Natural Tree Planting: The LettsSafari Way
New trees are grown naturally at LettsSafari parks and re-planted aged 5.
The new trees at LettsSafari parks are increasingly grown naturally. Re-planted in their permanent place after 5 years. This approach reduces the amount of carbon produced growing and planting trees, and ensures natural, resilient species are given the freedom to sustainably renew themselves - emerging from specialised tree-nurturing habitats that also support wildlife.
Baby trees, called seedlings, need cover to enable them to grow in the open, which is why you do not see new natural tree growth in mowed lawns or fields, farmed land or open ground with herbivores running freely. The four legged creatures will happily eat new tree growth to death. The most common threat being the rabbit - or the human with an over-used mower!
Natural cover, such as bramble, protect the seedlings, helping them grow sufficiently tall so that it is harder for herbivores to reach their juicy new leaves. As a result, they are more likely to leave them alone to grow into healthy big trees. In wild lands with only small herbivores, the seedlings need to reach comfortably above the knee to survive in the open. If there are larger herbivores such as deer, then the sapling will need to reach above your head to be safe.
Cover can also be created with dead hedges - building layers of unwanted brush and branches that are about 3 feet high and ideally 2-3 feet wide. This structure will enable seedlings and wild shrubs to grow up through it - turning a dead hedge into a living hedge over a 7 to 10 year period. The herbivores are prevented from squeezing their heads through the branches to eat at the seedlings.
In Exeter’s Capability Brown gardens alone we have reached the point where we are nurturing hundreds of naturally grown seedlings. A valuable mix of oak, beech, birch, holly, English maple, eucalyptus and cherry. This year we re-planted 100 five year old seedlings into their permanent places - some in these famous gardens, most in other LettsSafari parks.
Our re-planting techniques work quite well. Seedlings should be nearly waist high when they are dug up and moved. The best time to plant them is between November and January when the ground is nice and moist - avoiding hard frosts. Recycled tree guards should be used where larger herbivores roam free and held in place with recycled wood posts. Done right you can expect a decent survival rate without watering. Check the young trees in the summer. Any that have died can be replaced the following winter.
The re-planted seedlings and sapling take about a year to settle in, so don’t expect much growth until their second year. Try and plant the trees in small groups of the same family. Ideally with seedlings that have grown up close to each other. Trees, like us, are healthier and happier when their family stays together.
You will also need to think about which trees go where. In the Southwest we use English maple on the seaward side to provide protection for the slower growing, rarer species - which are planted inland from them.
The pleasure of growing your very own tree from seed (ideally fallen naturally) is one well worth savouring. At LettsSafari we do it at scale, but you could recreate a mini collection of future carbon eaters and shade creators in any garden, verge or area of scrub - saving you money, cleaning the air and protecting our planet. Plus, a mini rainforest in your backyard might save you the cost of flying to the Amazon!
When you subscribe to LettsSafari we plant trees, release endangered animals and create new rewilding safari parks. We hope you can subscribe today.
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