Resurrection – A tree comes back from the Dead

Something amazing happened this summer. It was, at first, utterly devastating – but in the end was so unbelievable.

The summer of 2017 was extremely hot and dry. I don’t remember any rain in June or July – and at our farm, the sandy soil was as hot as an asphalt driveway. None of our 11 acres worth of seeds germinated and our newly planted trees all suffered. (Crossing fingers that they germinate next spring!)I did bring a few buckets of swamp water to each of the trees, but it wasn’t enough. **We didn’t get the well working until late in October**

The fir tree windbreak put on a lot of fresh growth with the spring rains but shriveled up their new buds over the summer. The maple trees dropped all their lower branches and the majority of the trees showed leaf scorching at their tops and the ends of the branches.

Waiting for rain was a very stressful time. I worried about the trees constantly. Every weekend, I noticed more and more scorched leaves until one weekend in mid July when I noticed one of the maple trees had turned all black. All of it’s leaves were gone. It looked scorched – maybe fire blighted. I cried.

The tree was dead. It’s sisters looked like they would soon be succumbing to the same destiny.

This is one of the hardest parts about nature. Sometimes, you just have to wait. You have to hope that nature knows what it is doing – that it knows how to survive.

We have very deep sandy soils – Zimmerman sand – 70% fine beach sand 5% coarse sand, very little clay, and the rest silt. It goes down many feet. I joke that it’s “sand all the way down.” This is in reference to the expression “turtles all the way down.” I think its funny – my children think its lame.

Its a tough life for plants in the sand, but I had hoped that the trees would seek water further down. That they would put down really deep roots –  making them drought resistant in the future – that they would turn out to be survivors!

Well – at some point in late July the temperatures started to cool down. No more days in the upper 90s (which is hot for our area!) We might have even had a few shallow rains.

And the dead tree sprung back to life! It actually came all the way back to life – new leaves on every branch – and all of them open and supple.

The other trees did not put on new leaves or repair their scorched leaves, but they also didn’t get worse. I just could not believe the tree came back from the dead. It was dead for at least 2 weeks. Then it was alive. Its not the greatest looking tree anymore, but its alive and it made it through the worst dry/hot season I can ever remember. I am hopeful this means it (and all the others who made it through this summer) will be able to remain hardy and grow/survive for decades.

I anticipate that the sand will slow/stunt their growth a bit. Maybe not. The trees did  put on 4-7 inches of new growth in the spring. Maybe next spring they will be more cautious? This is something I will pay attention to. It will have a major effect on what/how we produce on our farm.  For example – what if we can plant standard (hardier and stronger!!) fruit trees and they will be kept shorter/dwarf sizing due to the sandy soil? What if the trees always put on a flush of growth in the spring, and have to prune themselves back each summer – resulting in abnormally tall/thin growth? We will keep an eye on all of it and report what we see.

If you have experience growing in Zimmerman sand (let’s just call it beach sand…) then I would love to hear your advice. Fruit trees, shade trees, evergreens, shrubs….what is your experience? How does the sand effect insect damage, disease issues, growth rate, ultimate height, fruiting? Please share in the comments below.

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