As part of our ongoing commitment to reducing the use of plastic in our tree planting activities we've been conducting research on more environmentally friendly options to traditional plastic tree guards.

By Nick Marsh ǀ Forest Creation Officer

We're delighted to report that this year we're made another big step towards reducing the plastic waste from our planting activities, and have now selected and began using a new type of tree and shrub guards for some of our 2022 planting sites.

The recently introduced Tubex Nature guards are a new generation of tree and shrub protection. They are manufactured in the UK, so reducing the travel distance and potential carbon footprint. The tubes are manufactured from bio-based polymers which are wholly or partly derived from biomass, from plants, trees or animals - they do not contain components from oil or hydrocarbon derivatives which many older tubes do.

Although not all bio-based polymers are biodegradable, Tubex advises that the polymers used within the Nature guard have been fully tested and will biodegrade safely into the soil.

Tubex Nature tree guard showing flared top (left) and tube secured with a stake (right)

Protection of our newly planted trees is critical at least for the first 5-7 years. Smaller trees which are establishing both root systems and woody stem and branch growth can be vulnerable to larger herbivores such as deer and small mammals such as rabbits and rodents including mice and voles. Stems can be damaged by browsing and bark can be stripped away, creating the perfect conditions for disease to take hold within the tree. Any adverse impact on young trees can affect their growth, health and ability to resist fungal pathogens and pests.  

Tubex Nature guards protecting trees, attached to upright wooden steaks an open field

Tubex Nature guards in use at Octagon Farm, Bedfordshire (2022 planting season)

Tree guards protect trees in the early stages of their establishment, whilst allowing diffused light to penetrate through the sleeve, creating a microclimate which allows photosynthesis to take place and promotes growth. Tubes are also secured to wooden stakes driven into the ground to stabilise them from the wind. Many tubes, including the Tubex Nature guard incorporate flared tops which allow the tree to move and grow without being abraded. 

We're trialling the use of these guards to determine how effective and resilient they are to both weather and browsing pressure. We're also continuing to run volunteer tasks - like the ones we started last year at Shocott Spring - to collect and recycle tree tubes wherever possible, reducing the amount of plastic left on our woodland floor and ensuring that as much of the waste materials as possible doesn't end up in landfill.

As new products enter the market and continue to evolve we'll assess their suitability for our schemes, and monitor their performance in protecting the next generation of trees - sign up to our newsletter and keep an eye on our future blogs for updates.

Trees make life better for the people, wildlife and the planet

Creating the Forest of Marston Vale takes an enormous amount of resources, and as a charity we rely heavily on public support and donations to be able to continue our work. If you'd like to help us plant and look after more trees in the Forest please sign up to become a Friend - from just over £1 per week you can help us grow:

Become a Friend