1000 trees? No problem!
Yesterday was my first real workday with the Land Trust. The task? Plant 1100 trees with 5 people in as little as time as possible. How were we going to do this? With a tractor!!! 😀 The weather has been absolutely horrible the past week. Torrential rain on many occasions, we thought that we would have to ditch the mechanical planting and go straight to tree dibbles and manual labor. This was NOT going to be an ideal situation for 5 people, so the night before when I was site scouting I was beyond excited to learn that there wasn’t going to be anymore rain, and that the hill had surprisingly dried out to the level that a large tractor wouldn’t totally sink into the damp earth and compact the soil … or as I saw it, get so stuck that we would have to attempt to pull it out with nothing but some rope. Come the morning of the day, the soil was even drier and according to my fellow planters, was probably the best conditions we could’ve possibly hoped for as far as tree planting goes. SWEET. Tree planting with a machine is fairly simple. First, you need a tractor. Check. Volunteers are the lifeblood of any kind of non-profit organization, and we are no different. Without them we wouldn’t be able to do what we do … so here’s a quick public thanks to ANYONE who helps out like this. You rule. The tree planting machine itself isn’t really a machine in the common sense – there are no real moving parts. It’s really a fancy sod-splitter. There is a pizza wheel on the front that cuts into the ground, a hollow wedge that splits the ground and gives you a place to put the tree. There are a couple feet of space you have between the end of the wedge and two tires in a V shape that push the two edges of the sod seam back together, closing around the tree you just planted (by placing it behind the wedge!) and sealing the earth back together in a very neat line .Someone needs to follow the planter and “heel-in” in the tree to remove any and all air pockets that are around the roots. This is IMPORTANT, the roots will dry out and the tree will die if this isn’t done. Now, this doesn’t always work like this, rocks, clay, etc happen … but for our day this was basically how easy it went. Placing a tree every 5-6 feet you can go through a lot. We did over 1000 trees in right around 3 hours. # of trees per acre worked out to a tree density of 1400 trees per acre. The entire field is full of seams like the one pictured to the side. About 50 Beech trees went into a small wooded area near the entrance to the park. You might be wondering WHAT we planted? Well wonder no more! American Basswood – Black Cherry – Shagbark Hickory – American Beech – Swamp White Oak – Red Oak – Silky Dogwood – Hazelnut. Lots of trees, hopefully we can get at least a 40% survival rate. The work doesn’t stop after planting either. You might be wondering why we planted into an already growing field, and not bare ground. This grass cover will actually help the trees grow, as they won’t compete as much for height and nutrients. This also keeps out other opportunistic invasive species which is really what we are trying to do in the first place by building a forest canopy too. This comes with one condition – GRASS MUST BE MOWED. This isn’t short grass either, it needs to be mowed a couple times a month till the trees get to a sufficient height. Labor intensive, time intensive, this will be my task if we cannot find someone else to volunteer their time (not necessarily their money) to become a sort of an Environmental Lieutenant for the site. With my limited resources and, lets be honest, the limited resources of the Land Trust – this will be the best option for everyone. So first real workday all done. Ready for some more, it was an exhausting day but a good day of real work that has a tangible effect on the world around me. I’m hoping to come back in 10, 20 years time … bring someone special with me and say, “See this forest? I helped plant this.” That’s a very cool feeling indeed.