Thursday, June 30, 2011

How to Plant Trees

By starting with a well thought out plan, you can
reduce the stress on your trees. This will get the
roots growing almost as soon as the tree is planted.

I pass by newly planted dead trees all the time. I also pass by a fair share of holes where others have already been removed. Careful planting is necessary to having a strong, good looking tree years down the road. 

The following five steps will improve your chances for establishing a strong healthy tree. For more tips please see Seven Tips for Planting Trees.

Step One
Dig a hole twice as wide as the rootball (the area of root and soil that came with the tree) of the tree and no deeper than the rootball.

Step Two
Carefully remove the tree from its pot and place it in the hole. If the hole is too deep, now is the time to fill it in. If the root ball is sticking out of the ground take the tree out and dig a little deeper.

If the roots are ringing around the pot, try to gently loosen them. If you are not able, carefully cut them so they can grow out into the soil.

If the tree is in burlap and a wire cage remove them after you put the tree in the hole. Use bolt cutters to remove the cage.

Step Three
Make sure the tree is straight, or crooked depending on your preference, and fill the soil in carefully around the tree. Pack the soil as you go. You should not add anything to the fill soil, but it is ok to mix it with the soil from the rootball. 

Step Four
Water the tree in with a hose and compact the soil again. Fill in any spots where the soil is low or washed away.

Step Five
Make a ring around the tree and put a four inch layer of mulch in the ring. The ring should be big enough to keep lawn equipment from hurting the tree, but bigger is better. Remember, the mulch is protecting the root zone, but it should not be placed against the trunk.

Trees are meant to live a long time. They may even outlive the person planting them. It makes sense to take the time and effort to do it right. So plan ahead, go a little slow, and think about the future as you plant.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Bees in the Dominican Republic

On a recent National Guard mission, the 624th Engineers went to the Dominican Republic. I got a first hand view of how the local bees are being housed. Unfortunately, each week when the beekeeper came to check his hives I was away on other duties, so I was unable to talk with him. I did learn a lot just from being able to walk around his apiary and take photos.

These photos clearly show the need for top bar hives in developing countries, regardless of the silly opinions I read from some of the rich in the world. The beekeeper was selling honey in used soda bottles, so it is a good bet that buying an extractor was not, and is not, an economic option.

Some hives had scrap metal
covers, some had wire mesh
on the backs. I could never
figure why they were configured
The bees are German, which 
surprises me. I would have thought 
a bee better suited to the tropics 
would have been imported and 
spread by now.

It appears that the beekeeper harvested only the comb he could reach from the open ends of the logs. Since he did not destroy any hives when he came for honey, he would have had very little he could harvest from each hive. A top bar hive or two would have greatly increased the harvest and made it much easier to get at.

My command did not see the importance and ease of helping this beekeeper improve his hives and denied my request to build them. I blame myself for not bringing it up earlier and more often. Unfortunately the beekeeper and his family are the ones that are paying the price.

Next time I will be louder and more assertive. I think I owe that to the beekeeper.

Comb can be chaotic. This certainly does not fit
the nice ordered calm we have come to expect in
the developed world.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Seven Tips for Planting Trees

I remember my first tree planting exploits well over a decade ago. The trees are still alive, but I have learned a lot in the process that improves the chances for tree survival and overall health. Here are seven tips I wish I had known:

Tip One
Know your tree. If the tree is the wrong type, it will never be its best. Or what you want it to be.

Tip Two
Pick the right spot, this goes hand in hand with tip one. I have seen many large, fast growing trees planted within two feet of a house. Frequently the home owner starts fretting about the foundation after the tree has been in five years and is nearly touching the foundation, as well as the eaves.

Tip Three
Don't mix topsoil, fertilizer, compost, organic wastes, gummi bears, or anything else with the planting soil. If the soil is not already good enough on site, spend a few years improving it before planting trees.

Tip Four
Mix the soil that is already with the tree with the soil from your hole. Doing this will make it easier for the roots to transition into the new soil.

Tip Five
Plant the tree so that the soil level of where the tree has been growing is matched to the level of where it is being put.

This can be difficult, especially with balled and burlapped plants. The machine used for digging the tree often throws dirt up around the base of the tree hiding the original soil line. I always clear the dirt away so that I don't bury the tree to deep.

Some fruit tree rootstocks will need to be planted deeper because they are more brittle. Do this only if you already know the rootstock is a weak variety. Never bury the graft.

Tip Six
Rough up the edges of the hole if they appear slick or smooth. Slick sides can act like the edge of a pot and cause roots to circle around instead of going out into fresh soil. This is especially important if the soil is high in clay.

Tip Seven
Create a large tree ring and fill it with mulch at least four inches deep. Remember to keep the mulch a little away from the trunk, the tree needs room to breath!

With these tips goes a little planning and a little care, but if you are going to plant a tree that might out live you the extra care goes a long way!