Hi all, I’m looking into ways to speed up the planting of indigenous tree seedlings. The soils have a high clay content and the climate is arid regions in Zimbabwe. A minimum soil disturbance method is preferred, instead of digging large holes for each tree seedling. Minimum disturbance is preferred both from a biological perspective, and in terms of time and energy saving. If I were to do a small hole, hardly bigger than the pocket/container the tree seedling is grown, how will this affect my survival rate, are there any studies you know of which have compared these factors? Also, everyone says a square hole is preferable, to prevent root circling. Is this an old wive’s tale, or has anyone actually dug up the roots and compared the growth? I am not having much joy with literature searches. Thoughts?
Agree about min. disturbance - just enough room for the roots. I put more emphasis on: a) addng a bacterial and mycorrhizal inocculant in the pit - for example can soak roots in an inocculant, and/or add a handful of inocculated soil in the pit (e.g. collected from under a parent tree - of the same spp.); b) heavy mulch after planting on the soil around the seedling - with a layer of good compost (again, this can be inocculated) in between the soil surface and the mulch layer. Nature feeds from the top. Think dougnut-shape extending out a good 12-18 inches beyond the stem; c) seedling companion plants (depending whether are any or not) to “nurse” the seedling. In terms of shape of hole, personally I find just a slit is quickest and enough - a spade/spit depth, prized open, insert seedling + innocculant etc. and close the slit, then mulch heavy. Site and context may determine watering needs but if planting in rainy season this may not matter, & mulch will conserve moisture. If on slope, slit better if horizontal across gradient. Then I also like Mark Sheppard’s “STUN” technique - sheer total utter neglect - stick it in and see what survives, they will be the strongest. But out of all the techniques my favourite is do nothing - protect from fire & livestock, and let natural regeneration guide the process. Observe the success/growth rate of nat.regen. compared to planted trees, you won’t be surprised.
I’m in Zimbabwe and I would love to help. I have a firm commitment to the least possible disturbance to the environment and working on a few reforestation and tree planting advocacy work through my community organization called Rima Africa Zimbabwe ( we have a few google hits ). I hope we can be useful to our environment and your initiative.
Beth, we never plant in a hole larger than about 5 inches wide and sometimes as narrow as 1 inch wide and never have a problem having planted maybe 20,000 or more. That includes all sorts of forage trees, fruit trees, etc. If you think about nature, there is no hole. A seed falls to the ground and grows. Best, Glen…in Honduras
Good afternoon, I lost my login for a while and so am very late to reply, but just to say a belated thanks for your thoughts and reply to my post about tree seedling hole size. Cheers
Good afternoon, I lost my login for a while and so am very late to reply, but just to say a belated thanks for your reply. Cheers
Thanks so much. I’m with My Trees Trust, so I’m sure there’s some overlap with our work. Cheers,
Hello Beth. Beautiful work you have going at My Trees. We still incubating on how to go about tree planting and still a bit new in the space. Would be nice to learn a bit from you guys!
Whow’re you doing