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Contour Trench Tree Planting System
"I've spent 8 years developing and refining this system, which I am continuing to use extensively on my own farm," says George Maxwell, Longmont, Colo., who's come up with a new "contour trench" method for planting trees that he says reduces the amount of time and labor involved.
"Establishing trees in Colorado has special challenges - mortality tends to be high. The usual method is to water a plot and plant trees in a 10 to 12-ft. grid pattern and watering by drip, flood or sprinkle irrigation. The problem is that it can be difficult to till between trees to keep weeds down and irrigating is expensive, since flood-type irrigation often won't work on hilly ground.
"My trench method allows for cheap and easy watering, provides some shelter for plants, some control of immediate weed growth, and retains ground cover between tree rows.
"First, cut trenches 6 to 10 in. deep using a standard farm trencher or one-bottom plow. Trenches should be laid on a contour with a 1 to 2 percent slope for running water, and 10 to 12 ft. apart so machinery can run between them.
"Second, plant seedlings in the bottom of the trench using a narrow shovel or post hole digger and water them thoroughly. During the first year, you should run enough water in the trenches so the ground never dries out completely. Water just beyond root depth and mow the cover crop between ditches. In the fall, let the cover crop grow up so it catches snow and acts as a wind-break for seedlings.
"In the second year, watering is not as critical as during the first year. Fertilizing may be done. In the third year, watering should be reduced to encourage deep root growth. Trees should now be high enough to compete with advancing weed growth in the trench. If not, weed growth around trees should be cut. As trees get larger, you may have to clean out the trench in order to continue to use it for watering.
"The main benefits of this system are that it lets you water trees cheap, the trench protects seedlings from wind and sun, and weeds are controlled for the first year or two in the trench. The biggest problem is that if you make the trench too steep, seedlings can wash out. Mini-damming with rocks or straw can help."
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, George S. Maxwell, 8348 Ouray Dr., Longmont, Colo. 80501 (ph 303 772-1229).

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1992 - Volume #16, Issue #1