Click on the headings below to read about the project and for answers to some frequently asked questions.

+ About the Team

The Trees on the Land team is made up of a number of professionals and volunteers working together. The project has been developed by the Green Economy Foundation in collaboration with the Woodland Trust in Northern Ireland.

The Green Economy Foundation (previously the Irish Natural Forestry Foundation) is an Environmental NGO based at the 300 acre Manch Estate in Co. Cork. Established in 2002 to promote sustainable forestry practices, the foundation works to promote the development of a green economy – where sustainable and resource-efficient business models will out-perform and ultimately replace those dependent on profit alone.

The Woodland Trust is the UK’s leading woodland conservation charity. Its aims are to create new native woodland, to protect precious ancient woods and to restore those that are damaged. The Trust strives to inspire people up and down the country to visit woods, plant trees, and enjoy the many benefits that woodland has to offer.

Trees on the Land is coordinated with patient and generous help and consultation from many individuals and organisations. The scale of the project requires that many people work together to make it a success. The team have a policy of common sense and good humour across all areas of the project. Anyone wishing to offer help please do get in touch.

+ Where are the trees planted?

Trees on the Land is a cross-border initiative covering the 32 counties of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. We work with farmers, smallholders, community groups, councils, schools, colleges and other landowners to co-ordinate hundreds of planting sites to accommodate trees each year.

+ When does the planting take place?

Trees on the Land runs an annual tree planting day usually on a Saturday in early February. Our landowners collect their trees during the week before planting and everyone turns out on the appointed day to get their trees into the ground.

Our next planting day is Saturday 15th February 2020.

+ What sort of trees and woodlands do you plant?

Trees on the Land focuses on native Irish trees. All of the trees are grown in Ireland and are of certified native seed provenance with exceptions noted below.

We plant individual trees, groups of trees, small woodlands, shelter belts, hedgerows, coppice groves, agroforestry projects, orchards and larger woodlands. We work with hundreds of farmers, smallholders, schools and colleges, community groups, councils and other landowners to find land to accommodate trees each season.

We supply bare-rooted forestry grade whips; these young trees are hardy and well adapted to the Irish climate and being small, can be handled and planted easily.

Common species: A number of the native Irish trees are commonly available. These are sessile and pedunculate oak, common alder, common birch, hawthorn, blackthorn, hazel, rowan, crab apple and scots pine. They are a diverse and hardy collection and serve well for establishing woodlands, copses, hedgerows and shelter belts in all sorts of conditions.

Rarer Species:
Other species are more difficult and expensive to source. We buy what we can find and hope to see them become more readily available over the coming seasons. The rarer species are listed in the table below:

Whilst almost all of the trees are Irish grown from native provenance seed, there are some exceptions:

Naturalised Species: Beech, lime, sweet chestnut, horse chestnut and others are considered by many to be naturalised in Ireland as they have been growing here for many hundreds of years. In some woodlands and in parkland surrounding large historical houses and castles, these species were planted as part of the original landscape designs. We occasionally use Irish grown trees of these species where it is appropriate to the landscape.

Fruit and Nut Trees: Orchard establishment is very important to the project. We plant traditional and heritage varieties of apples, pears, plums, cherries, damsons etc. as well as more modern varieties. We occasionally use non-native and or imported trees for particular orchard or agroforestry projects where it is appropriate.

Ash Die-back: Due to the presence of the Ash Die-back disease in the UK and Ireland we sadly do not plant any ash.

2016: In 2016 we struggled to source a diversity species for our projects. We imported some additional trees from the UK to add into our planting packs. We do not anticipate needing to do this again.

