30% of Trees Die in National Highways Schemes

Over 400,000 saplings planted by National Highways to offset the felling of mature trees in roadwork schemes across England have died due to drought and a lack of aftercare.

The government-owned company revealed that 30.4% of trees failed across 9 of its 38 larger road projects.

The trees were planted at the end of the 2020 planting season, prior to the heatwave experienced across the country that year, with temperatures reaching 40°C.

45% of the 860,000 trees planted on the A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon were reported to have failed. A further 75% of the trees planted along the A45 and A6 Chowns Mill Junction are also failing.

John Parker, Chief Executive of the Arboricultural Association, stated: “Projects should be planned for maximum survival, rather than the maximum number of trees planted. These figures reaffirm that the focus still needs to move further towards tree establishment than planting, looking at ensuring maintenance and tree aftercare plans are in place for such projects.”

How to Care for Young Trees

Parker suggested that the extreme heat and lack of watering was likely to have contributed to the large number of failing trees on the National Highways projects.

An aftercare and maintenance programme is essential to secure optimum plant growth and continued health. This may include herbicide applications, fence and guard maintenance, pruning and watering.

4th Corner advise that, during summer, each young tree should receive 50 litres of water per week. It is good practice to water trees for the first three years after planting, to ensure maximum survival rates. Watering should ideally be carried out in the early morning or evening, when temperatures are lower.

National Highways Tree Planting Schemes

Water should be applied to the base of the tree, and evenly distributed over the root-ball. If the tree has a watering pipe, then half of the water should be poured down the pipe, and the other half on the surface of the tree. If the tree has a watering bag, then this should be filled.

Newly planted trees need watering even if it has been raining, as rainfall will not fall close enough to the base of the tree.

4th Corner provide reliable and cost-effective management for all planting schemes. For more information, check out our tree planting services here.

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