Tree seedlings sought for local Community Tree Nurseries

Do you have any spare tree seedlings in your garden that you can donate to the Community Tree Nurseries being set up at Kingston Maurward College and at the Community Farm in Dorchester?

One of the national responses to the climate and ecological emergency has been a call to plant more trees and hedgerows in suitable locations across the UK. This has led to a number of voluntary groups setting up local tree nurseries to help meet the growing demand for young trees and hedgerow plants. Kingston Maurward College and Trees for Dorset have set up a new tree nursery at the College this autumn, as has Transition Town Dorchester at the Community Farm in Poundbury.

Both tree nurseries are keen to receive donations of tree seedlings, particularly those suitable for planting in hedgerows such as Hawthorn, Hazel, Field Maple, Holly, Guelder Rose, Common Dogwood, Spindleberry and Blackthorn (being very careful with the thorns). We can also find suitable homes for small trees such as Cherry Plum, Crab Apple and Rowan which are excellent for wildlife and which seem to do well in the Dorchester area.

Tree seedlings are best moved when they are dormant in the winter months (late November to early March) and when they are about 15-25 cm tall (6” to 10”). The seedlings can either be transferred to a pot (not too big as tree seedlings seem to do best when their roots are a bit cramped) filled with garden soil or with a 50:50 mix of peat-free compost and sharp sand or horticultural grit (which helps with the drainage). Alternatively, they can be relocated as ‘bare root’ seedlings in a loosely sealed plastic bag as long as the roots are kept cool (ie. frost-free), and damp (eg. accompanied by a damp kitchen towel), and the seedlings are replanted within a couple of days.

We have collected and prepared about 2000 seeds and berries from local trees this autumn and, hopefully, some of these will start to germinate in spring 2022 and others in the following spring. All being well, these saplings will be ready to plant locally from winter 2023 onwards. 

In the meantime, the local tree nurseries would love to receive tree seedlings from your garden as they should be ready to plant earlier than the seeds we have collected! If you have lots of spare tree seedlings (of the species listed above), and feel daunted by the prospect of moving them, we might be able to arrange a volunteer from the tree nursery to help with the task.

To donate tree seedlings, to volunteer at one of the Community Tree Nurseries, or if you would like more information, please get in touch using our contact form

For more information about Community Tree Nurseries in Dorset, please see

New Community Tree Nursery for Dorchester

A new Community Tree Nursery is being set up at the Community Farm in Poundbury by Transition Town Dorchester. It is early days and there is a big task to do just clearing the area for the nursery and stock beds! 

The long-term plan is to collect seeds of a finite number of native species of good local provenance that we want to encourage people to plant in the Dorchester area. We plan to raise the trees and shrubs from seed and/or cuttings at the nursery (or with foster parents) until they are ready for planting in their final destination. It might take 3-5 years to reach a time when the first trees raised locally are ready to plant out.

In the meantime, we are thinking of buying in some young stock of native trees and shrubs that would be good for pollinators in gardens around the town eg. Crab Apple, Cherry Plum, Rowan and Field Maple. We would grow these on for a few more years and then offer them to residents (with suitable gardens) around the town, possibly in return for a small domination. As well as helping pollinators in Dorchester, this initial activity might help to raise the profile of the Community Tree Nursery around the town.

Kingston Maurward College has offered space at their Lower Nursery site for a second Community Tree Nursery to be run by Trees for Dorset. This site should be easier to clear as it has been used as stock beds in the last couple of years and we might well be able to encourage students to help in the nursery as part of their studies. 

The current plan is to have set ‘volunteer working days’ at each nursery, plus ad hoc visits when particular tasks need to be done. We have just started working at the Community Farm weekly on Wednesday mornings and plan to work at Kingston Maurward College on alternate Tuesday afternoons. 

We would love you to get involved in setting up and running these Community Tree Nurseries – there is plenty to do! We have not made a full list of the volunteer roles and tasks yet but they are likely to include:

  • Site clearance and ongoing maintenance of stock beds, paths, fences etc – the most physical of the tasks!
  • Seed collection – seasonal, outdoors 
  • Seed preparation and taking cuttings – skilled work, can be messy, patience needed!
  • Planting out and/or potting on seedlings/cuttings – can be a bit monotonous but fun in a group
  • Weeding pots and stock beds – physical work
  • Preparing trees for distribution to final recipients – requires coordination, working to a timetable/schedule, physical work
  • Promotion of the Community Tree Nurseries – in the press, social media, at local events etc
  • Administration – organisation of volunteer work days, nursery schedules and timetables, finance (hopefully!)
  • Running a foster tree nursery scheme (where people look after trees and shrubs that are not accommodated at the nursery) – offering help and advice, coordination of ‘foster parents’.

Please get in touch if you are interested in helping with any particular aspect of the Community Tree Nurseries eg. the physical work on clearing and maintaining the nursery sites, seed collection and preparation, or running a foster tree nursery scheme.

For more information, please see:

Guest article by Richard Bradford, volunteer with Transition Town Dorchester, which first appeared in the Trees for Dorset Newsletter in October 2021

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