Starting a Tree Plantation

Learn the basics of starting a tree plantation including where to plant trees, how to plant tree seedlings and more.


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    If intensive cultivation is to be part of the program, plant three rows, then skip a row.
    Photo by Adobestock/jacquieklose
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    It takes two people to plant your tree seedlings.
    ROCKWELL R. STEPHENS
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    A table on how many seedlings to plan per acre per plot of land.
    ROCKWELL R. STEPHENS
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    An illustration for "One Man's Forest."
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • tree-farm
    Space pine trees about 7 feet apart when planting.
    PHOTO: FOTOLIA/VLORZOR

  • tree-farm
  • 031-096-01-seedling
  • 031-096-01tab
  • 031-096-01-titleimage
  • tree-farm

For some years, Mr. and Mrs. Rockwell R. Stephens — a city-bred couple in "retirement" on a hundred acres of Vermont hill country — have managed their own tree plantation for pleasure, fuel and extra cash. In fact, they've made quite a name for themselves as tree farmers (their work has been cited for excellence by the American Forest Institute). Now Mr. Stephens has set down the basics of this skill in One Man's Forest, just published by The Stephen Greene Press. Reprinted here is Chapter 8 ("To Plant a Tree") from the guide. 

To the air traveler flying over most of the Eastern States the land below appears to be one huge forest. The carpet of greenery is spotted with farmland, most prominent in the soil-rich valleys, but the overall impression is trees, trees and more trees. Vermont is 72 percent forested, Maine has even more and the entire area is two-thirds to three-quarters covered by trees.

These green acres arouse mixed feelings in the forester and the conservationist. The former sees an enormous economic asset whose productive output is probably only a half to two-thirds of its potential for lack of even the most elementary management. The latter may be content with the vastly important contribution this greenery makes to climate, soil and water, but he may also be concerned with the growing threat of destruction imposed by the forces of industrial and urban expansion. But both can take some satisfaction in the new and growing attention to problems of land use and pollution.

The forester, however, sees more than acres of unproductive woodlands. Fields and hillsides that once were cropland or pasture now lie deserted and neglected, growing scrub pine, clumps of juniper and weeds. Once an adequate economic base for a small farm, their former resources have become too limited for profitable farm operation. New economic and social forces have taken the farmer and his sons off to other occupations, and the land has passed to non-resident owners.



Here, then, are acres that play no useful part in the economy. Planted to pine or other species appropriate to their site, they can return a substantial economic increment and play a part as well in contributing the manifold additional benefits of forest cover. These are more substantial than is commonly appreciated. It is said that the forest acts like a great buffer to ameliorate the extremes of wind, sun and rain. It can reduce wind velocity by 20 to 60 percent and intercept rain and snow to reduce annual precipitation reaching the ground by 15 to 30 percent. As a natural air conditioner it can reduce maximum summer air temperatures by 10 percent, and absorb and reflect some 90 percent of visible radiation.

"But . . ." says the environmentalist who sees beyond the trees to the whole panorama of hill and valley, forest and field. "But what of the landscape? There is more than one kind of desert. Are we to have no relief from the solid mass of the forests? Field and forest make the pattern we so admire. Let us keep some open space."

And here lies a dilemma. Shall the woodlotter fill his open land with a tree plantation, or is the quality of his landscape such that the choice is to leave it unchanged? Planting and even minimal management will produce a financial return. Open land will require annual care. One-time cropland can perhaps be restored to hay or pasture. Whether either of these latter uses is economically viable depends on factors only the owner can evaluate, and many of these may be unpredictable. At any rate, the land will always be there.

correysmith321
9/17/2015 2:21:39 PM

Would the chart also apply when growing pine trees? So far, I've been looking into treated pines to plant for my backyard. Now that it's December is getting near and pine trees are what I'm wanting to sell around that month. http://vansteenseltimbers.com.au/products/timber-products/


John
6/18/2015 8:25:53 PM

You forgot to mention the most important thing when planting trees,and having them grow. DEER. They must be controlled or you will not be able to grow any trees. The best way is to simply shoot them like we do in Iowa. www.stopthedeerdamage.com







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