Call James on 07973 796 406 for further information
James Gillies Land Management
Call James on 07973 796 406 for further information

Practical Woodland Planting Advice

18th January 2020

We are right in the middle of the tree planting season - it's shaping up to be a busy later end of the season now that we are at last getting some frost and hopefully less rain! With a bit of luck the ground will dry out now and we can crack on; planting into wet ground is often good for trees and can help them establish into the spring. However planting in saturated ground may well kill the trees before they get a chance to grow - it entirely depends on your soil type and location. 

This season we're planting on a number of sites with hugely different characteristics; we're working not only on Cotswold brash which is really stony with little top soil and also to heavy clay with lumps of flint size of your head, and even clay loam, which although currently very wet, should plant the best of them all. 

So where can we plant trees? There are few a restrictions on where we can plant but generally speaking if there are existing woodlands around, we should be able to plant new ones.  Before visiting a site I always carry out a desktop survey to confirm the current land use and use of surrounding land, as well as Identifying  topographical features and site access. We also consider the reason for planting the woodland as we need to ensure that location will deliver the purpose for the new woodland. 

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I visited the site yesterday which looked good from the desktop survey, but on site, it was clear that woodland would not be a suitable land use at this location due to its wildlife value. I did wonder how this site had escaped being classed as species rich and a UK BAP habitat! The landowner didn't realise the significance and importance of this site for wildlife but once I've made them aware of it they were happy to reconsider and find another location for the proposed woodland. This confirmed to me that early visits are absolutely critical when considering planting new woodlands.

Incidentally, I used a drone, having obtained permission from local Air Traffic Control, to help with the survey enabling me to view the whole site quickly and efficiently giving a thorough overview and saving a huge of time, which in turn saved the client money.

I was asked by another client last week whether he would be able to plant trees right up to his boundary. The answer was technically yes - there's no reason why not - but to be neighbourly just think about the view from the other side and plan your planting accordingly. It's good practice to plant trees 1 to 2 metres back from your boundary as this will aid maintenance in the future, but hedges can be planted half a metre back. 

On the subject of hedges, I tend to plant a tree and protect it with a guard every 6 metres along the new hedge. Fairly recent research has shown that standard trees in hedgerows make a hugely beneficial impact for wildlife and biodiversity.

When planting hedges, people seem to have concentrated a bit too much on hedge management, planning to cut them hard every year or two. It is far more beneficial for wildlife and the hedge to cut every 2 to 3 years, though it takes a bit more effort and time to do. With the extra time factored in, having trees at regular spacing along the hedge won't make much difference to the time. 

I would argue that we need to really think about how we manage our hedges and revisit the reason for cutting them every year. Historically when crops were grown right up to the hedges there was an argument that tall hedges shaded a crop and reduced yield , but now as most fields have margins of a good 6 metres around them, shading from hedges should have no impact on the crop. Are we just cutting hedges to keep somebody busy in the winter? As it is not of any benefit to wildlife or, according to research, crop yields.  

For more information about Woodland or hedgerow creation, including possible grant funding give me a call on 07973 796 406 or send an email

James Gillies MBIAC MIAgrM
Phone: 07973 796 406
Email: Send me an email
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