• Cleaner Greener Wanstead

Help re-wild Wanstead this spring by planting seeds under a street tree

Updated: Jan 22, 2020

Adopting a tree pit might seem a small thing to do in the face of such a monumental decline in our native wildlife, but in places where there’s a lot of hard surfacing, they can provide a vital network of flowers for bees, butterflies and other insects, as well as food for birds. Research in Paris has shown they act as little stepping stones that link bigger areas of vegetation like parks and gardens. It’s also a great way to make your street look beautiful and reduce the amount of harmful pesticides being wafted around by the council.

Whether you have already planted flowers under a street tree or would like to start, you now need to apply to the council annually to confirm which tree base(s) you are looking after. It’s a new system, and deadline for 2020 is 25th January. Just fill out a quick electronic form, and the council will provide a label for the tree to stop it being sprayed with chemical weedkiller.

Find out more and apply here.

Loads of people have already adopted a tree base and there are some fantastic examples across Wanstead. It's easy and cheap to plant from seed - and this will ensure the roots of the tree don't get damaged. Wildflowers seem to manage even if there’s only a small amount of soil around the base of the trunk.

So what could you plant? Well there are loads of options to consider. Some streets have had great success with a simple wildflower seed mix. Make sure you go for annuals to ensure you get a floral display this year (perennial mixes that include plants like ox-eye daisy are great as well, but will take a year before they flower). Other lovely plants that generally spring up easily from seed include California poppy, pot marigold, cosmos, cornflowers, and honeywort. Wanstead's Community Gardener, Marian Temple, says tall plants can work brilliantly too as they can be easily tied in to the trunk of the tree with string as they grow. Think about plants like hollyhocks, sweet peas, nicotiana, and achillea.

It's easy to plant seeds under a street tree. Just remove any weeds, wet the soil and loosen it up, sprinkle on the seed and lightly press it into the damp soil. The last few springs have been very dry so it might be best to plant them soonish to catch the early rain if it's not too cold ie February or March. It's tough under a tree because only heavy downpours get through once the leaves are out, so your seedlings might need watering now and again if it's dry.

See info on planting your treepit safely here.

Visit Wild Wanstead.org to find other plant ideas here.

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