The Oak Tree Preserve April 21, 2014
I have always loved growing oak trees. I remember running around the farm when I was 10 or so years old planting oak trees. Some of them were planted into buckets in the shade house then transplanted into key locations; others were planted right into the desired locations. Of the 50 or so locations I filled as a kid, there are about three trees living left, but they are over 12 feet tall now.
When we purchased the neighbor’s place a number of years ago, it came with a two-acre piece of ground that had been turned into an oak tree preserve. The issue was that the two acres did not have any oak trees. The previous owner tried to grow them. They planted acorns in the fall (good). The acorn germinated in the spring (good). In the summer, the ground dried up (normal), and the person who planted the acorns did not install an irrigation system (bad) and by the middle of June, all of the little oak trees were dried little sticks (to be expected).
Now, it was my turn to try to get this oak grove up and running. We first pounded six-foot stakes into each tree location so that we could find them in the weeds. We ran black drip hose to each location, which was a fun process. In normal farming, we plant trees on grids, making it very easy to run a straight line of drip hose to get to each tree. In the application, the trees were “randomly” positioned, which required the drip hose to snake back and forth through the two acres. A small pump was placed in the creek to supply the hose and a drip emitter was punched into the hose at each tree location.
We selected acorns from trees on the farm, each hole received three acorns and the drip system was fired up, everything was wet going into the fall. I took an hour to walk around the grove. I was pleased to see that most of the locations had at least one little oak tree and many had three. The crews spent the afternoon pulling a weed-free zone around each tree location.
The real challenge lies in the coming months – if we let the ground dry up, the trees will die. We will be running the irrigation system three times a week, giving those little trees every ounce of moisture they will need to send their tap roots deep enough into the ground to find the aquifer – giving them an unlimited amount of water through the summer without human-assisted irrigation.
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