Mull Native Woodlands Group Newsletter, Dec 2020
This year has been a challenging time for everyone, especially small community groups like ours. With the support of Mull and Iona Community Trust, our funders and Forestry and Land Scotland we have made great progress to create the Community Tree Nursery.
The aim of the project is to collect seeds from local native trees and cultivate them to produce seedlings. There is a big demand from community woodlands, private estates and from Forestry and Land Scotland sites as well as many individuals keen to help preserve our native trees.
This wonderful sign has been made and donated by member Andy Mortley
Forestry and Land Scotland offered a great site adjacent to Dervaig Community Orchard under a simple permission arrangement and MICT agreed to support us by signing up to this on our behalf.
MICT helped us by securing grant funding from EB Scotland for the costs to develop the site and to buy a polytunnel and the equipment and materials we need to get started.
Just prior to lockdown in March, TSL carried out the ground works which involved de-stumping, levelling the ground, and creating a new access track and a small parking area. Local fencing contractor, Guy Bolton, then installed a deer and rabbit proof fence and gates around the site, to protect the seedlings from browsing damage.
The seedlings we produce will be purchased in some cases by government grant funded planting programmes which require the seeds we collect to be properly registered with Forestry Commission. In August, MICT secured registration under the Forest Reproductive Material (Great Britain) Regulations 2002.
In October, we took advantage of a good weather window to put up the polytunnel. This involved quite a few of us to handle the polythene skin, something of a challenge in maintaining the necessary distancing between us! With help of a space heater from Mull Hire, we heated up the polythene to soften it prior to tensioning it. It is now nice and tight! We also hired a wacker plate from Gerry Kangley to compact the stone surface on which the poly tunnel is located.
Since then, our enthusiastic volunteers have constructed several mouse proof boxes and raised beds which will be used to grow and bring on the seedlings.
Shown on the left is one of the mouse proof boxes full of acorns in root trainers. In the rights is a raised bed ready for filling with soil and compost material
We have already been out collecting Hazel, Oak and Holly as well as blackthorn and alder. Around 3,300 Mull acorns have been sown in root trainers which we purchased, again, thanks to the grant from EB Scotland. The rest are being stratified, a process to break the natural dormancy of the seeds.
Inside the polytunnel, we have constructed a potting bench and we have a whiteboard for keeping notes on what tasks are coming up and what seeds will be ready for collecting at different times of the season. It is hoped that in 2021 we can run courses on how to collect seeds to increase our collection rates.
During November, we have installed a 2,500litre water tank for irrigating the nursery in dry periods. The water will be fed into the tank from a burn via a ram pump, an ingenious device hat requires no electrical power!
We will continue to be sharing information and being part of the Mull Community Woodland groups network. There are some exciting projects to look forward and get involved with this year, Tree maps, trees for babies etc.
Thanks must go to some individuals who have expertly guided us through our first year and to the contractors who carried out the work so well.
Andy Robinson Woodland Crofter for guidance on seed collecting, stratifying and sowing
Mike Swift for guidance on the polytunnel
Stuart Finlay of Forestry and Land Scotland.
We hope before too long we can have an open day to show our community what we are doing but until then you can get updates on our progress through our website, Facebook page and Instagram. If you would like to visit the nursery, please do get in touch and we’d be delighted to show you around, and hopefully give you a pair of gloves so you can get involved!
We would be delighted for new volunteers wishing to get involved with the whole process of seed collecting, extraction, stratification, planting, cultivating, weeding….. and eventually planting the trees and watching them grow in nature!!
Ann Evans Chair MNWG