be removing the tree guards that we used to protect the trees from deer and rabbits during the sapling phase.
Most of our trees are native (or native-ish…) broadleaf varieties such as oak, ash, beech, hornbeam, lime and sweet chestnut. We planted a lot of ash trees, and so we’re now monitoring them with some concern for signs of the ash dieback disease. If this proves to be a major problem, we may try to redevelop our ash coppice as wood pasture. In fact, we may develop parts of our woodland plantings towards wood pasture anyway, in order to ‘stack’ our land uses as they say in permaculture circles. There’s quite a lively debate going on in the permaculture world about the virtues or otherwise of extensive tree-planting on farmland to which we’ve contributed a little ourselves here and here. We’re reasonably happy at present with our plantings and are leaving them to grow on towards their mature state – soon we will be managing them more actively to shape them into their longer-term functions.