NO-IRRIGATE/NO-WEED/NO-TILL CHRISTMAS TREE FARMING
28 April 1998
This 15′ X 300′ (4.5m X 96m) bed was originally constructed in 1995 on our farm in NE Oklahoma. It was planted with 300 cantaloupes in 1995 and 1996, and with 300 cucumbers in 1997. Deer were a persistent problem as the cantaloupes ripened, and in 1997 a herd of whitetail deer ate all 300 cucumber plants in a single night.
The completed Virginia pine bed two weeks after transplanting. (Note: The red-flowered trees are redbud (Cercis canadensis) and the white-flowered trees are American plum (Prunus americana), both natives of this area.)
We purchased the 150 Virginia pine (Pinus virginiana) from the Oklahoma Forestry Nursery, and transplanted them on 24 and 25 March 1998. We burned the holes through the Sunbelt with an 8″ long metal pipe 1 and 1/2″ in diameter, hooked to a hand-held propane torch (BernzOmatic Trigger Start 2000) with Vise-Grip pliers. (NOTE : A long metal pipe heated in a campfire would work just as well if no propane torch is available.) When the pipe was heated sufficiently hot to cauterize the fabric, I simply walked down the length of the Sunbelt burning the uniformly-shaped planting holes. The field is basically a gravel bar with some soil mixed throughout it. For this reason, I took a heavy metal crowbar and used it to ram 8″ deep holes into the ground for the actual planting.
Virginia pine seedling the next day after planting. Note smoothness of cauterized hole in the Sunbelt.
We transplanted by holding each seedling at the proper planting level, and ramming wetted germination mix (ordinary soil would have worked just as well) to fill the hole around the root system. The middle row of seedlings was planted off-center, which will give all the trees more growing room as they mature.
By controlling evaporation and eliminating weed competition, we expect the Virginia pine trees to mature at least one year early. Feeding will be done by spreading a water-soluble fertilizer over the Sunbelt and letting the next rain wash it down through the fabric into the ground. We will still have to monitor for pine tipmoth beetles and trim the trees periodically to the conical shape expected for Christmas trees. A one-meter section will be kept mowed around the edges of the Sunbelt, primarily for aesthetic purposes. We do not expect deer to graze on these pines, but might have occasional damage by rutting deer rubbing their new horns on the trees as they mature.
Due to the fact that we used the tiny Booth Planting Tubes during the 1995, 1996 and 1997 cucurbit plantings, fabric damage to the Sunbelt has been held to a minimum. I might do some minor patching by spreading clear silicone caulk over the small holes where grass appears to be a persistent problem. Currently the 3-year old bed has 300 tiny holes (l.5cm. in diameter) in the fabric, some minor damage from hammering pins into the rocky ground, plus a single 8 cm. diameter hole in the fabric probably torn by an armadillo or skunk searching for an insect.
This basic technique appears applicable to a wide variety of small berries and fruit trees, in addition to Christmas trees. It is basically a “NO-IRRIGATE/NO-WEED/NO-TILL” method of raising seedlings.
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Copyright 1998 by Daniel J. Wofford, Jr, and Dale Greenwood.