Did your mama always say, “Can’t get something for nothing”? Well maybe you can after all. For the second year, the Campbell Forestry group has partnered with the Jefferson County Master Gardener group to supply tree seedlings to our county. There is no cost to anyone. Yep, the seedlings are free.
The event will take place Feb. 15 at the Test Garden Site on Jerry Ware Road at Jack Brooks Regional Airport on South Highway 69 in Nederland. You can look for help with how to handle the seedlings from master gardeners who will be on hand. Representatives from the Campbell Forestry group will be there to advise, as well. They all want you to know what to do with the seedlings or saplings when you get the plants home.
The sapling giveaway is “first come, first serve basis,” according to Jackie Steen, reigning Master Gardener president. The event starts at 8:30 a.m. and lasts until 11:30 a.m. Steen suggests getting there early for the best choice of trees. “The little sapling trees are generally packaged in pots; at least they were last year,” she said. “They could also come in small burlap pouches. We never know until they get here. Last year the seedlings or saplings were nice sized small trees. We gave out over 1,000 of them.”
Steen and her master gardeners have some tips about caring for the saplings when you get home. Choose a good spot for your tree. Don’t forget how large this tree is going to be when it is adult size. The Texas Aggie Horticulture Web site http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/  is one place to look for information on most varieties of trees. Keep the roots moist at all times, but not soaking wet. Dry roots die. Always check for underground gas and utility lines before you dig anywhere.
Measure the root ball, and then dig a hole two to three times as wide and as deep. If the roots are bound up then loosen them before planting. Often a few cuts on the underside of the root ball helps as does cutting out any roots that are encircling and squeezing the root ball. After you have freed the roots, cut away any damaged roots. Plant the sapling with the roots straight down. As in nature the depth of planting should result in the little tree roots being at or just below the soil surface.
Add soil to fill the hole around the roots and lightly tap down with your foot to remove air pockets. You should mulch around the base with wood chips or your favorite mulch to help in keeping soil moist. Be sure to leave a small gap between the trunk and the chips to avoid fungus and other diseases from forming. Then water and watch your tree grow.
Trees by Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918): “I think that I shall never see a thing as lovely as a tree. A tree whose lovely mouth is prest against the sweet earth’s flowing breast. A tree that looks at God all day. And lifts her leafy arms to pray. A tree that may in summer wear a nest of robins in her hair. Upon whose bosom snow has lain; Who intimately lives with rain. Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree.”