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The Saratoga Tree NurseryI spent the weekend planting 150 baby trees on our property.

The trees of Westchester and Fairfield County suffered mightily during the spring storms, and many of our wealthy neighbors purchased large shrubs and full-grown trees to mitigate the aesthetic damage. One neighbor's estate now looks like a Christmas Tree farm.

In contrast, I planted dozens of random six-to-nine inch tall native species seedlings — and for the price of two Home Depot shrubs, I left a bequest to future generations. Even if there is only a 10% survival rate, it will provide an awesome return-on-investment.

The NY State Department of Environmental Conservation runs the Saratoga Tree Nursery, and since 1902 has produced and sold more than 1.6 billion seedlings at a low purchase price.

Surprisingly, NY State says that the major cause of seedling mortality isn't wildlife or competing plant species. It's lawn mowers.

For more information about this excellent resource, go here.

Other states probably have similar programs.

Scott Brooks comments:

 Although I'm not expert, here are a few tips from a guy who's planted more than a few trees in my day.

I don't know what it's called, but it looks like an inverted cereal bowl that you put over your tree and slide it to the ground (bowl side down). This keeps sunlight from hitting the ground under the "bowl" and thus keeps weeds and grass from growing right around the base of the tree and competing with the tree for water, nutrients and sunlight.

Use a "tree tube" (that's what I call the) and put them around the tree to protect them from wildlife eating them. It also makes it easy for the person on the lawnmower to see them. It also doesn't hurt to tie a piece of surveyors tape to the top of the tree to make them easier to see.

Fertilize the hole you are going to put the tree in, then fertilize around the drip line, but don't over fertilize (NB: small seedlings won't have a "drip line" yet, but when they do, fertilize around the drip once or twice a year). Then dump a bucket of water on it. If it's been particularly dry, feel free to water the seedlings.

Don't be shy about weed whacking around them to knock down any weeds or grass.

Rocky Humbert adds:

If you have a bad back, they sell a device that allows arborists and forest rangers to plant seedlings while fully erect. And if you are planting thousands, you can rent a mechanical planter.

Nigel Davies comments:

Yuk. 450 minutes on one's knees is precisely 30 minutes worse than being a pawn down for seven hours…

Russ Sears writes:

Indiana has a similar program. When each daughter was young I planted several hundred trees– 700 trees in all on our 2 acres. Walnut and oak mostly. Pine trees were planted between rows of hardwood to make them grow. By the time we sold the house the hardwoods were just beginning to over take the smaller pines. The kids loved marking time by the size of the trees as both the trees and they grew the 12 years we lived there. It also turned out to be profitable as the buyer said they wanted the house for the trees. Plus, on visiting an old neighbor, each neighbor bought several large trees from them. A super Walmart moved behind them bringing with it multiple fast food joints, etc. This ruined the lovely view, rustic trails and the low traffic runners love, which were the things that made me buy the place to begin with. It left an island of nature that hides the modern development. 


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