Archives for posts with tag: planting trees

It’s that time of year. The snow is melting. People are (foolishly) talking about this being spring. It’s not even March yet! Northern Michigan can deliver a wallop of a snow storm well into April! The annual season of uncertainty is magnified through the lens of climate change. It makes a difference.

Do we, for example, start our vegetable seeds? Don’t be silly. Start now and you’ll have a leggy mess of pale spindlies by planting time. Nonetheless, I’ve already ordered, and received my garden seeds, and there’s temptation, looking out over the melting snow. I won’t get crazy though, because Tuesday will drop us back down sub-freezing, and the world will be a slippery hazard. Such is late winter.

What about pruning? Now there’s a climate change conundrum for you. Pruning is done in the dormant season. You could always prune in January, and you’d be just fine…albeit frozen, and up to your eyeballs in snow. But many of us play games with pruning. You can prune a little later, and buy yourself a little insurance against a late freeze. The trees undergo some hormonal adjustments after a pruning and that slows budding once the weather warms. But, delay too long…and you’ll put your poor fruit trees in bloom smack in the middle of bug season. It’s a tightrope in a good year. I’ll start my pruning this week–during the coming cold snap, so the sap won’t run from the pruning cuts.

Mostly this time of year is for planning and dreaming (and ordering.) It’s time to order trees. Every year I struggle with this. I have to balance budget–money and time–with my feeling of urgency to diversify the forest and get more trees into the open areas. I can comfortably plant a hundred trees a year by myself. Trees are cheaper in bulk, the biggest break in price-point comes at a hundred trees. But… I want to plant more than just one kind of tree.

Sigh. I spend these late winter hours flipping from website to website, researching varieties, tree requirements, and prices. Our property is particularly difficult, with its ancient dune soils. Well-draining, yes, but with damning nutritional deficits. We’ve discovered that hazelnuts fare well here–but they are smaller, transitional trees. They can thrive in the understory, as well as in the open. (Our understory has our best soils–but we still have some open areas that are real challenges.) I haven’t fully decided yet, but this year, I’m moving in the direction of 100 basswood trees, and 100 hazelnuts. It’s a calculation…diversity/money/time. 200 trees. I usually do most of the tree-planting–Rick has other spring chores, building planting boxes and fencing. But if we go to 200, he nods, he’s on board for this. We believe that tree-planting is necessary to diversify the forest and to combat climate change. We feel compelled, before we get too old, or before its too late.

Two hundred trees is a challenge. Just physically–because they arrive bareroot and you need to get them into the ground as quickly as possible. I’ve done it before, with Rick’s help, I’m sure we can do it again. Just a little more research…and we should probably snowshoe to the back-forty, to check measurements. This is what keeps one busy, before the rush of spring.

Musings on Planting Trees–

A.V. Walters–

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And that doesn’t even include the trees we bought from Benzie County!

Professional “re-foresters” can plant hundreds, even thousand of trees each day. Depending upon the terrain, they use dagger-like tools, either hand or foot powered, and can put in acres of trees in short order.

I am not one of them. I am too fussy. Each tree gets an actual hole, not just a slash with the roots jammed in. Each tree gets a shovel-full or two of compost, which must be blended into the natural soils, so water doesn’t “perch,” causing root rot. I layer in the roots, so they’ll have a stable start. This year, I’m loading up a little on the compost. They’re predicting a hot, dry summer and the compost helps to hold moisture in the root zone. I cheat a little, and soak the roots in Terra Sorb (or work a pinch of it into the hole), also to give them the moisture advantage. If no rain is predicted, they get a starter sip of water, (though spring soils are pretty moist.) Sometimes, we give trees a cage, to protect it from deer or rabbits during its infancy. There’s only so much you can do.

Professional tree-planters work on a scale that allows for a relatively high failure rate. From my perspective, there seems to be little point to doing all that work if the trees don’t survive. Sure, there are losses from natural forces, deer, bugs, and the like. This past year we lost two baby trees when other trees fell on them. There’s nothing you can do to protect from natural hazards. The best you can do is to give them the best start possible. Do I sound like a parent? I’m pleased to report that we have a good survival rate for last season’s seedlings.

In the forest, you need to look for a good spot–a hole in the canopy for light, not too close to existing trees, not near an obvious deer path, not in the “fall-line ” of any existing afflicted trees, and hopefully sheltered from strong winds. Of course, you’re carrying a bunch of seedlings in one bucket (with some water) and another bucket of compost and a spade. I spend a good bit of time, wandering in the woods, finding those good spots. I couldn’t be happier, even with the load–what a lovely way to spend time.

We don’t celebrate Earth Day. We spend a couple of weeks each year, planting. So far this season, I’ve put in 98 trees (including 3 orchard trees.) I’m over the half-way mark. I hurt like hell, but things are moving right along.