Connecting Young Adults with Nature: Team Emeke of the NCS

On another beautiful day of this British summer, a group of young adults arrived ready with filled water bottles and lots of enthusiasm to plant  30 silver birches in Roundwood Park. The fundraising for this campaign had been successfully completed by this group, who named themselves Team Emeke. This is an ongoing partnership with Teratrees and the National Citizen Service (NCS). One of Teratrees’ objectives is to connect future generations with Nature, and today it was successfully accomplished, along with some urban greening!

NCS

Team Emeke of the NCS – The Challenge

 

plant trees

Surveying the morning’s work of planted silver birches

 

nature connection

One of the local park snails is up for investigation!

 

escargot

But the team is getting hungry!

 

tree planters

Job done, time to celebrate!

 

Many thanks to the Veolia team of Roundwood Park for their support.

Urban Greening with the NCS

On Friday a group of young adults got their hands dirty and transformed a rockery in Roundwood Park in London. This was not easy going with hard soils from the heat wave, but with a bit of persistence and team effort an array of colour and variety was introduced, with apparent satisfaction from this team participating in The Challenge, as apart of the National Citizen Service (NCS).

Teratrees is a partner organisation for the NCS, with our objective of connecting young people with nature and greening London landscapes.

NCS gardening

Transforming a rockery in Brent!

National Citizen Service Launch Teratrees Campaigns

During summer and half-term the National Citizen Service (NCS) run a programme for 15 – 17 year olds called The Challenge. This three week set of activities (indoor and outdoor) helps build skills, confidence and a way to make friends. Continuing on from last year the NCS will be using Teratrees as a partner organisation for some of the outdoor activities – in this case planting trees in the parks of London!

National Citizen Service

Hopefully there will be some rain to break up the heat wave, however, the young trees planted will be watered appropriately. Summer is never ideal for tree planting, but the species chosen (silver birch) are more resilient when planted together as a grove.

Starting off a campaign, the 2018 Perham team (Peratrees) have launched a campaign on the platform and can be found by logging in to the Teratrees website and viewing the campaign tab. Each tree is 100 Tera, which is £5. Tera will need to be purchased before supporting their campaign.

silver birch

A grove of silver birch

 

Midsummer

Across Western and Eastern Europe, North and South America, the Balkans, Russia and China and many more cultures, they all celebrate in various ways the joys of midsummer and the summer solstice. These celebrations go back to ancient times when humans were more connected to the cycles of the Sun, Earth and Moon.

In ancient Greece, the summer solstice marked the one month count down to the Olympic Games, while before Christianity, European pagans welcomed midsummer through massive bonfires.

In England, the place to be is Stonehenge, and many people, including neo-pagans, neo-druids and tourists, gather to watch the sun rise as the ancient people did 5,000 years ago.

stonehenge solstice

Humans have always been connected to the cycles of nature. Perhaps this is being remembered.

 

 

Planting in Summer

Traditionally October to March are better months for planting as tree root systems are dormant and less water is required. However, sometimes planting is needed in summer and for these occasions it is important to manage the watering:

  • build up watering slowly, be careful of over watering
  • do not try to make up for missed watering sessions by increasing watering
  • deep watering sessions are generally better every few days – think of a good rainfall!
  • avoid the heat of the day to minimise evaporation
  • use mulch to further minimise water loss
  • avoid fertilizers in summer, these can burn the tree when there is a lack of water
oak tree in summer

Oak tree in summer

Regeneration and Rebirth

With the tilt of the Earth at 23.4° now working in the Northern Hemisphere’s favour, thereby collecting more solar radiation and awakening dormant seeds and buds in trees and plants. Spring is a time of regeneration and the fresh green colours are vibrant at this time of year, showing off their vitality and cells packed with chlorophyll to harvest energy from the Sun.

spring leaves

Fresh green leaves of spring.

Bluebells are out providing tones of blue and are protected under English law.

Bluebells poking through the trees.

 

bluebells

Bluebells take 5 -7 years to establish.

 

Young calves also enjoy the spring, with new sights and sounds appearing.

A symbol seen across Europe in churches, with archetypal links to Osiris, St George and Al Khidr, is the Green Man. The Green Man is a potent symbol representing regeneration, renewal and rebirth, as well as human connection with Nature.

Green Man at Rosslyn Chapel (Johanne McInnis)

 

 

Mass Planting of Trees

To plant multiple trees usually depends on a large amount of people, the use of technology, or a combination of both. These routes will be looked at here, first looking at India.

