Not quite a million trees

We're a little crazy.*  Although we've been mostly focused on sprucing up inside our cottage, we've spent some time working outside, too.  Our biggest accomplishment there was planting 1275 trees (well, seedlings).  Yep, 1275.  We did it in four days between the two of us, with a huge assist from my enthusiastic, energetic, intrepid mom, and we all lived to tell about it.

Our property is pretty tree-filled already (though the beavers are doing what they can to change that).  But there are areas where we'd love to see more oaks for hardwood, fruit trees for blossoms and fruit picking, evergreens for year-round privacy, etc.  So we rolled up our sleeves and planted 8 different kinds of trees, plus some fruit trees and bushes.  Now, this sure isn't New York's Million Trees program, but we're hoping that it's a good step towards making the property as special as it is in our imaginations.

Now that we've done it, I thought I'd pass on what we learned.  Turns out that it wasn't as hard as I expected!  We bought almost all of our trees from the Saratoga Tree Nursery, but I've since seen similar programs in other states.  They ranged from $36 to $66 per 100 trees/bushes (which should give you an idea of their size: small!).  So here's our quick tree-planting summary, with places to go for more details.

Step #1: check the weather.  It snowed on our first weekend of planting.  Ok, that was pretty miserable.  We didn't have a choice about whether to plant that weekend, and nurseries generally suggest that you plant right away.  So like us, you can bundle up and get out there.  (Although I bet it has stopped snowing in most other places by mid-April!)

Step #2: the Saratoga nursery gives information about what you need for proper planting (helpful for us neophytes).  We didn't get the weed mats, tree tubes, or other protection.  There were just too many trees, and we thought we'd risk it and see how it went.  Our cost/benefit analysis said, "Just plant and see."  But we did arm ourselves with gloves, wellies, clothes that could get filthy, a wheelbarrow or bucket of water to carry the seedlings in, a shovel/flat spade, a utility knife for cutting too-long roots, and some rain (but a hose would work, too).

Click photo to enlarge.  Left and center: This is how half the seedlings arrived: wrapped in brown paper and wood chips with soaked roots.  The other half arrived in packs of 100 in brown paper packages tied up with string.  (Seriously!)  Right: our carrying system.

Step #3: no digging involved.  It's easier than you think.  This site has a good concise tutorial on planting seedlings, but the short summary is to make a wedge opening in the ground by pushing the spade away from you, put in the seedling, then make another wedge a few inches away and push toward the seedling so it closes the hole.  Stamp down the soil around the tree to be sure it's secure, and water (or thank Mother Nature for cooperating with your plans).

Click photo to enlarge.  Left: separating buttonbush seedlings.  Center: planting white pine seedlings.  Right: stomping down on the soil around the little tree.  You also get a view of our super-chic choice of grunge-wear: painting clothes, muddy wellies, and cheap but much-appreciated gloves.

Step #4: wait, oh, 2 to 20 years.  Fruit trees take a few years to bear fruit, and the evergreens we planted won't be creating a little more privacy until they're many years older.  But we're already seeing the little trees unfurl their new leaves and needles, which is exciting enough for us.

So we had our big planting days and we'll see what happens!  We've been told to expect that a 50% success rate is about right for situations like ours (so many planted and so far flung that we can't irrigate or cut back competing vegetation from all of them).  But that sounds fine to us.  It was a fun, if tiring, few days, and we certainly got some exercise and helped out the environment for less than dinner for 2 in the city for each 100 trees.  And we didn't even spend all day each day, so it turned out to be a speedy way to add some green to the property.  Send good tree-growing thoughts our way and we'll do the same.  We may even send you some home-grown fruit!

We have some older apple trees already, but clearly they need a little trimming!

If you'd like to do your own planting...  The Saratoga Tree Nursery doesn't take orders again until January, but that gives us all time to mull over what we need and where, and to get the area prepared.  We did lots of research on which plants were native to our area, whether there were any known issues (Did you know that black walnuts are extremely toxic to horses and many plants?  Me neither.), and how to plant and care for the trees.  You'll be ready to go when it's time to order.  Be forewarned that the Saratoga nursery sells out of some of its seedlings within the first couple of days they're open for orders.  So mark your calendars for the first ordering day and call right away if what you have your eye on says "limited supply!"

Happy planting!!

* I'd prefer to think of it as being enthusiastic, energetic, intrepid even.  But I admit it might just sound plain-old crazy.

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