Sunday, 6 May 2007

MANSTON ROAD (Phase 2) REPLANTING - March 2006

(See Project 12 on Trees for Thanet Projects Map)

After finishing laying mulch sheet on the new HSBC hedgerow, Trees for Thanet returned to the Manston Road the following week, on Saturday 25th February 2006. The task was to put a 1000 replacements in the ground before the planting season ended, starting where the previous year's 1025 replacements had ended. The finish of The Manston Road replanting would have to wait until March 2007.
The picture above shows 250, 60cm whips, in the process of being prepared for planting by wrapping plastic spiral guards around the whip and its supporting cane. This particular morning , Saturday 4th March 2006 was the sunniest and warmest of the season.

Trees for Thanet made a mistake in reverting to spiral guards but in a sense, the plastic mulch and cutting down 60cm whips to 15cm 'twigs' in the HSBC hedge was an experiment and it was not yet a proven technique. No one could have foreseen that precious little rain would fall until late May 2006 and that March would be dry!
The digging team in full swing. You can see the occasional plant still surviving from the original planting by a contractor in 2003 and wrapped in its perforated black plastic guard. Trees for Thanet became the object of curiosity of many passing drivers and passengers who had begun to use Manston Road as a route round to Westwood Cross and it was soon realised that they thought they were looking at ASBO kids doing their Community Service punishment!

Planters following up with the front row going in.

The digging team being caught up by planters as the plants laid by holes indicate. The 1000th plant went in 20m on the far side of the gate in the background on Saturday 18th March 2006. The view is south down the Manston Road towards Manston in the distance and the target to reach Woodchurch Road had to wait until 2007!
The drought of 2006 affected this phase of replanting badly. Plants did not have heavy rain to wash soil down to air pockets around roots and was actually light in moisture content whilst planting was in progress. Drainage on Thanet's upland chalk plateau is excellent but dry conditions soon led to water stress. Despite hand weeding, this section of planting suffered badly and so far has the worst casualty rate of any hedge planted by Trees for Thanet with a 5% loss so far. The torrential rain in 24 hrs in late May 2006 put an inch of rain on Birchington and saved this section from a worse casualty rate. Readers should note that commercial planters regard casualty rates of 15% as normal and acceptable!
Lessons learned in 2006 were:
a. On Thanet, with Global Warming creating even drier and warmer springs, mulch sheeting and 'twigs' with generous root growth are essential to get good establishment and to reduce casualty rates.
b. Planting beyond February is no longer an option as leafing has started and enough rain to 'settle-in' plants is un-likely.

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