Last April, hundreds of baby trees and shrubs arrived - ordered in the depth of Winter, late January. The shrubs went out into the field in long rows we built with a team of Charlotte’s friends in April. But about 100+ treelings for which we did not have an immediate place went into the tree nursery. I planted them close together in rows protected by hay mulch and we watered them during the dry month of May. Then, we forgot about them. This is what happened...
June and the bike trip happened, the Maine tree fodder seminar happened, chicken disasters happened, Mark’s broke his hip, new sheep arrived - many weeks of just going with what was on a schedule or fires that required immediate attention. Today, I finally felt like I could finally get back to paying some attention the plants. The nursery was on today’s plant list. In the intervening 6 or 7 weeks it had gone from being civilized-looking little straw rows to a raucous meter-high thicket of mugwort, asters, goldenrod, clover, and other wild green things. Rather than pulling out the weeds, disturbing the soil, and removing the organic matter of the roots, I started to bend the plants over and flattening them to the ground (sort of like what the sheep do in the paddock during the day), with the idea of giving my little treelings more sun. I had to look carefully to spot the treelings as they were about half the height of the weeds - but baby trees look different from perennials, so it was fairly simple to distinguish them. Lo and behold! Where one might have expected smothered, sad little things, I found quite a few happy looking little trees - small to be sure, but with nice dark green and healthy looking leaves, and zero disease or pest damage. In fact, they look a lot better than many of the plants that are out in their special rows in the field. That is interesting! But maybe logical too: baby trees spend their early, small life in the understory, perhaps in thickets of fast-growing annual and perennial herbs. It is what they are adapted to. So there you go. Do your baby trees a good turn and let them grow in tall weeds.