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Bare Root Tree Planting Strategy?  RSS feed

 
                        
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Hello from Northeast Indiana. I am planning to plant somewhere between 100-300 bare root trees this spring. My various orders total almost 300 trees but I don't need nearly that many. The pricing just worked out much better to order them this way from my state nursery. I'm a fan of Mark Shepard's S.T.U.N. method, but I also want to give the seedlings the best chance of survival I can.

I intend to plant on a keyline contour as these will eventually be alleys for grazing. The planting bar or "dibble" seems like the most expedient method for planting (second only to a 3 point hitch mounted planter). I'd like to hear if anyone has had success with this method and any suggestions you might have. I'm also trying to decide if and how to stake the trees. They will be small so some sort of staking seems appropriate to keep "lawnmower blight" at bay. My soil is very heavy clay in zone 5B. We get plenty of rain here in the spring, but I'll likely water this summer when things dry out. I can reach all planted areas with a garden hose or tractor mounted watering crate.

Here's my tentative plan, looking for advice from some experienced permies:
* Soak bare root seedlings in water for 6-8 hours before planting
* Dip in mycorrhizal treatment
* Plant with dibble
* Water in
* "Mulch" with a piece of old carpet turned upside down for weed control
* Stake for visibility, not for physical stability

Thanks in advance!
 
gardener
Posts: 2153
Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
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I've found that a dibble (or in my case a digging bar) works great for pine and spruce seedlings.  When I've done hardwood shrubs I need a shovel.  I've done high bush cranberries, plum, hazelnut and a few other bare root seedlings and their roots are often stiff, splayed out and cover the volume of a basketball.  Conifers on the other hand seemed to have tidy, cylindrical soft roots that easily fit into a paper towel tube sized hole.

I'm not sure how folks plant large numbers of hardwood shrubs/trees but I suspect a tractor is involved.

Stakes would only be needed for visibility as you mentioned.

I'm not sure how long to soak them.  Mine arrived in damp straw and I just planted them right out. 

Good luck and hopefully others chime in as well
 
pollinator
Posts: 484
Location: Virginia USDA 7a/b
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George,

I have very heavy depleted clay soil, and have planted about that many trees in the last year. Some of my advice will be dependent on your terrain for sure.

I have a couple areas that I am doing things pretty differently. One is more planned as a cool-season forage silvopasture spacing, which here is about 40' or less between rows. I suspect you would benefit from larger spacing, you can find information from your extension agency. The other area was more haphazard. It sucks. I strongly recommend the planned, painful approach. It cost me about a week of labor, but the results are staggering.

First I laid out contour, then shifted slightly to about a 1% grade. I laid out as much mulch as I had (which at the time was pitiful) and scored the uphill side slightly to make a poor man's keyline. Then I planted each tree individually with a shovel. As Mike mentioned they tend to have more branching root structures. It took several days in the early spring, and I had two wheelbarrows lugged around, one with mulch and the other with compost. The roots (as in Mike's experience) were moist and I didn't soak them. I dipped them in a powdered mycorrhyzal preparation and set them in, being pretty aggressive about tamping out the air pockets. Then they got a compost top dressing and wood chips. I did use tree tubes, which serve several purposes- they mark the trees and keep the wood chips from being up against the trunks, keep the deer off them while tender, and dramatically increased growth rates. I am planning on a pictoral with/without the tubes for different species but it is just a bunch of sticks right now!

Then after a couple hours of planting I watered them thoroughly and never did anything the rest of the summer. Survival rate was about 70%, and some of that was because the stock was crappy.

I will try to get some pictures of the process, they were on my old phone which died, but I am doing more areas this spring, starting with the mulch for 6-8 months ahead of time, then planting in it ruth stout style. Will definitely be using the tree tubes, the whips almost all grew out of the 60" tubes in one season. I am taking off the tubes and reusing them as the trees emerge from the tops. I just pull the tube up, which keeps the chips (at this point it is a nice fungal mass) from contacting the trunks. 
 
                        
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Thanks for the thoughts and experiences. I'm on the fence between tree tubes for protection or just stakes for visibility. I may take a hybrid approach to protect some of the more expensive trees. I do have a small subsoiler for my tractor and my county extension has a rental program for a planter so I may do some more research on that. If I'm planting them on a keyline, the tractor may save a lot of hassle, especially if the roots won't fit in a hole that a dibble can create. I'll post back with the list I've ordering soon.
 
