Should I design now, or not worry?

deviantnicSeptember 1, 2012

Hey folks,

So I'm going to be obtaining my home next year with 2 acres total. The place is pretty bare with a couple giant trees in the back, and some nasty elms here and there that will go.

I was using Garden Planner and scaled the entire property...then broke it up into halves, front half and back half. I wasn't going to worry about the back half as it's all barren and not what I would see every day.

I was starting to get carried away and be too perfect...exact spacing, predicting shade, and how tall a tree got so it didn't hurt the house if it fell 30-60 years later, etc. Now I'm thinking when I get my tree order in, I may just...plant as I go. To be honest, I'm ordering a LOT of pines and only a few deciduous trees. Maybe 30 total, mainly Oaks, Redwoods, and HoneyLocusts. Then about 100 Pines, various types...mainly Austrian and Ponderosa.

So I am asking now from some professionals if I should be designing everything to the tick I am, or just worry about it when I get my trees? Most of them will be small bare roots, so I won't even be able to comprehend the spread they will have in 40 years if properly spaced unless I draw it out.

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It sounds as if you're already designing it. If you have the requisite information about the site--including the home and any other structures, there's no reason you can't design it now, either on paper or using a computer if that's your preference. It needs to be to scale so that it will work. It doesn't matter if the trees you're installing are seedlings or large container material. It's what they will become that matters. The size you install only matters in how long you must wait for the eventual effect. If you have questions about design issues, you could ask them on the forum.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 9:03AM
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laurell(8 - Washington)

Hi Nicholas,
I obviously don't have as much experience as many of the people on this forum, but I've found many times that when I plan things out perfectly on paper, it's not how it looks/works in real life. I would count planning out your large tree purchases, getting the trees and setting them out where you think will be good, then spending a few days looking at them and rotating/adjusting them. Once you get them where you want, plant and then proceed to mark out mature size. After that you'll have a better idea as to how it will look from the house and other use-areas of the property. Then put together a perennial/shrub plan and go from there.

I have a large bed that I'm trying to layout, but I know the focal point will be one tree. I had to wait to get the tree in to see how it would affect the space and determine how the other plants going in would relate to it.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 12:15PM
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Hey Laurell, I think that's the problem I am having at the moment. I do know I have done well by deciding what trees will grow in this zone and what still doesn't do well even if it's for my zone...such as soil conditions, odd weather, etc. I was wanting to plan it all and get the holes ready and dug so that a lot of the stuff I get (bareroot) would just slap right in. I may have to pot it up first and dig holes later...or just plant it all in rows then transplant as I go, since time is not as available when other home remodel projects will also be going on.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 11:06PM
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cowgirl_kitkatt(ok 7A)

im trying to plan mine now then do a little by little process to work toward that end goal because i know i cant do it all at once. plus with the weather the way it is here in West OK, its hard to get things to live and i want to do trails before i buy 30 feet worth of edging plants etc

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 10:19AM
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Have you also considered your "time expended plan" in your haste to "get it all done"......

1. How much time it takes to water 100+ little seedlings spaced throughout 2 acres? Or, do you plan to install an irrigation system before planting?

2. How much time it takes to locate, mow around, weed around 100+ seedlings growing in a grass/lawn situation?

3. Your neglect in living on a property for a few seasons which allots time to study and appreciate the sunrise, the sunset, the wind direction, where future shade would be appreciated, the view from house interior into yard where the need to install strong statements/focal points will become apparent.

4. How many times do you want to replant in the future because you are in in a hurry now for whatever reason?

5. Sure. Draw a plan with eraser in hand. But, allow yourself the time to enjoy each step of the creative process you are undertaking. A plan on paper can be easily changed. And, change it will as all experienced land owners/gardeners realize.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 10:57AM
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CTSNicholas, I'm trying to read between the lines a little and find myself questioning if you've really worked out the landscape design issues, or if you've simply planned to add a lot of trees (It's the only thing we're hearing about) thinking it's the right thing to those people who really really like cats thinking that owning 175 of them is the right thing to do. The way I figure it, with the number of trees you're proposing, you could end up with a property that is covered solid with shade. If that's your goal, that's fine, but if not, then there should be reasoning that guides what you do. Insofar as planning it on paper or computer, or not, I'd say that it's your best hope of ending up with a solution that accomplishes your goals. To "just plant" as trees arrive seems akin to casting your fate to the wind. For landscape design one should be thinking first about how all the uses that occur on the property are best shaped and laid out.

