( Originally Published Early 1900's )
"We receive trees many times that are started to leaf out and with very little packing around the roots," writes Benton Gebhard of Michigan. " The roots are dry and many trees are fatally injured when they get to their destination. Sometimes we immerse these roots in warm water to revive them.
" The roots should be packed in building paper and moss, or partly decayed chaff. The material which holds the moss or excelsior would be a proper material to use in packing the trees. Many nurseries use excelsior and rye straw in packing. You can fill a tub with water with this class of material, and squeeze the water out as much as you can, and you will have most of the water left in the tub. But if you take moss or partly decayed leaves, and fill the receptacle with water, upon taking out the moss or leaves, you will find that half or two-thirds of the water will be taken out with it. That goes show the material that will retain the moisture in packing trees for shipment over any distance.
"Another thing to be considered is the treatment and handling after the stock has been received. Many nurserymen are careless about exposing the roots, put the trees on wagons and drive two or three miles in the dry, hot sun, or sometimes in the cold, chilling wind, and this exposes the roots to injury every minute. They then throw the trees into the packing sheds and leave them exposed to the cold or drying atmosphere; with the result that when the planter receives the tree, the majority of the roots are shriveled and injured. They should usť the utmost caution in protecting the roots, from the time the trees are dug for packing until they receive the planter's attention, and we should give them the same care until they are growing in the orchard.
"The nurseryman is not to blame altogether. The planter is to blame in many instances. Re receives the trees in a careless manner; he goes after them with a hay rack, and probably waits a day before he gets them, and during all this time the roots are exposed and drying. He seldom thinks of doing anything to protect the roots. The next day they are taken out in the field and thrown in piles, with perhaps horse blankets over them, and perhaps not; and there they are exposed to the heat and drying wind. We have a chilly atmosphere in the north, and these tender roots are injured as much in that kind of weather as in the dry season.
"There are many who have no care against that. The buyers evidently feel the trees were sold by the agent with the agreement to replace what do not live, and so it does not make much difference. They scatter the trees along the line, with the holes dug a day or so before planting, and then, with the roots injured by drying, they plant. In many cases they slash the tops off. The tree must have a certain amount of life in it to mature the root system, but they have no knowledge of this and lose severely thereby. They cut the roots off too close and plant the trees in the holes in bad weather, and leave them to live or die, and then blame the nurseryman if they die.
" The right way is to get trees as early as possible, and in good condition, and if not ready to plant, heel them in on the north side of the barn ; then, if the roots are injured, they will he partially repaired in time for planting. I have set a great many thousand trees having long fibrous roots, and have lost very few of them. The cherry and the Japanese plum must be planted early. They start their fibers at the first touch of warm weather, and if they are moved very much after the fibers are started it is almost sure loss of the tree.
"It would be a good practice to prune the roots before heeling in. If the roots are pruned early, they have a better chance to get started before the tree is planted, and it will be seen that the large roots start sooner than the smaller ones. There are many fibers from the root, if the root is in good condition, and they should be kept in good condition.
" I have practiced carrying tubs or tanks of water on a stone boat, with 50 or 100 trees immersed in water. Then I am careful not to dig the hole until I am ready to plant in it, or at least not long before. Then the earth should be carefully filled in around fibers of the roots. I select thick or rainy days for setting, and carry our trees on the stone boat, or in our arms, without injuring the roots, where on a hot day they would dry, or on a cold day they would be greatly injured by the chill. I do not puddle. I think under some circumstances puddling would be beneficial, but if the trees are handled carefully, in a sandy soil, the majority of the trees will live. have known neighbors around me to lose 50-per cent to 75 per cent of the trees set out, when I have received 700 to 800 and lost only a dozen or so. I have known others to lose 5o per cent, and I have not lost 10 per cent at the same time, from the same nursery and the same kind of trees.