How to buy - Tree guards and shelters

Young and newly planted trees need protection against a range of threats to their successful establishment, says Sally Drury.

Tubex: tree shelters are designed to protect and enhance the growth of young plants - image: Green-tech
Tubex: tree shelters are designed to protect and enhance the growth of young plants - image: Green-tech

Trees are planted for many reasons - financial investment, boundary demarcation, to clean the air and provide shade in our towns and cities or to enhance the landscape. Particularly relevant this winter, trees can be planted to help prevent flooding. Indeed, last year Confor and Forest Research published a report - The Role of Productive Woodlands in Water Management - highlighting the importance of woodland planting for reducing flooding across the UK.

Whatever your reason for planting trees - whether a single commemorative tree, an avenue, an orchard or a whole woodland - the planting must be done properly, with ongoing care and attention to control the threats that can all too quickly kill young trees.

Overcoming shock

Young and newly planted trees are vulnerable. Firstly they have to overcome the shock of transplanting, being wrenched from one home and shoved into another. They must re-establish their roots to give them anchorage and feeding lines within what is probably less than perfect soil conditions - and that's just the start of their problems.

Over the next few years, while they work hard to settle into their new homes, the trees may be exposed to potentially lethal damage caused by wild animals, livestock, vandals, wayward mowers, out-of-control strimmers, herbicide splash, harsh winds and perhaps salt spray if they are near gritted roadways.

There are various solutions to help protect the young tree as it establishes itself in the new site. The best and most economic will depend on the location and the threats it presents to the tree. In urban areas the greatest threats may be human - perhaps wilful damage by bored youths or, if planted on roadsides, the effects of traffic, de-icing and herbicides. Windy conditions can also be a problem in urban areas, where gusts can be funnelled between buildings.

In parks, gardens and on green verges, the biggest threat is often from maintenance machinery, especially mowers and trimming equipment. Rural planting schemes bring particular problems. It is important to assess the dangers posed by wild and farmed animals. They may browse on leaves, chew buds and break off branches, while bark stripping is also a serious problem. Rural sites should be inspected for signs of rabbits, hares and deer. Livestock access should also be considered.

Variety of choice

There is a wide choice of guards and shelters for use on single trees, small planting projects, roadside schemes and where trees are spaced apart, such as in avenues. However, where a lot of trees are planted close together on one site, perhaps as a woodland or copse, fencing is an option depending on the shape and size of the site. Remember, square sites are the most economic to fence while fencing around a long skinny site will dramatically increase the cost of protection per tree.

If you are looking to buy tree shelters or guards, it is also worth remembering that shelters have the additional benefit of promoting growth by acting like a mini-greenhouse - reducing draughts and giving a slight lift to the interior temperature. There is also a lower risk of herbicide damage and, because they are more visible, of being hit by machinery.

Protection duration

Risks tend to diminish as the tree grows, but the length of protection needed will vary depending on the threat, the tree species and how quickly and how well it establishes. Where protection is only required in the short term, it may be worth considering bioor photodegradable products because they will save collection and disposal later.

Protection from deer and livestock is likely to be provided for the long term, so in pastures and parklands it is an advantage to use timber guards. But remember to consider the growth rate of the tree because guards left unmonitored may cause growth restriction and damage. Similarly, when steel protectors and grilles are used in street planting, ensure that there is room for the tree to expand.

The size of the guard or shelter required will depend on the size of the tree when planted and, equally important, the size of the threat. Rabbits are notorious for nibbling away at the bark and are unable to reach higher than 80-85cm. But red deer can reach more than 2m high.

Grants for hedgerows

Land and estate owners should be aware of support for hedgerow and boundary planting. For those with planting schemes seeking support from Countryside Stewardship, the NFU has announced details of the options that will be available for 2016.

There are 12 different levels of grant available for boundary restoration. The scheme opens next month and applications are needed by the end of April.

For those who are eligible, agreements will be for 18-24 months, allowing two opportunities to carry out hedgerow planting plans. Grants range from £1,000 to £5,000. More information is available from the NFU (see www.nfuonline.com).

Tree guards and shelters: supplier information

The following listings include products offered by major tree-planting accessories companies. The omission of any product or firm does not imply criticism:

Spirals
Alba Trees
Amenity Land Services
British Hardwood Tree Nursery
Cheviot Trees
English Woodlands
Farm Forestry Co
Green-tech
Sherriff Amenity
Stanton Hope
Tubex

Plastic/HDPE mesh guards
Alba Trees
Amenity Land Services
British Hardwood Tree Nursery
Cheviot Trees
English Woodlands
Farm Forestry Co
Green-tech
Sherriff Amenity
Stanton Hope
Tubex

Mesh guards on a roll
Alba Trees
Amenity Land Services
British Hardwood Tree Nursery
Cheviot Trees
English Woodlands
Farm Forestry Co
Green-tech
Sherriff Amenity
Stanton Hope
Tubex

Weld mesh wire guards
Amenity Land Services
British Hardwood Tree Nursery
English Woodlands
Farm Forestry Co
Green-tech
Sherriff Amenity
Stanton Hope

Guards with spray shields
Alba Trees
Amenity Land Services
British Hardwood Tree Nursery
Cheviot Trees
English Woodlands
Farm Forestry Co
Green-tech
Sherriff Amenity
Stanton Hope
Tubex

Strimmer/brushcutter guards
Alba Trees
Amenity Land Services
British Hardwood Tree Nursery
Cheviot Trees
English Woodlands
Tubex

Vole guards
Alba Trees
British Hardwood Tree Nursery
Cheviot Trees
English Woodlands
Farm Forestry Co
Tubex

Metal tree protectors
Amenity Land Services
English Woodlands
Farm Forestry Co
Furnitubes International
Green-tech
Sherriff Amenity
Stanton Hope

Tree shelters
Alba Trees
Amenity Land Services
British Hardwood Tree Nursery
Cheviot Trees
Ezee Tree
English Woodlands
Farm Forestry Co
Green-tech
Growers Services
Sherriff Amenity
Stanton Hope
Tubex

Shrub shelters
Alba Trees
Amenity Land Services
British Hardwood Tree Nursery
Cheviot Trees
English Woodlands
Ezee Tree
Farm Forestry Co
Green-tech
Sherriff Amenity
Tubex

Photodegradable and/or biodegradable guards/shelters
Alba Trees
Amenity Land Services
British Hardwood Tree Nursery
Cheviot Trees
English Woodlands
Ezee Tree
Sherriff Amenity
Tubex

Contacts: Alba Trees 01620 825058; Amenity Land Services 01952 641949; British Hardwood Tree Nursery 01673 818443; Cheviot Trees 01289 386755; Ezee Tree 01858 575454; English Woodlands 01435 862992; Farm Forestry Co 01588 650496; Furnitubes International 020 8378 3200; Green-tech 01423 332100; Growers Services 01379 678286; Sherriff Amenity 01638 721188; Stanton Hope 01268 419141; Tubex 01621 874201


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