Arbor Day puts focus on trees
PREPARE FOR ARBOR DAY
This is Arbor Week (actual day June 5) so secure a tree (or three) and find somewhere to plant them in readiness for the day of the year that’s earmarked for increasing the planet’s forest cover. Your contribution may seem minor, but a tree is a tree and they grow like weeds once they get their roots into the ground. If your own garden is already filled to capacity with trees and shrubs, look around for bare spots in the gardens of your friends. They’ll most likely thank you for providing them with something to plant and will want to pitch in with some digging on the day.
If your friends are not so inclined and prefer concrete to twig and leaf, find some new friends! I’m joking; don’t give up on them just because they don’t understand the importance of trees to the environment and every living creature therein. Perhaps there’s a vacant stretch of council land that would benefit from some trees. Ask around and see if there’s support for some community enhancement planting. Arbor Day’s the ideal one for promoting tree planting.
USE A SHARP SPADE FOR PLANTING TREES
Spades with a small head are best for digging holes the size a young tree needs. Large, heavy spades are a disincentive for people who aren’t swinging on them every day and Arbor Day is the best shot a keen tree planter will get to bring others on board with starting a new forest. A tool that is sharp, clean and light will be a pleasure to use, slicing through the soil like a hot knife through butter, rather than dragging an anchor through a sea of toffee, which is what a heavy, large-headed spade can feel like, especially when the soil is wet. Choosing a dryish spot for planting can help also and checking the proposed planting site a few days earlier and laying a waterproof sack down, can mean that any rain that falls before planting day, won’t clog things up.
CHOOSE YOUR TREE WISELY
If you haven’t grown your own and have to buy a tree for this day of planting fun, ensure you choose one that suits the planting site. If you’re in Southland, as I am, buying a lemon tree to plant is not especially wise, given their habit of dying from cold winter conditions. Go native, if that’s your preference, and grow something sourced from your own region.
At this time of the year, there are plenty of wineberry trees (makomako) for sale in the nurseries, along with manuka and lemonwood (tarata), all of which grow well when planted on Arbor Day, falling as it does, right at the end of autumn.
GROW A FRUIT TREE
It’s still a little early to plant bare-rooted fruit trees but if you’re determined to make fruit the core of your forest, prepare the planting hole now then wait patiently for the sales that often come in August. A good hole back-filled with quality compost and some slow-release fertiliser will give a fruit tree a great start to life and make the later planting a breeze at a time when winter may have softened your digging muscles. When it’s time to plant your tree, water it, backfill the hole and hammer in two sturdy stakes, one on either side. Tie the tree to the stakes with flexible ties that allow a little give.
VISIT PARKS & GARDENS FOR TREE PLANTING INSPIRATION
If you’re looking for inspiration on trees with glorious autumn colour, now is a good time to take a stroll (with camera and notebook) around your local park, botanic garden, or – if you live near Gisborne – the iconic Eastwoodhill Aboretum
(www.eastwoodhill.org.nz) with its collection of native and exotic trees. Take note of specimens that take your fancy and if possible, pick the brains of the gardens’ curator about the conditions they need as well as how tall they grow plus anything else you need to know. They are a minefield of expert information. This column is adapted from the weekly e-zine, get growing, from New Zealand Gardener magazine. For gardening advice delivered to your inbox every Friday, sign up for Get Growing at: getgrowing.co.nz
Robert’s wife Robyn oversees planting a grafted apple tree.