Monday, May 10, 2010

Tree Planting

I love the pastoral views on PEI, watching tractors go by and cows grazing on a hillside.  The red sand beaches and lighthouses here are amazing to behold.  Despite all this amazing scenery I find myself missing trees.  Oh, there are trees here, but not in the numbers that I'm used to.  Instead of looking out my window and seeing my half dozen birches waving at me I would love to see a forest of them.  Because where there are trees there are also birds and squirrels.  Seasons change and leaves turn colour and fall.  Vistas open up and close again. The view is constantly changing, there is always action and excitement.  Gazing at a hillside of trees I once watched an alder suddenly burst and topple.  Even in death a tree offers so much to see.

Due to my tree love I'm on a mission to change the balance of things on our property to more trees and less lawn.  So early Saturday morning we hooked the trailer up to our truck Betsy Bear and headed out to King's County to buy some trees.  This island is blessed with the presence of MacPhail Woods.  The MacPhail Woods Ecological Forestry Project is an organization funded by the Environmental Coalition of PEI and the Sir Andrew MacPhail Foundation.  They work to promote forest stewardship, watershed protection, provide environmental education and ecological research.  They also run a native plant nursery which sells trees!  Proceeds from the nursery fund many of their educational programs.  One of the amazing side benefits of this great place is that not only can you buy native trees there you can also view mature trees and get a sense of what your purchase will look like in the years to come.  Not sure what to buy?  A visit to their website contains all sorts of information on the various plants, how to plant them, what animals will benefit from them and photos.  From my perspective native trees and plants are ideal as they are suited to the soil and weather conditions so no pampering, or guesswork, is required.  I also know that they will provide shelter and food that local birds and animals will use.  It's a win win situation all around.  

Cedars, Larches and Birches, oh my!
You can see there was lots to choose from at the nursery.  We spent a couple hours picking out trees and shrubs and chatting with staff who helped point out good specimens.  Our plants were then dug out of the ground and wrapped up to take home.  If you're interested in visiting the nursery you can find them in Orwell, PEI. They are open Thursdays through Saturdays from 9am to 5pm through to June 5, 2010.  We choose to buy bareroot plants which are available until May 22, 2010 but potted stock is still available after this date.

Digging out the sod to place this white pine.
Once we got home the race to plant our trees began.  While the nursery did a great job of packing our plants in wet seaweed to keep them moist the roots still need to get into soil as quickly as possible.  I had already started digging some holes which helped but it still took me Saturday evening and all day Sunday to get our new friends into the ground.  As you can see from the photo most of my purchases were quite small.  Buying small trees has both positive and negative attributes.  Unfortunately they take longer to grow to maturity so you have to be very patient and accept that you may never see them in their mature state.  On the plus side a small tree will be easier to handle during transplanting.  It is also less likely to suffer shock as the smaller root structure is easier to dig up and probably won't have as much damage to it.  Small trees also don't require staking.  No fussing with wire and posts or worrying about when is the best time to remove the supports.  A small tree will learn to handle the wind on its own which is a great attribute.  All that blowing in the breeze will thicken it's trunk and force it to grow strong roots.  This is really important to me because here on PEI we have WIND.  All year round it blows and at certain times of year we have the potential for hurricanes.  

This yellow birch will help to screen out the noise and traffic from the road
You might be wondering why it took so long to plant all these little trees.  The truth is - I spent more time wandering around debating on where to place them than anything else.  Three acres is a lot of room and there were more options than you can shake a stick at.  Jody felt they should be placed close to the house so we can see them in all their glory.  Whereas I felt they should be close to the road to provide some screening from the wind, noise and traffic.  In the end a compromise was made.  Approximately half the trees were set out at the perimeter of the property and half came to live up by the house where we can see them regularly.

A tiny white birch will eventually replace the large birch directly behind it.

Even though 15 trees and shrubs were planted by the end of the weekend it feels like we've hardly made a dent. There's still a heck of a lot of lawn out there and tons more room. I'm tempted to run back to the nursery and buy more but alas the money's run out. Until next pay day then.


  1. I didn't know you don't need to stake them when they are little. That's good to know as I tend to buy trees when they are ity bity. I always look longingly at a tree farm that I pass when I'm out on errands. Your post has me twitching to see if they have on site sales.

  2. Hi Laura! From what I've read most people are moving away from staking trees. They can easily become dependent on the stakes for support and become unstable when the stakes are removed. I think if I had a large tree (over 10 feet) in a windy site I would still stake it but anything under that I would rather the tree learned to stand up on its own.

    p.s. MacPhail took 5% off any purchase over $100. I'm sure other nurseries would have similar set ups if you checked.

  3. I think you are very wise. Trees add so much to a property, not to mention the quiet, privacy and sense of enclosure. Enjoy!

  4. Wow, 15 trees and shrubs! How's your back doing? I have to plant four trees this year and I've got the pain meds in readiness;)

    Christine in Alaska

  5. Hey Christine! They were SMALL trees and shrubs. No heavy lifting just lots of digging. And I have a secret weapon - Dr. Ho. You've probably seen the infomercials, don't laugh!, I don't normally go in for infomercials or shopping network but this thing is MAGIC. It's called the Muscle Therapy System, these little pads you stick on your body and they send electrical impulses. Slap it on and then sit on the couch and watch tv or work at the laptop. I sleep like a baby after using it.