Planting trees for a mast orchard represents an investment, an act of putting down roots to enrich the land that sustains all the people and creatures who walk upon it, now and in the future. That behooves the landowner to be a good steward and protect that investment so that current and future generations can realize the maximum benefit, whether through fruit and nuts or merely an appreciation for a healthy, productive environment.
Dirt wisdom tells us that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so the landowner will realize a greater return on investment by addressing potential perils right from the beginning and throughout the process of establishing and maintaining orchards. For example, different species are better adapted to certain climates. Selecting varieties best suited to the local climate protects them from stresses like early fall or late spring frosts or exceptionally long, cold dormant periods. Similarly, mast orchards should be established where soil type, moisture, and sunlight conditions are most suitable to the type of trees being planted there, protecting them from too much or too little water or sunlight.
Next comes the actual process of planting. Landowners can get specific instructions through outlets like the Chestnut Hill Outdoors Learning Center, whether planting bare-root or containerized stock, in spring or fall. This includes things like spacing to protect trees from competing with other trees and weeds for moisture, sunlight, and soil nutrients. It includes proper soil treatment, watering, and fertilizing to protect the early and essential stages of root growth.
Competition isn’t the only source of potential harm or damage. Grow tubes, fencing and caging protect young saplings from predation by deer, mice, and other critters during a particularly vulnerable of their life. This is especially true in locations where there is less opportunity for care.
Left – Weevil Larvae. Right – Chestnut Gall Wasp.
Nonetheless, you must be vigilant. There are all manner of pests and diseases that could pose peril to even the healthiest plants. Beetle infestations cause defoliation or proliferation of damaging fungi. Gall wasps damage foliage and reduce nut production. Weevils infest nuts, and ants can literally eat trees from the inside out. Regular monitoring offers an opportunity to nip these potential problems in the bud. Each pest has a different prescription, which can be found by consulting the local arborist or cooperative extension specialist, then applied before the damage is done.
Good land stewards understand the inter-relatedness of things. They comprehend the trees they plant provide for more and healthier wildlife. Those animals, in turn, provide a benefit to the landowner, whether it be merely observing or harvesting for their own consumption. They understand concepts like integrated pest management (IPM), an ecosystem-based strategy that utilizes biological control, habitat manipulation, modification of cultural practices, and use of resistant varieties to better protect their plants and their investment.