|Shelters are finally getting added to the hundreds of trees we just finished planting -- this photo captures about 75 tubes,|
or roughly 7% of the new seedlings to be protected
Recently, a lot of people have been asking, "How do you hand plant over 1,000 trees?" My answer: One tree at a time. In my experience, it's not a project where you can look too far forward or too far back. You are best to get as efficient as you can be, and just keep planting.
|My oldest two spent a Sunday afternoon/evening planting|
with me -- another 75 trees in the ground . . .
|My wife came out twice and helped to the tune of 100+ trees; |
it looks like she is in the witness protection program,
but she'll still kill me when she sees this
(she never likes photos of herself)
I have written plenty to provide the broader context for this project, but here are some specifics that I (and hopefully others) can learn from the next time a similar project is contemplated. (ASIDE: We are slated to plant another 2,800 trees next spring. The stock will be smaller though, and the site conditions are much more favorable, so it should theoretically be a simpler job.)
Species Planted: Pin Oak (200), Swamp White Oak (200), Burr Oak (300), Red Maple (100), Shellbark Hickory (100), Sycamore (100), and Ohio Buckeye (100).
Trees were planted ~12' on center in a random fashion (relative to species), but they were planted in rows (to simplify mowing, spraying, and general maintenance). We did pick a line that was not easily visible from any common vantage point. So from the road, for example, they do not appear to be in rows, but instead completely haphazardly planted. The goal was to plant larger stock, so most were 2-4' tall. The hickories and the sycamores were on the smaller side (some more like 18"), but all looked really healthy.
|24" Sycamore, in the ground|
<2 weeks and already
leafing out nicely
Low-lying areas were like working in peanut butter -- at least after the rains -- but the soil itself is surprisingly dark, organic, and workable at this particular site when it's not too wet. We did import 8 cubic yards of very sandy top soil from a local yard to supplement each planting. There was a lot of labor involved (hand-delivering ~1/3 of a 5-gal bucket of topsoil to each hole), but in the end, I think we had a much better finished product. Especially when the imported topsoil could be kept dry, it was great for backfilling around the vulnerable roots such that air pockets could be eliminated, or at least significantly reduced. Void spaces are a main culprit for seedling mortality soon after transplanting, so we got in the practice of (1) pinning each seedling against the outside of the hole -- at the right elevation relative to where it was growing at the nursery; (2) backfilling and compacting loose topsoil under and around the newly placed roots; and, (3) straightening the seedling as we gently but firmly compacted more soil into and over the auger hole using our boots.
|Matt, my student shadow from|
last week, adding a protective
When I look back on my notes, I spent three full days (8-10 hours) and five half days (4-5 hours) planting from 4/12 - 5/8/18. When the site was just too wet or the temperatures got too high (didn't like planting when it was above 65 degrees), we just kept the seedlings wrapped in moist burlap, loosely contained inside plastic within large cardboard boxes and housed them either in our field office (if the temps stayed below 55 degrees) or in a neighbor's storage room. The neighbor's was preferred as it got warmer outside because it was dark, cool (50ish), stable, and humid (because it was adjacent to a large minnow tank). Ideal storage is 40 degrees and dark, but even though our temps crept up a bit, we didn't have any issues with mold, and nothing started to leaf until it was in the ground. Keeping dormancy is important because it really helps minimize shock to the newly transplanted seedling.
Protection is the next step in this process, and it is no small task. While we are not obligated by our funding partner (NRCS - EQIP) to do so, we are going to place 4' tree tubes over as many of the newly planted seedlings as possible. Despite the high cost (tubes and accessories cost more than the trees themselves), we have purchased enough to shelter all 1,100. These biodegradable plastic structures serve several important functions: (1) they reduce browse from mice, voles, and rabbits from below and deer from above; (2) they conserve moisture and create a greenhouse-like environment to accelerate vertical growth; (3) they hold back competitive weeds from smothering the seedling; (4) they protect the young seedlings from harsh winds; and, (5) they help keep the seedlings growing straight.
Each tube is fastened to a 48" x 1" x 1" pine post that is hammered within 3" of the seedling's trunk (but not through the roots!). The tube is connected to the post using pre-installed zip ties and is capped with a mesh net to prevent song birds from getting trapped inside the plastic (tubes/stakes are common perches and smaller birds think they might make a good place for a nest, but they often can't get back out once they get in). We are also adding a 2' x 2' plastic square (stapled on each of the four corners) to provide extra protection from competing weed growth. Studies have shown that these investments can more than double survival to a mature canopy. Even if 25-50% of our trees survive long-term, we will consider the planting to be a tremendous success.
|A young (30") red maple seedling in a newly installed 48" tall "tree tube" by Tree Pro|
|All this seedling needs is the bird net|
on top and it is ready to grow --
1 down, 1,099 to go!
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