In the community of Beaverdam, New Brunswick, small business owner and forester Jesse Saindon is working at establishing a unique tree nursery.
My partner came home one day in early July after delivering some 1000-litre water totes for irrigation. He was excited to tell me about his newest acquaintance Jesse Saindon and his tree nursery. I was surprised to have not yet heard about this business as I like to stay connected to what is going on the gardening and homestead world, but that is because it is a relatively new venture. We love learning about and supporting grassroots projects that have a positive environmental impact and found ourselves back there again the next week doing some filming for a commercial for Saindon’s website launch.
This nursery is much smaller than a commercial operation, and is ideal for purchases for home-scale use. Also, some nature conservation groups have been interested in adding species such as bur oak and silver maple to their restoration projects. Saindon is growing just over a dozen species now. Not all are “native” but they are all hardy to our Maritime winters.
Species on offer include black walnut, bur oak, shagbark hickory, butternut, chestnut and mulberry.
The butternut trees are of particular interest, as the butternut canker disease puts the species at risk across the Maritimes and New England. There is some research and thinking to date that New Brunswick may have butternuts that possess some genetic resistance to the disease. The seeds are collected from wild sources to keep those genetics strong. Saindon tells me that last fall was a good year, “I got lots of nuts before the squirrels got to them!”
There are about 500 seedlings growing in each roughly 4×8 food bed. This dense planting is possible through the use of air pruning. The bottom of the beds are made of a wire mesh.
Nut trees like walnuts/oaks/chestnuts that have tap roots and the biggest problem with starting them in containers is their roots circling the bottom of the pot. Those circled roots can cause the tree to essentially strangle itself with its own roots years after planting. The tap roots breaking off is another annoyance if you are then trying to untangle circled roots when planting. In the air pruning system, the tap root drops down, scabs up and the tree the pushes energy into creating more, smaller side roots. This makes transplanting much safer.
Trees planted in May are now about 24 inches tall. The air pruning beds cover only about a half-acre and contain around 9,000 trees (after squirrels have their share). For reference, in a forestry setting, there might ideally be about 2,000 to 2,300 trees per hectare. Which means his nursery could reforest almost three hectares of clear cut in what amounts to a section of backyard.
Saindon, learned about forestry at the Maritime College of Forest Technology and then later at the University of New Brunswick (UNB) in the Environmental Management and Forestry Program. In between programs Saindon worked at Kingsclear Tree Nursery and after finishing his studies, he worked at a commercial nursery called PRT in British Columbia. Some of the most helpful skills learned working in nurseries were setting up irrigation systems, learning general growth patterns in a propagation set-up and how to scale-up production.
Even before the education, Saindon found an early love for the forest. “As a kid I loved watching things grow. Do you remember that scene from Fred Penner where he goes through different parts of the forest and then crawls through the log into this great hideaway? That was really intriguing for me.”
Liberty Tree Farm is more than a small business, it is a personal passion. Saindon has an interest in permaculture food forests and edible landscaping. A food forest is many layers that mimic a natural forest (root crops, ground cover, shrubs, small early succession trees, larger mature trees and climbing vines) that create both a rich ecosystem and a place to harvest food. Saindon’s motivation is to create systems that are low-input, offering food and enhancing biodiversity.
“I just love trees. I can look at a seedling and see it 100 years from now, long after I’m gone, still producing food.” As we enter an era of increasing challenges to having a safe and secure local food supply, food forests offer an enticing opportunity.
You can find Saindon on Facebook @LibertyTreeNursery and on Instagram @LibertyTreeNursery. The website, LibertyTreeNursery.com, it is still under construction, but you will be able to add your email in to be put on a mailing list if you like.
Amy Floyd lives in Taymouth, New Brunswick and works with the Raven Project on food security and runs the Permaculture Atlantic Network.