Saturday, 15 February 2014

Tree Update

This summer, before our house even arrived, we planted a shelter belt of trees along the main grid road approaching our acreage, and along the lane way to our yard. If you have been following the blog you might remember that I had ordered 180 one-year-old maple, 200 one-year-old poplar and 120 three-year-old spruce. This chunk of land is extremely rocky so it felt like we had to dig 3 holes for every tree we planted. It might not have been that bad, but by the time 500 trees were in the ground we were T.I.R.E.D. We had a lot going on at the time--if you're interested you can read more here.

We rented a post-hole auger for the weekend and Husband dug the holes. I followed with a bucket o' trees while we kept the boxes of trees moist in the shade. It is important to not let the roots dry out.

We began by staking a twine out in a straight line and using a measuring tape to space the trees. But our land is so rocky we ended up pacing off the distance and doing our best to keep things straight and evenly spaced in spite of the rocks.

You can faintly see the row of dark circles--holes waiting for Colorado Spruce

Spruce trees were spaced 10-12 feet apart, with a 16 foot spacing between the next row of trees (Northwest Poplar). We checked that the roots were loose and not bound up in a coil, and planted them to the depth that they had been at the nursery. In the picture below, you can see the darker line on the tree stem. Once it was planted and the hole filled I stepped all around the tree to ensure there were no air pockets in the hole. Then on to the next tree.

The trees are hard to see, but the row
 goes beyond the orange pail in the distance
The trees needed a deep watering once they were planted. It took almost 4 days to do all the planting and watering--in part because of the rocky terrain and also because we were using a long trailer to haul the water tank for watering. It was awkward to get into position so that the gravity-feed tank and hose could even reach the trees. I'm very thankful that we now have a water tank in a small trailer that I pull behind our quad. Once we were living at the house and had running water it was much easier to care for the trees.

We tried to water every couple of weeks during summer. It is recommended to water once a week during the first year, every two weeks the second year, and so on. For deciduous trees, give one last deep watering in August, and then stop. You do not want new growth to begin before winter. For evergreens, water late into fall and a generous final drink after deciduous trees have lost their leaves. The Government of Canada had a very helpful site, but since the prairie shelter belt program was cancelled the website no longer exists. You can still find plenty of information on line; I use the Alberta Ag and Rural Development site if I have any concerns about our trees.

All of the trees in these photos were purchased at I was very pleased with the condition of the trees when they arrived, and I was especially happy that delivery was free. The trees arrived in 3 very large boxes, so delivery was an issue for me. Along with the poplar, maple and spruce, I also ordered Amur Maple, Siberian Larch and Paper Birch. I planted all of these in a plot so it was faster to water them. This year we will decide where to put them as we work on landscaping the yard. As of the fall, all of the larch had been eaten off by insects or animals, but the maple and birch appeared to be doing well.

birch trees in the summer

We have had some extreme winds this winter. In a two-story house it can seem especially windy, so I am considering where to plant trees this summer in hopes of blocking the west winds in the future. I don't want to block my view so will strategically place trees along the edge of the lawn. More on that when the time comes! This is an existing yard site so we have mature spruce and lilacs to the east and a hillside and bush to the north and somewhat to the west. Along the north, as well, our shelter belt trees curve along the lane and along the hill. When those trees grow up we will have wonderful shelter.

This winter we had enough snowfall to bury our little spruce trees in a nice insulated blanket of snow. Around Christmas things warmed up and a lot of that snow melted, and I got concerned that they would be exposed to the cold and wind--and there has been plenty of that! We have had more snow now, though, and the trees are once again tucked into a snow bank.

 Above, a spruce tree in the snow. Below, you can barely see the top of the next tree over. It is the little point to the left of the center of the picture.

I am looking forward to seeing how our trees fared over the winter. There are a few spruce that have browned off, so I might get a few replacements when I can assess how many I will need. I would also like to find some native trees in ditches and out in my dad's pastures to see if they do better than nursery-grown seedlings. But I will leave that post for another day!

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