Lessons from a pine beetle | SkyHiNews.com

Lessons from a pine beetle

When mountain pine beetle started decimating Grand County forests, I fretted over the possibility of losing most of my trees. With a forest service plan I had done what I could to make my forest healthy, but it wasn’t enough to fight the epidemic.

Instead of being mad at the situation, I decided to change my perspective and started looking forward to the new forest. I shifted from tending flower beds to growing trees. Instead of focusing on creating the most beautiful garden in Grand County, I have spent time on studying and working with trees.

Grand County forests in most populated areas have been mainly over-mature Lodge Pole Pine that have turned to gray, ghostlike skeletons. What do we do to get back our green forest?

Grand County has special challenges in growing trees. Our soils are mostly clay or crushed granite, which pose compaction and water retention challenges. Our elevation dictates what trees will grow in a particular area. Our intense sun can limit how and where we can plant understory trees. Ever notice newly planted trees turning red on the southwest side or completely burning out after the first winter? Just like tourists getting sunburned when they first arrive at elevation, trees raised at lower elevations may need help in adjusting to our bright sun.

This being the case, we need to ask: What is the right tree for my property? How do I evaluate the site and pick the species that will grow best? Where do I place the tree so it will not only look good now but when it is mature?

Roots account for 80 percent of tree problems – how do I lessen the chance of root problems? What are the proper steps in successfully planting trees? What should I do with the wire, string, or burlap the root ball is wrapped in? Should I improve the backfill soil? What are the advantages of mulch and how should I apply it? How to care for recently planted trees?

With so many questions, the task of reforestation may seem impossible. But we can successfully plant and care for trees in Grand County. Two winters ago a Colorado Master Gardener class taught the latest research on all types of garden and forestry issues; much of what I had done for a lifetime, new research showed was wrong. For instance, new research indicates the type of planting hole we have dug in the past is not the best we can do.

I am happy to be able to share a PowerPoint presentation of what I have learned at a workshop in the Winter Park Municipal Building on Saturday, May 21, from 9-11 a.m. Tree planting time is almost here – the workshop will be a good place to start.

Don McDavid


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