Archives for posts with tag: tree-planting

Twelve trees left to go. Ten will go into pots, for later placement in locations that are not yet finally graded. The last two I’ll plant tomorrow. It seems appropriate to finish up on May Day. Of the trees already planted, sixty-seven of them got the “full-spa” treatment, orchard quality planting. Though we’ve planted over 200 trees before–never with so many getting the fancy planting protocol We are tired. Maybe we are getting old. As the last trees went into the new West Orchard, we were already planning the next round…pollinating partners to the new trees and locations for next spring. We must be insane.

Now I can go back to blogging about normal topics.

Our current batch of tree planting was supposed to be ‘slash and stash.’ Sometimes our trees get the full spa treatment, while others are stuffed into the ground and left to fend for themselves. It depends largely upon where they go, and whether you can get resources to them. 

We have an upper meadow at the very west end of the property. It’s a lovely little clearing bordered on our side by pines and maple saplings. It’s only detraction is the neighboring parcel, which is, sadly, very poorly managed by clueless folks, who dream of growing a feed-plot for deer. In reality, they are using every chemical known to man to breed monster weeds. (That brown line on the left isn’t a natural feature.) We have long wanted to plant some kind of wind break on the lot line, to minimize what blows from their direction. But, the meadow is at the top of the property, up steep hills, and accessible only by foot. This year we planned on putting about 25 trees there–in a quick, stuff-them-in-and-cross-your-fingers kind of installation. (Lugging tools, soil amendment, cages, stakes and water isn’t a realistic option.)

Two things changed our minds about how we’d go about planting there, this year. First, we’d always assumed the soils were bad, like the sloped areas on most of the property. We were wrong. The first scoop of a spade revealed lovely, loamy, deep topsoil. Suddenly this was an area that deserved a better approach–even perhaps the full orchard treatment. The second thing was that Rick was determined to blaze a trail up there. We’ve been scoping out a route for years. So while I walked up to the prep for planting, he spent a day cutting a trail the Kubota could handle. I didn’t think he’d be able to do it. I was wrong, again. I was scalping the tree sites, when he came, literally, roaring into view.

Tractor access is a game-changer. It means we can haul water, soil amendments and tools. It means that the upper meadow will become another hazelnut orchard. It means that there’s no excuse not to do our best. It also means three days of work, instead of one. We treated it like a celebration. And then we got to work.

Each tree location gets scalped (I hate that it’s called that–but that’s the term the soil conservation folks use.) It means that you loosen the soil and remove any weeds and plants that would compete with your tree. In our case, that’s especially important because the main competition is our arch nemesis, spotted knapweed. So we clear a two foot circle, and weed a bit out from that. After scalping, amendment is added, for nutrients and for organic matter, to help the soil retain moisture. Then the tree is planted, watered, caged (to slow the rabbits down) and mulched. The full spa treatment. The last thing we do is to wrap the top edge of the cage in light-colored survey ribbon. It looks other-worldly, but we’ve found that if we don’t wrap, the deer can’t see the cages at night, and they stumble-over them, crushing the cages, and often, killing the tree. 


Christo’s perforations

We use pine needles for mulch. They block weeds, and help hold moisture. They also help to acidify our alkaline soils. We started doing it because we have a lot of pine needles, conveniently located. Free is good. We like the needles from white pines best. They are softer, less prickly, and easier to rake. We only take the top layer–last year’s needle drop–leaving the older accumulation to protect the soil under the pine trees. We’re picky about our scrounging.


A tiny tree in its cage.

Recently, an article in the Washington Post told the story of a cottage industry in North Carolina that forages, cleans, bags and sells premium pine needles for the upscale mulch market. It’s so sought after, that there are even varmints who’ll poach pine needles illegally from other’s pine plots. (Say that fast.) They’re seeking legislative relief to make it a crime to poach pine needles! Who knew? It turns out we’re trendy!

