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2000 Trees

In April 2019 I estimated that my carbon footprint until 2030 could be sequestrated by immediately planting 2000 trees. I had no idea how to do it, but that has never stopped me in the past. If you are tempted, just go for it (TCV).

April 2022

The project is progressing well. I'm about out of space but, if you count optimistically, I have 2000 'trees'. Here is the main 8mx4m space looking East and West:
Looking East Looking West

The greenhouse:

And various overflows:
Lombardy poplar and Alder More beech More beech

It's become difficult to count (nothing is labeled!) but of those that are established it's about:

  • 360 Sycamore
  • 174 Beech
  • 110 Rowan
  • 95 Oak
  • ~80 Alder
  • 48 Holm oak
  • 44 Willow
  • 40 Elder
  • 36 Horse chestnut
  • 30 Lombardy poplar
  • 29 Bay
  • ~25 Ash
  • ~20 English walnut
  • ~16 Monkey puzzle
  • 11 Goat willow
  • 10 Red horse chestnut
  • 7 Dogwood
  • 6 Misc conifer
  • 4 Hazel
  • any maybe another 50 others

This year I have just germinated

  • 200 Rowan
  • 174 Beech
  • 130 Lombardy poplar (cuttings)
  • 100 Hawthorn
  • 60 Sugar pine
  • 30 Pride of India (Koelreuteria paniculata)
  • ~20 Osage orange
  • 4 Honey locust

April 2020

Here is what it looks like at the end of April 2020:

panoramic view of 8m by 4m plot, the bottom path is straight

Which amounts to:

  • 285 willow (everywhere except bottom right): These are planted out about 30cm apart. The plan is to coppice them for more plants. All have roots or signs of rooting, only about half have shoots as well right now.
  • 137 sycamore (top left)
  • 126 holm oak (top middle)
  • 87 horse chestnut (top right)
  • 31 monkey puzzle (top right)
  • 30 hazel (not shown) germinated but still very young
  • 14 oak (middle right)
  • 8 pine (not shown)
  • masses of lombardy poplar in the black bucket, hoping they will root

I lost a lot more trees that I was expecting over the year. The sycamore seeds rotted and many of the plants dried out and failed - that's okay, I got enough grief for planting sycamore anyway. I kept much of the willow in buckets in water for too long, so they seemed to be fine but didn't regrow this year. None of my huge trayfulls of alder or silver birch germinated and the birds ate most of my early hazel (I've ordered more alder from Treebombs). I generminated my walnut inside over winter and that was too early, they've dropped leaves and I've counted them out.

Optimistically I have about 700 trees, I certainly hadn't really appreciated how hard plainting 2000 trees actually is. I've now got a much better idea: there are about 2000 working hours in a year, so if I could plant a tree and look after it in just six minutes a year then it would be a hobby, under an hour a day every day. Six minutes a tree seems impossibly low for me and if it was an hour a year then it's a full time job for the next 10 years, never mind the issue of planting land. Luckily I don't mind cheating to achieve my objectives, hopefully the wonderful Trees for Life have planted many thousands for me, and this year I plan to donate many thousands more to Trees for the Future.

April 2019

A great question was asked in April 2019: “If I want to plant enough trees to make a difference to my carbon footprint, how many should I plant”? My answer (here) was:

I'll assume that an average tree takes 20kg a year over a 40 year life. I'll also assume uniform growth, so that's 1kg on first year, 2kg in second year, etc up to 40kg in last year (I know this is not quite right, but it's a lot better than assuming 20kg in the first year and I think it's good enough). So, over t years a tree will absorb t*t/2 kg of carbon. Let's say we need to take action in the IPCC 10 year frame, then if we plant now then one tree is 50kg (10*10/2). At 10 tonnes a year, that's 100,000 kg to absorb and so 2,000 trees to plant now. If you wait to plant then the number goes up very quickly as most of them will be small and not absorbing much.

I figure that if I use pots that are 10cm by 10cm then that's a total area of about 4.5m by 4.5m which is about what I have in my back garden. Where I'll get the seeds and pots from is a problem for this year, where the trees will go when they outgrow their pots is a problem for next year.

Here is what the saplings looked like at the start of June 2019:

Willow (left) in 2 litre bottles, horse chestnut (right) Sycamore in greenhouse Sycamore in greenhouse

From Freecycle/Trash Nothing I was given about 200 two litre mineral water containers which will do well for the willow. At Strawberry fair I collected about 300 used plastic pint cups, when stacked in 20s a power drill was efficient in providing drainage.

I've got three buckets and a dustbin crammed full of willow cuttings, it seems that the larger ones in the buckets will root fine, the smaller ones haven't done so yet. That's got to be very many hundred more saplings to come, maybe a thousand.