Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Johnny Mixed Hardwood Seed

I love trees. I've probably planted somewhere in the order of several thousand of them in my career thus far thanks in large part to helping my parents plant them on odd parcels of land in their holdings. When I bought my first house, I didn't consider my ability to plant trees before we had an accepted offer and suffered for many years because that house had electrical wires running along two of the property lines and a road for a third. With only a quarter acre of land and a huge mature maple and pin oak trees, there just wasn't much for options. I planted a sour cherry tree and that was it.

Our next house I made sure to consider if I could plant trees before we made an offer and ended up with a house that sits on a couple acres of land. Up until a half dozen years before we had bought it, most of it had been timber but a previous occupant had pushed out most of the undergrowth on top of the knobs leaving behind only the mature trees. The problem with this was that they were mature and nearing the end of their life cycle. I've had to remove nearly 40 of them during the five years we have lived here and there are probably a dozen more that are in various stages of decline that I will have to remove in the next five years.

However, I'm thrilled because it has allowed me to plant some more diverse trees than just the oaks, maples and black cherries that I have. I took advantage of the arbor day society to get a dozen trees sent to me along with four old fashioned lilac bushes like those that we used to have on the old farm. I grew those twigs in pots on my deck for six months and then planted them in the fall and I had thought all but one had survived over the course of the two years they've been in the ground. One down in the ditch had been eaten by a rabbit or some such creature and had been missing a couple years. The remaining trees finally grew a little bit last summer and this year have been really making progress. Even the lilacs which have looked like twigs with a few leaves for two years have now started growing upwards and to my delight this spring, multiplying!

Despite several trees being of the colorful flowering variety, my wife has wanted some more color among them and somewhere found a couple of pretty pathetic looking red Japanese maples that she bought. I would much rather plant native trees but a happy wife is a happy life so this morning I got them planted. It isn't as simple as just digging a hole and sticking them in here in deer-thick-as-thieves country. I planted them, fertilized them, mulched them, pounded steel fence posts around them and caged them in with heavy gauge chicken wire to keep the deer at bay until they are old enough to fend for themselves. Unfortunately, this means that our house is surrounded by nearly twenty trees fenced in individual cages. Kind of like a maximum security prison for trees!

When I started planting those two Japanese maples, I only had three fence posts but thought I would go down and rob the posts and wire of the tree that I planted two years ago that got eaten off. However when I got down to the bottom of the ditch between our two knobs where I planted it, I found that it had grown up from the stump and was starting to look pretty healthy. So I ended up making another trip to the hardware store for a few more fence posts to finish the job. Now I have two Japanese immigrants added to my collection of prisoners. If only I wasn't red/green colorblind to see them turn colors this fall. (Teaser Alert: More about this last sentence in a future post.)


Kelly said...

I wish you (and your trees) well in this endeavor! I can certainly feel your pain in having to protect them from deer and other creatures. My husband (who is actually a forester by training) has planted numerous trees over the decades we've lived here, with mixed results. I think the most frustrating experience was the time delinquents on 4-wheelers purposely mowed down some pecan trees (or they might have been apple) he'd planted. Fortunately we don't have much trouble with human trespassers anymore - just the four-legged varieties.

Ed said...

Kelly - The deer are atrocious. When we plant on a mass scale where it is unfeasible to try and protect them, I would say in some instances death loss due to deer can be from 50 to 90%! I have seen dozens of people plant $200+ trees in their yards only to have them completely mangled by deer within the week. My less than a $1 trees are doing great after two years. The fence is ugly and probably has to stay up for a decade until the tree is large enough to fend for itself but it works well.

Vince said...

Best of luck with the Acers.