Building Trees

barnPeople enjoy the way the word “snirt” sounds. Say the word out loud and people will often laugh and ask for a definition of the word. “Snirt” is snow and dirt blowing together and often collects in ditches or along tree rows. It is a winter product of black dirt left without a cover crop or minimal snow cover, then exposed to high winds.


We had a lot of snirt this year. There was little snow cover or cover crop but another element entered this year into the creation of snirt; less trees. A big part of the creation of snirt involves high winds. Trees buffer high winds by blocking them which uses some of the wind’s energy as it fights past the tree. High commodity prices convinced many that paying $150 or more an hour to have a backhoe remove thin lines of shelter-belt trees would improve their bottom line. Prices are now down to break-even and those piles of once-valued dead trees sitting in the field seem a little pointless.


I like to plant trees. It doesn’t take much to plant a tree however to make success more likely than defeat when you plant a tree requires a little knowledge. I have found the best bank of that knowledge at my local Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD.) I am a supervisor at the Pennington County SWCD and we are a tree-growing hub for farmers and homeowners who either want to prevent soil loss or just dress-up their yard.


Some people need to purchase some trees or get a little advice of which Pennington SWCD has plenty. Last year I planted a couple rows of Red Derosier trees for a windbreak and the SWCD let me borrow a Dibble bar. The Dibble bar is fun to say and even more enjoyable to use. It looks like a splitting wedge welded on the end of a steel bar. You plunge the wedge into the ground, open up the ground, place the tree in the opening then plunge the wedge back into the ground a few inches away and wedge the initial opening shut.


Other landowners may need larger projects completed which is where the Pennington SWCD can really help. They have a tree planting machine plus they can lay out weed barrier and install tree tubes. The weed barrier reduces soil nutrient competition down to almost nothing and the tree tubes act like little greenhouses. There may even be some grant money available for tree planting. Pennington SWCD will take a look at what sort of trees will work best in your soil which is the sort of intelligent planning that will make seedlings into something birds like and wind hates.


Planting trees is like building a structure in that you have to be mindful of what forces the trees will face and from which direction. The structure you build will be there for years and unlike buildings which deteriorate-trees will grow stronger with time. If you’ve already picked out the plants you want this season from the Gurney’s catalog then please consider what parts of your homestead you use some trees. Then stop by and talk about trees and planting at the Pennington Soil and Water Conservation District or call them at 218-683-7075.

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