When young trees are planted, it is important to give them the best possible chance of setting down roots and growing tall and strong, safe from predators (a small sapling can make a nice meal for a rabbit, or could easily be broken by a passing sheep or deer). To counter these risks, the new plantings are often protected by a tree guard.
A typical tree guard looks like a tube but is actually a spiral that wraps around the tree and can expand as required by the growth of the tree. They are often made of plastic.
Clearly, plastic is not something we wanted to scatter across our new 8,000-tree woodland, and so instead we investigated more environmentally-friendly options.
The trees in Wardens’ Wood and other plantings by the Trust are protected by starch spirals. These are manufactured from raw materials derived from plants and are certified 100% biodegradable. They have been tested in a range of temperatures and UV radiation and are designed to last for four years, by which time our trees should be established enough that we can collect up all the guards and take them away for heavy duty composting.
We intend to remove them all, but should any be missed or fail early, it’s reassuring to know they will still naturally break down in situ, splitting into pieces and gradually combining with the bacteria found in soil to revert to base organic materials.