Dave Jacke and his team will be teaching a Forest Garden Design Intensive
at Heartwood Institute
on June 24-July 3, 2016.
Heartwood is offering a discount to those who refer 'PERMIES' in their application. We still have slots open, and scholarships available but time is running out to sign up!
Tree Planting Basics by Dave Jacke
Basic Steps in Tree Planting: I planted some persimmons at my place the other day and thought I'd share some photos of the process.
First step: decompact before planting! My soils were/are very compacted down at least 6 inches. A Meadow Creature broadfork is one of my favorite tools for dealing with this!
Second step: I added soil amendments to the decompacted soil surface and watered it in. The soils here are very sandy and poor in organic matter! I will effectively add to the topsoil by topping off the decompacted zone with several inches of compost. Mineral fertilizers should go in the mineral soil layers, and organic fertilizers in the organic soil horizons. Hence, on my soils, I usually only put mineral powders at this stage because I want to add other stuff into the compost layer.
Meanwhile the tree has had some time to soak in a bucket of water with seaweed emulsion added. Seaweed has lots of trace minerals and growth hormones that help this bare rot tree overcome transplant shock and grow healthy roots. I want to charge the root structure with these minerals and hormones by letting the tree soak for a few hours. Do NOT use seaweed with fish emulsion! Fish has too much nitrogen, which will stimulate shoot growth. I want to stimulate root growth!
When I am ready to plant the tree, I inspect the root system (for bare root plants). In this case, one root had a major U-bend that would, as the root grew in diameter, eventually constrict itself and cause that branch of the root to become ineffective or leave an entry point for disease organisms. I pruned that off. Also look for broken roots (leave a clean cut that is easier for the plant to grow over), crossing roots that you cannot realign while planting, and circling roots that will girdle the shoot or another root as everything grows in diameter. But don't take too much or cut too much! I try to be conservative with this. Also, note the place on the stem where the bark changes color: this is the root collar, the place where root wood and bark meet stem wood and bark. When planting is finished, this line should be lying at the top of the final mulch layer or just a tad below the top of the mulch. Noting the distance from that line to the bottom of the root system tells you how deep to dig your planting hole.
With the compost on top of the decompacted zone, I place the plant in the orientation I want to plant it in--in this case, because the tree is grafted, I want to align the surface of the graft away form the sun so it doesn't cook in the summer. Then I sketch out the shape of the root system on top of the compost so I know what shape hole to dig to fit the root system of the particular plant I am planting. Knowing the depth of the hole I need from the previous step and the shape of the hole, then I can dig!
Dig the hole, forming a mound for the base of the plant to rest upon. Add mineral fertilizers in the mineral horizons if need be, and mix or water them in. Array the roots, especially the lower tier, horizontally in space so as to maximize the soil area the roots explore. This step can save the plant much time and energy in arranging its roots itself, and will maximize the tree's chances of surviving drought and gaining the nutrition it needs. I usually backfill in "lifts" or layers, arranging one layer of roots, holding them in place with small amounts of soil, covering the whole layer with soil, adding some amendments (mineral or organic as appropriate to the soil going in the hole at that point--soil should go into the hole in the opposite order it came out, maintaining the original profile) and watering all that in to both remove air pockets from around the roots and to mix in the amendments.
Leave the soil surface in the form of a dish so you can water the *root system* easily. Shape the dish so that its outer rim is outside the edge of the area the roots now lie in. I water a lot while I am planting in an attempt to charge the soil in and around the planting hole with water. Storing up aqueous capital in this way helps make up for forgetting or being too busy to water in the days ahead.
I usually do not mulch right away if I can hold off. After watering the planting hole several times, one needs to check to make sure the root collar is not either exposed or too deep, either of which can kill the plant. In this case, settling did occur and I needed to add more material to get the root collar covered. Luckily, I planned to put cardboard and wood chips which would do that job nicely, and I did so a couple days after planting.