Key to tree success: ‘plant what grows’


Paul and Carmen Cain bought this horse property and built their dream home seven years ago. Paul grew up on a farm, and he says it’s in his nature to have tractors and work the land. The couple have two grown sons, Justin and Nathan, and Nathan was still home in 2012 to assist with land preparation prior to the tree planting. Ready to plant a substantial number of trees around the property he and his wife, Carmen, purchased in 2010, Paul Cain researched, planned, and then called the local experts at Burleigh County Soil Conservation District. District Technician Darrell Oswald toured their 46 acres, assessed the soil, listened to their suggestions, nodded his head and said, “That’s great — but we aren’t planting any of it. We’re going to plant what grows out here.” All three got a good laugh that day, before Darrell discussed the soil conditions and trees that would thrive — including lilac, juniper, scotch pine and spruce.

Capital members Paul and Carmen Cain earn Tree Care Award

Prior to planting, a significant amount of preparation had to happen first. One of the couple’s sons, Nathan, would come home from school and head to the field. Using a disc, he leveled the buck brush, weeds and thistles with assistance from dad, and then they burned and buried the refuse.

When the land was ready for seeding, Darrell returned with a crew to do the work. Paul had one request before they began: “I can plant trees crooked. Don’t plant them crooked,” he said with a laugh. Once the trees were planted, Paul placed fabric over the trees and seeded grass in between the rows several times in intervals. Then, Mother Nature took over, and the trees and grass grew.

Fortunate to have some well-timed rains, the couple watered, weeded and mowed for several summers until the rows were established. Now, five years later, Paul’s not joking when he says the rows are so straight, you could land a plane in between.

Capital Electric Cooperative members from south of Bismarck, Paul works as a drug rep and Carmen is the principal of the Light of Christ middle school Academy. She also teaches at the University of Mary. Late last year, the Burleigh County Soil Conservation District awarded them with the Tree Care Award, which is sponsored annually by Capital Electric. Wes Engbrecht, director of communications and public relations, helped confer the award.

Chad Thorson, district technician for Burleigh County Soil Conservation District, said the Cains earned the award because of their organized and dedicated effort to conservation.

“They have some tough soil out there, and they took exceptional care of the trees, maintaining and replacing the ones they lost,” he says.

Carmen said not only did Darrell know his stuff, but he provided great customer service. She also expressed thanks for a program in which the Burleigh County Soil Conservation District had to remove a shelterbelt of mature trees elsewhere, so they had to plant a new one somewhere. That happened to be on the Cains’ property.

“That was really a benefit to us,” she says.

The moral of this story: It’s wise to research and plan a project of any size, and consult with experts in the industry before the work begins. If you’re planning a tree project this spring, we recommend first visiting with the folks at Burleigh County Soil Conservation District, who are knowledgeable, hard-working and friendly — and they have a great sense of humor.

Thank you, Paul and Carmen, for sharing your story, and congratulations on the award.

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