During and after the Second World War there was great emphasis on food production in the UK. Farming became more mechanised, with machinery becoming ever larger, and there was a much greater dependence on artificial inputs (fertilisers, weedkillers, insecticides etc). Farmers were given grants to remove hedgerows in order to enlarge fields and to bring more land into production.
Hedges are brilliant! They’re vital wildlife corridors connecting up habitats which might otherwise be isolated. They also absorb carbon, help to reduce pollution, provide shelter, have a cooling effect, and are valuable habitats in their own right. One survey found more than 2000 species living in a section of hedge.
The government funding process through environmental schemes is cumbersome, onerous, lengthy and penalising. Discussing face-to-face what we and the farmer want is simpler, more flexible and more rewarding. TFF’s aim is to supplement whatever the farmer is already doing and bring in greater biodiversity.
We plant whips, which are tree seedlings. These are not only relatively cheap but, even more importantly, have a much better chance of establishing well. Larger plants are much more likely to succumb to heat, drought, wind rock etc.
Cell grown trees are grown in containers so that the root system remains intact whereas bare root trees are grown in open ground and dug up for replanting. There are a number of advantages to using cell grown plants.
Kent is one of the driest parts of the UK, and now often has warm, dry springs. We have learnt that whips planted in November have a good chance of getting their roots down while the soil is still warm and moist, and are in a much stronger position to deal with drought/heat during the spring and summer.
Funding comes from a variety of sources, and may be different for each project. In some cases the farmers meet some or all of the costs, but mostly TFF accesses grants from other organisations, such as the International Tree Foundation, the Woodland Trust or the Tree Council. TFF also receives donations from individuals and organisations, including from the Faversham Lottery.
If the farmer knows that there is a problem with (usually) rabbits on the farm, young plants need to be protected: grazing animals find young trees very tasty and can completely destroy new plantings. Plastic spirals are cheap and readily available, but they last for decades so need to be removed after a few years, and are, well - plastic! We’re constantly looking to recycle existing stock, or to source more environmentally friendly alternatives but what’s available at the moment either disintegrates quickly or is prohibitively expensive.
Young trees need a good bit of TLC until they get properly established, usually in two or three years. Dense weed growth around them can shade out the light, and out compete them for water and nutrients. We ask volunteers to help with weed control to give our babies the best possible chance.
We always love new volunteers! For more information and/or to be added to the TFF mailing list, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You could help out at one of our volunteering days, or you could join the Steering Group, which organises the actions and communications of TFF.