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Backfilling the best way of transplanting nursery saplings?

 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Location: Massachusetts, 6b, urban, nearish coast, 39'x60' minus the house, mostly shady north side, + lead.
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So we did this at the food forest, and I just did what they had said--2' deep and 3' wide--back fill with compost and the soil you took out. I had some green leafy things I could mix in with my soil, didn't really have much compost, but our soil is weirdly rich in nitrogen and I figure I can plant clover at some point. Anywho, then I thought, This is a somewhat disruptive way of doing things, and it seems like a lot of work. Not that I minded digging, and actually my housemate's college-age friend dug and said this the most fun I"ve had in a long time, maybe I should become a gravedigger. But is it really best? it's disrupting a lot of ecosystem. If I had actual, real, friable, loose, mineral-rich topsoil, would I not need to do all this? is there some genius, Paul-Wheaton-y, sepp holzer-y, STUN-methodical way of just having the hole be self-digging?

SO then gonative trees says, don't dig a big hole, put your seedling in the ground in compacted soil so its snug in there and gets "tricked" into thinking it hasn't been transplanted (?). Personally, I dbelieve honesty is the best policy, even with Kingdom Plantae (which reminds me of a story, but I'll save that for another time), and I just don't see how it's going to get its roots well situated. But on the other hand, it is sort of Sepp-Holzer-y, he kind of makes his plants work a bit instead of "coddling" them. But I don't recall seeing anything about the hole you transplant into, just stuff about the shock method and where you place hte plant and stuff...

Also, should I stick some branches down in to make a sub-hugel? (I know, that is abuse of German, hugel means hill, but you know what I mean--put some rotting wood down in the soil itself to capture water and give off carbon and trace minerals??)

If this has already been answered, can someone point me to the thread, I searched "backfill" and "dig" and got nothing that really addressed this.
 
Leila Rich
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Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:I just did what they had said--2' deep and 3' wide--back fill with compost and the soil you took out

That's a big hole from my perspective!
I dig tree holes about 1 1/2 foot wide x 1-1/2 deep.
It's really important to dig a square hole in clay soil, or the roots might just keep circling round.
I never add compost to the hole- I spread it under the mulch. Compost gets consumed by the soil organisms,
and will disappear, leaving sunken plants.


Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote: gonative trees says, don't dig a big hole, put your seedling in the ground in compacted soil so its snug in there and gets "tricked" into thinking it hasn't been transplanted

Hmm. I dunno about that. For me, a lot depends on the soil type-you can get away with a small hole in sand or loam,
but in clay, especially unimproved clay, I think not loosening it to give the roots a bit of a head start would probably be counterproductive.
I'm only talking about 'Leila sized holes' remember

Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote: should I stick some branches down in to make a sub-hugel?
I've done this before-as long as the tree can get it's roots between the branches, I say go for it.
Although it quite possibly wrecks the small hole/lower labour thing, as you're back to digging...
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
pollinator
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Location: Massachusetts, 6b, urban, nearish coast, 39'x60' minus the house, mostly shady north side, + lead.
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Thanks Leila. Well, I hope they won't sink too much, and I guess I can fill in some more on top/put compost on top and let it work its way down in.
 
Leila Rich
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Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote: I guess I can fill in some more on top/put compost on top and let it work its way down in.

Just as long as the bit where the roots flare from the trunk is always free from soil/mulch,
which is damn near impossible if they're 'below grade'.
I've actually semi-lifted young trees that have sunk, by leaving one side's roots intact, hauling it upwards and filling the space with soil and watering like mad.
A pain, but they've all survived as far as I know.
 
William James
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I agree with Leila.
Currently in the process of planting 200-300 saplings. I'm in heavy clay.

I don't put organic material in the hole at all. I try to keep soil layers more or less the same as when I took them out. The bigger the tree, the more important all this is. I'm also trying to keep the planting high and with a little crumbly subsoil beneath, but not much (the Edible Forest Garden book says undisturbed soil beneath the roots).

