The True Yield Of Trees

The other day I was having a conversation with some new friends at one of the great Wilkinsburg community gardens, the topic of the conversation was yield. You see… Community gardens are often plots of land with very few perennials, shrubs or trees… Recently some of the community gardens in my area have begun planting fruit trees. The issue we are running into is the fact that people want to plant things that will produce food “NOW”, they don’t want to wait 3 or 4 years, most of the time they don’t even know if they will still be living in the neighborhood in 4 years. Some grants will even specify the size of the trees that can be purchased and planted using their money, the idea is to get trees planted that are as close to fruiting as humanly possible… Once again we are being told to plant something for the sole aspect of creating food quickly, and the trees wants and needs are completely overlooked…


Obviously people expect a fruit tree to yield, well… fruit. Because of this the other qualities of the tree are overlooked, trees also produce wood for fuel and building materials. The leaves create a protective mulch in winter, and in the spring break down into nutrients that are not only taken back up by the tree, but also benefit all of the plants in the general vicinity. Trees with deep root systems have the ability to mine nutrients that would otherwise be too deep to benefit shallow surface roots, these nutrients are then released into the soil surface when the leaves fall and break down… kind of give a little, get a little system that continuously repeats itself until the tree dies… starting another life system…

A single tree has the ability to create a micro climate, many trees have the power to change climates. Once you travel in from the coast, forests comprise the majority of the surface water available, inland rainfall contains no traces of the ocean… It’s actually composed mainly of water from the trees… A forest can be thought of like a giant inland lake… Because of this trees, especially forests, can increase rainfall by as much as 40%.

Trees also filter dust and pollutants from the air, the simple act of a tree slowing the speed of the wind down is enough to allow it to deposit the heavier sediments it is carrying. Often at the edge of a forest you will find highly fertile small mounds located a few feet inside the tree line, this is a direct result of the wind being slowed down by the trees and depositing its payload. It is partly because of this phenomenon, trees on the edge of a forest are taller and stronger than the trees located within.


I can honestly say without a doubt, I have learned something before, during or after every tree I have ever planted. The simple act of planting a tree is an educational opportunity spanning all aspects of modern academia, everything I really needed to know in life, I learned while planting trees. Think about it for a second… Math, literature, science, history, they all relate to planting trees in one form or another. If you are reading a book to your class and a specific type of tree is planted, plant that type of tree (whenever possible) and I promise your class will never forget it.


Trees lift people’s spirits, an old tree can bring back fond memories of the past. I find planting a tree to be a highly spiritual act, it takes a bit of faith to plant something to benefit future generations… not just yourself. In my own personal “tree planting” experiences, I have noticed that when I am in good spirits, the tree or plant tends to do better. But when I am not feeling good, the trees and plants that I plant do not do nearly as good as they would have had I been in good spirit.

In my neighborhood when we plant perennials or trees it becomes a neighborhood event, people come out of their houses with their chairs and we all get together and garden. I can’t begin to tell you how much of a spirit lifter this activity is for the whole neighborhood, not only do we get a physical and mental yield, we also get a spiritual yield that most people don’t get to see, many of the yields I am speaking about may not be apparent at the immediate time of planting, consider them long-term yields… I still have people come up to me and tell me how good it makes them feel to walk past a garden or tree that we planted as a neighborhood… after hearing comments like this more times than I can count, the spiritual aspect of tree planting has become my current primary focus, with food closely behind it. My “focus” has a tendency to evolve over time, I like to embrace the evolution.

I used to consider myself a “food farmer” exclusively, when I built an urban farm all I was interested in was food. I was only interested in the physical yields that my plants could produce, it wasn’t until years later that I began to spiritually feel the power that a tree or plant can yield. I would like to see all gardeners recognize the true yield potential of a plant or tree, to look beyond the physical and begin looking at the meta-physical yields. We have a unique opportunity as gardeners to sculpt and shape the landscapes of our future, we are after all, installation artists.

Although I am a gardener and farmer, I am also an artist… the land is my canvas and plants and trees are my medium. I do not just create my artwork for the physical yield I receive, I do it for the mental and spiritual yield I receive from it… and that is one of the things that will set me apart from the rest… one day at least… I hope… being a starving artist is not easy… well I guess I can’t say “starving” artist!

If there’s a new way… I’ll be the first in line… But it better work this time… – Dave Mustaine

everything i really needed to know in life, i learned while planting trees – chriscondello

Originally posted to

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Trees And Their Interactions With Other Trees

You could know the common and proper name of every tree in the world, and still not know a damn thing about trees. I personally believe that trees have a meta-physical method of communication that goes beyond anything we could ever comprehend, this post is about the physical methods trees use to communicate with each other.

