As we continue with another drought-ridden Spring, the desire to plant is tempered against the need to water what we have planted. But there are always commitments that we make in advance and that is what I did back in mid-March when I decided to buy Christmas tree seedlings from Musser Forests and start my own little farm. I had done this a few years ago with disastrous results as I bought fir trees that were beautiful in theory and delicious (to deer) in practice. This year I hope I have smartened up a bit by purchasing slightly larger Norway and Siberian spruce trees that the deer will turn a blind eye to and be less appetizing.
Over the past decade we have harvested three trees that planted themselves in different parts of our property. They were far from nursery perfect but they were grown on our back forty with little care or maintenance. In that sense they were special and when Juana decorated them they created a special feeling within the house. I am hoping to repeat those unintended successes in about 3-5 years with the eight or so trees I have planted. I imagine Juana and I going out on a cold December day to pick the tree to cut down and to topple our Taunembaum together. Some Decembers may be a little different as she might decide to direct me via our kitchen window which tree to dispatch. Cold often trumps nostalgia.
Before those dreams can be realized I needed to pick a spot to plant the trees. After over 20 years of gardening, our property has become a bit plant-dense and every new addition has an increasingly difficult placement. Ironically, these trees were easy to spot as we set them up configured as an L-shaped wind screen near our graveled parking area. They will never get large enough to break the wind from the house but will act as a nice visual barrier and a place for birds to wait their turns at our feeders.
In digging the holes for the trees, I was reminded of the density and weight of our clay-ridden soil. A thin layer of top soil is all that covers rocks and clay on much of our property. To give the trees a fighting chance I amend the soil with manure and compost. But as there are lots of 75-foot-plus conifers just across the street, I’m sure that they will do just fine as long as I water them.
The roots of these trees are nearly as long as the tree is tall, which sets my mind thinking about the depth and breath of the roots of its neighbors. Hurricane Sandy gave us some insights last fall as trees toppled as their root mass pulled up big balls of soil. I don’t think that these will ever get as large. If they do it will be a chore to get them up the stairs.