Why we shouldn’t plant more trees.

A slightly controversial title for a tree company, especially considering the constant rhetoric that we need to plant more trees to help climate change. Organisations such as the Woodland Trust wax lyrical about planting more trees, industry bodies produce document after document about increasing urban tree canopy cover and how wonderful it is, and how wonderful they are but that’s another story, so why the title?

Mainly because those that are saying it most the vocally and espousing the virtues of this policy, are pretty bad at it. It is that simple.

There’s copious amounts of phrases bandied about like “right tree right place”, in-numerable webinars, lectures and papers about urban planting and best practice are produced, but stuff like this happens regularly.

Why we shouldn't plant more trees, a clear example.

That tree was planted about five years ago, it’s never really done a lot apart from look incredibly sick and pathetic. I’ve never once seen it watered, although the “approved contractor” did replace the stake that has since disappeared again, and along with several others planted at the same time it’s given up the ghost this year.

There’s more than one reason for this, ranging from the grounds like concrete and the fact nobody ever watered it after it was “planted”, but the big shining reason is this

A poorly formed root plate

Isn’t it pretty, well it’s pretty bloody awful but that doesn’t count.

This boys and girls is the root ball of that “Standard” tree. Now I’m no expert nursery man, I hate the word expert and am always reminded of one of my old lecturers favoured sayings that ex is a has-been and spurt is a drip under pressure so why would you be one, but I know damn well tree roots shouldn’t look like that and the usual reason that they do is poor nursery husbandry, and staying in too small a pot for too long, before being transplanted up to the next size pot or sold on.

The ground conditions wont have helped with establishment, but despite the absolute bo””””ks claim spouted by a botanist in the guardian, they don’t cause that to happen, and neither would all the grass, but it’s quite simply a pathetic specimen with a poorly developed root ball that’s been sold at an extortionate price by an unscrupulous supplier and planted by someone who couldn’t be bothered to inspect it before planting despite ticking a box to say they do.

So what do we do instead?

Step up the game that’s what. Arb and landscape companies need to get their houses in order, demand better from the nurseries and spend a little bit more time getting the ground right to enable establishment, local authorities need to start looking at whats happening and demand more from their contractors rather than ticking a box to say we’ve planted all these trees aren’t we wonderful, and all the industry professional bodies need to stop fighting for attention at every “plant more trees headline” and start highlighting the problems of poor plants, poor work and the need for after care to a wider audience, rather than letting people like me stick our heads above the parapet and have a go with limited reach.

So perhaps the title should have been, why we should stop planting trees of dubious quality, rather badly, on dubious quality sites and not looking after them, while saying look how good we are!

It could have been but that was a bit long and it wouldn’t have grabbed anyone’s attention and, Why we shouldn’t plant more trees, as a phrase, might aggravate the right people in the right place and things might change for the better.