Forestry, Silvopasture and Agroforestry

Getting tree planting sites ready for next spring

My oft spoken modified proverb: “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the next best time in 1 year from now”

Laying down a mulch of shredded wood at least a year before planting a woody species will create an ideal soil habitat for the plant whether it be a bramble, shrub or tree. Plants uptake nutrients via a symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi. A layer of woody mulch well before planting facilitates the fungal dominance in which woody species thrive as well as invigorate soils with nourishment from the decaying wood.

Plus some of my trees planned for next year need a sulfur application to acidify the soil lowering it to the ideal pH for that species. Sulfur needs months to be broken down in order to actually have an effect on the soil.

My process was as follows:

Weed wack all plant matter to the ground, rake out the clipped plants if they are significant

Apply the calculated amount of sulfur (tables can be found in this post)

Return any raked clippings (if applicable)

Lay down cardboard or paper to smother the existing turf. This biodegradable barrier will breakdown to humus given time!

Pile on as much mulch as you can spare

Come spring time, your back will appreciate the more workable soil (although I don’t recommend amending the soil or loosening it mechanically by digging an oversized planting hole. See here)

Pictures:

Removing most of the above ground vegetation:

IMG_20150911_174256

The clippings are then raked out, sulfur applied (for the sourwood planting sites), then the clippings are returned.

Cardboard or sturdy paper (paper grocery bags in my case) are laid down to smother the vegetation then mulch is piled on top.

The [almost] finished site looks like this:

IMG_20150922_154122

More info:

More tips to ensure success with trees

Where to find mulch for woody species

Fungal basics of mulching

How to think like a plant to be a successful cultivator

How to think like a plant to be a successful cultivator part 2

Mulch Matters 2: Different Types of Mulches for Different Types of Plants

Compost Matters: Garden Compost vs. Orchard compost

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Garden

I may have unwittingly stumbled upon an incredible soil amendment

While searching for ways to maintain and increase the acidity of my blueberry beds, I stumbled across cottonseed meal. It both adds nitrogen and helps to acidify the soils as it breaks down. Great…Get two birds stoned at once!

My only option to procure cottonseed meal is from the local feed mill right down the road. However as animal feed, not soil amending, is its intended purpose, it comes pelletized. At $13/50 pound sack, I figured I would try it out.

I applied 200 pounds to my 80 square foot blueberry bed and mulched with shredded hardwood. After the first rain was where the magic happened!

The pellets exploded in volume changing from tiny compressed cylinders to small poofs of cotton. As I was preparing to irrigate as the week following the storm had no rain, I pulled back some mulch to check the moisture of the soil. To my surprise, the puffy cotton meal was still significantly moist.

As a result, I am contemplating either mixing cottonseed meal pellets into my mulch, or laying down a thin layer below wherever I mulch. At the very least I may add some around plants in the summer when rain becomes scarcer.

However there is one downside to this story that I will post tomorrow.

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