When one considers the many barriers to the survival of planted trees, it's somewhat surprising that any trees make it through the establishment phase. From my own photo library, I have picked out ten common 'barriers':
- A tree strangled by its own tree tie
- Development of girdling roots
- Weed Wacker damage to a tree's base
- Mulch volcanos
- Deer damage
- Planting too deeply into the soil
- Drought damage to establishing trees
- Pests and Diseases
- Vole/Rabbit Damage
This is not an exclusive list - there are plenty of other existential threats for our new trees. You'd think pests and diseases would be at the top of the list, but, apart from a few disease-plagued species, that's not my experience; most establishing trees die from artificial means.
It's difficult to rank these factors in order of importance. Perhaps in some areas, planting trees too deeply is the most common cause of tree death; in others, drought damage or vandalism may be the worst problem.
There are two commonalities for most of these instances of tree failures:
- A lack of care in the planting of the trees
- A lack of ongoing care as the tree establishes.
For newly planted trees, it is rarely the case that one can just leave it to Nature. To overcome the many barriers to a tree's successful establishment, there needs to be someone who cares, who visits these young trees on a regular basis and resolves problems early, as well as they can. Unfortunately, all the media is obsessed with tree planting numbers, and those tree heroes that do the actual work to coax planted trees through their establishment phase rarely get a mention. Let’s celebrate those who work with trees, not just planting events, to try to even out this major imbalance. It’s not enough to plant a tree, you have to grow a tree.