Choice of trees

The choice of species is important for the success of the agroforestry system and depends on the situation and the goal. There are several tools that can help you with this choice.







Normally trees are planted in a North - South direction to minimize the effect of shade on annual crops. However, position and orientation of trees depends on tree species, plant distance, shade tolerance (annual) crops, tree maintenance and an effective and workable design. The optimal distance between tree rows is twice the maximum tree height. Planting space between trees in a row should be about 80% of the maximum crown wide. Furthermore a design should be aligned on the work wide of agricultural machinery, common wind direction and mechanical maintenance.

The legislation on agroforestry differs per country. 

Picture: Almonds in blossom. Eastbrook Farm (VK)


Planting trees well is crucial if they are to survive and thrive. There are a range of planting methods you can use, depending on soil type and available machinery and labour.

  • Ground preparation – cultivating a strip, or using a subsoiler to cut a planting slot can make planting quicker and easier and in heavier ground can help roots get quickly into the lower soil levels. However there is also risk of soil damage or soil cracking in dry springs on clay soils.
  • Augur, mechanical digging – on light soils when planting larger trees this can save time and be a cost effective option. On clay soils though, or for small trees hand planting is preferable and usually more cost effective.
  • Hand planting – for bare root saplings, slot planting with a spade is likely to be the quickest and most successful.

Postplanting care

Mulch can be effective when it comes to weed control, but a good woodchip mulch will increase water retention by about 25%. In very dry springs irrigation can be beneficial, though in larger plantings is often not practical.

Protection against wildlife

There are a range of options for protecting trees from being eaten and it comes down to a decision between risk and cost.

Deer fencing entire fields is very effective but also very costly and doesn’t help if you are trying to integrate livestock into the field.

Fencing groups or lines of individual trees is another option, with either stock, deer or electric fencing. Costs will vary according to the arrangement. Lines are more expensive per tree than groups for instance. The type of fence used also affects cost. Waist high, single strand electric fencing works well against cattle for example, but if sheep are present lower strands are required.

For smaller numbers of trees individual guards also work well but require a very strong stake. Spending more money on a good stake is worth the investment. Wire netting, or plastic options are available, as well as newer biodegradable resin alternatives.

If voles, rabbits or hares are a problem you may need to put additional short guards around the tree trunk to prevent bark being eaten.

Picture: Browsing Block Willow an Poplar. Eastbrook Farm