50 Years of Silviculture
The Art and Science of Growing Trees
The year of 2019 was an interesting year for weather. It seemed to rain in Iowa most of the spring and and then in June, July, and August it rained very little. Then September came and the rain started again making it difficult to plant trees again. I look forward 2020 and maybe a closer to “normal” spring and fall.
We hear a lot about “think green”. Well I think it should be “plant green”. Plant that windbreak to block the winter winds and snow. Plant some shade trees around the house to block the hot summer sun and winds. Plant a riparian buffer along a creek to help keep the water clean and hold the soil. When you are done “thinking green” and ready to “plant green” give us a call. We can make it happen
Successful Tree Planting – Reforestation
After years of planting trees, I believe that over 50% of a successful planting can be attributed to high quality seedlings with a large root system. The above ground part of a seedling has little to do with survival and we strive to produce the root system that will survive after transplanting. Our motto on trees is: Survive, Thrive and Stay Alive. Iowa Nursery Inspection #468
- Kill all competing vegetation with herbicides, tillage does not kill existing vegetation.
- Use the best tree planting machine you can get if planting over 1,000 trees. Many homemade planting machines scour the edges of the planting trench and then fail to seal the trench, causing death of seedlings.
- Use proper spacing – We like 12ft. between rows and 5ft. between plants (726 per acre). It fills in fast and lets you mow longer and allows room for a tractor and loader to drive down the rows after 10 years, making pruning much easier from the loader.
- Use herbicides or mulch to control competing vegetation the first year, but 3 years are better.
- I like to plant larger red oaks in the row and when I mow the last time in the fall for animal control, the red leaves show me where the row is.
- Plant at least 4 different species, considering the soils present, and no more than 40% walnut.
- Control destructive animals.
Grass and trees
Iowa is well known for our prairie grass and rich soil. Most grass needs good soil to survive so when we try to plant trees on good soil, our biggest competition is perennial grasses.
Trees grow very well on good soil with no grass competition. I have seen 2 year planted trees grow 2′-4′ per year when grass and other weeds are eliminated. Grasses use large amounts of water and soil nutrients making them unavailable to trees, if it rains one inch and you have grass around your trees, the trees get nothing as the grass takes it all. Mowed grass may look nice around your trees, but the trees don’t like it because they are still competing with the grass.
Annual weed and especially perennial grass control around trees the first 3-5 years or longer will increase growth rates by 100%-200%. Wood chips, trees mates, soil tillage, or my personal choice is herbicides can not be stressed enough to get your trees off to a good strong start and give you a larger tree in the shortest time.