For the last month, I have been taking a tree steward class, which was organized by the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Erie County and funded by the Buffalo Green Fund. We are being trained to plant and care for young trees. We can do our volunteer work in Buffalo, as well as organize tree projects in our own communities.
Today was the last class session. We were given some instruction about planting trees and, then, out we went! The class was held at the Parkside Lodge in Delaware Park in Buffalo. We walked through the park and looked at several trees at various ages. After visiting trees, we arrived at a spot where a young oak tree was in the ground, waiting to be planted.
Oak trees are great trees.
They are slow growing trees that reach maturity at anywhere from twenty to fifty years. Once mature, the oak tree flowers. It produces both male and female flowers and is capable of self-pollinating.
A mature oak tree is a tall shade tree that produces great color in the autumn. It is a beautiful thing, where ever it grows. Oak trees live for a long time, past 900 years. The tree’s circumfrence can be up to eight to ten feet. Oak trees grow everywhere in the world, and approximately 300 different species exist.
Years ago, Grand Island was known for its white oak trees. They grew in great abundance. But in the nineteenth century, Grand Island’s white oak trees were cut down, to be turned into mastheads for ships. The trees were processed in a sawmill on the east river called the Whitehaven Settlement, and the logs were floated across the river. More recently, some small efforts have been made to plant white oak trees in Grand Island.
Today’s tree planting was in Delaware Park. It was of a “ball and burlap” tree. The young tree that we were going to plant is six years old. It originally came from Oregon and was then brought to Western New York, where it lived and grew in a tree nursery for several years. It was recently dug up so that it could be transplanted into its forever home in Delaware Park. For the trip, the roots were wrapped in burlap. There is a wire cage to keep the root ball from falling apart before planting time. For the tree planters, the first task was to start digging a hole. We also removed the twine that was around the tree’s branches to keep them from getting damaged when being moved. The bottom part of the wire cage was removed.
The hole was measured a few times before it was determined to be the right height and width for the tree. The tree was placed in its new home and was checked to make sure that was straight. Soil was placed around the root ball, which was still wrapped in burlap and with much of its wire cage still intact. Eventually, the wire cage was removed, as well as the top portion of the burlap. The burlap underneath the root ball was left, as it will degrade within a few years.
After the tree was completely planted, it was staked. Two stakes were used. The stakes give the newly planted tree some stability, especially against wind. After a year, the tree is considered to be established in the soil, and the stakes get removed. Compost was placed around the tree. When it gets warmer, a bag will be placed on the tree. The watering bag gets filled once a week and it drips water for the tree, to keep the tree constantly hydrated. It is not necessary to prune a young tree or to fertilize it. It is also not necessary and is, indeed, a bad idea to surround the tree with a mound of mulch (volcano mulching).
Oh… and my theme… beauty! Delaware Park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in the nineteeth century. It is considered to be the jewel of Buffalo’s system of parks. A newly planted tree in Delaware Park is truly beauty in a very likely place.