Christmas Tree Planting

Field Marking

Before beginning the actual planting process, one of the two dimensions of the tree locations is established. In mathematics, these would be referred to as Cartesian, or rectangular, coordinates. The cross marks seen in the picture are typically parallel to the short side of the field. Note that three marks are made simultaneously by the disks on the boom.

Marking Disk in Operation

Because the marking disks are mounted at an angle (to their direction of travel), they create a miniature furrow as they cross the freshly cultivated field. The planting machine will travel perpendicular to these marks and provide the second coordinate of the tree locations.

Since each set of three cross marks is based on the previous set, the potential for error accumulation is significant. To minimize the error, marking actually begins in the middle of the field. A string line is used to guide the first pass.

 Planter Hook-up. The flexible exhaust stack keeps fumes away from crew.

This implement was custom designed and built for planting trees at Shady Pond. It is a semiautomatic device that includes a coulter wheel (like a giant pizza cutter), a planting boot, packing wheels and row markers. All of these components can be seen in the picture to the right. The photo shows the machine being hooked-up in preparation for its trip to the field. Note that the plant boxes are stored upside down on their support structure.

One row marker is up while the other is down. They are switched at row's end.

The coulter slices the soil, cutting any embedded debris. The planting boot opens the soil so that the roots of the little trees can be placed in the ground. And the packing wheels close the furrow and compact the soil around the small plants. Finally the row markers locate the next succeeding row to be planted.

Pulling Trees and Disturbing Roots

To most, preparing containerized trees for planting seems brutal. But at Shady Pond the loss of even a single tree is rare. Since the tiny trees are usually root bound in the pot, the root mass is gently pounded against the wagon tires. This disturbs the roots and signals the plant that it is no longer constrained by the pot wall...It's time to start growing again.

Planter Rear View

The entire operation requires a four (4) person crew; a tractor driver, two planters who ride on the machine, and a checker. The checker hand plants trees that may have been skipped, verifies the tree location and ensures the proper soil compaction. Tree planting at Shady Pond is done in early February. The trees are planted in a checker board pattern at the rate of 500 per hour.

The trick is to get the crew to plant them with the green part up!

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