The fastest, most efficient and cheapest way of
planting great numbers of trees is to encourage natural regeneraton.
leave home be prepared for some desertification out there. We
had great difficulty collecting seed at the location below, which is
the culmination of 100 years of bad land management, in particular
letting stock graze the protective seaward side of the bush.
The wind gets in and with stock treading on the delicate forest roots,
the most lush bush in the world turns to desert in just a few
People think the
exposed NZ coastline must be inhospitable to plants, but it isn't at
all. Its just that the plants need shelter from the wind,
just like on any island. If you allow the natural shelter to
grow undisturbed, then complex forest can get established
Stay at home and
garden !! You will get results.
The plants in
Tims' garden above are Chatham Island nikaus that are only about about
5 years old from seed and are indeed two metres tall, producing three
leaves a year. They are able to grow fast in the sheltered
Once these same
covered the land in the photo below, till the stock came in (Main
Any spade will do, but
you should make sure you use a spade, a short handled strong thing with
a sharp strong small blade, rather than a shovel, a long handled tool
with a wide mouth for moving piles of loose material.
Recently we have shifted
to using smaller spades because we are planting smaller trees. However the standard
garden spade design (with footrests) is still a good standard item. Properly used and
sharpened, it can skim weeds, dig holes and trim roots.
Wooden handles are hard
to beat for a springy soft feel but the strongest hickory is no match
for the strength of a fit tree planter, spades are all steel in our
world, a rubberised plastic handle is all you get for suspension but
they are an amazingly good powerful tool, serious tree planters like us
have a large collection of 20 or more of all sizes to suit each
particular tree size and soil encountered
Using a coarse mill
bastard file, carefully sharpen your spade by holding it in a vice and
stroking the file away from you. Lift the file for each return stroke. Sharpen one side of the
blade only the front side, the side away from you, a spade is like a
wood chisel, the soil peels away from the spade, this why you sharpen
the front. The
crucial thing is the angle. A
very shallow angle is the best for a razor sharp spade.
In order to achieve this, you will usually
create a feather, which is a very thin overhang of steel on the
underside of the side you are sharpening.
Once you have finished creating a nice flat
shiny angle, turn the spade over and give the back side a couple of
licks with the file so as to just remove that feather.
Now the spade will be so sharp as to cut your
toes off, so it’s a good idea to wear some kind of strong footwear,
especially if you are a novice.
rocky ground, where you will dull the blade quickly, it is best to have
one spade for skimming and cutting the turf, and another for the actual
digging and levering. If
this is not possible then sharpen the spade without too sharp an angle,
so it doesn’t get dented into bluntness too quickly.
In any case it pays to
use the spade for as long as possible screefing weeds while its sharp
and while you have still got clean hands that grip the spade well.
A sharp spade saves a
huge amount of energy, licking up at breaks eases the work wonderfully
Before removing the
plastic container in which we have provided your tree, water the plant
soak the trees in a fish-bin or bucket full of water
before planting, so that they are saturated.
Soak until all bubbles have stopped rising. This can take 1 – 20 mins
for a dry plant. Don’t
leave soaking over night, as this will drown roots that need air too.
If you have sprayed, this
step will not be necessary and may even be counter-productive, as weed
seed will germinate in the cultivated soil following the disturbance.
If you have not sprayed,
it may be desirable to skim off a circle of weeds, a turf, up to about
a metre around.
With a very sharp spade,
aim at the base of the largest weed (assuming you understand what is a
weed) close to where it feels right to have a tree taking every thing
into account, aim with a slicing motion to sever the plant at ground
level there is an exact spot where one slice will chop right thru if to
high the soft top will yield and you will bounce off too low and your
spade will blunted quickly and you will waste lots of energy moving
soil. Skim a circle
of weeds with out digging up any topsoil. How big depends on
experience, the situation, the weed species and seed in the soil.
Here is where the sharp spade will prove it’s
the middle of the skimmed circle, dig square holes, a bit
deeper than the root mass of the plant being planted. The reason for
digging square hole is to encourage the trees roots to find the corners
and head off on their own into the native soil. Circular holes such as
the ones produced by posthole borers are inclined to train the roots
around the hole and back into the root ball. There have been many ways
devised to speed the hard-yakka job of hole digging like special
augers, with side loosening scrapers which (in theory) remove the
glazed walls of the hole, special penetrating digger heads and also
dynamite has been used by our friend with a stutter to plant in
hard-arse country, his first experiments involved charges way too
strong causing the area to be filled with craters with no back fill to
be seen, once the correct charge has been set the ground receives a
fracturing shock in all directions and a blast of nitrogen which may
make the job much easier and speed plant growth. In describing his
method in full once the fuse is lit you rrrrr run lll like fff fucken
In general the holes
should be wider than they are deep. Do not bury the stems or trunks of
plants any higher or lower than to the level of the potting mix used by
It is not necessary to
add compost or fertiliser to the base of the holes you have dug. Although it can be
beneficial in certain circumstances.
What is more important is to start producing
the compost on site, which is one of the best reasons for planting
trees. This will be
discussed in more depth later in the book, but suffice to say for the
moment is not necessary to add anything to the soil and this often
makes it harder for the tree, by causing it to sit in a pool of water
all winter, amendments should be added to the surface of the soil as in
nature and not dug into the soil below the tree
Of course you should have tailored your
initial tree species to the site conditions rather than trying to suit
the site to the tree.
