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Treenut's Forest Notes for 2017 -- in progress

2017 Farm Notes:

Oak Seedbed
Delaney Baker (2017)

Summary for 2017:

  1. Spring
    • Move remaining remaining White Oak seedlings out of seed bed in Madison and into pots,
    • Move Apple seedlings into pots.
    • Continue release efforts for pine and hardwood transplants from previous years and monitor efforts to keep deer off.
  2. Summer
    • Continue pruning and brushing in wood-lot.
    • Begin release efforts for young hardwood rows planted between the pine rows.
    • Experiment with removing entire pine rows between hardwood rows.
  3. Fall
    • Collect seed and prepare seed beds (in Madison and Centuria).
    • Transfer potted Oak trees to Centuria and begin planting and screening trees in gaps in wood lot.
    • Begin Using GPS (via Google Maps) to document location of work in woodlot.

Transplant second half of Oak seedbed in Madison.

Oak Seedbed
Moving seedlings out of seedbed

Last spring I transplanted half of this seedbed to the farm - over 200 Oak trees. That is about all I can do at a time so I left the remaining seedlings to grow another year (snug in their bed.)

The season was early this spring (2017) so I didn't want to wait for the HS Softball season to get over to transplant these trees to the farm. I also didn't want to leave them where they are for a 3d summer of growth in such a crowded space. I would lose many more trees to competition.

The solution is to move the trees out of the bed into either a pot or a larger spot in the garden.

 

Oaks potted
Oaks moved into Pots

Potting of the Oaks

Moved seedlings to the following three places based on size:

  • Large trees to garden (on 1' spacing) ~25
  • Medium trees to Nursery pots - ~25
  • Small trees to D80 tubes - 225

There is always some damage to the roots with this kind of process so this will give the young trees a chance to re-grow the root system in a gentle, non-competitive environment before they are thrown to the 'wolves' (weeds, deer, mice, grass, etc.) at the farm.

Apple Seedlings

Apple seedlings
Apple seedlings

Apple trees have been part of our family since before I can remember. My parents always had an orchard. Most of my siblings have had orchards both large and small. Most of these trees were of commercial varieties but many were grown from seed. ( As you probably know all popular/commercial varieties are clones of one original tree of that variety. An apple seed does not produce copy of the apple variety it came from.

So why plant apple seeds if all the resulting trees will produce terrible (or at least mediocre) apples? Because it's fun to see what you get. And maybe you will get a new variety that is new and different. The odds are probably about the odds of winning the lottery, but still....

One of the trees my Mother grew turned out to be good enough to patent and it is raised in commercial orchards.

In the process of re-foresting our farm I have grown 1000's of trees from seed; Oak, Walnut, Maple, Ash, Spruce, Pine, Poplar 'sticks', Honey Locust, Hickory, Buckeye, etc. But never an Apple.

Until now.

Apple Seeds Stratified
Apple seeds sprouted
after stratification

 

February 2017 Apple Seedlings from refrigerator

Last fall I collected some seed from some apples we picked at a local orchard. I wrapped them in some damp paper towel and sealed them in a baggies. I put this into our refrigerator and this past week I opened it to check for sprouting.

Nearly all the seeds had sprouted so I carefully detached each one from the towel and put them in a transplant flat. After about a week they are doing nicely and have fully developed seed leaves.

 

 

Apple Seedlings before they died
Apple seedlings (unsuccessful)

These seedlings prospered for a couple weeks and then they all died. I think they damped off. Maybe I didn't clean the pots well enough or sterilize the soil.

Apple Seedlings
Apple seedlings (Naturally stratified)

Naturally Stratified Apple Seedlings

Fortunately, last fall I put another bunch more seeds in a pot and buried it in the compost pile (outside, of course) to stratify these seeds naturally. This spring these seeds sprouted and survived nicely.

Now I am transplanting them out of their original 'group' pot into individual D80 pots. I have nearly 30. I hope these fare better than their indoor counterparts.

 

Fall 2017

Seed Bed ready
Adding new cages at GPS Location shown

Transplanting Apple Seedlings

Fill in gaps in plantation with oak seedlings.

Add stakes and cages.

These transplant Oak trees were dug from my seedbed this past spring, and potted in 8" pots with compost. They were cared for all summer and now they are transplanted.