I hope to do a series of posts about trees in the coming weeks, topics like the theory, propagation, planting, pruning, general maintenance and hopefully end it with the proper way to cut down a tree. I want to cover every aspect of proper tree management, especially the stuff that you would not normally find in a book. This is not meant in any way to be a “how to” article, but a general guide to the spiritual ways of planting and maintaining trees—Though I will include “physical” theory as it relates to the topic being discussed…

With all of the attention that is currently being paid to urban trees, I am finding it increasingly important to educate people on this kind of stuff. Recently a non-profit in my area has started planting trees all over Wilkinsburg, I believe 500 of them to be exact. The immediate benefits of this biologically diverse urban forest have been immense, I have done several double-takes lately in awe of some of the great trees they have planted… Now all I need them to do is start inspecting these trees for “issues” before they plant more…

The following points are just a small sampling of the methods trees use to communicate with each other, there are many more than this… This is just intended to be a starting point… Research is always required before planting a tree, don’t skip the basics.

The simplest and most common interaction is the transfer of pollen, pollen is a necessary requirement for sexual reproduction. Sexual evolution is a necessary part of our ecosystem, genes are mixed, and depending on the traits that remain dominant, the tree will adapt and prosper, or dwindle and die. When the gene mix results in an inferior tree, the tree will almost always die. Sometimes the gene mix will be superior to the original, and we now have a new cultivar.

In breeding programs these superior plants are often singled out and bread for the sole purpose of enhancing those traits, that is how we get our new cultivars… In a forest when a superior trait evolves in a seedling, that seedling can dominate and destroy the seedlings that lack the new trait. This is one of the ways plants eventually develop resistance to certain pests and diseases, just the natural selection of nature at work.

Trees mine minerals from deep in the Earth, in exchange they return starches and sugars in the form of leaf fall. People rarely realize this but a large part of a tree is actually located underground in the form of the root system, 40% to be specific. These roots can reach deep in the ground to access water and nutrients that never would have been biologically available if not for the roots, the tree is not only feeding itself, but feeding every tree and plant around it. Many trees absolutely require the readily available sugars to be present in the spring, maple trees are a perfect example—what do you think makes maple syrup so sweet and delicious?

Trees that have experienced any kind of trauma including insect and bacterial attack, will release a warning by exuding something that has a smell in order to warn other trees. Depending on the species of tree the scent can serve a number of purposes, from chemical warnings meant to warn the other trees in the immediate vicinity that something is wrong, to chemical calls to attract beneficial insects to help fight off an insect attack.

An injured pine tree will begin sending signals and can often show the first signs of infestation within 24 hours after the initial trauma is experienced, this is due to the extremely strong scent of pine sap… An evolution that is advancing as I type this… Boring insects commonly enters the tree through a fresh wound, those insects have evolved to be hyper-sensitive to the smell of the sap seeping from a fresh wound in whatever the target tree of that insect happens to be. Pruning a tree during the wrong life cycle of an insect can prove to be fatal, great care must be taken when determining the time of year you can prune a particular tree.

Trees respond to the sun, observe any houseplants ability to stretch towards the sun is evidence of that. Trees reflect light, this reflected light is called “albido”. All trees have an albido though it is different in every tree. Some trees like conifers absorb the warmth from the sun, overnight that heat is slowly released. Conifers can give off so much thermal energy during the night that they have the ability to melt snow, a characteristic that can benefit less cold hardy trees planted in close quarters with the pine tree. Trees with lighter leaves or bark tend to reflect energy from the sun, dark leaves and bark will absorb that energy. Trees with red or purple leaves absorb the highest amount of energy, this is because of the high levels of copper they contain, copper is an incredible thermal conductor.

Physically the simple act of pollen transfer is more than enough to convince most people that trees communicate with each other, I hope now you will realize that it is so much more than that. The idea that when a pine tree is attacked by a boring insect it has the ability to release sap… Sap that has a smell strong enough to warn the other trees to prepare for an imminent attack—How freaking cool is that…

Next time I will take this a step further — Trees and their interactions with people perhaps…

to hug a tree is to hug god – chriscondello

Originally posted November 25, 2012

All of the information in this blog is provided completely free by the author. I sell prints of my photography to supplement my guerrilla gardens. You can check them out here –

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The Art Of Walking

Genesis+They+Cant+DanceYour soul connects with you through your thoughts… Thought processes that are born in the brain… Travels down your spine… Through your legs… Into your feet… And finally absorbed by the ground… A combination of sight and touch… That most of us don’t think about…

I know you have seen it… “It”… May be you… Face planted in your iPhone… I’m pretty sure that upon closer inspection… I would find the charger snuggly plugged into your ass… You laugh but it’s true… Mind control?.. You have no idea…

We can’t even walk anymore people… Walking is an art form no one respects… Every step we take is an extension of our mind… It’s a statement… I’m not talking about swag… I’m talking about really thinking about everything that goes on in your head when you walk… All of the variables one has to account for… Do you even think about it?.. You should…

I think about it in great detail… I love to do it… I have spent a lot of time in the woods… Disturb nothing… Touch nothing… It becomes like a dance when you get good at it… Tap a rhythm in your head and you will flow through the forest like water in a pipe…

In the woods trees are the vertical element… Almost all movement will be horizontal in nature… Always watch your horizon… But always watch your feet… Every step is carefully placed… Every movement closely monitored… You never move a branch… You move around the branch… Flow with your surroundings…