  • Common Name - Latin Name - Irish Name
  • Alder - Alnus glutinosa - Fearnóg
  • Alder buckthorn - Frangula alnus
  • Ash - Fraxinus excelsior - Fuinnseóg
  • Aspen - Populus tremula - Crann Creathach
  • Birch - Silver - Betula pendula - Beith
  • Birch - Downy - Betula pubescens - Beith
  • Black poplar - Populus nigra
  • Blackthorn - Prunus spinosa - Draighean
  • Buckthorn - Rhamnus catharticus
  • Cherry - Bird - Prunus padus
  • Cherry - Wild - Prunus avium - Crann silín
  • Crab apple - Malus sylvestris - Mubhall fhiadhain
  • Elder - Sambucus nigra - Trom
  • Guelder rose - Viburnum opulus
  • Hawthorn - Crataegus monogyna - Sceach geal
  • Hazel - Corylus avellana - Coll
  • Holly - Ilex aquifolium - Cuileann
  • Juniper - Juniperus communis - Iúr craige
  • Oak - Pedunculate - Quercus robur - Dair
  • Oak - Sessile - Quercus petraea - Dair
  • Oak - Hybrid - Quercus rosacea - Dair
  • Purple osier - Salix purpurea
  • Rowan - Sorbus aucuparia - Caorthann
  • Scots pine - Pinus sylvestris - Giuis
  • Spindle - Euonymus europaeus - Feoras
  • Strawberry tree - Arbutus unedo - Caithne
  • Whitebeam - Sorbus aria
  • Whitebeam - Irish - Sorbus hibernica
  • Willow - Bay - Salix pentandra - Saileach
  • Willow - Eared - Salix aurita - Saileach
  • Willow - Goat - Salix caprea - Saileach
  • Willow - Grey - Salix cinerea - Saileach
  • Wych elm - Ulmus glabra - Leamhán
  • Yew - Taxus baccata - Iúr

+ Who carries out maintenance and long term management?

The trees are looked after by the landowners accommodating them.

We give out advice on weeding, pruning, coppicing, thinning and managing the trees both as they establish and into the future.

We stay in contact with landowners to monitor establishment via surveys, phone calls and site visits. We aim for establishment rates of over 80% at all sites.

The project encourages very low-impact establishment and management with minimal ground preparation or drainage, minimum use of guards and stakes and weeding only where necessary and without chemical sprays.

+ Are the trees protected or will they be harvested?

We work with landowners to establish continuous tree and woodland cover that will be managed in a sustainable fashion for many generations. We encourage all of our landowners to engage closely with the management of their trees and to use the resources provided.

Many of our projects will see selected trees thinned, coppiced and felled in future years, some trees will grow old and die or blow down in storms, others may be attacked by pests and diseases. Mature trees drop seed and/or put up new growth from the roots; continuous cover management allows constant regeneration so there should always be trees on the sites originally planted.

For more information about continuous cover management please read on down the questions below.

+ How is the project funded?

Trees on the Land is funded by a combination of donations from the general public, contributions from landowners and sponsorship from local businesses. The initiative is run by a small team of professionals and a large network of volunteers who work to co-ordinate the planting projects each season.

As we do not own or formally lease the land we plant on, we are not eligible for most large public and private funding schemes.

Republic of Ireland: Our planting projects are funded by donations, business sponsorship and contributions from landowners. We occasionally avail of Forest Service grant aid for larger planting sites.

Northern Ireland: Our planting projects are funded by donations, business sponsorship and contributions from landowners. We occasionally avail of Forest Service grant aid for larger planting sites. .

Cross Border Funding: We do not receive any sort of cross border funding or support - we note this because it is often assumed that we do!

Landowner Contributions: In 2016 we introduced landowner application fees to our planting schemes. With growing uncertainty around future funding for agriculture and forestry, particularly with the UK leaving the European Union, we felt the project would benefit from a more self-sufficient funding model.

The application fees paid by landowners contribute to the following costs:

  • Core running costs: Office, administration and insurance costs.
  • Project costs: Purchase of trees. Delivery and distribution of trees. Packing and labelling of trees. Monitoring establishment and restocking failed trees. Advising landowners before and after planting.

+ Are the planting sites open to the public?

Most of the tree planting sites are located on farm land and other private land and are not open to the public.

Trees planted at community sites and on council owned land are generally easily accessible to local people and the general public.

