Planting trees is a central part of woodland ownership. For many folks, planting was the first thing they had to do upon buying cut-over land. For others, it is part of leaving things better than they found them, of leaving a legacy or creating opportunities for the next generation.

Planting is a critical step towards growing a new forest, whether you are reforesting a harvested unit, or converting pasture or other farm ground to a riparian buffer. But it is not the first step in the process. That began a year or more ago with a look at the ground to decide what to plant and how to prepare the site. It continued with the work done to be ready to plant, and will go on a few more years after the seedlings are in the ground. At each step, in each season, success comes from focusing on the task at hand.

I was reminded of this when I was out visiting Bob Feldman last month. Bob and his family tend about 350 acres of conifers, oak woodlands and Christmas trees in the Eola Hills northwest of Salem in Polk County.

We walked down the hill to a 6 acre clear cut he harvested last summer. Before the logger left with his equipment, Bob had him deck some logs for firewood and pile the excess slash for burning. The site looks great, ready to plant.

So now Bob is ready to go with his ground ready, 2-0 seedlings ordered and planting crew lined up. After picking them up from the nursery, he will store his seedlings in a local cooler, pulling out a day’s-worth at a time to keep them in the best condition possible.

Bob stressed the importance of lining up a good contractor, someone with experience and a record of success they can demonstrate. Be sure to oversee their work, establish accountability and to make sure they do a good job. How? Get out there with them. Spend a good part of the first day with them, and a little time each day after that. Make sure you have explained how you want the job done, and to show that you care that it is done right. Check to see that things are being planted at the agreed spacing. Dig up a few seedlings to see that they are planted correctly, snug, at the right depth and not J-rooted. Check across the planting crew, and bring concerns to the crew leader. When finished, go out and look to see if you got what you asked for.

Good advice. But what if you are the leader, and the crew is your family? Bob has lots of experience there too, and says if they are new to it, then you have to teach them how to do it right. Stay with them and supervise until they get the hang of it. If adults, they should be as interested is getting it done right as you. If kids, their interests are a bit more complicated. Be patient with kids. As important as it is, you are teaching them more than “green side up, brown side down.” You are teaching them how to grow a new forest.

Brad Withrow-Robinson

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