Budget needs to be set outside for the survival of trees rather than just for planting them, says leading tree expert Tony Kirkham.
“We could all go out tomorrow and plant a million trees, but we’ve got to look after them; too often we plant a tree and then we walk away from it and expect it to survive and hope that we’re going to get good weather and rain so we don’t need to go and water it. That’s unacceptable to me,” says Kirkham, the former head of arboretum, gardens & horticulture services at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
He uses the example of the A14 Cambridge to Huntington bypass, where more than 400,000 saplings – nearly half of those planted – failed due to lack of aftercare.
“Most of the trees that we plant today will need watering in their first few years, so those first few years are critical. That’s why I think we should get rid of targets for tree planting and we should be setting targets for tree establishment, and measure it.”
Kirkham adds that every scheme – be it a small garden, a large landscape or a bypass – should be setting aside a budget for the aftercare of trees to cover funding, resources, people, water and materials until they’re established to “independence” – when “trees can survive on their own without any more intervention from man.”
We also need to look after existing trees that are already established and growing, says Kirkham. “We mustn’t neglect them for the sake of tree planting.”