Planting trees or hedgerow in Central Bedfordshire – your guide
Where to plant
While trees are a great way of supporting nature, we do need to ensure we don't plant in places that aren't suitable or where we don't have permission.
Some areas already have natural regeneration occurring or valuable habitats with trees that should be retained. Consider connectivity of your planting project and current green areas, where possible it’s best to create wildlife corridors.
You should only plant trees once you have the landowner's permission.
Get in touch with us at email@example.com if you want to plant on our land or need advice, or your town or parish council where appropriate.
Protections and designations
Some areas of land have special protections or designations due to their existing wildlife or archaeology. Planting in these areas may be against the law. You should not plant trees on archaeological sites, places with rare or protected species, grassland that has never been ploughed, wetlands or heathland. To find out if the area you want to plant has any of these you can go to your county archaeologist for advice or check online: Magic Map Application (defra.gov.uk)
Check our local Biodiversity Records Centre for local designations, such as local wildlife sites.
Choosing the right place
As trees grow they can sometimes interfere with utilities and cabling. It is best to avoid planting over shallow underground services or beneath overhead wires. Where this is not possible, you could consider planting smaller species that are less likely to cause any issues.
If possible, avoid planting too close to land boundaries. Tree roots and canopies can spread some distance away from where it is planted and can sometimes negatively affect the neighbouring land. Find out how big different trees can grow on the Woodlands Trust's website.
Find out what type of soil you have. This will help you to decide what type of tree would grow best. Avoid planting on peaty soils. Find out which soil types are in your area on the Soilscapes website.
You can plant on your own private land but should always seek permission from the landowner if you want to plant elsewhere.
You should only plant trees once you have the landowner's permission and you may need an Environmental Impact Assessment from the Forestry Commission.
For schools and community groups thinking about planting, please make sure you contact our School for the Future team, and/or our BeGreen team to plan your planting. Ensure planting projects are in a suitable location and the right species are being used.
Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to plant on our land or need advice.
The Greensands Trust
We support The Greensand Trust, which offers a range of community planting days, educational sessions, and tree sponsorship opportunities. In winter 2022, 2 community planting days led by The Greensand Trust led to 2350 trees planted.
Forest of Marston Vale
We support the Forest of Marston Vale Trust, which has worked hard over the years to deliver a community forest project and has planted over 2 million trees. It will be holding planting events and giving free trees to residents of the Forest of Marston Vale to plant in private gardens or on their own land.
The space needed depends on the size of the tree planted and how much it will grow. Think about whether the tree has an upright canopy or a spread canopy.
Consider whether your newly planted trees will be too shaded by existing trees, planting away from them will give new trees a good chance of survival.
Trees need space for their roots and watering so be generous, trees can overcome disease or other difficulties if they have the right conditions.
Trees: Plant 2m to 4m apart (woodland setting: 3m to 4m preferable). Rather than a regimented line of trees, try creating a slightly scattered row of trees for a natural look.
Hedgerow plants: Plant 4 to 5 per metre staggering in a double row rather than a single row is better for wildlife. Leave at least 40cm in between each row.
Choosing what to plant
Choosing which tree or hedge to plant depends on the type of soil and surroundings you have, but in most woodland settings you should try to plant native species. In new woodland or urban settings, non-native species can work, the more flowers for pollinating species the better!
- in chalky soil: beech, hawthorn, common oak, large-leaved lime, bird cherry, yew, field maple, hazel or wayfaring tree
- in clay soil: hawthorn, birch, crab apple, wild cherry, or dogwood
- in peat: avoid planting
Check the Woodland Trust guide to trees.
You will most likely want to plant juvenile trees or saplings, they establish easier, are cheaper and easy to transport. These come in two types:
- Whips: Normally 100 to 125cm (although may be smaller)
- Feathered or feathered whip: Approximately 175 to 250cm tall
Getting trees to plant
Free trees for certain groups and where to buy
Our tree grant is aimed at delivering tree and hedge planting schemes across Central Bedfordshire, to increase biodiversity, offset carbon, and support the improvement of green infrastructure in the area.