+ Who owns the land and who owns the trees?

The land remains the property of the land owner; we do not own or formally lease any of the planting sites.

All trees given out as part of the project become the property of the landowner on agreement that they will be sustainably managed under continuous cover as a long term resource.

+ Who takes the profits from harvested trees?

Any profits generated by the trees and woodlands from timber, firewood or material sales go to the landowner.

We aim to demonstrate that trees and woodlands managed sustainably are economically viable and worth looking after.

+ Do you use glyphosate to control weeds?

Trees on the Land is committed to low-impact and sustainable management of the all of the trees and woodlands planted. We ask landowners not to use glyphosate based or other chemical weed-killers on any of the sites.

We encourage hand weeding or mulching of trees if necessary to control weeds. Longer grass, brambles, nettles, thistles and docks compete with young trees for nutrients and light, however they also provide shelter and deter grazing animals while the trees establish strong roots. The young canopy will shade out the majority of weeds after the first few growing seasons.

+ What's the difference between tree cover and woodland?

Tree Cover is the term used broadly to describe trees that do not consitute a formal woodland. Small groups of trees, rows of trees, hedges, orchards, agroforestry and shelter belts are all examples of tree cover which are not woodland or forest.

Tree cover all over Ireland and the UK has declined over the last centuries as hedges, orchards, shelter belts and many scattered groups of trees have been removed in the drive to increase productive agricultural acreage.

Tree cover is extremely important; even in small numbers and at low densities trees can provide significant benefits and add resilience and diversity to the local landscape. Tree cover provides useful resources and services: Shelter and shade for livestock, soil stabilisation and improvement, carbon sequestration, interruption and absorption of rainwater and nutrient run-off, firewood supply, wildlife support, timber and stake supply, fruit, nuts and many other materials.

The resources and services that have been lost with the removal of tree cover must now be built or brought in to supplement everything that was taken away with the trees.

Trees on the Land works on both Tree Cover and Woodland establishment projects.

+ Why plant trees on farms?

Productive land is always a priority on working farms, but there are many places where trees can be established on farms without impacting significantly on either arable or pasture acreages.

While there isn't always space to establish a large woodland, every farm has space for a few trees, in the corners of fields, along drives and tracks, as hedges and shelter belts or around the house and farm buildings.

Trees provide many useful resources and services to farms including shelter and shade for livestock, soil protection and improvement, biodiversity support for wild plants and animals, nutrient and rainwater interruption and absorption, firewood and timber supply and fruit and nut supplies.

With Ireland and the UK being some of the least forested places in Europe, adding trees to farmland has the scope to bring tree cover levels up without impacting on productive land. Our schemes provide trees for agricultural holdings for small woodland establishment, shelter belt and hedgerow establishment, orchard and coppice establishment and for agroforestry projects.

+ What is continuous cover forestry?

Continuous Cover Forestry is an ancient management system where trees and woodlands are maintained with an uneven-aged and mixed species structure. Individual trees and small coups are selected and harvested when they are required.

Continuous cover is an alternative to modern forestry systems where plantations of trees (often monocultures of one species) are grown for a fixed time and clearfelled entirely as a timber crop. Whilst clearfelling can produce profits, it has significant negative environmental and social impacts which can be avoided with continuous cover systems.

Benefits of Continuous Cover:

  • Reduced costs: The different growth rates and rotation lengths of species in a continuous cover woodland mean that several new generations of trees are already established when more mature trees are harvested. Young trees grow from fallen seed, from root suckers on older trees and as coppice regrowth from felled trees. Young trees shoot up rapidly towards light let in when older trees are felled. This reduces or removes the significant costs of replanting a woodland after clearfell.

  • Regular Income: Continuous cover forestry focuses on efficient and high quality timber production through careful maintenance of and periodic removal of high value, long rotation tree species. A mixture of shorter rotation species in the underwood provides regular income from firewood, coppice poles and small sawlogs. A well managed woodland will provide a steady income over many generations.

