Every garden should have a tree
Our Projects Manager for the Outdoor Projects team Carol explains why every garden should have a tree in her latest blog.
Why plant a tree?
Trees are vital for people, wildlife and the environment. In your garden, they can provide shade and structure but also autumn colour, spring blossom and some will reward you with a crop of edible fruit.
Trees provide food and shelter for wildlife, berries and nest sites for birds, plenty of pollen and nectar for bees and perfect habitats for many other insects amongst the leaves and branches.
Our environment is under intense strain and carbon dioxide is one of the biggest causes of global warming. This is where our trees can help, they absorb carbon dioxide through their leaves, storing carbon in their wood then releasing oxygen back into the atmosphere. They can also soak up lots of water preventing flooding and help improve the quality of our soil.
What tree to plant?
Many people think that trees need lots of space and that most gardens are too small, but there are many varieties of small to medium-sized trees that will do well in an average-sized garden.
Consider if you want to attract wildlife, add some beauty and shape, grow your own fruit or all of these! Here are some of my recommendations to help you decide:
- Rowan – Attractive shape; white blossom in spring; red berries and autumn colour; good for birds and insects.
- Hawthorn – White or pink blossom in spring which bees enjoy; red berries in autumn; both wildlife-friendly and attractive. Can be used as a hedge.
- Flowering cherry – Various types available; look great in spring covered in blossom; enjoyed by pollinators and some autumn colour.
- Birch – Striking white bark; seeds can be a food source for some birds; small leaves and open shape letting light filter through; often bright yellow in autumn.
- Crab Apple – Scented blossom in spring for us to enjoy and pollinators; small fruits in autumn that birds and small mammals will eat plus they make a lovely jelly.
- Apple – Picking your own apples in autumn is a real pleasure but you’ll also enjoy the blossom in spring. Many varieties available and you might have room for more than one if you choose a dwarf variety.
- Plum – Jam, puddings and fresh from the tree are all delicious uses of plums; blossom in spring for pollinators and butterflies enjoy the sugary fruit in late summer.
- Hazel – Try growing your own hazelnuts; also enjoyed by squirrels and birds; hazel branches make great garden supports, cut a few each year.
Ready to plant your tree?
The best time to plant trees is during the autumn and winter months (November to March). Trees are dormant at this time of year so need less watering and are more likely to survive.
Trees can be purchased from a local garden centre or nursery, online or direct from the Woodland Trust who promote native species. Native means that the trees have grown here for thousands of years so are well suited to our environment.
Plan where you want to plant your tree, think about it in relation to your house and your neighbours. Choose your tree’s position carefully, it may be small when you plant it, but consider how big it might grow over the years. If you’re planting more than one tree space them about 2 metres apart.
It’s simple – Dig a hole, slightly bigger than the roots of your tree, then simply place your new tree in the hole holding the stem, planting too deeply may cause the stem to rot so check where the roots finish and stem begins. Holding the tree straight fill in the soil around the roots and press down gently. It’s a good idea to use a cane to support your young tree until it gets established tying it with a tree tie or something stretchy to allow for growth.
It’s a great activity to do as a family, following the changes each season and year. Let us know how you get on and which trees you choose. Keep a lookout for our open days starting again in 2021 and come along and visit us for some inspiration at our community garden and orchard at Ravenscraig. Some useful links: