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Garth Brown |

"Planting trees is such a hopeful act." Normandy said this to me right after we finished putting an oak, a ginko, a red bud, and a hazelnut into the ground. The other day we went to a nearby nursery to pick some hazelnuts from mature shrubs the owner planted 20 years ago. He obviously loves growing all kinds of woody plants, and when met with fellow enthusiasts for all things arboreal he unloaded a pile of excess inventory on us for free.

When we first bought our farm I planted a bunch of small oak seedlings. There are relatively few oak trees in Otsego county, and I like them, so I planted some. I like 'white' oaks (a large subgroup of oak) in general and White oaks (Quercus alba) in particular because something about their fractal form is particularly aesthetically pleasing. The 'white oak' group includes Burr oak, Swamp White oak, English oak, and the curiously named Chestnut oak, as well as many other species. Their acorns are superior to 'red' oaks because they have less tannin and therefore are much more palatable if the intent is to eat acorn meal. Their lumber is generally more rot resistant than the red oaks too.

As much as I like White oaks proper, I don't think I planted any. I went with Burr and Burr x English crosses as well as a few Swamp White in the mix. After five years they've now mostly emerged from their tubex protectors. I think the tubex are great for stopping deer and rabbits, but not so great for frost. The tubes act as miniature greenhouses and prompt the trees to leaf out too early. Central New York is prone to late spring frost and three of the last five springs have resulted in frosted leaves on the baby trees. It never killed them, but it does slow their rate of growth.

Now the question is - where to put all these trees the nice nurseryman gave me? I have plenty of land, but siting fences, gates, buildings, and trees is important. It's best to get them where they ought to be on the first try... I hope I get it right.


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