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Caring for your new wood - the first five years maintenance

Tree Care 1It is important to care for your new wood to help your trees thrive, particularly in the first few years when the trees are still establishing. Guidance is given below, but you should also consult the UK's Forestry Practice guides at: www.forestry.gov.uk/publications which provides an overview of the expected quality of new and existing woodland in the UK.

Weeding: Weeding each spring in the first couple of years after planting will reduce competition for moisture and nutrients, helping your trees establish successfully.

Chemical based products containing glyphosate will kill weeds with minimum effects in the wider environment and breaks down in the soil quickly. Spray around the base of each tree to create a weed-free ring approximately 1 metre in diameter. As with all pesticides, care should be taken applying it and be careful not to touch the tree with the chemical.

Alternatively, use a mulch such as bark chips, squares of old carpet, or straw bales around each tree to suppress weeds. You'll need to use plenty of straw or bark chips to prevent them from being blown away or dispersed, and will need to top these up annually. You can also buy mulch mats which can be pegged into the ground to keep them in place.

Watering: Your trees will adapt to the natural conditions of your site so watering shouldn't be necessary; especially as it encourages the roots to grow towards the soil surface rather than down towards groundwater. If there is a particularly long dry spell and you feel watering is a necessity, saturate the ground thoroughly to ensure the water percolates deep into the soil.

Mowing : Cutting the grass regularly is not advised as it actually invigorates grass growth and increases competition for moisture. If you do want to mow, take care to avoid damaging the guards and trees.

Check your tree guards: Strong winds can blow trees over so make sure your guards, canes or stakes are upright and pushed firmly into the soil. Remove grass growing inside the guard by pulling it up and replacing the guard once the grass is cleared.

Pests: Pests can also cause damage inside the tube — check the tree stems and guards for damage by animals. Keeping any tree guards firmly in contact with the soil and a weed-free area around your trees will help.

Fencing and stock: If livestock are near your planting areas, they will need to be fenced off from the young trees. Electric fencing or post and wire will prevent livestock from reaching and eating the trees.

Keep your tree tubes: lf trees have died, remove the guards and store for re-use next winter.

Long-term management
Once your trees have established, there are still things you can do that will enhance the appearance of your new wood and help it develop.

Remove the tree guards: Remove the guards once they have started to split and the tree has grown to over 3 metres in height or is too wide. The tube has now done its job and may hamper growth if left. lf the tubes are still in good condition they can be recycled and used again.

Pruning: This is not essential but it will encourage trees to grow upwards rather than outwards once they're established. By pruning up to 25% of the trees, you can create a diverse canopy structure and keep paths clear of overhanging branches. Invest in a good pruning saw and make a clean cut close to the main trunk of the tree. The cut should be made square to the branch and preserve the bulge at the base of the branch, known as the branch collar. To prevent disease and decay, it is
important not to damage the bark of the tree and never cut the branch flush with the main stem as this creates a larger wound. If unsure, always seek expert advice. Most native trees are best pruned in winter when dormant, except field maple, cherry and walnut which need pruning in summer to reduce risk of disease and sap bleeding.

Coppicing: This involves cutting a tree at its base to encourage new growth. Coppicing also gives light a chance to reach the woodland floor helping flowers to flourish. Your trees could be ready to coppice after 7-I0 years, depending on species and growth rate. You can use this management practice as a sustainable supply of wood fuel and other woodland products. The remaining coppice stool will be vulnerable to animal browsing so make sure you protect the new growth.

Disease: Depending on the species you have planted, your trees may be affected by a variety of common diseases, but in the majority of cases these diseases won't kill young trees. A particularly cold winter may result in frost damage but your trees should recover. lf concerned, do get in touch with us for advice.

Thinning: This involves the felling of some of your planted trees to reduce the competition for light, water and nutrients. By giving the remaining trees more room, they develop a better shape, grow stronger and are less likely to blow over in adverse weather. Thinning wouldn't usually occur until year I0 at the earliest but it depends on how close together the trees were planted.

Attracting wildlife: There are many ways to attract wildlife — you couldTree Care 2 install bird boxes, bat boxes, or perhaps even bee hives. If you have space, creating a pond will help attract a wonderful array of species to your wood. You could also plant a mix of grasses and wildflowers in an open area of your site. Remember that any open spaces will need ongoing management to avoid them becoming scrubbed over.