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About Tree-planting








I have had so little experience in Tree-Planting that I should have
preferred to say no more about it; but letters that have reached me
imply that the ignorance of others is even denser than mine. For the
sake of those only who are conscious that they know nothing, yet are not
unwilling to learn, I venture a few timid suggestions with regard to
Tree-Planting.

I. Ten or twelve years ago, I bought a pound or more of Locust seed
rather late in the Spring, scalded it by plunging for a moment the
little cotton bag which held it into a pot of boiling water, and letting
the seed steep and steam in the bag till next morning, when the seed was
planted in rows in a newly broken bit of poor old pasture-land. This was
a mistake; I should have given that seed the richest available spot in
my garden, to say nothing of planting it as early as April 20th. My
locusts came up slowly and grew feebly that year, not to speak of the
many seeds that did not sprout at all. Still many came up and survived,
and my place is this day the richer for them. It might have been still
richer had I seasonably known more.

II. What I would now advise as to Locust and most other trees is that
the best seed be procured in the Fall, or so soon as it drops from the
trees; that part of it be sown in drills, two feet apart, with two
inches between seeds in the drills, and that the richest of dry, warm
garden-soil be devoted to this purpose. Fill a large box with rich loam,
stir four ounces of seed into this, and set the box in a cool cellar
where frost does not enter, and here let it remain till April; then take
out the seed and earth together, and sow in drills as above. If some one
who cuts Locust during the Winter or Spring will allow you to trace the
smaller surface-roots from the new-made stumps and cut or dig them up,
cut fifty or a hundred pieces of root the size of your finger each two
feet long, and plant these, about May 1, in the places where you want
Locusts to come forward most rapidly. Some of them may not grow, but I
think many will; and, from all these sources, I judge that you will
obtain a good supply of young trees. Let those you start from the seed
get two years' growth before you take them up and set them where you
want trees, whether in your present woods, in rugged, rocky pastures, on
the sides of steep ravines, or around your buildings. You cannot fail to
obtain some trees if you follow these directions.

III. Begin early this Fall to gather Chestnuts, Hickory Nuts, Walnuts,
White Oak, Acorns, etc., to plant. Select the largest and finest nuts,

giving the preference to those which ripen and fall earliest. Keep them
in cool, damp earth in some barn or cellar where rats and mice cannot
reach them, and persist in collecting till December. Then plant a part
in your garden or in any rich ground where they are not likely to be
disturbed; letting the residue remain in the boxes of moist earth where
you first placed them till early Spring; then plant these, like the
former, in rows two feet apart, with six inches between seed and seed in
each row, and give the rows careful culture for two years; after which,
set them where you wish them to grow.

I venture to suggest that he who has a ragged, stony hill or other lot
which he wishes to surrender to forest should plow it, if it can be
plowed, next September or October; if too rocky to be even imperfectly
plowed, dig up the earth with pick and spade, and sow it thickly with
hickory nuts, walnuts, chestnuts, locust and other tree-seeds, expecting
that some will be dug up and carried off by squirrels, etc., and that
others will fail to germinate. Go over it with hoes the ensuing June or
July, killing all weeds and other infestations; and, nearly a year
later, repeat the operation, taking up young trees from your garden or
nursery, and filling them in wherever there is room. Plant thickly in
order to force an upward rather than a scraggy growth; and so that you
may begin to cut out the superfluous saplings for bean-poles,
hoop-poles, etc., three or four years thereafter. Cut late in Winter or
early in Spring, so that the stumps will each throw up two or more
shoots or sprouts, which usually grow much faster than the original tree
did. And the process of thinning may thus be continued indefinitely,
while the choicer trees are allowed to attain their stateliest
proportions. And thus a rocky, sterile hill-side or knoll may be made to
yield a crop annually after the first two or three years from planting,
while growing trees of decided value. I judge that almost any land
within fifty miles of a great city and not more than two miles from a
railroad depot or from navigable water may thus be made to earn a good
interest on $100 per acre, after meeting all the cost of breaking up and
planting. I confidently assert that many thousands of sterile, rocky
acres, which now yield less than $5 per acre annually in pasturage,
would net at least double that sum to the owner if wisely devoted to
forest-trees.

* * * * *

I have a hearty love of forests. They proffer gentle companionship to
the thoughtful and rest to the overworked, fevered brain. Our streams
will be fuller and less capricious, our gales less destructive, our
climate more equable, when we shall have reclothed our rugged slopes and
rocky crests with trees. Timber grows yearly scarcer and dearer, when it
ought to be becoming more plentiful and accessible, and would be if we
devoted to trees all the land which we cultivate at a loss or fail to
cultivate at all. Let our boys be incited to gather seeds and plant
nurseries; let young trees be bought by the thousand where they now are
by the dozen, and let us all cooperate in covering our unsightly rocks
and making glad our waste places by a superabundance of choice, thrifty,
healthy trees.

Many of our young men have a taste for adventure and excitement which
leads them to the ocean, the mines, to Australia or some other far-off
land recently and scantily peopled by civilized beings. I will not
quarrel with their taste; but I judge that there are openings for their
enterprise and daring within the area of our own country. Let one
thousand of them resolve to devote the next five years to planting
forests on the treeless plains and virtual deserts of the Great Basin
and on either side of it; let them select locations where some acres may
cheaply and surely be irrigated, and, having carefully provided
themselves with an abundance of the best seeds, let them start patches
of woodland at points the most remote from present timber, until a
thousand different forests--one to each of the associates--shall have
been started and guarded till their roots have taken firm hold of the
earth. I presume Congress would grant them preemptions to each section
on which they thus planted at least forty acres of forest, and that most
of these preemption rights could, within ten years, be sold to settlers
for many times their original cost.





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