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Advise for removing hemlock thicket & planting fruit trees

 
Posts: 15
Location: Maine
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I live half way up a rather large hill the frost heaves affect our entire usable yard most of spring making it a bad place to plant new fruit trees especially sensitive ones like asian pears. Where the yard meets the hill a thicket of mostly hemlock with a few pine and birches mixed in. These trees are vary densely packed about 1-2 per 2 square foot. Since I can't grow fruit in the yard (for fear of frost killing flower buds) why not cut down the trees and plant something edible? The plan is to plant 2 or 3 different kinds (for pollination) of each apple, asian pear, peach, and mulberry. Hopefully all this wood can be used to heat a greenhouse if not it will be put to good use elsewhere.

It's doubtful removing half an acre of trees or more importantly tree stumps could be done by hand by myself without the help of some sort of machinery. What would be the most cost/time effective way to accomplish this task? Also any advise on fruit trees for zone 5 would be appreciated.
 
steward
Posts: 2719
Location: Maine (zone 5)
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Hey John. If I were in your position I'd probably do the following.

1. Cut out the trees that you don't want but don't clear it our completley
2. Use the trunks for firewood, hugelkulture, fencing... you get the idea
3. Use the side branches to cover the stumps. This will increase the decomposition rate of the stump. All that organic matter will help the soil so just leave it there.
4. Amend the soil if needed for the fruit trees. You may have to adjust the pH a bit if the soil is too acidic
5. Consider what companion plants would help get the fruit trees going as well.
6. If you have a lot of bare ground, find a good cover crop to lay down as soon as the rough work is done.

I know what you mean about frost heaves. It really makes spring (mud) a hassle to be outside. I'd suggest cutting the trees down before the thaw so that you don't have to deal with that mess too.

If you just keep after it, you could clear that 1/2 acre with just a chainsaw and a couple guys in pretty short order. Over a few weekends probably. Especially if you only have to haul out the firewood portion of the tree. Of course that depends on the terrain...

Anyway hope some of that helps.
 
Posts: 137
Location: Ottawa, Canada -- Zone 4b/5a
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I have to agree with Craig. Take with you any wood you can use for a fire stove and stack them somewhere. The rest I would leave to rot or build Hugel beg and if there is to much you could burn some and spread the ash around your fruit trees. Regarding the tree stump, I wouldn't bather with removing them unless you absolutely need too. My at parents cottage, we simply cut the stump as low to the grown as possible (using an old chain of course) and it is surprising how quick it breaks down. I would suggest you do not cut down all of the trees at the same time. Clear cut certain areas or thin out the tree layers to allow more light through.
 
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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if you are able to, leave some of the hemlock to form a windbreak and protection for the baby fruit trees and create bays in them to plant the fruit trees on the South ..if possible..then they'll grow better
 
Posts: 145
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Be glad you still have hemlock, all the hemlock down here are dying off due to aphids/stress from hot weather. I love hemlock tea.
 
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