Ever heard of Johnny Apple Seed? Well, it’s sort of like that, but with seedlings instead of seeds and maples instead of apples.
I started giving away maple seedlings back in, oh, maybe 2005. That was a few years after my sugar maples had been particularly prolific and had produced a nice batch of “volunteer” seedlings which were growing happily.
Sugar maples were a large part of the reason I bought my house. The trees turn brilliant colors in the Fall, provide a cooling effect in the summer (it’s 10 degrees cooler under the shade of the maples than on my driveway). They let the warm rays of the sun through in winter time. They clean the air and give off an enormous amount of oxygen. They provide shelter for countless birds, squirrels, and all kinds of wildlife. So, the little seedlings were a welcome joy.
But everywhere around me, people were cutting down trees, clearing the way for more buildings, roads, sidewalks, cement, asphalt, and well, civilization I guess. It was sad. I watched. I felt hopeless. Then I started giving away my little trees to anyone who would promised to plant them. I posted on free sites and told all my friends. The first year, I probably gave away 30 or 40 trees. The next year, a bit more, and the next, a little more. Somehow, though, it seemed like it just wasn’t enough.
At first, everyone wanted the biggest trees which were 3 to 6 feet tall. But these did not survive transplanting as well as the smaller ones. The roots of sugar maples, like many trees, grow deep and strong. The bigger they are, the harder it is to get them up out of the ground without breaking the roots. And the bigger the hole you need to successfully plant them, too.
So, I decided to try something new… I potted up some 1′ to 2′ seedlings in tall, thin 32-oz paper cups (about the size of a small popcorn carton at the movies). These did much better. The tall shape accommodated the roots better. Once filled, the cups were easier to carry and handle, and much easier to plant properly. I donated these seedlings to plant sales, churches, and pet stores. I managed to give away about 200 or so. The Green Earth Institute in south Naperville took 6 or 7 dozen and raised about $100 in donations from them. Somehow, it still did not seem like it was enough.
This year, I had an idea…why not hand them out at VeggieFest! With 35,000 people expected to come from all over the Midwest, this would really extend my reach. So I called them up. The wonderful people at VeggieFest gave me a booth to hand out these free sugar maples. Then, a Boy Scout working on his Eagle Scout project volunteered to organize a crew to help with the potting and booth duty for event. So, this year is looking very promising!
If you can make it to VeggieFest, please stop by and say “hi” and take home a free baby tree! Or post a reply below and let me know how many you want. I’ll get them to you somehow! They are completely free, you just have to promise to plant them soon and water them a little the first year or so.
Wish me luck at Veggie Fest! Hope to see you there!
Sandy (aka “Sandy Maple Seed”)
Plant a tree and breathe easier!