I’m not sure when it happened but these days my thinking seems more influenced by 80s song lyrics rather than philosophers like Joyce Mitchell Cook, and her theory of value, or John Rawls, and his theory of justice. That can’t be a good thing can it? (That’s a rhetorical question so feel free to use rhetoric when answering.)
For most councils tree planting takes place between November and February. Trees are planted in the winter months when they are dormant, as this increases survival rates. Many London boroughs have ambitious plans to plant more trees. Kingston council, the London borough I live in, aims to plant at least 1500 new trees over the next three years and in the planting season of 2019/20, they planted 871 street trees and over 3,000 whips with the support of local communities in green spaces. (A whip is a young tree, without branches, approximately 1/2 to 3/4 inches in diameter. A whip looks less like a tree and more like a long, upright stick. Once planted, a whip is trained through careful pruning to allow the optimal amount of sunlight into the tree’s canopy.)
Local people were invited to pick up to three places that they would like to see new trees planted in winter, as well as select their favourite tree species. 178 people had their say on planting locations and the council were able to fulfil every request we received for a new tree in an available planting location (roads with space for new trees in existing pits, suitable grass verges and local parks). A total of 255 trees were planted in locations chosen by residents. Qualified officers carefully assessed the local conditions of each site and determined which trees were best suited to each environment, with preferred tree species taken into account where possible.
I haven’t checked every London borough but I’d guess they all have similar plans. The Urban Tree Challenge Fund (UTCF) was developed in response to HM Treasury releasing £10 million in the 2018 Autumn Budget announcement for planting at least 20,000 large trees and 110,000 small trees in urban areas in England. The application window for Round 2 opened on 30 March 2020 and runs to 30 June 2020. This has, of course, been affected by the coronavirus. The Government have this to say: “The situation around COVID-19 is rapidly changing and we appreciate the uncertainty this creates. We are continuing to open Round 2 of the Urban Tree Challenge Fund on the 30 March 2020 as planned, but we ask that you bear with us if we need to reassess this in the future.”
According to Trees for Cities there are 10 reasons why we should plant more trees in urban areas. As well as producing oxygen and storing and soaking up carbon and carbon dioxide, trees clean our air and are good for our health and wellbeing. Not forgetting that urban sprawl is taking over. Eighty percent of us are now living in urbanised environments and there are no signs of this slowing down. It is projected that the increase in urbanisation along with expected overall global population growth, there could be another 2.5 billion people in urban populations by the year 2050. (Although I suppose these projections may now change in a post pandemic world.) Check out the full 10 reasons here.
As well as planting new trees and whips the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham invite residents to plant flowers, herbs and shrubs – anything you like really – at the base of trees across the borough as part of our campaign to make streets greener and more pleasant. They even produce a guide to help you – See our short guide on planting tree bases.
And then along came coronavirus and everybody was told stay indoors, quickly followed by the hottest, driest May any of us have known. It was the sunniest Spring on record for the UK and all the home nations and the driest May on record in England. 626 hours of bright sunshine were recorded in Spring 2020 for the UK and have exceeded the previous high (555 hours, set in 1948) by over 70 hours. Spring 2020 also exceeds the sunshine amount for most summer seasons, with only three summers being sunnier (1976, 1995, and 1989). The figure for England is even higher. Spring 2020 recorded 696 hours of sunshine, exceeding the previous record set of 594.3 hours. Yes, you read that right. While most of us were stuck indoors we had more sunshine than most summers!
When new trees are planted councils always include them in watering rounds, but especially during dry weather they benefit from more regular watering, so please do water new trees on your street. Any watering is helpful, but please see below for general advice:
- One big drink a week is best, but more often is fine during very hot weather
- Ideally, try to give at least 1-2 watering cans per watering – although anything you can manage is great
- Tap water, rain water or even dishwater is fine. Please make sure no chemicals stronger than washing-up liquid are in the mix
- If there’s a black watering tube at the base of the tree, please use that, although if it’s easier, just slowly pour the water over the roots, letting the water soak deep into the soil
- Ask your neighbours to get involved, especially if you’re planning on going on holiday over the summer
- Try not to water when the ground is wet and soggy. Rainfall isn’t always enough to satisfy newly planted trees, but too much water can be as bad as not enough
- If you use a hosepipe, do so safely – don’t leave it unattended or trail it across the road
- The best time to water is either in the early morning or in the evening. Try to avoid the hottest part of the day, although water anytime is better than no water at all
For those riparian London boroughs the Thames Path is a popular site for new plantings. Hammersmith got in touch with the Thames Path National Trail about 10 elms newly planted near Mortlake cemetery and after popping down with @innerlondramb for a quick investigation, and to do some emergency watering, with the help of Richmond Ramblers we were able to get Putney Town Rowing Club interested in regular watering.
Even as lockdown eases week by week, I’m guessing it’ll still be a while before we’ll be walking in groups again or that the over-stretched London boroughs will be able to resume their normal duties and tasks, so it would be really helpful if walkers were able to pick up some of the slack. Check out your local area, check with your council and if you pick up some tree watering roles you might want to share that info with me. (It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to.)
You can see where new trees have been planted (and the species) in Kingston in the map below or you can search by road in the tree planting directory.
The walking class hero lockdown days playlist: