At this time of year chores at Entwined Gardens include raking the leaves and acorns from under the Oaks. It somehow seems like a never-ending task, but one that always elicits a mixed bag of frustration and wonder, as I visit under the Oaks.
The grove of Oak trees was on the property when my husband purchased this woodland paradise. He hates the thought (and expense) of thinning them. So many hardwoods were cut adjacent to our property when the woods became a golf course community – habitat lost.
But their limbs have begun to hang over our rooftop, making the back deck and terrace a constant battleground… and a potential threat of roof damage in some crazy storm.
I know – first world thinking!
The acorns under foot can be dangerous, the leaves slick… and with a back that easily twists out of shape… I do get annoyed from the raking and sweeping.
It is not an easy task to establish new plants under the Oaks, as they provide a dense shady canopy for most of the year, so I often grouse (to myself) that I’d really like a more refined view from my dining room and kitchen… more light would be nice.
Most recommended woodland plants I’ve tried have languished, as the roots of the Oaks are far-reaching – sucking up any available moisture from the hard packed, root bound clay soils.
Then comes the fall when the thick drop of leaves builds up an anaerobic layer, smothering anything below.
To have any success, I have learned to plant specimens in pots. Should they survive the deer, then I create a modified raised bed – planting on top of the of the woodland floor adding good soil amendments around the root ball and spreading out the hauled in soil around the plant – yet not too high to smother the roots of the Oaks. It’s a learning experience and indeed a delicate balance.
I grumble more as most of the acorns sprout with ease just laying on top of – well anything – in the pots in the raised planting and across the woodland floor… while nothing else grows with vigor under the thick woodland floor of tannic acid… each spring I have a sea of Oak seedlings.
Oh a good remainder when raking – to limit the amount of Oak leaves added to the compost pile – no more than twenty percent because they take forever to break down and will create an acid, anaerobic mess.
While on the topic of tannic acid, (Plant Geek Alert!) it is also found in acorns… this is the true reason that squirrels and Jays hide the nuts… waiting for rain and melting snows to wash away the tannic acid over time to make them palatable. It is also nature’s way of distributing the nut seed with squirrels acting as dutiful gardeners planting them in new locations where often they forget to retrieve.
Or, is it Mr. Squirrelly shrewdly planting a tree for ensuring a future harvest?
The deer eat acorns and don’t seem to have a digestive problem. Then again the deer seem to eat just about anything, except poison ivy or just plain ivy! Dang!
The sprouted acorns cannot get raked, so this becomes a zen like meditation of tugging them out one by one. There are hundreds each year! It always amazes me how quickly they can put out a tap-root of several inches long once they get growing as temperatures become mild in early spring.
Last year I had an indoor mini forest of Oaks growing in a large pot of Aspidistra – cast iron plant – which we bring in for the winter. It was amazing that 15 or so acorns sprouted and developed leaves! Note to self: to look for photo.
So in the midst of raking, hauling and grumbling, I am reminded to pause, look up and ponder…
… good for the back, good for the soul – the majestic Oak.
Today with milder temperatures under a Carolina Blue sky, I laid down in the leaves to take the photo, resting and hoping to capture some frolicking squirrels, as they perform aerial feats of delight, soaring from tree to tree, but no suck luck.
I am reminded that these giants are also woodland habitat to Woodpeckers, Jays and lodging for migrating flocks.
Majestic crooks are protected nurseriesfor the baby squirrels called kittens.
Shelter also for butterflies and host plants for moths.
All in all – grateful for their beauty, the shade for our home. The Oak flooring we walk on, and Oak furniture we use. The delicious wine that is aged in Oak barrels…
Grateful for the Oak table our family gathers around.
Now back to work…
Enjoy – living the EntwinedLife
NC Certified Environmental Educator
Thanks for taking the time to visit under the oaks…
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