This year we got a late start following a winter of extreme cold and deep snow that didn’t melt until the third week in March. As a consequence of this we started warming up our acorns and other seeds two weeks later than we did last year. We had an exceptional variety of seed gathered last fall which included 8 of the 10 varieties of Oak native to Michigan plus American chestnut and Redbud.
In the past we have had a problem keeping our small seedlings away from small animals that want to eat the acorns that are sprouting. I had fashioned hardware cloth covers for them which helped but did not entirely solve the problem. I was discussing this at a party and learned that mice can crawl through the ½ inch hardware cloth that I was using. I refitted my covers with ¼ inch hardware cloth and the problem has almost entirely gone away.
When it finally did warm up the weather was exceptionally good for growing trees. Every time I was about to water trees we had another moderate rain storm and the temperature stayed warm but not too hot. The result of this was that I had a bumper crop of seedlings with excellent growth rates. This year the White Oaks were the star achievers. We ended up with 50 in Rootmaker bags and 100 in Grounder pots.
When Stan the Department of Agriculture tree inspector came by he found the upper branches of our White Pines curling which is a symptom of White Pine Bud Weevil. After he left I looked at the trees once more and almost every tree had the symptoms, If he was right I had a real disaster on my hands but on closer inspection this didn’t look quite like Bud Weevil. I cut a couple of branches off a tree and sent then to the Extension Service lab. The result that came back was that the curling was a result if rapid growth! Over the next few weeks the branches straightened out and I heaved a big sigh of relief.
Three years ago I had what seemed like a limitless supply of White Spruce and White Pine. Since then we have repopulated a nearby subdivision that was hit by a tornado, done a brisk business through this website, and sold a few Christmas trees. We have enough White Pines to still have a good selection but our Spruce selection is limited to trees that are quite large. This year and last year we have started planting White Spruce and a few White Pines and we plan to keep planting them every year or two in order to have a continuous supply in a variety of sizes. This year we experimented with planting 40 evergreens in Grounder pots to grow them for 3 years and sell them for $35. We sold seven of them before we even had them planted in their final pots and ten more during the first year. Next year we plan to substantially increase the quantity of this popular product.
One of my friends in the Michigan Walnut Council asked if he could buy a large quantity of Swamp White Oak seedlings. He wanted 200 but I only had 50 to spare. The favorable weather meant that the first year seedlings were of good size and our customer is well satisfied.
This year five of us decided to take the trip of a lifetime, five weeks of Europe on the Queen Mary2 time in England, Switzerland, and Italy, then home again on the Regal Princess. We left at the end of September so the fall activities were somewhat shortened. We still got over 400 trees into Rootmaker bags and Grounder pots.
Acorn gathering was more difficult this year. Many trees seemed exhausted after the bumper crop produced last year. I had less time to search for the trees that did have acorns. For some reason the White oaks were the exception with several trees producing nuts for the first time in many years. We also found enough Red Oak acorns and some Black oak and some Chestnuts. It looks like 2015 may have a reasonable quantity of trees but less variety than 2014.
We decided to extend our greenhouse this year and started building the addition in the summer but for several reasons the project was partly finished and unusable when we left for Europe. I was worried that we wouldn’t be able to continue with the project until spring and therefor get a late start planting. Fortunately, the warm weather in November and early December enabled us to finish the structure. Now we need to get the wood stoves in place and chimneys installed and complete the wiring. This should be possible now that we have the shelter of the enclosed structure.