From the Viewpoint Vault: Neighbors dig in to plant Valley Oaks

By Jeff Hunts, Special to the Viewpoint
April 2013

Just beyond the foul line, in deep right field of Curtis Park’s baseball diamond, a beautiful pre-spring dawn found folding tables set with muffins, fruit, and tree-loving literature eagerly awaiting the volunteers. Near 9 a.m. Sacramento Tree Foundation personnel unloaded shovels, hoes, stakes and caging from a trailer, while certified arborist and rookie SCNA board member Dan Pskowski dispersed baby Valley Oaks to 11 designated spots in the north and six in the south.

So began a March 2nd effort that showed how many hands make light work. The work was to conduct the mitigated plantings required after the Curtis Park Village project removed mature oaks in the rail yard.

By the time Tree Foundation Nature Director Erika Teach had finished collecting waiver forms, more than two dozen neighbors with work gloves had gathered. Neighborhood Concerns Committee co-chair John Mathews provided a few words of context, as did SCNA Board Vice President Andrea Rosen.

Then, after watching Tree Foundation Restoration Field Specialist Sarah Somers demonstrate ideal planting technique, volunteers teamed up and spread out to dig. Quercus lobata saplings grown in three-gallon T818 pots were carefully placed in each prepared hole, crowns above grade, and gently tucked into the earth. Although much smaller than the 15 gallon specimens often used in past planting efforts, the size and shape of the veritable sprouts should ultimately allow the young trees to establish themselves more vigorously. That is, if they survive. Tree plantings in the park over the past two decades have had notoriously mixed success, with some efforts ending in 50 percent losses to vandalism. This time, extra protection in the form of T-posts and sturdy cages will guard the trees from whimsical malice.

Employing an additional preventive strategy, volunteers were offered the opportunity to “name” their plantings, and signs might later be hung on the cages to further personalize these gifts to the future.

The Tree Foundation is under a three-year maintenance contract with the City to provide care and watering: weekly for the first year; twice a month the second; and monthly during the third.

Neighbors are encouraged to keep an eye on the new trees, but they are discouraged from providing additional water or fertilizer, or from planting any flowers nearby. The goal is to wean the trees by the time the contract is over. Any concerns about the trees well-being can be directed to [email protected].

Neighbors may be curious that some of the new oaks were planted in line with the stately London Plane trees that ring the park’s jogging path. These locations were approved in advance by the Parks Department. Several attempts over the years to replace deceased Plane trees have failed due to their susceptibility to diseases, such as powdery mildew and anthracnose. The Valley Oak, native to the region, is rugged and eventually majestic. And it provides the extra benefit of habitat to other native fauna.

As noon rolled around on this planting day, the last of the baby trees were being mulched, staked and caged. Shovels were gathered and stowed.

Neighbors brushed dirt from their knees and, perhaps with a bit of muscle ache, trudged home, knowing that one morning’s work may provide many lifetimes of enjoyment.

Among the neighbor volunteers who participated are Polly Allen, Ada Allen, Sheila Harrington, Mark Baker, Beverly Kriborian, John Mathews, Dan Pskowski, Taylor Greenberg, Jansson Stout, Alex Morton, Dan Fehringer, Bella Morton Fehringer, Lea Morton Fehringe and Kris Olesan.

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