Notes from Windward: #70


Transplanting Fruit Trees


February 16, 2010

Sarah digging a hole to receive a transplant

     A friend of ours that has been living down along the Klickitat for the past 55 years says that every year, about February 15th, there always seems to be a few days of warm sunny weather that makes everyone want to get out and start their garden. And sure enough, these last few days have been unseasonably warm, but so have these past few weeks. Up here on the plateau we certainly are taking advantage of the warmer temperatures and soft soil that combine for enjoyable and easy digging.

Andrew, Molly and Matthew lift a tree for transplant

     This early window of soft soil is particularly useful for transplanting trees, as the trees are still dormant and are not as stressed by movement. So we have transplanted a few quince and plum trees into the courtyard. Over the years, we have learned that the trees survive best when planted in a depression, or at the lowest point in the immediate vicinity, to encourage either natural runoff or irrigation water to seep down to its roots. Amending the soil with good bit of compost and animal fertilizer also improves the water retention and nutrient content of the clay soil.

a prepared hole ready for its new tree

     In the spring we have an abundance of puffball mushrooms, an edible small white mushroom that looks a little like a smooth golf ball growing out of the ground. Puffballs also form mutual associations with trees and increase the tree roots' ability to gather nutrients. So, rather than gathering many of the puffballs to be cooked up for lunch in the spring, I left them to mature and develop spores.

an emerging puffball

     Then in mid summer, when the mushrooms had turned brown, I gathered several and stored them away for tree planting season. So, as we transplanted each tree into its new home, we inoculated the new growing space with puffball spores simply by opening the mushroom and allowing all the spores to settle in the soil surrounding the tree roots. I have never tried this before, so I am curious to see what happens.

puffballs ready for incorporating into the soil

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 70