Standing Tall ( Slowly)

I know this is the age of instant gratification, but – this being the season – let’s hear it for planting young trees. The rewards ( I speak from experience) are huge: a personal forest – or great big hedge, or both – isn’t simply a visual treat and haven for Our Friends The Birds, it’s also shelter from road noise, wind, and whatever lies next door. And as long as you don’t go overboard, trees are a terrific investment. Deposit a 4 to 6 footer now, enjoy a major increase in property value when it hits the 14 foot mark – or, of course, soars beyond.

Our hemlock hedge, for instance, is about a hundred trees long, so it had to start out as young ‘uns. We paid 5 or 10 bucks apiece – this being 12 years ago, more or less – for an assortment of rather spindly 4 to 5 footers. Two years later, when the tallest had barely hit 6 feet and were still more promise than performance I got antsy. Bought a bunch of 10 footers, at about 40 bucks a pop, to plant in front of the most grievous eyesore.

Sure enough it DID make an immediate difference, but the little guys only took 2 or 3 more years to catch up, and once they did that was it for the benefit – annual pruning evened it all out. Now that every tree in the hedge is 14 to 16 or more feet tall, you can’t tell which is which.

tall hemlock hedge

That’s Bill with the electric pruner, on a 12 foot ladder.


Other benefits of starting small:

* small trees suffer less damage when taken from the field, so they recover more quickly when planted ( big trees usually stay the same height for at least a couple of years ; they’re too busy repairing their roots to do much of anything else.).

* small trees are DIY, which matters huge when you’re talking about a lot of them. You can pick up a 4 footer without serious consequences for your back. You can dig a hole for it without taking all day, and you can keep it watered … even a skinny 8 foot tree needs about 20 gallons of water each week – more if the weather is hot and windy.

The alternative, if you’re planning to stay put for a long while or have truly extensive tree needs, is a whole bunch of the tiny trees sold super-cheaply by many soil and water conservation districts and slightly less cheaply but still bargainish by mail order tree-nurseries. These’re little sticks, about 18 inches tall… it’s gonna be a long time to glory; and you do have to spray ’em against deer for at least the first couple of years. But they’re certainly easy; one stroke of the shovel is all it takes. And the price is right: here in Dutchess County, NY, it’s $16.50 for a bundle of 10 Norway spruce, each of which will ( or more properly, can) grow 50 or more feet tall.

The pre-order period is over so there are no guarantees, but leftover bundles are usually available at the yearly plant sale at the Farm and Home center on Rte. 44 in Pleasant Valley. It’s April 21 and 22 ; be there early or be disappointed. For further details call 845 677 8011, extension 3, or see the website.

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