Town and parish councils, local voluntary and community organisations, schools and other groups can apply for funding (or match funding). Projects can vary in size, from a minimum of five trees upwards, to larger areas of new woodland.
Tree giveaways will be held at a number of community events and street markets during the tree planting season from November to March. Contact email@example.com to register your interest.
Other ways to get trees to plant
The Woodland Trust may provide free trees for certain community groups and schools. If you are not eligible for this scheme, the Woodland Trust also have a wide range of trees available to buy.
The Forest of Marston Vale Trust will be holding planting events and giving free trees to residents of the Forest of Marston Vale to plant in gardens on their own land.
The Greensand Trust offers community planting days, educational sessions and tree sponsorship opportunities.
When purchasing trees choose a reputable nursery or garden centre. This will help to make sure they are free from pests or diseases which could spread to other nearby trees. Plant passports should ensure that plants come free of pests and diseases.
There are also various schemes and grants available if you would like to do some larger-scale planting, including:
- Community Fund | The Forest of Marston Vale Trust
- Woods and hedges run by the Woodland Trust
- Woodland Creation Offer by the government
- The Greensand Trust's projects
How to plant a tree or hedgerow
The tree planting season broadly runs from November to March, so you should aim to complete your planting during these months.
- mark out the location of your trees or hedgerow planting considering space needed (see space needed section above), making sure you have removed the turf or immediate vegetation (1m radius) to make planting easier and help trees establish
- dig holes deep enough to allow all the roots to be buried, then backfill the hole, pressing down the soil firmly around the plant (you can pre-dig holes beforehand if children are helping to plant)
- pop a cane in next to the tree a few centimetres away, add your tree guard around the tree and the cane. Push the guard down into the ground until secure
Further information on how to plant a tree is on the Woodland Trust website.
Be prepared; you will need:
- mower/secateurs to cut back vegetation
- gardening gloves
- water: water your trees well once they are in the ground
- Tree guards and canes: These help to support the tree and keep wildlife off so plants can establish themselves. We recommend biodegradable tree guards
Caring for trees
A high proportion of trees that are planted may not survive without some looking after.
Following these steps in the weeks and months after planting should help to keep your trees in excellent health into spring and beyond:
- is it alive? If there are no leaves, look for green under the bark of twigs (scrape the surface with a fingernail or knife) and living buds. Fill in any gaps in the soil around the roots and use a foot to pat firm the new soil. If the soil is waterlogged, channel and drain the excess away from the tree. Look for key tree pests and diseases on the Woodland Trust website
- keep trees well-watered. Trees often need a little help keeping hydrated for the first few years of their lives. This can be even more important if you experience a frost
- check your guards, as these are intended to stop animals damaging young trees by eating the shoots and leaves or stripping the bark. Check the guards in spring and autumn to ensure they are effective (no bark missing, or twigs bitten or broken off) and not rubbing or cutting into the tree. If a guard is inadequate, add more protection, e.g. a taller tube to protect against deer, or fencing to keep off cows and other farm animals
- check your stakes. In the first year of planting, you can stake your tree to reduce the chance of breakage from strong winds. When you tie the tree to the stake, leave room for the trunk to move and sway to encourage strong trunk growth. Check on the stake and the tie. It should allow the tree to sway, without rubbing on the stake and tie. Does the tree still need a stake? Check this in Spring by releasing the tie and if the tree stays upright, remove the stake. If the tree leans and the roots move, re-tie it to a shortened stake
- consider the size of animals that will be a threat to your trees and use guards and stakes that are appropriate heights
- remove the stakes, guards and straps once they have done their job in protecting the tree. A lot of newly planted trees that have been established can be damaged by these if they are not removed at an appropriate time
- clear away weeds and pull up or mow any grass carefully to avoid root damage, for a radius of at least half a metre around the stem. After planting and for the next few years, you should check the tree in March or April to see how the tree is getting on