I used to know an older woman I affectionately called t-rex… Not because of the way she looked… But because of the fact that her vision was based on movement… Like the t-rex in Jurassic park… She was hard to talk to… And pretty annoying… I somehow figured out that  if I froze in my tracks she couldn’t see me… Worked every time… Problem solved… This works for so many people… Try it out sometime…

camouflage is a state of mind… Moving only when there is a distraction… It has nothing to do with how you are dressed… It is the way you think… Waiting for the perfect moment… You want to open up your mind… Flex your senses… Feel your surroundings… See or be seen… Always be the first to see… That is the secret… You should always know who is around you… Before they know you are around them… Always give yourself the upper hand…

When I was still using I never wanted you to see me… Everything I did was sneaky… I’m a deep thinker and I have gotten pretty good at walking… *woopty freaking doo right!*… I know… No big deal… I can walk…

I guess I have one question I would like to ask you… Can you?..

And I’m not talking about the mindless straight line walking we all do… I’m talking about taking the scenic route every once in a while… It may not be as fast… But who knows what you will find… Beauty… Treasure… Friends… Anything is possible… If you allow yourself the time and freedom to explore… Not at sixty miles per hour… Slowly… Cautiously… Aware… accepting the fact that you may not find anything… Except yourself…

every step should be as if it was your last – chriscondello

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Trees And Their Interactions With The Earth

Trees are, for the earth, the ultimate translators and moderators of incoming energies. – Bill Mollison

As far as a forest is concerned trees are the backbone, they are the definition of the word “forest”. They are the physical workhorse, doing most of the heavy lifting. Trees are a part of our daily lives, we could not exist without them. If you ever really wanted to conquer a people, all you would have to do is eliminate all of their trees.

There is a direct correlation between the size of a tree and the size of the root system, the roots of a tree will grow large enough to support the tree with a full load of leaves on it. If you were to remove all of the leaves from a tree, the roots would temporarily stop absorbing water. Leguminous trees on the other hand, will proportionately abort  roots when the top of the tree is cut.

One of the few times the earth is disturbed in a natural forest is when a tree is uprooted, this is one of natures methods of tillage. Seeds that would not have had a chance to germinate in solid ground will now have a chance to grow. Some seeds have developed the ability to lay dormant until this opening occurs, these trees are pioneer trees. Pioneer trees are nothing more than quick carbon pathways, they grow fast, die fast and decompose fast, while the roots decompose and create compost corridors in the soil.

As the wind blows across land, it picks up particles. These particles are maintained until the speed of the wind slows down, often occurring at the edge of a forest. It is partly because of this, that trees on the edge of a forest grow larger. Typically 40% of this wind continues over the forest picking up a new payload, and 60% goes into the forest and deposits its payload. The fog rising from the forest that’s commonly seen when driving down the highway is a result of this cool wind forcing warm air out of the forest… Decomposition is what causes this heat.

Often at the edge of an old growth forest you will find a small mound, this is caused by a buildup of material deposited by the wind. The material is often composed of nutrient rich organic particles, depending on your region this can also be a toxic pile of pollution. When these nutrients are coupled with the high energy biologically diverse micro climate created at the forests edge, plants and trees will thrive.

A tree is simply a large column of water, and a forest could be considered a lake. A tree has the ability to catch 98% of the water that falls on it, that water is absorbed by the roots and transpired from the leaves creating rain clouds. Inland rainfall will often contain no traces of the ocean, only water from the trees. An interesting little side note is that wind blowing over the top of trees has a tendency to pick up a positive charge, this coupled with already forming rain clouds creates a recipe for some pretty nasty thunderstorms.

In a forest most of the magic happens on the edge, without human intervention the edge of the forest would constantly progress. In the Summer months although the sun cannot penetrate the canopy of a forest, it can penetrate the edges causing pioneer species to rampantly grow. These pioneer species quickly grow to a climax and die, creating a quick means of building up biomass. As the pioneer species reach maturity and begin to die, the tall hardwood trees break the canopy and take over.

Pioneer trees can also be thought of as the support structure of a forest, the other end of the spectrum is production trees. In the early years a forest is 90% support species and 10% production species, as the forest matures this ratio flips to 10% support and 90% production. Think of the small trees growing on the edge of a forest compared to the giant trees of an old-growth forest. In forest creation you would want 8 or 9 support species trees to every production tree.

Trees that do get an opportunity to grow in an old forest grow very fast, light is at a premium and the tree has to stretch for the light. There is a common practice when planting a new forest that involves planting the trees closer than you would normally plant them, this creates a sense of competition and in turn the trees grow faster. In my experience it is better to plant to many trees and have to cut a few down than it is to figure out five years in that you have a bare spot that needs filled.

Trees are just one of the ways that the heavens interact with the earth, but they are one of the most precious. I always get a special feeling when planting a tree, something about planting something for the future that just gets me all… happy inside!..

The next “Nature/permaculture” post will be “Trees And Their Interactions With Us”, it will be a little more on the spiritual side… I am really looking forward to working on it, it will probably take me a week.

never be ashamed to hug a tree – chriscondello

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