Usually the advice for size is double the root width. Big roots, bigger holes. Small roots and a spade's width will do. Especially if you jab into the edges a wiggle a few times to open up the ground.

Using willow rooting hormone, since I got lucky and a branch from a willow fell down yesterday. Lots of little pieces of willow 24 hours under water then submerge saplings as you dig.
I'm also using mycorrhiza I bought a couple years ago sprinkled on to the wet roots.

After hole dug and plant inside, a little compost on top, some biomass on top of that and cover cropping with 2 clovers, radishes, and mustard, and broad bean around that.
Today I did maples, cornus mas, pear, and cherry, all except the maples from the forestry service. Very nice plants to work with: small, good roots.

William




 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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right, free root flares!! may need to dig the "grade" out a bit around them if they sink too much...idk, i'l figure it out.

But does anyone have a copy of sepp holzer's book, I seemto remember now he did say something about how to handle the root ball?? like he doesn't do the conventioanl thing in some way...
 
Leila Rich
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Leila Rich wrote:
Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote: should I stick some branches down in to make a sub-hugel?
I've done this before-as long as the tree can get it's roots between the branches, I say go for it.
Although it quite possibly wrecks the small hole/lower labour thing, as you're back to digging...
I thought I should add I've only used a small amount of branches under trees,
or you'll end up with the same sinking issues as you'd have with compost.
 
Aljaz Plankl
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I always place wood on top of compost and under the mulch.
One shovel of wood compost in hole (good inoculator), not more, and i'm generous for topping and mulchingwith coarse compost, wood etc and in fall it's mostly leaf mulch.
Second the advise of not puting any coarse organic material in the soil, no need for that, it's extra diging.
It's good to be simple, so you can plant a lot.
 
Leila Rich
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Leila Rich wrote:
Leila Rich wrote:
Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote: should I stick some branches down in to make a sub-hugel?
I've done this before-as long as the tree can get it's roots between the branches, I say go for it.
Although it quite possibly wrecks the small hole/lower labour thing, as you're back to digging...
I thought I should add I've only used a small amount of branches under trees,
or you'll end up with the same sinking issues as you'd have with compost.

Aaand on further thought:
I've never used biochar, but as far as I understand has all the benfits (and more) of wood, but its mass is totally stable.
I think char would be an ideal solution. As a bonus you just work it into the soil, avoiding extra digging.
I really must pull myself together and build a burner!
 
Bill Erickson
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How big are these saplings you are transplanting? Are they bare root or come with a root ball on them?

With bare root trees I dig a hole that is a bit bigger than the roots when set on the ground, and I dig it deep enough to put the tree's at the same depth it was in the nursery but with a built up mound of soil to rest it on.

With root ball trees, pretty much the same and then I cut the ball with a sharp knife to release the rootlets.

Dirt from the hole - I don't care what kind of soil I plant in, I always take all the dirt from the hole, mix in composted steer manure and peat moss at a 5:1:1 mix level of soil to the other two. I also will punch into the sides and bottom of the hole if the soil is heavily clay based - this gives the roots a path into them and they will continue the break. Back filling - like I said above, I'll put a mound of soil in the bottom to lift my sapling to the right height, settle the roots into place, lightly water the area, put a few shovels full of dirt down, lightly tamp, and continue to fill it on out in that manner. Finish off the top with a peat/composted manure mix and water it is well, which usually means a five gallon bucket of water into it. I will stake them with rebar and hay twine equidistant around it to keep the roots stable from being wind blown and give them a chance to stabilize and mate with their new location.

Transplanting larger saplings is bit of work, small slips can be easily inserted into harvested areas with a digging tool and the like. To have success with saplings - no easy method that I know of that works consistently.


ETA - don't forget a cage/fence around it to protect it from critters. They do love that soft bark.
 
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