BY AMY MARCHIANO / PUBLISHED: APRIL 24, 2018

PRIMROSE — Trees planted Monday at St. Nicholas Picnic Grounds might have extra help in becoming healthy and robust.

Half of the 12 trees received biochar, charcoal that is added to the soil to improve fertility and plant hydration. It is believed that biochar will give the trees a better chance at a longer life.

“It has a lot of benefits for tree growth,” Frank Snyder, volunteer with the Schuylkill County Conservancy and retired state forester, said, adding that includes absorbing moisture and holding in nutrients.

The trees that were planted are about 10 feet tall and 4 to 5 years old. All of the trees were pin oaks except one — a honey locust. The trees could live between 150 to 200 years, Snyder said.

Snyder said it is a controlled study to see if the biochar produces noticeable positive results for the trees. However, time is needed for the tree to re-establish a home at a new location, he said.

“We will come back periodically and check on the trees. The trees are under stress right off the bat because of being transported,” he said.

Snyder said he will return in early fall to examine the trees. He was optimistic that the addition of biochar will have a positive outcome.

“It’s going to work,” he said.

The new trees replaced ash trees that had been there since the 1950s.

Frank Peron, a member of the Pottsville Shade Tree Commission and member of St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church, said he noticed last summer that the ash trees in that location didn’t look too healthy.

“There should have been leaves on it and they weren’t there,” he said.

Peron examined with the 21 ash trees in the fall with Snyder and Joe Orlowsky, chairman of the Pottsville Shade Tree Commission. They discovered the trees were attacked by the emerald ash borer.

“It’s really sad 70 years ago these original trees were planted,” Peron said.

Steve Ziegler, a service forester with the Weiser State Forest District, said the emerald ash borer is a widespread problem.

“Ash tend to break down pretty quickly” when attacked by the beetle, he said.

A contractor started removing the trees in December and finished in February. The church’s Men’s Holy Name Society paid for the removal of the trees. The new trees came from Schichtel’s Nursery in New York.

Sawdust marked the spots where the trees once were, and holes in the ground signified where the new trees would go.

“Each hole will be made to fit the tree,” Bob Wood, a member of the Pottsville Shade Tree Commission, said.

The biochar was mixed into the soil used to fill the hole.

Today, an 8- to 10-foot tall ivory silk lilac tree will also be planted with the biochar on South Warren Street in Orwigsburg. The tree can live 90 years or more, Snyder said. The borough paid for the tree.

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