Saturday, February 11, 2012

Planting our hopes for the future.

Planting Fruitful Abundance
The best answer to all our concerns for the world of tomorrow
Enriching our lives and the planet with every day that they grow

Now is the time of year (in the northern hemisphere) when trees are at their most dormant and it is the best time for them lay down their roots.
In the last days we have started to plant our first 21 fruit trees on these long abandoned lands which are now in our care. We now have plums, pears, cherries, figs, persimmons (the hard, non squishy type), apricots, lemons, hazel nuts and we planted out the cuttings for a golden willow dome with our son and the rest of his friends in the kids' club.
We have been lucky enough to find a local nursery that sells bare rooted trees which, for all except the lemons, is often a better way to go as the trees are forced to quickly adjust to their new soil conditions rather then getting stuck in their potted (and often over fed) nursery soil. It is also usually cheaper to buy them this way.
The most important thing with this method is that you get them in the ground as quick as possible and in the mean time you keep the roots moist (but not drowned), covered and out of the frost, we covered them with regularly dampened cloth and lent them up a slope.
Another great thing to do with bare rooted trees is if you have any mushrooms near by making a mycelium broth and dipping the trees in this just before planting. To make mycelium broth carefully pick mushrooms from the local area, not pulling them out of the ground but cutting them off at ground level - this is important as will leave that variety of mushroom to continue growing and doing its valuable work in that space. It doesn't matter which type of mushrooms you add but just be sure to wash your hands well afterwards if you are unsure about which mushrooms are edible. Place the mushrooms in half a bucket of water with some sugar and leave for a day, stirring occasionally. Top up this bucket of water when you are ready to plant and dip each trees bare roots into the mixture immediately before planting. Fungi are hugely important to the health of the soil. They act like the immune system in our bodies, building resistance. They are also crucial in the decomposition of dead material into nutritionally rich plant foods which become readily available and turn back into living matter. Some fungi even envelope the roots of the plant creating strong symbiotic relationships. These are called mycorrhizal fungi and act as the "legs and teeth" of the tree, going great distances to seek out the specifically needed nutrients then secreting acidic compounds breaking down even rock minerals and using the mycelial network to bring nutrients back to feed the tree.

As for soil amendments and fertilizers, over the years we have tried many different organic strategies but, unless the soil is particularly poor, we have learned that minimal intervention is best, not putting anything under the soil near the tree but rather observing nature and the way she builds soil from the top down. We have given each tree a variety of feeding, moisture retaining, sheltering & weed excluding materials on top of the soil depending on the needs of the tree in their specific siting. It sounds more complicated than it actually is, I'll talk you through some of the materials and their functions and you'll start to understand:
Worm castings contain all the ingredients of beneficial life in the soil as well as worm eggs... these are the workers that are going to take all the good stuff down to the roots.
Cardboard (ideally mycelium broth dipped) is a great way to repress invasive competing weeds (eg grass, bramble), it retains some moisture and also acts as a carbon source that goes well with some manure on top.
Manure (we use horse) is high in nitrogen and other important minerals (ensure however that the animals haven't recently been treated for worms)
Rotting wood, acts as a water reservoir, is a good slow releasing carbon, is a source of mycelial life and creates habitat for insects and reptiles.
Mulch, this can be any nearby, ideally non spiky, plant (we used broom as we have a lot) this goes around, but not up to, the base of the tree and shades the soil, keeping in moisture and warmth, creating an ideal environment for decomposition and growth of soil life.

Stones are microclimate moderators, they keep a cool damp spot that harbours soil life underneath in times of sweltering heat and act as a sponge for the suns heat when frosty weather comes. In this way they are also great habitat for all sorts of insects, lizards and snakes.
Few actions that we can take will last beyond our lifetimes,
Fewer still can make as positive an impact as to plant a tree.
This simple act, that in this time,
Feels like the best thing we could do.
If we all were to plant one tree for every year of our lives
Imagine the forests there would be 100 years from now.

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