My Choke Cherries- looks like jam this fall!
The first year I planted 3300 trees with the part-time help of a couple of friends. I love trees! I heard that the local PFRA had a planter and a mulching machine. I wasn’t sure how they worked but I estimated the width of the row that I was supposed to make the fall before their arrival, found a small cultivator in a neighbors back forty, hooked it up, marked the rows and went for it.
Making a straight row was a challenge. I almost got myself in trouble trying to keep uniform distances when I came to corners. I ordered enough ‘mulch’ to cover the footage, wondering if they were really going to send enough for several miles. Nobody called to ask me if I was crazy. They didn’t want to know for sure. I didn’t even know what this mulch was. It was nothing like I had dreamed. Simply put, it was just big rolls of medium thick black plastic. It wasn’t hard to poked a hole in it.
The first year of two the plants cost me nothing, but after that a 4-H looked after them and wanted about a dollar per bundle of about 50. Otherwise there was no shipping costs either! You have to be ready to plant when they arrive in May, because they break their dormancy when they leave the cold warehouse. All they are is 4-6″ stalks with barely anything else on them. They looked quite dead. It’s hard to plant things, especially 3300 of them, thinking they are dead. Hubby helped me hook up the mulch machine to the tractor and put on the rolls of plastic when I ran out. It was an amazing apparatus. With its little discs it would throw just enough soil over the edges to hold the plastic down as you pulled out the roll.
I was supposed to use the planter but I couldn’t imagine how I could keep track of the spacing since I wanted to vary the type of tree I was planting – mixing them up as I went. That was the most complicated part. I made it look good on paper, but didn’t mention the harebrained scheme I had to mix them all up. I found a chain for a measure, tying something to it at each foot, and did it by hand. We poked a hole through the plastic, inserted the plant, and tamped it down with a foot.
They needed watered too. We got a big plastic cistern tank before hand, and attached fittings and a hose with a tap on the end to it. This we strapped to a pallet that would fit on the tractor’s pallet fork. Water was pumped from the dugout with a sump pump. Hubby would drive until I was ‘walked out’ and the we would switch. Each plant got so many seconds. The guy in the tractor counted them too, so that the tractor could keep an even pace. It was gruelling, hot and muddy work. Every week it would have to be done again. If it rained, it didn’t help much since the mulch didn’t allow any in unless it wicked under when the surrounding area got wet. New plants require a lot of water in the beginning. Much to my surprise they budded out and most of them lived.
Weeding was an ugly chore. I did it while I was watering a plant. One or two big old dandelions could suck up all the water if they were left to compete with the tiny twig of a tree I’d planted. There were always some taking advantage of the heat from the black plastic and the abundant water. All this meant a lot of bending and kneeling – in other words exercise.
The next 4 years I spent filling in 1580 holes in the rows where some died. The moose mowed off a batch one year, and another year a lot of the spruce winter killed. It has gone better lately, except that we had a monsoon last year followed by really dry weather. Every Caragana – all 1200 – of them died by this spring. I have to admit that I am sick, sick, sick of planting trees!
- Caragana Hedge
My number for the PFRA in Saskatchewan if 306-695-2284, otherwise check the Federal Government’s listing in the phone directory.