Forum home Wildlife gardening

New woodland


Can somebody advise how to plant a new woodland within an old woodland? We have about an acre of woodland on limestone facing West and the centre of the woodland is completely devoid of trees but full of brambles, nettles and thistles etc. Some Hawthorn has managed to grow but even that is struggling. There are rabbits but no deer (we think).

How do we clear this area and keep it clear so that newly planted trees can establish themselves? What time of the year is best? How long do we need to keep the weeds down so the trees can establish well?

Don't worry about the wildlife, please. We also have an old quarry which is completely overgrown and which we plan to leave as is - so plenty more brambles, nettles and thistles there!

Thanks, Sanna





  • waterbuttswaterbutts Posts: 1,214

    If the site has been left to its own devices for some time and there are no tree seedlings growing on it ( not even ash seedlings?!) there must be reason. Maybe the ground is toxic? Here in Derbyshire the limestone is full of lead and the spoil from the old lead mines allows very few plants to grow. Have you dug around and had a look at the soil in the empty area? 

  • Thanks Waterbutts. An interesting point although I can't fathom why the ground would be toxic. The quarry was just for limestone to build the old house and other than that here on the Welsh Border it is mainly sheep and there is not even a slate mine nearby.

    It is possible that there are Ash seedlings - I can check that later in the year when the nettles and thistles have died down. Digging around will also be possible then and before the snow comes. No way can you get onto that land at the moment - the "shrubbery" is head high. The butterflies and bees of course love it.


  • nutcutletnutcutlet Posts: 27,166

    Sounds a bit like parts of my garden 20 years ago Sanna. I wouldn't dig it over.

    I'd cut back the top growth that itn't worth keeping,  I'd say hawthorns wre worth keeping, You may find some baby trees and you can save the best ones. 

    In winter excavate planting holes to plant young, bare rooted trees. They'll grow away much quicker than potted ones. You can remove weed roots round these. Put tree guards round the trees

     in spring selectively kill the difficult weeds, thistles, brambles, nettles, a few are OK but not everywhere. 

    then get a strimmer or hover mower, depending on the terrain and keep the weeds down that way for a few years.

    Seems to have worked OK here

    In the sticks near Peterborough
  • Thanks Nutcutlet

    It will have to be a strimmer as terrain is sloping and with limestone here and there. It seems we can get a grant from the woodland trust (and thus get the bare rooted trees cheaper including tree guards.)

    When you say "excavate planting holes" - how big should they be and when would you plant? I have heard either autumn or spring with a preference for autumn but I am not sure that the land will be accessible early enough in autumn.


  • nutcutletnutcutlet Posts: 27,166

    the sooner the better for planting. You can do it in winter if you're not waterlogged or frozen. I'd go with 3 year old trees, they'll not look much for a while then take off.

    You won't need much of hole for young plants either. just enough for them to get started. It was very bleak and bare when we came here, There are now trees 20 or 30 feet high. Some of them from seed  sown in the first or second year here. We had acouple of incredibly dry years in the early days and watered some of the new plantings but only in their first year.

    What species are you thinking of growing. Apart from being limestone do you know what the soil is like? It's not likely to be toxic unless someone has dumped stuff there but may have had its topsoil removed.

    If it 's like a limestone pavement see what grows in the Burren. There's always a way. 

    In the sticks near Peterborough
  • Thanks again for all the advice. Ash self-seeds around here and in addition I will stick to whatever is native and can cope with alkaline soil. Sadly, Beech is not on the list although it is my favourite tree. So:

    Pedunculate Oak, Field maple, Rowan, Bird Cherry, Downy Birch, Whitebeam and some Hazel and Dog Rose (in moderation). There is more than enough Hawthorn and also Blackthorn. The good thing is that there is a good "shelter belt" from established shrubs to the East and North and shrubs and some mature trees to the West.

    It is not a limestone pavement (that would actually be very nice) and I don't think the soil is that bad as it has had sheep on it occasionally and the size of the weeds is also an indicator? Anyway, I have ordered a soil test kit as we are also planning a grass roof and that needs poor soil...

    I think I am now getting a plan together and thanks for all the help. I also will plan in some folk to help plant the trees as we have worked out that we need to do about a 1000.

    Did you do any underplanting with bulbs or ground cover or is it better to do that once the trees are well established?





  • nutcutletnutcutlet Posts: 27,166

    I'd leave underplanting for a bit because if you need to deal with weeds It makes it difficult. Bulb time is the best weedkilling/mowing time. Also what you'll need are  woodland plants and until the trees grow a bit it will be too sunny

    In the sticks near Peterborough
  • Yes, that makes sense. Have a good weekend!

Sign In or Register to comment.