By Derek Lirange

Youth members of the Shriver Job Corps of Devens, Mass., along with Tower Hill’s Worcester Tree Initiative Volunteer Tree Stewards and Members of our Open Sky volunteer group, recently finished the second tree nursery gravel bed at Tower Hill’s Urban Tree Nursery Site in Webster Square, Worcester.  

The skilled youth constructed the second bed, secured frame posts with concrete and moved all of the gravel into the beds. Other volunteers helped clear the site from the overgrowth and garbage which covers the site, dug post holes, and moved gravel. There was so much work to be done and the heat was unrelenting for the two days we were working there but no one complained or quit. We were duly impressed and grateful for the nearly 150 hours of work put in by the volunteer crews throughout those two days. 

Our tree nursery will be used to help grow bare root tree stock that will be planted in the Worcester community. Bare root is a method of growing trees that allows you to easily move trees and plant them at the right depth, but they are usually only available early in the growing season. Using well watered Gravel beds you can take bare root trees and promote fast, healthy root development for young trees which can be easily removed and washed free of gravel to then transplant later in the season. Because of this root development and the ease of planting properly studies show that these trees have a higher chance of survival when planted in the right conditions.   

In addition to augmenting our planting program, the WTI Department will conduct research on the trees, to contribute to the growing body of published works regarding the use of gravel bed technology. Studies are showing that some trees fare better than others growing in the beds, and we want to see how the trees fare over winter in the beds in our climate zone. 

As always, we are grateful for our volunteers, our partners and our funders for this unique project which will greatly enhance our tree planting capacity.   

Derek Lirange is a community forester for Tower Hill’s Worcester Tree Initiative program.