The Art and Science of Multi-tasking… Or Not!

Posted on: May 3, 2016

As a busy mom of three active kids with a demanding job (that also happens to be an hour from my home), and someone who also enjoys exercise, and cooking, oh and sleep, I feel qualified to teach a graduate level course on multi-tasking! At any given moment, I have three kids on three different athletic fields, or in three different schools while I sit in traffic cursing myself for not leaving 15 minutes earlier.  But otherwise unproductive car time can be used for dictation of emails, construction of grocery lists and weekly meal planning.  Routes can be planned to include quick trips to the dry cleaners or pharmacy on the way to practice or meetings.  Efficiency is imperative in these situations.

I have however heard it said that multi-tasking is actually “Screwing several things up at once”.  Sometimes that is actually true. There is something to be said for doing one thing at a time with deliberate care rather than trying to juggle being on hold with the doctor’s office while cooking dinner AND helping with homework.  Chances are high that the 8 year old’s homework might end up wrong, dinner burnt or forgetting who you called in the first place and why you are still on the phone.  This scenario could actually be a page out of my everyday life.

Trees on the other hand, have been defying multi-tasking for centuries.  For you see, trees are committed to one and only one task at a time.  They are the ultimate single taskers.  A tree can either make leaves or it can make roots; but not both at the same time. A tree can make flowers or leaves, but always one before the other. Different parts of the tree grow at different times of the year. A typical pattern is for most of the foliage growth to occur in the spring, followed by trunk growth in the summer and root growth in the fall and winter. The time period of March- August is a time of incredible change here at Ruppert Nurseries.

It seems we wait for any little sign of spring to arrive. Where is that first bud, the first crack of color on a witch hazel or a Cornelian cherry?  Winter it seems to be interminably long. But then one day, we see our first peek of green and then is comes fast and faster still.  Dig, dig, dig!  What does not get dug before leaf out will have to wait until summer.

Ruppert Nurseries will begin offering summer dig in roughly early to mid- June.  Summer dig allows us to play tricks on our multi-task averse tree friends.  We cut a portion of their roots at the surface and water the daylights out of them. Add a little special sauce (AKA Bio-plex®) to help promote root growth and in 10 days we can (usually!) successfully summer dig most deciduous species. Sometimes, if we’re lucky the trees don’t even know what happened to them.  They wake up on day in a new home, new leaves still in-tact, none the wiser.

We do know better though, those summer dug trees with the pretty green leaves and fresh mulch rings are basically hanging out.  Or Chilling, taking it easy, vegging, taking a breather; you pick what term you like the best.  Much like Gisele Bundchen, the only job of a newly transplanted tree is to look good.  No growth either biological or spiritual is occurring in a newly transplanted tree. During this time, all focus is on recovery and re-establishment. The general rule of thumb for most trees species in a temperate climate is one year of recovery for each inch of tree caliper.  In the same way that is easier for a child to recover from injury than an older person, it takes longer for a large (old) tree to recover from the stress of transplant.

And so, the best thing we tree lovers can do to protect these singularly focused trees is to treat them with the best care possible. We must water them thoroughly and often, provide adequate drainage, keep the new rootball cool and protected with an appropriate layer of mulch. And remember that during our most stressful times, when we are juggling the multitude of tasks thrown our way, to take a lesson from our trees. Take extra care, keep cool and don’t forget to recover and re-establish!