Brain Surgery

No, not on my brain, but on a couple of trees grown too long in the same pot. I don’t remember the history… Perhaps it was when I was short of pots. Perhaps Nature planted a seed. Perhaps I lost patience with a seed and re-used a pot. I just don’t know.

Anyway, something had to give:

  • I could kill one of the twins. That was not a good choice because one was a valuable hackberry and the other, I think, was a valuable black cherry, both rare around here.
  • I could do brain surgery and untangle the roots, dangerous to both trees.
  • Doing nothing likely would damage both trees eventually.

These I grew from seed so I felt responsible and I had invested a lot of labour and love in them. It was my fault they had grown so close, less than 5cm between stems and about 40cm tall.

So, I opted for surgery figuring there’s still enough growing season for them to recover and I could give them extra protection for winter.

The rootball filled the pot. I loosened it from the edges hoping they might be miraculously untangled in the interior. No, I did not win the lottery. Both trees used every cm3 of the pot. I used a screwdriver to loosen the outer soil making vertical gashes. Eventually I was down to a frizzy mess of roots and a tight ball about the size of my fist. I flexed it a bit and little by little soil fell away. Finally, I had a Gordian knot of roots at the centre. I pulled and wiggled steadily and it finally came apart. Each tree was left with a considerable mass of roots which I plunged into a bucket of water.

I noticed the hackberry actually had a tight spiral near the top of its root, likely a vestige of poor planting of the seedling.

It was clear that the one gallon pot would not do, so I placed a gallon of soil in each of two three gallon pots and made a little mound in the middle. The “cherry” went well. Its bush of roots spread nicely, and I filled the pot to within about 2cm of the rim. I tried to do the same with the hackberry but its roots were in three rather tight clumps which I could not sort out well so I just buried them with fine soil and hoped for the best. I watered both pots thoroughly until water drained from the bases.

So, it’s done. I could add another step and prune them back and give them some shade but instead I will water well and provide extra protection in winter because they are both rather tough trees. I think both will survive to be planted out next spring and continue to absorb CO2 to fight global warming. Both will grow to be large trees outside their native range, so they might not bear fruit.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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One Response to Brain Surgery

  1. Grece says:


    When are you going to mention the alleged Microsoft and Intel monopolies again Robert? I mean, seriously, when are you EVER going to produce evidence for this?

    However, I find it VERY hypocritical of you, that for one, you show such disdain for monopolies, even imaginary varieties, but two, you prefer centralized government services, which is a form of monopoly in itself.

    Care to discuss that?

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