Tree planting has been a major focus for us since taking on the former berry farm where we now live. It’s funny, as our land has no shortage of trees, but there is nothing very remarkable about most of them.
True, we are very fortunate to have an old apple orchard which we trying our darnedest to recover, and there are additional eating and crab apple trees on other parts of our land, including right behind our house. We have a well established wood at the southern end of our pond, and some very mature elms, including one that we felled last summer with the help of friends, and are now gradually cutting into logs for burning. We also have the traditional highway ‘decoration’ of poplar trees, and a couple of patches of populars mixed with fir trees on other parts of our property.
Sadly, we also have a superabundance of what I think is called Buckthorn, an invasive European shrub/tree of no value whatsoever. It’s thorny and nasty, and its berries are inedible. What’s not to hate?
That’s one sadly neglected apple tree in the middle of one of the pasture field opposite our house, and the foreground is filled with opportunistic buckthorn. The bane of our current existence as it has grown under and around so many of the good trees worth rescuing, and has also colonized whole fields and hillsides. We have many cuts and scrapes to show for the battle we’ve done against this weed, but we’re gaining.
Last spring, our first since moving into our house the previous winter, we got serious about getting started on introducing trees of value to our land. We were able to purchase five mature trees (about seven feet in height) from our local council, including two golden weeping willows, two Empire apple trees (yes, really, more apple trees!), and one Silver Queen sugar maple. One of the willows was planted next to our pond (what self-respecting pond has no willow on its banks?), and the other on a hill by a stream that is opposite the back of our house. The two apple trees were placed on the hill directly at the back of our house (which we want to gradually build up into a second orchard), and the maple tree was planted in front of the house, outside the boys’ bedrooms.
We were also able to purchase 30 baby fir trees for just one dollar each, and placed these at intervals around the front and side of our house. The front of the house is currently quite open to the highway, apart from the typical line of poplars (which provide zero cover in the winter months!), and we like the idea of a small fir forest out front (the northern facing part of the property). It’s a long term plan, but so far so good, as those little trees did very well over the winter. We lost two or three, but the rest appear to be thriving, and there has been noticeable growth. This specimen got particularly tall over the winter, while many others filled out nicely and gained in height.
This year we’re at it again, with the focus being on trees that produce food. I mean, I love a beautiful tree as much as the next person, but not to plant fruit and nut trees here seems crazy. So this year is almost exclusively about those kinds of additions. After some careful searching we found a wonderful nursery that will send us young fruit and nut trees that do well in our part of (eastern) Ontario by mail order. We sent in our order about a week ago for:
- 3 shellbark hickory nut trees
- 3 buart nut trees (a butternut cross that sounds very hardy and fast growing)
- 3 manchu cherry trees
- 1 black walnut tree (this latter was partly a gift to future generations, as the wood of these trees is tremendous and valuable, but we’ll have to be careful about where we situate it as the sap from these trees is a bit of a pain and the shells to the nuts stain something awful, as we know from having one of these trees at our old house in the city)
I’m very excited about these little trees and can’t wait to get them in the ground when they come. We have more buckthorn-battle to do before their arrival, however, so don’t think it’s all just a jolly holiday around here.
The only mature tree that we’re able to shell out for this year is a downy serviceberry, whose berries can be made into jams/jellies, pies, etc. Still thinking about where to place that one, but I think it will probably join the new orchard at the back of the house.
The monetary investment in these trees is very, very little – it’s really the time to find them, plant them and look after them as they mature. There is something so neat about investing in a tree; it’s kind of like the investment made in a child (granted, somewhat easier, as they don’t talk back!).