wow! what a great response. Thank you all for your thoughts. I'll try and answer
Mark shepherd's strategy was to plant loads of tree seeds (I think he uses a seed drill) and not do anything else. Those that survive have the appropriate genes for his area. He calls this method STUN Shear Total Utter Neglect. Just like mother nature.
I have seed many thousands of trees, none of which have survived as of yet. I was seeding Black locust and Honey Locust from local "survivor trees" from abandoned homesteads
. they germinate and grow, but die within several months.
How do you expect these trees will live without water in the long run? Is there subsurface water? Do you know where your water table is? What other trees are growing nearby in fallow areas? Anything?
We have a native
forest on the land, just not on this particular piece of the property. I am working on contour to establish a 12 acre silvopasture system in what is now an open field with 15-20 year growth of Ponderosa Pine. So trees can and are growing there. I am trying to get ponderosa pine seeds to use them as pioneers, however I am finding it really difficult to get the seeds from the squirrels who eat the cones in mass before the seeds are fully ripe.
After the seeding failed completely, I started the the locust seeds in S10 Ray Leach cone-tainers
. approximately 500-600 hundred. I then planted each of those trees out at in double rows, 6 foot intervals, across the uphill side of a 1,1000 ft long contour swale.
Planted each seedling in a hole 2-2.5 feet deep and about 1.5 ft across. mixed in decomposed manure 50% with the subsoil (about 2.5 gallons per hole), made a 2ft tree well around each tree, laid down a thick layer of straw
mulch, and places cut pine branches on top of the mulch to hold it down and provide shelter to the young trees. Each tree also got a plastic mesh tree tube.
we get 25 inches of precip, which is adequate for dryland forest like out Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) and Oregon white oak (Quercus garryana) with the occasional hazel, serviceberry, oceanspray, scouler willow, black cottonwood, and choke cherry.
As far as the water table, This past spring I tried to propagate Scouler's willow (Salix scoulariana, aka upland willow) and poplar (Populus trichocarpa) from livestake cuttings along the downhill side of the same 1,100 ft contour swale mentioned above. Willows and Poplars were taken from very local trees (within 2 miles) that are growing in the surrounding forests (not in creeks and ravines, but in the upland forest). So they have some genetic capacity to survive in these conditions.
4 foot long live stakes driven 3 ft into the ground. 3 ft spacing across the length of the swale. All of the willow and poplars stakes grew well for 3-4 months, but have now lost all there leaves and are dead at least to the ground.
This leads me to believe the water table is lower than three feet at the height of summer.
What did the 490 trees die of?
Pretty sure the drying soil outpaced their root growth. no sign of any browsing, are leaf fungi
. I suppose a disease or fungi could have gotten the roots, but it is hard to tell.
planting is clumps
- Since I am working on contour to establish a pattern of contour alleycrop/hedgerows for pasture, I cannot go with a clump pattern..
Imagine plantingg 20 but actually working on helping those 20 survive...less work overall but more focused.
All our water surplus water going to a 10 year old food forest that is about 1 acre. these trees are getting something like 20 gallons a week each on a buried drip line, there is about 50 trees/shrubs in the system. even the supposedly hardy pioneers in this system die without irrigation. We have goumi, goji, seabuckthorn, black locust, honey locust, mongollian bush cherry which many people say will grow without irrigation, but those we left to fend for themselves have all died.
It is important to note that we have made many thousands of feet of massive contour hugelkultur
beds (4 foot deep trenches, 2-4 ft tall above ground) in this system, and the trees still need water. After 10 years the trees are still small and stunted. The soils is really good, and relatively deep (4-6 inches of good top soil) I do not believe it is a lack of fertility, my sense is that there is too much sun and too deep a water table for easy establishment. we have planted trees in recent years specifically for shade (thornless honey locust) which are still young (4-6 ft tall) and not providing much shade at this point.
So we are also trying what you are suggesting, which is working (the plants are not dead) but is using up all the surplus irrigation water we can produce from our well.
hoping that all this detail can maybe provide more fodder for what could be done differently