Much of the news in 2012 revolved around the weather. The 2011-2012 winter was so mild that I worried that my seed would not experience enough cold to prepare it to sprout in the spring. At Mid-Am Horticultural Show I spoke with a fellow tree grower from Possibility Place, a nursery similar to mine but much larger and older. He said that trees had been around for a long time and he was confident that they would find a way to grow in spite of the warm weather.
The first week in March I brought seed trays planted with sprouted White Oak acorns into the greenhouse which I started heaingt. I was glad to see that my experiment planting them in the fall in the pots that I usually used in the spring seemed to be working. Next I brought out the seed trays from the cold room and my hole in the ground where they had spent the winter cold but not freezing. I waited for the seeds to sprout. Largely because of the warm winter the White Oak acorns that I put in seed trays and the Bur Oaks had already begun to sprout in their winter locations.
This year I also purchased seed for three oak varieties from a seed vendor and tried to follow their protocol using a small refrigerator and periodically soaking the seed in water. I planted 72 each of Swamp White Oak, Pin Oak, and Chinkapin Oak. The results were disappointing, 1 Chinkapin Oak, 7 Pin Oaks, and 16 Swamp White Oaks.
Spring weather was no more normal that winter had been. In the middle of March we had temperatures that were normal for May or June for two solid weeks. Some trees and flowers started their spring growth only to be confronted with a return to a series of frosts more normal for the time of year. Finally just before temperatures got above freezing and stayed there we had one last hard freeze. We lost almost all of our fruit all overMichiganand some of the trees in the nursery lost part of their new growth and had to start over again. The new trees were in the greenhouse protected from the weather. We had a bumper crop of Bur Oaks, White Oaks and Black Walnuts along with smaller quantities of other nut trees .
In mid March a tornado hit Dexter destroying several houses and damaging a couple hundred. It missed us by about a mile and hit a 35 year old subdivision near us destroying hundreds of trees. As a result I was able to sell several of the White Pines and White Spruce trees. About the same time a company that moves trees with a tree spade mounted on a truck approached me and we worked out a favorable rate to transplant the trees based on significant quantities and the short distance from us to the customers. Through this experience I have acquired a new set of tree moving skills. I have since worked with two other similar companies and added substantially to the services that I offer.
Last year Albert and I planted an acre of corn so that I would not have to buy expensive corn to burn in our corn stove. This year we planted again and Albert added about 15 acres of rented land. We traded in the Ford 9n tractor for a John Deere 1020. The new tractor seemed fine until we worked it hard then it became obvious that something was wrong with the engine. After shopping for someone who could rebuild the engine at a price I could afford we got the engine rebuilt and now have a nice small tractor for Albert’s corn operation and my tree farm.
The next weather event was drought through the summer. We had no rain for about 2 months and while we have had some rain this fall things are still very dry. Through the end of October we have been irrigating the trees planted in the last three years with water from a pond. During this period the pond level decreased substantially but never ran all the way out. Now it is starting to slowly return to its normal depth.
Fall planting got started late because we could not work the ground until we had at least some rain. We used the new and rebuilt tractor to disk and cultivate and disk again the ground. Then I hired a local farmer with the necessary equipment to drill 225 holes in the ground for Rootmaker bags. Next I installed the bags and filled them with the field soil that came from the holes. Finally after letting them settle for a while I planted 225 trees in 14” Rootmaker bags.
Now I am in the process of transplanting the remaining 220 trees from one gallon pots into five gallon pots that we will surround with wood chips.