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Small trees do not compete well with grass.  Keep all vegetation 2-3 feet away from the tree until it's 6-10 feet tall. 

Dibbles work for plug trees.  I have not found that the work well for bare root trees.

My preferred tool is a trenching space -- about 14" long by 5 inches wide. 

Push in, straight up and down.
Push forward
Remove from ground.
Put tree in hole, with root collar about 1 finger width below the top of the opening.  Make sure roots aren't "J-hooked"  A trimmed root is better than a tangled root.

Put shovel in 3-4" YOUR side of the hole. 
Pull back hard.  This closes the bottom of the hole.
Push forward hard.  This closes the top of the hole.
Use your heel to collapse the hole on your side.


Bare root trees dry out *really* fast.  On a warm breezy day, roots will start dying in 30 seconds. 

When they arrive:  Pack them into damp peat moss or dirt and store in a cool place.

When you take them into the field, work with only half an hour or hours worth at a time.

Take a bucket and make a slurry of peat moss/perlite and water.  You want  stiff enough that the trees will stand up, but wet enough that when you pull a tree out, the hole closes right away.

If your soil is dry, water them immediately.  A gallon will do.


Stakes.   Survey stakes are fine for this.  Orient them so the flat side faces the mower path -- easier to see.   Merit in bright orange paint.

You may want to mark them with what it is you are about to kill.  It's easy to ID the survivors.  Harder a year from now to tell.  Artline paint pens outlast felt marker by about 5 years.

***

One way to give them a 1 year weedfree head start is to use a single share plough, and turn one row of sod.  Plant in the bottom of the trench.  This is fast, easy, and non-fattening.

 
Posts: 669
Location: Porter, Indiana
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Hello from Northwest Indiana!

I've only ever gotten pawpaws, persimmons, and plums from our state nursery, but they all had pretty decent root systems for 35 cent trees. I usually plant the trees in a hole made by a post hole digger, and it has worked out fairly well. The bundles from the state nursery come tightly packed in moist peat moss, but I tend to sprtiz some extra water on them since they have been in cold storage for a while and have lost some of their moisture. If you're picking up your order at Jasper-Pulaski, and having trouble finding a weekday to drive down, you can ask the nursery folks to set out your trees on Friday evening so you can pick them up on Saturday.

I wouldn't both with stakes as the root systems tend to be pretty good. If you are worried about hitting the trees with your mower, you can easily flag the trees with a roll of red marking tape (or two).
 
gardener
Posts: 4890
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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If you don't have a tractor with the correct tree planting pull behind, your best bet is a "sharpshooter" shovel to plant bare root trees with.
This type of shovel will make the hole quickly (push down into soil, pull back on handle, plant tree in opening and push back soil.

If you are wanting to do like Mark, you will be planting 10 trees in a 4 foot square of land. This is how the STUN system is supposed to work, survival of the fittest.

Dibbles are not for tree planting, they are for bulbs and seeds. Right tool for the job thing there.
A dibble large enough to use for tree planting will compact the soil around it as it goes in to make the hole, result is dead or dying tree within a month.

The tractor tree planter slices open the soil then packs that soil back around the roots as you move forward, this leaves no compaction that would prevent root development.

Redhawk
 
                        
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Thanks Bryant. I had my terminology mixed up. I purchased a planting bar to plant the trees. I'm definitely not using true STUN, more like Diet STUN due to the cost of seedlings. In most places I've doubled or tripled the desired future density. I'm hopeful that enough will survive that I can use their seed to fill in the spaces that die out. So far I've planted 190 trees with another 150 or so to go.

I opted not to use any type of tree tubes due to cost. I did mark each tree with a 4 foot bamboo stake to keep from mowing them over (aka "Lawnmower blight") when I mow between the rows once or twice a year. Mark Shepard maintained his this way not fussing about the grass within the row, and just making sure to keep the space between rows mowed periodically. I've also tagged each bamboo stake with an aluminum tag that has the species, nursery, and year on it so I can keep track of how they all perform.

