Cel­e­brat­ing trees

Sept. 27 is Na­tional Tree Day in Canada .

Journal Pioneer - - PRINCE COUNTY - Mark Cullen Mark Cullen is lawn & gar­den ex­pert for Home Hard­ware, mem­ber of the Or­der of Canada, au­thor and broad­caster. Get his free monthly news­let­ter at markcullen. com. Look for his new best seller, ‘The New Canadian Gar­den’ pub­lished by Dun­durn Pres

I was hik­ing with my son, Ben, this sum­mer, when it hit me: all my at­tempts to plant trees can­not com­pete with Mother Na­ture. There she was, grow­ing birch and cedars out of sheer rock at an 80 de­gree an­gle. How on earth did she man­age to get her trees to grow with­out earth when we mor­tals have our prob­lems when plant­ing in rich soil?

A life­time of tree plant­ing and tree hug­ging has taught me a thing or two about tree plant­ing.

Wed­nes­day, Sept. 27th is ‘Na­tional Tree Day’ in Canada. The per­fect time to cre­ate a liv­ing legacy in your own yard. Here is how to en­sure the best pos­si­ble chances for tree plant­ing suc­cess:

Choose young trees. We are al­ways anx­ious to get on with it. Whether we are or­der­ing lunch or plant­ing a tree, we are not very good at wait­ing. When shop­ping for a tree, look for a young, vig­or­ous spec­i­men. The key­word here is ‘vig­or­ous’, as in, ‘ready to go’. Young trees have young roots that are in the pot when you buy the tree. When you buy a large tree, usu­ally wrapped in burlap and placed in a wire bas­ket, many of the young, fi­brous feed­ing roots are still in the ground on the nurs­ery farm. Young trees want to put down roots and get grow­ing. They usu­ally catch up and sur­pass the growth of a larger tree within a few years.

Soil. ‘Qual­ity soil’ can mean dif­fer­ent things but for the most part, it means this: well drained, nu­tri­ent rich, or­ganic and lots of it. I use a com­bi­na­tion of 70 per cent well com­posted cat­tle ma­nure/mush­room com­post and 30 per cent sharp sand. Com­posted ma­nure pro­vides all the nu­tri­ents needed to sup­port tree-life. No need for chem­i­cal fer­til­iz­ers.

The sand pro­vides drainage, as very few trees en­joy hav­ing wet feet. Sharp sand is some­times called ‘builders’ or ‘play’ sand, as in the stuff that you put in a sand­box. But it is not beach sand, which is too fine for wa­ter to flow through freely. A re­minder: use lots of new soil. For a two-me­tre high maple tree, you should use four to six bags of qual­ity ‘triple’ mix or ‘gar­den soil’.

Stake it. It will take up to five years for your new tree to put down roots and an­chor it­self into its new home. A tree stake on the north or west side will help to hold it up­right in stiff winds un­til the day comes when it can sup­port it­self.

Right tree, right place. Think about the lo­ca­tion of your new tree and con­sider the space that it will take up even­tu­ally. Twenty or 30 years seems like a long time away and you may not even care what your tree will look like at that time. This is a ser­vice to fu­ture home own­ers. And you will be amazed at how quickly a tree can fill in the space that you al­low for it, even a small tree like an ivory silk lilac.

Go for ‘qual­ity’. There is a golf course near my home that was es­tab­lished just over 50 years ago. The found­ing-fathers in­vested in hun­dreds of fast grow­ing poplars, wil­lows and soft maples when they de­signed the course. No doubt they wanted the shade and cover in a hurry. Trou­ble is, they are cut­ting those trees down now and the course is look­ing rather bare. Had the first mem­bers of the club planted qual­ity sugar maples, lin­dens, oaks, beech and other hard­wood trees, they would be en­joy­ing an amaz­ing canopy of shade that would last for up to 300 years.

And at the end of the day, that is the nut of it, isn’t it?

We plant trees not for our­selves but for our grand chil­dren and theirs as well. It is an un­selfish act that pays un­told dividends down the road in the form of oxy­gen, a cooler en­vi­ron­ment, slower street traf­fic, en­hanced real es­tate val­ues and an al­to­gether nicer place to live, work and play.

If you can’t plant a tree on your own prop­erty, con­sider hav­ing one planted on the High­way of He­roes by do­nat­ing. We are plant­ing 117,000 on the High­way of He­roes, one for each of Canada’s war dead since Con­fed­er­a­tion. De­tails at http:// ho­htribute.ca/.

Happy Na­tional Tree Day.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Stak­ing is an im­por­tant part of the tree grow­ing process.

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