  • Minimal Disturbance: The selective felling of individul trees and small coups means that the woodland as a whole is very little disturbed; the delicate woodland ecosystems and habitats are maintained rather than lost. The opening of the canopy when trees are harvested benefits many flora and fauna who thrive in the new light and space. Continuous cover woodlands are usually associated with high biodiversity value as the mixture of tree species and variety of habitats support greater numbers of other species.

  • Soil Protection: Keeping the ground under permanent forest conditions protects soil from water and wind erosion. The fuller uneven-aged structure leads to less impact from storms and high winds.

  • Landscape Protection: By minimising the significant landscape change that is inevitable with clearfelling, continuous tree cover retains its value at all times as a resource, an amenity and as part of the landscape.

  • Seed Sources: Trees which show the strongest growth, yield class, form and general quality must be protected and managed as a long term seed source. These trees, in time, will help to improve the quality of future generations of trees. It is natural for humans to select the best trees for felling but sadly this leaves us with more seed from poor trees than from well formed trees and thus a decline in quality rather than an improvement.

In using continuous cover management principles across all of our planting projects, Trees on the Land is committed to creating environmentally, socially and economically sustainable tree cover and woodland.

+ What is sustainable woodland management?

A resource is sustainable if it is able to meet the needs of the current generation without compromising future generations.

Sustainable woodland management aims to provide for the present in terms of timber, fuel and other resources whilst ensuring that a woodland will continue to yield resources for many years into the future.

For more information about sustainable woodland management and continuous cover forestry see other questions.

+ What is coppicing and pollarding?

Coppicing and pollarding are ancient management techniques where trees and shrubs are cut and allowed to grow again.

Trees respond to coppicing at ground level by sending up multiple stems or poles from the original stool which grow very vigorously. Periodic cutting can greatly extend the life of a tree; a coppice tree can live and re-grow for hundreds of years from a stool which over time will reach a great size. Coppicing trees allows several sustainable harvests of timber or firewood from one tree without the need for any replanting.

Pollarding is similar; the tree crown and branches are periodically removed or pruned back hard and the tree will put out new branches or poles to form a new crown. A tree can be pollarded many times in its lifetime. Pollarding is useful because the branches are up higher than coppice poles and can't be reached by livestock. Very old pollards are often found on pasture, parkland and common-land, where they have survived centuries without damage and have provided shelter and shade to generations of grazing livestock.

Coppice and pollard work can be mixed with other techniques as part of a continuous cover system of management and is often seen beneath a higher canopy of oak or other standard maiden trees. Ash, hazel, chestnut, alder, oak, birch and willow are traditionally used for coppice, but most broadleaved trees will coppice readily.

A number of rare plant, insect, animal and bird species are dependent on coppice, they benefit from the light let in to the woodland when a coup is coppiced and from the varying density of cover across coups at different stages of the rotation.

Coppicing is a much neglected technique in Ireland and we hope to encourage its revival.

+ Why are trees good?

Almost everyone is aware that trees are a good thing and that deforestation has a damaging impact on the environment.

The global environment and the ecosystems it contains provide important services and resources called Ecosystem Services; these are generally detailed under the following categories of Provisioning Services, Regulating and Supporting Services and Cultural Services.

Trees and woodlands provide many different and vital ecosystem services:

Provisioning Services: Trees and woodlands provide timber for building, carpentry and paper making and also wood-fuel and biomass fuel resources. Woodlands and individual trees provide habitat for many different species of plants, insects, animals, birds and other living things. They all rely upon and in turn contribute to the ecosystems they inhabit. Fruit and nut trees provide a food source not just for humans but also for birds, animals and other creatures.

Regulating and Supporting Services: Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the air and give out oxygen and thus play a vital role in regulating the air that we breathe. Trees store carbon from the carbon dioxide absorbed and regulate the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Trees absorb rainwater and can help to reduce and prevent flooding. Tree roots also bind improve and protect the soil where they are planted preventing soil erosion from wind, rain and flooding. Trees absorb excess nutrients from the soil especially from agricultural processes and prevent these nutrients from polluting local streams and rivers. Trees add moisture to the atmosphere and play a vital role in cloud production, thus further cooling the earth, and helping to mitigate global warming.

