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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


I. Ten or twelve years ago, I bought a pound o
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


* * * * *

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.