Wednesday, April 6, 2011

“D” Is for Digging in the Dirt

With spring in full bloom, my thoughts turn to the possibilities of what new trees to plant this year. I have two goals I am working on. One is to restore a tree-lined edge along the front of my property after a three-year road widening project destroyed what was once there. For this project I am planting ornamentals such as dogwoods and redbuds, interspersed with a couple of fruit trees for variety of color and time of bloom. Though not trees, I have some flowering shrubs mingled in for good measure.

The other project is to have my own home orchard filled with trees that bear the fruit my family enjoys. So far I have two types of cherry, 2 types of apple and some plum trees. We already have persimmons on the property.

What I have learned in the few years I’ve been building my own garden forest is site preparation is the key to success. Yep, digging in the dirt is absolutely necessary. Roots of young trees don’t need to compete with weeds, grasses and other plantings while they are getting established. It is a good Idea to remove any vegetation from the planting site and keep it clear the first couple of years. Tat way the tree doesn’t have to compete for water and nutrients during its early growth period which is crucial to its development and long term health.

Another thing to develop is the tilth of the soil. This term is generally used to describe tilled quality of soil in relation to its ability to support plant growth. Compacted soil makes roots fight to spread out . You want to provide loose soil that roots can move through with relative ease. This is why we till our gardens every year. Spend some time preparing the site, adding compost and aged manure before planting. Ideally you want to do this six to twelve months before planting but it can be done a few weeks before planting and still provide benefits.

Digging in the dirt is the best way to prepare your soil for your new tree friend. Is also a good way to bond with your tree. Who wants to spend all that back-breaking time preparing the soil only to ignore the new planting and let it die? Not me! After putting in that much work just to get it in the ground, you can bet I’m going to work at taking care of it. So get your hands dirty!