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Choosing your species

Course: How to plant trees on your farm | Last Updates: 7th March 2017

Helen Chesshire
Senior advisor
The Woodland Trust
Biography >>

Each different tree species offers unique benefits. Selecting which species to plant is important to ensure survival and to make sure that you meet your end goals and objectives.

Look at which native species are growing well nearby and start your planting project with these species. These trees will be well accustomed to the environment and are more likely to succeed.

Check your soil type. Most trees can grow in a range of conditions but some have a preference for sandy, clay, wet or chalky soils. Use a spade to dig a hole (about 50cm deep) to see what type of soil you have.

The soil conditions may change across your land and your planting plan should reflect this, as well as any contours. For example, willow and alder like wet areas and aspen and birch can cope on exposed sites.

Pick saplings which are one to two years old. These will require the least immediate maintenance and will start to offer canopy cover within a few years.


Depending on your objectives, you can choose different tree species to help you meet these goals:

If you want to plant to encourage wildlife, trees with nuts and berries such as rowan, hazel and beech provide food source for birds and mammals throughout the year. A single mature oak can support more than 500 species.


To create firewood, trees like wild cherry, hornbeam, birch and rowan plus fruit trees will all burn well. You can harvest wood fuel from existing trees which have been planted for other reasons.

If you are creating new woodland for fuel production then choose to plant on areas which are difficult to farm.

To enjoy the colours of autumn, spindle, dogwood, guelder rose and field maple will provide a riot of colour for you to enjoy.


To provide habitats for game birds, choose shrubby species such as hawthorn, hazel, elder, and wild rose – some of which will need to be managed by coppicing to keep short and dense.

The best native timber species include oak (an excellent construction material), beech and walnut.

Deep rooting trees, such as oak, improve soil stability.

They can also promote soil structure by reducing surface water run off with organic matter derived from the leaf litter and root debris.

Always plant native tree species that are UK sourced and grown. This helps to limit the risk of tree disease spreading across the UK from imported plant material.

The Woodland Trust offers free advice and support for tree and hedgerow planting on your farm. This includes choosing species, identifying where to plant and assisting with grant support where available.

For more information and expert advice on how to plant trees on your farm, visit or email

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