These trees have three (3) summers' growth from acorn. This is older than I usually move trees. I believe the most traumatic part of waiting this long is the initial dig from the bed (this severs the long tap-root) so I potted them this spring to give them a summer to recover this initial shock before putting them in the wild.

 

August 2017: It's nut picking time again.

Picking Acorns
Picking Acorns on UW Campus

August 21, 2017: UW Campus Burr Oak are in full drop mode. (These trees usually drop nuts about the time students are moving in for the fall semester - which will be next weekend). I collected about 10 pounds from the trees behind Ag Hall (on top of the hill). Burr Oak acorns are quite small so this amounts to a lot of seed - probably all I'll need from the White Oak family this year.

August 25, 2017: It's still a bit early for Red Oak acorns. There are a few green nuts on the ground but the squirrels are rushing the season and they tend to have fumble fingers while foraging in the trees.

Shag-bark Hickory are loaded this year but have only begun to drop. Again the squirrels have taken the lead.

 

One bucket of acorns
New Seed Bed ready for planting

Seed Bed for Acorns

This year I have taken greater care in building my seed bed.

  1. The sides need to be buried at least 4" so the animals cannot (will not ) burrow under.
  2. The bed is filled with compost within 3 inches of the top of the boards (so that the acorns will be close enough to the screen that the secondary leaves form above the screen; yet far enough so the squirrels cannot reach the nuts through the screen.)
  3. Screen is fastened securely; first with staples then with boards.
  4. Support - cross-pieces - within the bed to keep screening from sagging (see #2).

This year I gathered Oak seed from the University of Wisconsin and Warner Park in Madison, Wisconsin.

 

Seed Bed with acorns
Spreading Acorns
Sprouting White Oak acorns
White Oak tap roots forming.

The white oak acorns start growing as soon as they hit the ground. They send out a tap root and care is taken not to break this when collecting the nuts and handling them while placing them in the seedbed.

Seed Bed filled with acorns
Seed bed in Centuria

Centuria

This is the first year for a seed-bed in Centuria.

    Why Centuria, you ask?

  1. I had help this year in collecting nuts so I had more than I could fit into my little garden in Madison.
  2. Why not? It makes perfect sense when you think that Centuria is where these trees are ultimately going to be grown.
  3. It's easier and cheaper to haul up a couple pickle pails of nuts than a couple hundred potted trees he 300 miles from Madison to Centuria.
Seed Bed finished
Bed covered with screen

I expect squirrels and chipmunks and mice to try to get into these beds - both in Madison and in Centuria.

In Centuria I would also guess that some larger animals would also like some nice nuts to eat. These Deer, Turkeys, Bear, etc. could probably easily get through the 1/2" mesh screening I use in Madison. Even if they weren't able to get through, they could do enough damage to open things up for the little guys.

I had some screening made from 1/4" wire with 2"openings stashed away in a shed. This may discourage bigger animals from trying to get the nuts. I hope...

The big screens were longer than the bed frame so they are hanging over on the far end. I hope some big animal doesn't use this a leverage.

 

close up of acorns in bed
closeup of acorns under screens

Here is how the bed looks through these two screens.

Remember: you can click on these pictures to view a larger version.

Transplant Oak seedlings and set up cages.

Seed Bed ready Seed Bed ready
Removing existing cages at GPS Location shown

Moving existing cages

Many of the trees that I have previously caged have grown above deer browse so the screens are no longer necessary.

I am moving these cages, and their posts, to new transplants

This is a convenient time to do some shaping of the newly freed trees.

Keep in mind when pruning lower branches on young hardwood trees that these thin trunks are a perfect size for bucks to use to rub off the fuzz on their new horns. This deer rub will usually break off the young tree or, at least girdle it to a point that it must be lopped off. One thing you can do to discourage this behavior is hang newly cut branches down from upper branches to camouflage the trunk of the tree enough so the bucks will not recognize it for what it is and pass it by.

 

 

Transplant Oak seedlings and set up cages.

Seed Bed ready Seed Bed ready
Adding new cages at GPS Location shown

Fill in gaps in plantation with oak seedlings.

Add stakes and cages.

These transplant Oak trees were dug from my seedbed this past spring, and potted in 8" pots with compost. They were cared for all summer and now they are transplanted.

These trees have three (3) summers' growth from acorn. This is older than I usually move trees. I believe the most traumatic part of waiting this long is the initial dig from the bed (this severs the long tap-root) so I potted them this spring to give them a summer to recover this initial shock before putting them in the wild.