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Picking the right trees for a farm

I received several queries following an article I wrote recently about some trees and shrubs that are good for wildlife when planted around the farm or garden.

In order to expand on this, I am here listing my favourite trees. These are species I have planted myself for improving shelter and taking the bare look off open landscapes. They are as follows: beech, oak, lime, spanish chestnut, horse chestnut, maple, cherry, crab apple, birch, rowan, walnut, hornbeam, douglas fir, sitka spruce, norway spruce, larch, scots pine, juniper, western red cedar, western hemlock, lawson cypress, and alder and willow for wet spots. I have also put in a few more unusual specimens including swamp cypress, dawn redwood, liquidambar, sequoia, handkerchief tree, tulip tree, ginkgo and some of the more interesting oaks such as hungarian oak and that wonderful tree, the scarlet oak.

Get a good tree book that illustrates what the trees look like, what soil suits them best and what size they will reach. Cassell's Trees of Britain and Northern Europe lists more than 1,800 species and cultivars, and contains detailed information and good illustrations and is one of my favourites.

It is worth repeating that planting appropriate species increases the value of property by at least 15pc and not only are you adding value to your farm but, by doing so, you are also making your home a nicer place in which to live and work.

Many farmers are required under REPS to establish small woodlands. Well-planned, mixed woodland looks great, provides food and shelter for wildlife, fuel for the house and shelter for livestock in harsh weather and also reduces the heating bills for our homes by lessening the effect of icy winds.

Unless you are planting a line of trees along an avenue, most species are best established in small clumps of five or so rather than dotted singly in rows. Initially you will be planting them two metres apart but they will of course be thinned out gradually as they grow, starting at about 10-15 years depending on vigour. Don't forget to include understory species such as hazel and holly, which have many uses and also reduce cold draughts through the woods.


When planting bare land, it's best to include quick-growing pioneer species such as alder, spruce and/or birch, and place them where they can break the prevailing wind which might initially stunt the growth of less hardy specimens. All trees are best placed to take account of the natural contours of the land rather than in rectangular blocks of single species.

Poplar will grow quickly but does not suit the Irish landscape and if planted near buildings, its roots can undermine walls and burst up through driveways and eventually have to be removed. The trees that are recommended for REPS are primarily natives only but there are many other wonderful naturalised species such as beech, sycamore, lime, sweet chestnut and other non-natives that may also be included.

Our changing climate makes it more important than ever to grow trees that thrive in different climactic conditions and it is a good rule to include what does well in your immediate locality.

Plant the right species in the right place, fence them securely, look after vegetation control in the early years and time will do the rest.

Indo Farming