fastest, most efficient and cheapest way of planting great numbers of
trees is to encourage natural regeneraton.
at home and garden !! You will get results.
took the above shot in Tim's back garden ......
and also this one below......on the main Chatham Island. If you
leave home be prepared for some desertification out there in the
"real" world. We had great difficulty collecting seed at
the location below, which is the culmination of 100 years of bad land
management, in particular letting stock graze the protective seaward side
of the bush (every side in this case). The wind gets in and
with stock treading on the delicate forest roots, the most lush bush in
the world turns to desert in just a few years. People think the
Chatham's must be inhospitable to plants, but it isn't at all. Its
just that you have to have shelter from the wind, just like on any
island. If you allow the natural shelter to grow undisturbed, then
complex forest can get established quickly. The plants in Tims'
garden above are Chatham Island nikaus that are only about about 5 years
old from seed and are indeed two metres tall, producing three leaves a
year. They are able to grow fast in the sheltered situation.
Once they covered the land in the photo below, till the stock came in.
Any spade will do, but you should make sure you use a
spade, a short handled strong thing with a sharp strong small blade,
rather than a shovel, a long handled tool with a wide mouth for moving
piles of loose material.
Recently we have shifted to using smaller spades
because we are planting smaller trees.
However the standard garden spade design (with footrests) is still
a good standard item. Properly
used and sharpened, it can skim weeds, dig holes and trim roots.
Wooden handles are hard to beat for a springy soft
feel but the strongest hickory is no match for the strength of a fit tree
planter, spades are all steel in our world, a rubberised plastic handle is
all you get for suspension but they are an amazingly good powerful tool,
serious tree planters like us have a large collection of 20 or more of all
sizes to suit each particular tree size and soil encountered
Using a coarse mill bastard file, carefully sharpen
your spade by holding it in a vice and stroking the file away from you.
Lift the file for each return stroke.
Sharpen one side of the blade only the front side, the side away
from you, a spade is like a wood chisel, the soil peels away from the
spade, this why you sharpen the front.
The crucial thing is the angle.
A very shallow angle is the best for a razor sharp spade.
In order to achieve this, you will usually create a feather, which
is a very thin overhang of steel on the underside of the side you are
sharpening. Once you have
finished creating a nice flat shiny angle, turn the spade over and give
the back side a couple of licks with the file so as to just remove that
feather. Now the spade will
be so sharp as to cut your toes off, so it’s a good idea to wear some
kind of strong footwear, especially if you are a novice.
ground, where you will dull the blade quickly, it is best to have one
spade for skimming and cutting the turf, and another for the actual
digging and levering. If this
is not possible then sharpen the spade without too sharp an angle, so it
doesn’t get dented into bluntness too quickly.
In any case it pays to use the spade for as long as
possible screefing weeds while its sharp and while you have still got
clean hands that grip the spade well.
A sharp spade saves a huge amount of energy, licking
up at breaks eases the work wonderfully
Before removing the plastic container in which we
have provided your tree, water the plant well.
the trees in a fish-bin or bucket full of water before planting, so
that they are saturated. Soak
until all bubbles have stopped rising.
This can take 1 – 20 mins for a dry plant.
Don’t leave soaking over night, as this will drown roots that
need air too.
If you have sprayed, this step will not be necessary
and may even be counter-productive, as weed seed will germinate in the
cultivated soil following the disturbance.
If you have not sprayed, it may be desirable to skim
off a circle of weeds, a turf, up to about a metre around.
With a very sharp spade, aim at the base of the
largest weed (assuming you understand what is a weed) close to where it
feels right to have a tree taking every thing into account, aim with a
slicing motion to sever the plant at ground level there is an exact spot
where one slice will chop right thru if to high the soft top will yield
and you will bounce off too low and your spade will blunted quickly and
you will waste lots of energy moving soil.
Skim a circle of weeds with out digging up any topsoil. How big
depends on experience, the situation, the weed species and seed in the
where the sharp spade will prove it’s worth.
In the middle
of the skimmed circle, dig square holes, a bit deeper than the root
mass of the plant being planted. The reason for digging square hole is to
encourage the trees roots to find the corners and head off on their own
into the native soil. Circular holes such as the ones produced by posthole
borers are inclined to train the roots around the hole and back into the
root ball. There have been many ways devised to speed the hard-yakka job
of hole digging like special augers, with side loosening scrapers which
(in theory) remove the glazed walls of the hole, special penetrating
digger heads and also dynamite has been used by our friend with a stutter
to plant in hard-arse country, his first experiments involved charges way
too strong causing the area to be filled with craters with no back fill to
be seen, once the correct charge has been set the ground receives a
fracturing shock in all directions and a blast of nitrogen which may make
the job much easier and speed plant growth. In describing his method in
full once the fuse is lit you rrrrr run lll like fff fucken hell!
In general the holes should be wider than they are
deep. Do not bury the stems or trunks of plants any higher or lower than
to the level of the potting mix used by your nursery.
It is not necessary to add compost or fertiliser to
the base of the holes you have dug. Although
it can be beneficial in certain circumstances.
What is more important is to start producing the compost on site,
which is one of the best reasons for planting trees.
This will be discussed in more depth later in the book, but suffice
to say for the moment is not necessary to add anything to the soil and
this often makes it harder for the tree, by causing it to sit in a pool of
water all winter, amendments should be added to the surface of the soil as
in nature and not dug into the soil below the tree
Of course you should have tailored your initial tree species to the
site conditions rather than trying to suit the site to the tree.
