Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Oak Rescue

Here is my first oak at the beginning of the year - 6 or so years after I found it coming up in my vegetable patch. It was starting to look quite pleasing to my eye. A little skinny still but a few more years will fix that. It's the first oak because there are 3 more that have come after it that are gaining weight in the field and big pots and will be a lot better at this age.

The evening after this picture was taken we had an unpredicted but very heavy frost. I now realise that the skinny pot had also made the roots very vulnerable to the frost. The foliage was quite badly damaged - but not as much as a maple which had all its leaves killed.

I took the tree back under glass until the frosts were gone. It then went into a sheltered location outside. It had lost its vigour - no new growth happened - but there were still many good leaves. At this stage I was already applying foliar fertilisers and Rhizotonic.

My cat is peculiar little beast. She came running into my study yelling loudly for me to come and look. She then ran straight out and showed my the poor tree lying on the paving. Quite how it was wrenched out of its pot and thrown several feet I don't know.

I could see that there were very few live roots left - burned away by the frost I think. I got a little hope from a few new white roots visible on the edge of the root ball.

Somehow I just couldn't keep the tree upright. it got walked into and collided with for no good reason several times - no matter how far out of the way it was. This was making me very angry and I decided that action was needed if  it was going to be saved - and that I wanted to save it. I ordered a new pot for it. 

The tree needed to be in an environment that was going to encourage it to grow roots and recover. 

The drainage layer is hydroponic clay pebbles - with the usual mesh over the holes. Then I placed a layer of coconut fibre. As an experiment I also bought some mycorrhiza specific to oaks which I sprinkled on the layer where the roots were going to sit. This would put it in direct contact with the roots.

I have been using a lot of coconut fibre (coir) for vegetables and some other growing projects - my chilli plants this year have been the most productive ever in this growing medium and the results are very good for other species. Other growers also report that it is similar to sphagnum moss in its ability to stimulate roots.

In my limited experience so far the organic growing media tends to attract fungus gnats in great numbers. I am in the process of trying out several cures. 

The constant mist technique is used commercially for rooting cuttings. I tried to follow this methodology and mist the foliage as often as possible - aiming to keep it constantly moist. I also used some foliar feed and applied Canna Rhizotonic to the foliar feed.

I would advise you not to use fish emulsion as foliar fertiliser as during the summer it will attracted a great number of flies.

I also used Canna nutrients specific to the type of coco soil I was using and some additional Canna Rhizotonic to additionally stimulate the roots and relieve stress.

It took a long time but I have got new growth again. I hope this has put enough energy in so that it survives the winter.

I shall be more careful next year.