Yesterday ended with a neighbor stopping by and offering me a few trees for the meadow. He has steadily been reforesting some of his farmland over the years and plants several hundred seedlings each spring, and this year he felt he had too many pines and red oaks in the mixture. Figuring “a few” would be 5 or 10, I told him I could take some of the oaks off his hands. A little later, he arrived with a bundle of somewhere between 50 to 70 1-2 foot seedlings labeled “trees for tomorrow.”
Red oaks are native to my area and the largest tree currently in the meadow is a fully mature red oak, so it is not out of place to have red oaks there. Suprisingly despite a plethora of acorns every year, the meadow has yet to have a self-seeded red oak. I like oaks in many ways; they are good solid trees, yield lumber that is strong, durable, and enjoyable to work with (although mainly considered a furniture wood now, the floor joists in my house are red oak), and, should a better use not be available, yields an excellent wood for grilling and firewood. That said, my planting thoughts for non-fruit trees leaned mainly toward sugar maple as I like maple more than oak for most purposes and have a couple elsewhere on the property which I have been planning on eventually tapping them for syrup.
Although my approach to the meadow has basically been to leave it alone and reforest itself, I had never ruled out planting in it and have fully intended to cut out “excessive” self-seeded trees should it become overcrowded. I have a wood burning stove which I occasionally use, and I have also thought about coppicing for firewood. All that to say that when presented with a bundle of red oak seedlings, I had no issues at all with grabbing a spade and planting them.
When I plant in the orchyard, I typically align them with other plants, dig a large hole (as soon as I order it in the case of mail-order stock), mix in some compost or other organic matter, and spend several minutes setting the plant. In the case of a large number of oak seedlings to be planted in advance of an oncoming frontal system, however, I opted for the more expedient approach of more or less randomly shoving my spade in the meadow, creating a slit long enough to accept the lateral root, shoving the tree into it, and stomping it closed. Not all of the trees ended up perfectly vertical and some of them were not at their optimum depth, but all of them made it into the ground before the rain came in. I am not expecting 100% success, but it will be interesting to see how things look in a couple of years when those that survive are tall enough to get an impression of the eventual composition of planted oaks and self-seeded other trees.
After a dinner of sausages grilled over apple, cherry, and grape prunings with some windfall maple and pine cones, I wrapped the day up by returning the favor of gifting plants by lifting some of the wild blackberry canes for a friend, which I wrapped in the sphagnum moss and plastic lined paper left over from the oaks.