Planting trees on the
surface by importing humus works but is energy intensive and
impractical, growing what will grow and forming mulch right on the site
is correct action thus paving the way for other more fussy species.
Inspect the tree roots.
Certain plants such as
monocots (plants like grasses and palms) do not need to have much
attention paid to the roots, for they can grow new ones from the base
of the plants. Giant
timber trees need better attention, for if their roots are spiraling or
compressed into a blob in the bottom of the hole, they will stay like
that and the tree will never be as good.
It might survive perfectly well as new roots
develop but more likely it will languish, or it might thrive initially
and then blow over in a storm, or develop a constriction on one side of
the tree that restricts all sap up that side of the tree, causing leaf
fall and death of that side of the tree.
One just doesn’t know what might happen; hence
one must try to get it right, putting in an appropriate amount of
energy for the species involved.
roots are balanced and pointing in the right direction, which is away
from the tree, in all directions, rotate the tree so the largest best
looking live roots are facing in the direction of the prevailing wind
flow. Study the roots of a big tree in nature when the opportunity
arises, toppled mature trees are common giving us major insights to
root structures, road cuttings and erosion slopes show root structures
clearly. Usually most roots grow sideways, out into the active layer of
topsoil or leaf litter, where nutrients are most available this is
called the root plate, most trees form sinker roots from this plate
sometimes called tap roots but it is the root plate that is the most
important thing that anchors the tree in the wind.
Consequently we should make sure that the
roots are initially led in this direction, not just pointed straight. Roots need to go in all
reason we suggest digging a square hole is to avoid the roots spiraling
around and around within the hole.
Roots will always grow away from the tree, out
to the corners of the hole, and then out into the surrounding ground. Frequently the subsoil is
too hard and bony for roots to be bothered with.
They are looking for moist compost, for food.
Prune the roots using a
sharp tool, the best being anvil type secateurs. Cut any roots that do
not point in the right direction or go around and around.
People are often
concerned cutting into roots or tops of trees claiming it is unnatural. It is worth remembering
that the process of cultivating a tree is unnatural to begin with. The tree that has been in
a cultivated state in the nursery is in need of a sensible steering
back toward the natural form. The
answer is to plant trees when they are small.
Not only does this reduce the amount of work
in planting, but it also reduces the amount of pruning
necessary. If trees are too big to stand up by themselves, do
not stake them....cut them back to half height.
the root ball of the tree on a small mound of loose soil in the base of
the hole. Some roots should be going down, but most should be placed so
they are growing outwards from the tree, with a few going horizontally
near the surface.
fine soil loosely in around the roots whilst holding them
in position. Fill
the hole with soil so that the soil level is brought back to a level
slightly higher than the surrounds.
The backfilled soil will at this stage be very
Whilst holding the tree
upright, gently firm the soil down.
Ensure that all roots are covered with soil. Do not pack soil hard, as
this removes the air necessary for roots to grow, as well as making it
difficult for water to penetrate. Firming is an important step to get
right. It’s sometimes possible to see by the growth of a row of trees
who planted each one by the growth.
A certain degree of sensitivity is required to
understand just exactly how well to firm. It is normal in a windy
climate for trees to develop a ‘socket’ around the stem especially if
the tree is too large for the conditions, young trees may spend much of
their time flat to the ground in every direction, it is temping to try
to force them to stay upright with further and heavier firming, this
can cause what roots that may have become established to be broken,
what is better is pouring dry sand down the socket. Staking is only an
option that should be considered with valuable plants otherwise
unobtainable. Cut back plants or smaller tree stocks will overtake big
floppers in no time. Stakes can help but more usually hinder a trees
successful establishment, the method needs to be elaborate and costly
to be effective and must be loosened and attended with care, trees most
often snap of at the place they were secured.
In a very dry climate one
may plant into a slight depression.
In a very wet climate, one may plant into
slightly raised mounds. In
general it is best to plant so that the final soil ends up at its
natural level. This
will usually mean you have to leave behind a slight mound of loose
soil, which will settle slightly over time.
Tree prone to root
disease may need especially careful attention to the height of the
‘crown’ of the tree i.e. slightly raised
Water thoroughly. In particular do not allow
the plant to dry out at any time.
The post plant watering is extremely
beneficial, and seldom does the rainfall intensity make up for an
actual watering. Not
much water needs to be applied, enough to fill the plant pot if the
plant pot was empty – that’s a general guide.
In a commercial
situation, watering may be ignored, because all the other factors are
right, such as correct soil moisture, plants going into the ground
moist at a cold time of year prior to lots of heavy rains for the next
few months. In
practice this is difficult to achieve.
We say that watering in is best, but that is
the prescription for best growth.
If one is now in so much of a hurry, watering
in can be skipped.
We have found that the
timely addition of a very small amount of water can double growth
response in the first year. This
water should ideally be applied within minutes of planting. That would be the ideal,
so as not to slow the growth of the tree one bit.
Drying out after transplanting is the biggest
single factor that slows down the subsequent growth response. The
difference is whether or not you keep the plant powering, so that it
doesn’t even get a check when it hits the ground, but experiences a
dramatic improvement in conditions which it responds to be growing away
furiously…or you can have a plant that merely survives all the shock
and mistreatment of being in a nursery and being planted by a ruffian
then drying out. From
our experience these plants survive too, but they are slower to recover
and get away. We
often still plant trees without watering them, because it is too
difficult to get the water on. However
I accept the compromise of trees that are slower growing initially, and
that more will be lost.