The Value of Christmas Trees

"...there is no reason why the joy associated with the Christmas evergreen may not be a means of arousing in the minds of children an appreciation of the beauty and usefulness of trees; and keen appreciation of the beauty and usefulness of trees is a long stop toward the will to plant and care for them (Arthur Sowder, US Forest Service, 1949)."

Friday, May 28, 2010

Update on Organic

On February 1, I gave an update on the organic demonstration in Alleghany County. Since then, I've evaluated tree mortality over the past year. In all, only a handful of trees have died -- the same amount in both the organic and "late organic" sections. (Remember that the "late organic" trees are being grown with conventional use of fertilizers and Roundup, then switching to organic practices in 2011).

The trees are all growing now, and Bryan and I made some additional observations just last week. The following are some of our observations.

This photo was taken last week. Bryan had weed eat (is that a verb?) about half of the organic section. The organic trees vary quite a bit in quality. Some trees look great -- growing just as well as those in the "late organic" which is very encouraging. Others look, well, rather puny. Some of these are clear in this picture. The "late organic" trees are at the bottom of the field (top of the photo) and are much more uniform -- except where the deer got them!

By and large the major ground cover around the organic trees is grass. That's what Bryan is chopping down, and it took him more than 2 hour to finish just 1/4 acre. We figure it will need to be mowed again in mid-summer with a clean-up in the fall. We might also have to come in when problem weeds such as spotted knapweed are flowering to keep them from going to seed. We're also considering going back in and removing the chopped weeds from the ground cloth around each seedlings so it won't decompose and provide a site for weeds to germinate. All in all, an acre of organic trees will end up costing quite a bit in labor for weed control.

The other issue with using a weed eater? Injury. To the right is one of the trees that bit the dust. Bryan is afraid that every time someone does this, as least 1 or 2 trees will be injured. Over the years, that will add up.

In the "late organic" there isn't nearly as much grass. There's lots of clover, and also lots of mustard blooming a bit earlier. However, there are also a lot of thistles which they tried to hit with the Roundup. Both areas still have quite a bit of poison ivy which a problem for me especially! So neither section is perfect when it comes to weed control, but that's farming!

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