Excerpt: To plant a tree is a special moment in time with this unique lifeform taking root in your landscape and making a lasting and transformational impression. As the dimensions of time and space intertwine, the tree eventually reaches some level of maturity and ones intention for planting comes into fruition. Seasons come and go, leaves drop, fruits form, flowers are pollinated, and kids climb them thus delighting all who encounter them. To look back in time as the tree grows and think about that year, that season when you planted it, well its like a bookmark in a chapter. It’s a reference to time and as we watch season after season its rhythms, its thickening trunk and its elongation of its branching pattern, we begin to connect further with our sites and hard work. Trees give so much so during its inception into our sites we should give our full presence to a pattern of planting. I don’t claim that this is the only way, or the absolutely correct way to plant a tree. Rather I simply offer a guide to the process that gets the tree ready for its next step in life.
In this guide I am writing more about fruit and nut trees that form an important part of our edible landscapes rather than simple ornamentals or a row of pines in zone 4. This is more the guide of what we would do for zones 1-2 and maybe 3 depending on your site and context. Variations of this guide are endless and are presented in ideal conditions so extremes and climate and context dependent factors are bound to alter it. And remember Like Mr. Phiri said “plant the water, before you plant the trees”, so working with your water resources is important. In the old adage of water, access, and structures, the tree is the structure so make sure you design with the other two in mind way before you ever plant.
Trees can be raised in your own nursery yet most often purchases occur from local retail nurseries. It is always nice to try to find organic nurseries but they are few and far between. You can also try to source plants from friends or other local producers through the overall growers network. This helps with the local economy as nurseries often rely on a bigger industrial complex and shift trees around at great length. Trees are either sold bare root in the dormant season or in pots in any season. Pots afford more roots and a bigger window of time for planting. As a note, never be afraid to return a potted plant to a nursery if it is extremely root bound just as if shoes were not fitting right you would do the same. Furthermore, bare root trees benefits are a lower cost of shipping and allow one to move plants around a site more easily. However timing and management is crucial as the exposed roots are a weak point. They must never dry out and the new root shoots are very fragile if the tree wakes up and begins its growth. Thus preparation must occur before the trees ever arrive to ensure success. Selection of species and cultivars depends on climate and context dependent factors that are not so present in this article (see food forest article for more on that)
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