In India last year, 1.5 million volunteers planted 66 million trees in 12 hours, which is most likely a new record. Saplings of 20 different species were place along the Narmada river in Madhya Pradesh. This is an example which shows what can be done with political will and a recognition of what is needed in this time of anthropogenic climate change. India is third in the world for carbon emissions.

mass tree planting

1.5 million volunteers making a great change.

Another route being explored for mass planting is the use of drones. The startup Biocarbon Engineering uses drone technology to fire seed pods into the ground, with follow-up care done by local communities. A hectare of planting can be covered in 15 minutes, with preferred projects of 100 hectares. One hundred thousand pods can be planted in a day. This technological route bodes well for the future, although care is still needed to make a seed grow into a tree.

drone planting trees

A drone linked to mapping technology can plant a hectare of seed pods in 15 minutes. [Biocarbon Engineering]

A third route, is to combine humans and technology to achieve large scale planting. This is what we are working on at Teratrees, which also has the advantage of connecting young people to Nature. We believe through many humans and the internet, many projects can be initiated, and we continue to work towards this goal.

silver birch whips

A team of students surveying their handiwork in a local London park.

 

Why Cold is Good

London bus in snow

A good snowfall in London initially delighted the residents.

With the recent cold snap in the UK brought about by Siberian weather with the storm named the ‘Beast from the East’, much was disrupted. Schools closed their doors, planes and trains were cancelled or delayed and many people had trouble getting into work. Supply chains were halted and supermarket shelves ran empty. People stayed indoors and the cost to the economy was estimated at £1bn per day.

empty shelves

Supermarket shelves were quickly emptied as deliveries failed.

With the novelty of a bright snowfall in London quickly losing its allure, and the risk of reduced gas supply for central heating, one may wonder if there is any benefit to such cold weather.

However, we are just one species on this planet. Cold is needed by Nature for trees and crops to grow properly, and for fruit to be harvestable. Below are a few key advantages of cold weather periods

Vernalisation

Many plants grown in temperate climates require a period of cold weather to start the plant’s flowering process, called vernalisation. This ensures seed and reproductive development occur in winter and spring, rather than autumn. This required cold is expressed in chill hours, usually in temperatures below 7 °C and above 0 °C. For example, apples trees require around 300 chill hours to ensure that they blossom in spring, rather than winter, which would be harmful to their growth.

Ready for Spring

Hardy bulbs required cold weather to elongate their stem. Mild winters or when grown indoors can produce flowers from bulbs which clump on the stem, as seen in indoor daffodils. During winter, herbaceous plants store processed CO2 as starch in their roots. With a cold period before spring enzymes are triggered and convert stored starch to soluble sugars, ready for rapid growth. This rapid growth also ensures they have enough light as the many annual plants germinate at the same time.

Insects

Moths, aphids, worms and beetles are all reduced when the temperature sharply lowers, giving trees a chance in the spring for some initial bug-free growth.

Sweet Vegetables

While this is more for humans, after a good snap of cold weather vegetables like parsnips will be sweeter, as starch is quickly converted to soluble sugars in spring.

While increasingly erratic weather from global warming is not in general helpful for all, including Nature, one should keep in mind that good periods of cold weather are needed by plants and trees to function at their best before spring.

 

 

 

A Northern Forest!

The idea of a new Northern Forest is not new, and has been kept alive in the minds of smaller organisations including the Woodland Trust and local Community Forest partners. It is great to see, however, that this idea made its way upwards and the government is now behind it to create a ‘green ribbon’ of 50 million trees stretching from Liverpool across to the east coast (see below).

northern forest in England

Proposed ‘green ribbon’ of trees to be planted from coast to coast.

£5.7 million will be used to kickstart the project, which will include the creation of broadleaf woodlands and help to sustain existing forests. This part of the UK is only 7.6 % covered by trees, below the national average of 13 %, and well below the EU average of 25  – 30 %. This project has a 25 year span and comes on the back of poor planting levels for 2016 of only 700 hectares, far below government targets of 5000 hectares per year. The Northern Forest project will cost an estimated £500 million which will largely be needed to be raised by charities. This project will require graft and commitment, but the benefits to future generations will be multiple.

Where does the money come from?

Ironically the initial funds are coming from the HS2 fund which is clearly a political move to quieten opponents. HS2 will threaten 32 ancient woodlands according to Friends of the Earth, and the point is made that ancient woodlands can not be created in a short time span. It is also hoped further funds will be injected by landowners after reformed subsidies, post-Brexit.

A vision for the future

Despite the passage of HS2, it is hoped that this is the start of bolder thinking with Michael Gove as the Environment Secretary and that the long term benefits of woodlands are appreciated. Extreme weather events are set to increase – one way of helping flood management is through tree planting.