Planting trees on the surface by importing humus
works but is energy intensive and impractical, growing what will grow and
forming mulch right on the site is correct action thus paving the way for
other more fussy species.
Inspect the tree roots.
Certain plants such as monocots (plants like grasses
and palms) do not need to have much attention paid to the roots, for they
can grow new ones from the base of the plants.
Giant timber trees need better attention, for if their roots are
spiraling or compressed into a blob in the bottom of the hole, they will
stay like that and the tree will never be as good.
It might survive perfectly well as new roots develop but more
likely it will languish, or it might thrive initially and then blow over
in a storm, or develop a constriction on one side of the tree that
restricts all sap up that side of the tree, causing leaf fall and death of
that side of the tree. One
just doesn’t know what might happen; hence one must try to get it right,
putting in an appropriate amount of energy for the species involved.
roots are balanced and pointing in the right direction, which is away from
the tree, in all directions, rotate the tree so the largest best looking
live roots are facing in the direction of the prevailing wind flow. Study
the roots of a big tree in nature when the opportunity arises, toppled
mature trees are common giving us major insights to root structures, road
cuttings and erosion slopes show root structures clearly. Usually most
roots grow sideways, out into the active layer of topsoil or leaf litter,
where nutrients are most available this is called the root plate, most
trees form sinker roots from this plate sometimes called tap roots but it
is the root plate that is the most important thing that anchors the tree
in the wind. Consequently
we should make sure that the roots are initially led in this direction,
not just pointed straight. Roots
need to go in all directions. The
reason we suggest digging a square hole is to avoid the roots spiraling
around and around within the hole. Roots
will always grow away from the tree, out to the corners of the hole, and
then out into the surrounding ground. Frequently the subsoil is too hard and bony for roots to be
bothered with. They are
looking for moist compost, for food.
Prune the roots using a sharp tool, the best being
anvil type secateurs. Cut any roots that do not point in the right
direction or go around and around.
People are often concerned cutting into roots or tops
of trees claiming it is unnatural. It
is worth remembering that the process of cultivating a tree is unnatural
to begin with. The tree that
has been in a cultivated state in the nursery is in need of a sensible
steering back toward the natural form.
The answer is to plant trees when they are small.
Not only does this reduce the amount of work in planting, but it
also reduces the amount of pruning necessary. If trees are too big
to stand up by themselves, do not stake them....cut them back to half
the root ball of the tree on a small mound of loose soil in the base of
the hole. Some roots should be going down, but most should be placed so
they are growing outwards from the tree, with a few going horizontally
near the surface.
soil loosely in around the roots whilst holding them in position.
Fill the hole with soil so that the soil level is brought back to a
level slightly higher than the surrounds.
The backfilled soil will at this stage be very loose.
Whilst holding the tree upright, gently firm the soil
down. Ensure that all roots
are covered with soil. Do not
pack soil hard, as this removes the air necessary for roots to grow, as
well as making it difficult for water to penetrate. Firming is an
important step to get right. It’s sometimes possible to see by the
growth of a row of trees who planted each one by the growth.
A certain degree of sensitivity is required to understand just
exactly how well to firm. It is normal in a windy climate for trees to
develop a ‘socket’ around the stem especially if the tree is too large
for the conditions, young trees may spend much of their time flat to the
ground in every direction, it is temping to try to force them to stay
upright with further and heavier firming, this can cause what roots that
may have become established to be broken, what is better is pouring dry
sand down the socket. Staking is only an option that should be considered
with valuable plants otherwise unobtainable. Cut back plants or smaller
tree stocks will overtake big floppers in no time. Stakes can help but
more usually hinder a trees successful establishment, the method needs to
be elaborate and costly to be effective and must be loosened and attended
with care, trees most often snap of at the place they were secured.
In a very dry climate one may plant into a slight
depression. In a very wet
climate, one may plant into slightly raised mounds.
In general it is best to plant so that the final soil ends up at
its natural level. This will
usually mean you have to leave behind a slight mound of loose soil, which
will settle slightly over time.
Tree prone to root disease may need especially
careful attention to the height of the ‘crown’ of the tree i.e.
In particular do not allow the plant to dry out at any time.
The post plant watering is extremely beneficial, and seldom does
the rainfall intensity make up for an actual watering.
Not much water needs to be applied, enough to fill the plant pot if
the plant pot was empty – that’s a general guide.
In a commercial situation, watering may be ignored,
because all the other factors are right, such as correct soil moisture,
plants going into the ground moist at a cold time of year prior to lots of
heavy rains for the next few months.
In practice this is difficult to achieve.
We say that watering in is best, but that is the prescription for
best growth. If one is now in
so much of a hurry, watering in can be skipped.
We have found that the timely addition of a very
small amount of water can double growth response in the first year.
This water should ideally be applied within minutes of planting.
That would be the ideal, so as not to slow the growth of the tree
one bit. Drying out after
transplanting is the biggest single factor that slows down the subsequent
growth response. The difference is whether or not you keep the plant
powering, so that it doesn’t even get a check when it hits the ground,
but experiences a dramatic improvement in conditions which it responds to
be growing away furiously…or you can have a plant that merely survives
all the shock and mistreatment of being in a nursery and being planted by
a ruffian then drying out. From
our experience these plants survive too, but they are slower to recover
and get away. We often still plant trees without watering them, because it
is too difficult to get the water on.
However I accept the compromise of trees that are slower growing
initially, and that more will be lost.
Copyright 2000 S. Vallings