It is not a good idea thinking that you can easily convert 'bare root' plants into container plants. There will likely be roots on bare root plants that won't fit into containers unless you coil them around or cut them off... either of which is a bad idea. If you 'temporarily' heel-in a large number of bare root trees, in spite of your good intentions, it's likely that too much time will pass before you transplant them their permanent locations and you'll be stuck with a lot of trees growing well in the wrong place. It could become a big job--impossible maybe--to fix this easily as you'd need to wait for the dormant season to do it. With the number of bare root trees you're talking about, you need to put them in their permanent locations. I suggest you share some of the design issues that you've worked out and get some feedback on them.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 10:59AM
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Not ready to share the design, as it is undecided. For the most part, I am going to be creating an acre of pure shade consisting of pines. As you go out in nature, landscapes don't get created by man, and in my opinion look better than any landscape man can create. Fact is, I've seen plenty of weird situations with trees. Pines for example, 3 together...100 foot tall, all broad in their own way. Others, spaced yards and yards apart, growing different ways and the sort.

I lived on this place as a kid, so I do know what I want available. Of course this would be drip irrigated, and personally I have never had issues in the past by potting trees up and, losing out enough to make my day ruined, many different gallon pots are at my availability. In addition, with bare root pines under 2 foot tall, I could easily transplant them 4-6 years down the road if I didn't get around to it since they grow so slow, and are tough guys.

The fact or matter of it all, was that I was doing just what everyone else wants to do. Design something perfect, inside out, to the exact scale, with the most high dedication, predicting spread, shade areas, hazards, potential problems but soon issues arise, such as what if a pine beetle were introduced, or what if foundations started to crack, etc. and so forth. Not everything is as predictable as we hope, and I realize that I may be better off with a rough idea and to plug as I go and see fit instead of try to force nature in a certain way.

Thanks for the advice.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 7:07PM
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CTSNicholas, I don't disagree with the goal you have of a naturalistic appearing landscape and shade... lots of shade. Design is making function appear as art and neither component needs be sacrificed. If you wrestle with issues while doing the design, you might consider that the time to get help is while the plan remains undecided. AFTER it's decided, by definition, is too late. "Scale" is just a useful, invisible tool. Like a screwdriver, it doesn't determine what screws get tightened and how much.

I think I understand now that you'll be getting smaller seedlings. I was envisioning bare root to be a little larger and thinking of times past when I needed to pot one up and the stinking roots were nearly as long as the trunk so required the subterranean "comb-over."

    Bookmark   September 3, 2012 at 11:07AM
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Yeah - definitely going to be more seedlings than bare root starts since I wouldn't be able to dump that much money into all larger bareroot trees. I'm thinking that all shade...or completely shaded areas will be nice in 30-40 years when watering a lawn is a thing of the past and you have rocks, weeds, or full shaded areas where nothing grows.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 3:02PM
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We planted 100 norway spruces (24 inch bareroots) a few years ago. Don't underestimate how long it takes to dig 100 holes. We now have a post hole digger thing that hooks onto the tractor...purchasing this ahead of time will save you a bunch of grief.
My other suggestion is to plant your trees in the fall. They have us convinced that we should plant our trees in the spring. Watering 100 little guys is a PAIN. Also, don't figure any tree as dead in the spring...give it until Fall...they may look dead, but not really be dead.
Get some good stakes, mowing around these guys for the first couple years is also a pain. Good luck!!

    Bookmark   September 6, 2012 at 10:02PM
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