For three or four days we remained undecided, and then The Man from Everywhere brought about a swift decision for August transplanting, by the information that the general clearing of the woodlands would begin November first, the time for fulfilling the contract having been shortened by six months at the final settlement.
We covet about fifty specimen pines and hemlocks for the knoll and fully two hundred little hemlocks for the windbreaks, so we at once began the work and are giving two days a week to the digging and transporting and the other four to watering. That is, Bart and Larry are doing this; I am looking on, making suggestions as to which side of a tree should be in front, nipping off broken twigs, and doing other equally light and pleasant trifles.
Our system of transplanting is this: we have any number of old burlap feed bags, which, having become frayed and past their usefulness, we bought at the village store for a song. These Larry filled with the soft, elastic moss that florists use, of which there is any quantity in the low backwater meadows of the river. A good-sized tree (and we are not moving any of more than four or five feet in height; larger ones, it seems, are better moved in early winter with a ball of frozen earth) has a bag to itself, the roots, with some earth, being enveloped in the moss, the bag as securely bound about them as possible with heavy cord, and the whole thing left to soak at the river edge while the next one is being wrapped. Of the small hemlocks for the windbreak,—and we are using none over two or three feet for this purpose, as we want to pinch them in and make them stocky,—the roots of three or four will often go into a bag.
When enough for a day’s planting is thus collected, we go home, stack them in the shade, and the next morning the resetting begins! The bags are not opened until they are by the hole in which the trees are to be placed, which, by the way, is always made and used after the directions you gave us for rose planting; and I’m coming to agree with you that the success in gardening lies more than half in the putting under ground, and that the proper spreading and securing of roots in earth thoroughly loosened to allow new roots to feel and find their way is one of the secrets of what is usually termed “luck”!
This may sound like a very easy way of acquiring trees, but it sometimes takes an hour to loosen a sturdy pine of four feet. Of course a relentless hand that stops at nothing, with a grub-axe and spade, could do it in fifteen minutes, but the roots would be cut or bruised and the pulling and tugging be so violent that not a bit of earth would cleave, and thus the fatal drying process set in almost before the digging was completed.
Larry first loosens the soil all about the tree with a crowbar, dislodging any binding surface stones in the meantime; then the roots are followed to the end and secured entire when possible, a bit of detective work more difficult than it sounds in a bank where forest trees of old growth have knit roots with saplings for mutual protection.