I spent this past Saturday, cutting down trees. I know that may sound like an unusual way to spend my leisure time, but it’s all part of a larger picture. A very dear friend’s father purchased a 50ha. property of abandoned farmland, about an hour north of Toronto, some forty years ago, and for the past thirty, we’ve been planting trees, mostly conifers such as pine and spruce, in the spring and thinning them in the fall.
Most gardeners will understand that planting is only half the job, the other half being to nourish and maintain the plantings. Bearing in mind that a forest is a very complex ecosystem and that a stand of trees does not a forest make, the exercise of re-establishing a healthy tree cover requires attempting to compress a process that would naturally take hundreds of years, into a much shorter time frame.
It’s necessary to plant the small saplings rather densely to encourage competition, suppress other grasses and shrubs and to encourage them to reach for the sky quickly. Hence, it’s necessary to return a few years later to begin the process of eliminating the trees that are stunted and damaged, and to give the others some elbow room into which they can put on some girth. Secondary to allowing the trees more room to grow, is that removing some trees also allows sunlight to reach the forest floor and other species of trees to take hold and, thereby, initiate the diversity that is fundamental to a “natural” ecosystem that will sustain a variety of plants and animals.
The payback, as you can imagine, is way down the road. In fact, although I am seeing the blossoms, I will never live to see the ripe fruits of my labour, but that’s OK. I’m enjoying the process far too much to care. And then, there are the photographic opportunities.