I get two or three emails each week from people who found this blog and have questions to ask. Somebody just asked me “what [I] would do differently” . Here’s my top answers:
- Deer Guards
I’d like to have been able to do without stakes and tree guards. I needed to protect against deer. The bigger the site is (and the more trees you’re planning to plant), the more economically viable it becomes to exclude deer by perimeter fencing rather than a guard on every tree. I haven’t found a viable compostable tree grard yet so the plastic guards I use have to be removed and (if they can’t be reused) taken off site and disposed.
The Forestry Commission has lots of deer fencing advice, their recommendation would definitely do the job but it’s not cheap and it doesn’t look all that simple to install yourself. I might try various approaches, like a metre-high stock-proof fence (I learnt how to do that) alongside an existing or new hedge; hopefully the deer can’t push through the fence or jump over the hedge. Or where I have a gappy boundary with a few trees I might try attaching the fencing to the trees so save putting in posts.
One problem with making your boundary deer-proof is that if a deer manages to get in somehow it could be very difficult to get it out again.
I’d allocate more space for fruit and nut trees, either as an orchard or a forest garden (or some of each). I allowed about 1.5 acres of my total 10 acres for this purpose but I’ve now run out of that space and there’s lots more trees that I’d like to have there. If you’re not familiar with forest gardening then Martin Crawford’s books are a great place to start or you might find a local forest garden (here’s one that I’ve been meaning to visit).
I dug two deep ponds (having read that you should aim for 2m deep so the water stays colder in the summer, reducing evaporation). I had a lot of fun one weekend with a mini-digger but I wish I’d first checked the porosity of my subsoil. Neither pond holds water, the fill up in the Autumn but they’re both dry by late Spring. I could line them but that’s a big job and I would have dug them a different shape if I knew they would need liners.
I have an area of 20 year old woodland which was planted at 2m spacing and wasn’t thinned. It’s now very tall and thin as the trees compete for light and don;t have enough space to grow. I’m thinning gradually but you can’t take too much out in one year, they’re all likely to have weak root systems due to crowding so removing too many just leaves those remaining susceptible to windthrow. I wish I’d understood sooner what I needed to do, I could have started thinning 4 years earlier.
The good thing is that I’m learning how I’ll need to manage the areas which I planted in 2015.
The only other thing I can think of that I’d have done differently is that I’d have started it off years earlier.