New tree planting …

The new trees arrived just before Christmas and were planted between December 26 – 28! They have been added to the Forest Garden Inventory (see link below) and there is now a total of 79 species here – that is, trees and shrubs only, as herbaceous plants (apart from three with special uses) and wild flowers are not included in the inventory. The latter, as regular readers will know, have their own census and amount to some 120 species over the course of a year (see Blog, July 1st, 2021 for the last complete census). When I start to include perennial vegetables in the Project, these will probably merit their own inventory for the sake of clarity.

The top photo above shows planting in Carré 1 and beyond. In the carré itself are apricot, jostaberry, sea buckthorn, ground-cover raspberry and Szechuan pepper. The apricot is at top right (with the stake) and the Szechuan pepper lower right. There are two buckthorn on the left-hand side with a third one just in shot to the left, outside the carré. In the middle are the raspberries and the jostaberries. These are obviously planted at spacings to allow development, and in a few years the carré will be completely covered and will have a vertical arrangement as well, the raspberries being the lowest, the buckthorns and the jostaberries at medium height and the apricot and pepper the highest, the ‘canopy’ in this instance.

The main photo also gives you the idea of how the canopy level will progress up the slope to the Coppice, where there will eventually be a fairly dense mini-forest, with all the normal local species – oak, chestnut, hornbeam, holly, ash, acacia, hazel, silver birch etc, which are all already in place. How this develops will depend on both itself and to what level I want to coppice it. I would like to take out some wood, but would also like to retain some really big trees! There are no neighbour constraints in this corner, although there is an overhead electricity cable to take into account, as can be seen.

Higher up, next to Carré 2 (still covered with the black plastic), I have planted two almond trees, an autumn olive and a silver birch, and elsewhere a white mulberry (western boundary), another hornbeam (Coppice), more autumn olive and buckthorn, two grape vines and some horseradish (Lower Garden). The grapes will be planted under two of the fruit trees there to climb up the trunk and through the foliage. This year’s planting feels like a big step forward and increases plant density by quite a bit.

We did some planting in the Yaouzé Vineyard as well – two walnuts (the large trees in the heeling-in photo above), plus an alder, a robinia, and some autumn olive and sea buckthorn; all, apart from the walnuts, for nitrogen-fixing. The soil here is in surprisingly good condition, given it is surrounded by industrial agriculture, with its top horizon a good 20cm deep and fairly rich in organic matter. It will be interesting to see how these trees and shrubs develop in the coming years on their exposed site (see Blog, April 1st, 2021).

Also in the photo at the beginning of this post you can see a double row of stakes along the left-hand and upper side of the carré; these will be extended all the way round and will then be stuffed with branches and twigs to form the carbon biomass ‘hedge’ mentioned last month (Blog, December 1st, 2021).

The nursery packed the trees very well and they are of good quality; they were heeled in prior to planting (lower photos above).

The weather deserves more than just a passing mention this month – it has been a time of plentiful rain, prolonged and stable high pressure and unseasonably high temperatures. By the 11th of December we had had 21 consecutive days of rain; November’s total (81.5mm) was already relatively high, but in December we had nearly double that (150mm)! This was followed by 15 days of calm weather, with crisp mornings, but bright sunshine during the day and afternoon temperatures in the upper teens, hitting a high of 22° on the last day of the month. We also had five or six mornings with sub-zero temperatures.

I have moved the manual rain gauge away from the weather station to a more sheltered site, to test whether its higher readings are the result of ‘exposure’. I don’t have enough data yet to decide if this is so.

The Monthly Weather Record (link below) has completed its first full year, and so gives totals and averages for the year. Among points of note are total rainfall of 840mm and yearly average temperature of 13.2°.

One interesting book I came across this month is ‘Regeneration’ from the environmentalist Paul Hawken (Penguin Random House, 2021 – photo below). This well-designed, magazine-sized book with its optimistic sub-title is a collection of articles gathered from writers all around the globe – covering topics such as oceans, forests, wilding, land, people, the city, food, energy and industry. The book and its companion website aim to “plot a pathway to achieve goals outlined by the (IPCC 2018) special report”. It calls for “collective action by humanity”, and is thus about US – people, communities, companies, neighbours, counties, schools, corporations and countries, and what we can do at our level. Given that we are already in a post-growth, post-carbon world (see Article The Bigger Picture, September 21st, 2020, on this site), maybe one day politics and big business will become irrelevant, and responsible action will be possible! “If you are feeling pessimistic or defeatist, read some or all of the book, and then turn to the (Action + Connection Section at the) end” urges the introduction to the book. Definitely food for thought and worth a read.

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