I had great luck planning where the trees should go with Google Earth. I was able to get contour data on my property from another Permie on the forums. Then using standard Google Earth tools I was able to plan my primary overstory and subsequent "backup" trees. Of course, the map is not the territory and I had to make a few changes when I actually began staking, but for the most part things were fairly accurate.

I'll update this thread periodically with how things are working out. Thanks for the advice!


Screen-Shot-2018-04-01-at-11.58.33-AM.png
[Thumbnail for Screen-Shot-2018-04-01-at-11.58.33-AM.png]
Screenshot of Google Earth Tree Plan
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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That's a good design George, good work.
 
Posts: 231
Location: Dawson Creek, BC, Canada
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Greetings.  I'm in my second year of multiple bare root plantings.  I have 24 bare root trees this year to plant.  They came packed in damp sand with some peat moss, in a polyethylene foam wrapping.  As happened last year, I had no holes ready for trees, I did have some locations ready.

Most of my planting takes place into old fescue sod, some takes place in old fescue sod that aspens have grown into.  I take off 4+ square feet of sod.

In the winter, I learned of the pick/mattock, and bought one.  Last year I dug holes by de-soding with a flat shovel (and nearly broke it) and then the holes with a garden fork.  This year I used the mattock to de-sod the ground, and that works much better.  I soaked the trees in water (with a rag on top) overnight.  I take the tree out to be planted (coolish day), and look at the seedling.  On some, it is hard to figure out where ground level should be.  But in any event I make a hole about the size dictated by the seedling.  I scoop out as much dirt with my hands as I can, leaving the rough walled "hole" empty.  Last year, most of these holes were in dry soil (heavy clay), so I would take the fork and drive some holes down into the bottom.  This year I am earlier, and only did that with dry sites.  I dusted the root with a mycorrhizea product, held the seedling in its natural position in the hole, and filled in the soil that had come out of the hole.    When finishing, I am packing slightly, and pressing a little to plumb if I am out much.  Try to water soon afterwards.  In one location, I had various kinds of tree roots I didn't want to cut (mattock and loppers are good for tree roots) to plant two black currants, so I planted the tree into a mound of soil sitting on top of a very shallow hole.  I covered the finished mound with about 3 inches of wood chips, and plan to add more wood chips.

For most of last years and this years locations, I have gone along (yesterday) broadcasting tillage radish seeds above and to the side of plants on a slope, and all 4 sides if no slope.  Most work I've seen about tillage radish, talks about trying to get the radish to start growing in the mid-summer, so that fall frosts kill the plant and no seed /flowering happens.  Here, we have drought every August and nothing germinates, hence doing it now.  But the radish will die in the winter, and next spring the radish will rot, leaving nutrients and a hole.  Hopefully rain and runoff will find it easier to percolate into the ground via these radish holes.

I had 2 Bur oak not wake this spring (I think one was dead when I planted it, took too long), 1 black walnut and 1 butternut not wake up either.  My thinking is that I will give them another little while to come to life, and if not I will remove them.

After planting, I come along and lay two 6 foot long pieces of 3 foot wide rectangular mesh screen on the ground, and staple it to the ground (18 inch length of high tension fencing wire folded in half), with the tree in the centre.  I cut some of the wires and fold some sections out of the way to give room to the seedling in the middle.  Then I use tie straps to attach a 2 foot by 2 foot vertical cage that is 3 foot tall around the seedling, that has chicken wire on the outside of the mesh at the bottom.  I pound 1x2 stakes into the corners, and use tie straps to hold things.  I put some old grass/hay on the inside as "mulch".  A piece of chicken wire on top completes it.  Protection from deer/moose.  The ground mesh supposedly makes animals wonder what they are walking on.  I had one seedling that was 3 foot tall, so it got another vertical cage that was about 3feet on a side and 4 foot tall as well.  Just as winter hit, I piled wood chips around all the 2x2 vertical cages, trying for 6 inch deep at the cage and decaying to zero about 4 feet out.

So, by recovering the dead tree sites, I will save myself making two more of these protection things.  I will plant these sites to tillage radish and maybe crimson clover (an annual clover).  And try to get new trees for those sites next year.

The tall cage, needs to be extended already.  It should be easy to get it up to 7 foot.  At that height, it is almost out of deer browsing, but still probably 3 feet short of getting out of moose browsing.
 
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