Cultural services: Trees and woodlands provide valuable social, aesthetic and cultural benefits. Woodlands are popular with both tourists and local communities as a leisure and recreational amenity. Woodlands also provide cultural, educational and employment opportunities through the learning and practice of forestry, woodworking, building and carpentry skills as well as other traditional techniques and crafts.

+ What is biodiversity?

Biodiversity (or Biological Diversity) is, most simply, the variety of life on earth.

Biodiversity includes all living things, from bacteria and earthworms and bees to foxes and birds and trees. The biodiversity we see today is a result of millions of years of natural selection. Biodiversity includes diversity of species, genetic diversity within species and diversity of habitats and is measured under the following headings:

Species: The variety of different species in an ecosystem or habitat. Most ecosystems support a wide variety of species, each species having its own niche.

Genetic: This is the variation between individuals of the same species. A higher genetic variation within a species allows the species to better adapt to changing conditions.

Ecosystems: The variety of ecosystems on earth, such as woodlands, wetlands, rivers and lakes. No ecosystem is entirely alone, they are all inter-connected. A healthy ecosystem with a large degree of biodiversity provides a wide range of natural 'services' or benefits. They range from protection of water resources, soil formation, nutrient storage and recycling, contribution to climatic stability, food production, wood production and medicinal resources.

All agriculture, forest, freshwater and marine resources depend on biodiversity. The earth functions like an incredibly complex machine; if the components start to vanish, it will not function effectively. Humans cannot survive without the interconnected complex of lifeforms that form the ecosystems which we depend upon.

We do all we can to encourage and support strong biodiversity in and around the trees and woodlands planted by Trees on the Land.

+ What is agroforestry?

Agroforestry is a land use and management system where trees are grown on pasture (silvo-pastoral) or arable land (silvo-arable) or horticultural land (silvo-horticulture) amongst or around livestock and crops. This is in contrast to modern farming which has seen trees removed from agricultural land to maximise the productive area.

Agroforestry can be very simple, a handful of trees established on pasture or added hedgerows and shelter belts to provide shade and shelter and local soil improvement. Other systems are more complex with rows, belts or grids of trees planted at low density over large areas.

Agroforestry brings many benefits to farm land:

  • Trees help to protect arable and pasture land by interrupting and absorbing excess water and nutrients and helping to prevent the loss of top soil by water and wind erosion. They bring up valuable nutrients via the roots from deep in the soil and return them to the surface via fallen leaf litter and light brash.
  • Trees provide valuable shelter and shade for livestock which must otherwise be provided by buildings.
  • Trees can improve soil quality by adding nutrients and organic matter to the soil from fallen leaves and twigs.
  • Trees lock up and store carbon which helps to mitigate against carbon produced by agricultural industry.
  • Trees can be managed and harvested to produce sustainable sources of firewood, timber, fodder, fruit and nuts, in addition to the existing produce from animals or crops on the same land. These extra products can help to diversify and increase farm income by using the same piece of land for more than one purpose and therefore more than one income.
  • Appropriate species of trees can be grown for seasonal browsing by livestock or cut and fed fresh or dried like hay. Leaves and tree bark contain nutrients and trace elements not available in modern grass and grain diets.
  • Trees on farm land provide food and habitat for many species of plants, insects and animals which would not live on open pasture or arable land. Encouraging a greater diversity of both plants and animals increases general local resiliance to climatic changes, storms, pests and diseases.
  • It is possible to add quite large numbers of trees onto open farm land without impacting significantly on agricultural acreage.

Trees on the land has worked closely with a number of farmers across Ireland and Northern Ireland to establish agroforestry systems and trials on working farmland. We are keen to work with any farmers and landowners who have an interest in establishing agroforestry on their land and can offer advice on design, tree protection and management.