So, the wind break is planted. Twenty-seven trees. That means that so far, we’re up to 134 trees for this year’s planting season. Only seventy-three to go. We’re getting tired, but we’re beginning to see the end in sight.

We’re just over half-way on getting these trees into the ground. We’ve seen planting in too-warm weather, in relentless rain, and now, snow. Since the trees arrived we’ve had one major illness in the family, one death, and one family crisis. We are reeling.

The advantages of the trees’ early arrival, is that they’re going in quite dormant, and before the bugs arrive. The disadvantages are mostly weather related. Something is reminding me that a couple of years ago, I said, “No more than about a hundred,” after having exhausted myself putting in over two hundred. I guess I have no self control in the ordering department. Oh, that, and that the biggest price break hits at one hundred trees. We get to plant almost twice as many for the same price.

In some ways it’s a good thing to have this mammoth task, because it forces us outside–away from the fretting and worry that come with multiple crises. The past ten days has also been a slap upside the head to get our own estate matters in order. Who are we kidding? We are not young. And there’s nothing like seeing an estate or two wholly botched to know that you have no business visiting that upon your heirs.

That’s partly what we’ve learned from Covid–we are all living on borrowed time. Age and good habits are no guarantee. You can roll your eyes over someone’s diet–and get hit by a bus because you were momentarily inattentive. The least we can do is enjoy the time given.

So, we suit up, gather our tools and head into the forest to plant trees that we will never see fully grown. The forest is quiet. The ramps and dutchman’s breeches are pushing up through the leaf litter. The Spring Beauties are already up, and blooming. The work is not strenuous–just steady and repetitive. Marching up and down the hills is strenuous–but good exercise to get us ready for the rest of Spring.

In tree-planting, and in life generally, we’re half-way there.

Back in high school, track and field practices started in mid-March. They were brutal. Our coach, Mr. Monroe, had a ‘no pain, no gain’ theory of success. He probably drove more students away from fitness than he recruited for competition. He was a big believer in endless wind-sprints. You could tell who ran track because the halls were filled with the limping, groaning, victims of his torture sessions.

I had a secret weapon. I was already insane. I had started running daily, at age nine–before “jogging” was a thing. By high school, I logged in two or three miles early every morning, before school. So March was not a challenge for me. But someone told Mr. Monroe that I’d been running all along, which triggered him to focus on “full-body fitness.” I’m sure it wasn’t just because of me, but he countered with circuit training, a series of exercise stations that everyone had to complete, that included upper-body work-outs. It was the great equalizer. I could barely lift my arms enough to dial in the combination to my locker. Mr. Monroe grinned, and told me I’d thank him for it, someday.

These days, my spring workout begins when the trees arrive. They came this week. 206 trees. The vendors hold the trees until it’s planting time in your zip code. This is the earliest that we’ve ever received trees. Some are destined for a ‘slash and stash’ planting on the slopes of our forest. Some, orchard grade trees, get the full spa treatment–deep hole, lavishly amended, with a landscape cloth skirt, mulch cover and full fencing cage. Since these are usually larger trees, with more expense and risk, they go in first.

We’re putting in some walnut trees this year. Just a couple, at first, to see how they do. I’m hopeful, with visions of a small walnut grove–which is crazy. I’d be lucky to live long enough to see a walnut. In the meantime, they have lovely, deep green foliage, and make great shade trees. I’ve picked low-juglans varieties–which shouldn’t be too problematic for the foliage around them, and they’re planted with some distance from all, but a few ratty red pines. Mature walnuts can be toxic to the trees around them. They’re getting the full spa planting, and I ache to my bones with the digging. Upper body.

Unless it rains, I won’t be blogging much in the next two weeks. It’ll take us that long to get the rest of these babies safely into the ground. It’s a schlep, up and down steep hills, carrying shovels, planting medium, trees and water. Most of it, is upper-body. Thanks, Mr. Monroe.