Sunday, August 23, 2009

Seedling Safety

Pardon the dark image. Lee Wahlund of the Central Dakota Sportsman's Club plants trees and shrubs for wildlife forage and habitat. Even with tubes and mats the grass is so high it is easy to drive over a tree. Lee is a planner and he marks safe driving lanes to protect his trees.

The idea is simple. I didn't think to ask at the time but I think it is similar to teh channel marking system for avoiding hazards navigating a river. The safe lane to drive is between two different colored stakes. The stake on the left is yellow and orange. (Click to enlarge) The right stake is solid orange.

Now you can tell people where to drive when visiting your plantings. No need to worry... maybe... maybe not.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Best Un-Natural Forest Regeneration Ever

In July the Northern Nut Growers had their 100th meeting and scheduled it at Purdue University. Purdue has a national reputation for work on black walnut. My wife Mitzi & I live in Minnesota. There are many innovative hardwood tree planters between Indiana and Minnesota. On our way back, we drove through Iowa to meet John Olds of One-Stop Forestry. We wanted to see for ourselves the directing seeding magic we had heard so much about. John was at his office in Postville, IA behind the Northeast Iowa RC&D. By the way, Mitz took most of these pictures.

John Olds and Gary Beyer of the Iowa DNR were unsatisfied with the results from traditional low-density seedling planting and decided to see if they could take an old method of reforestation called direct seeding and modernize it to make it work for hardwoods in the Driftless Area where Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota come together.

John and Gary reasoned that trees know how to grow from seed. Seed is cheap. And the highest quality timber is produced when the trees are crowded and forced to grow clean straight boles in competition for sunlight. By direct seeding a large volume of nuts, seeds and acorns, they hoped to germinate and grow over 10,000 stems per acre. Competition, the site and natural selection would sort out which trees grew where. With help from three years of weed control and Plantra Tree Tubes the landowner would have an incredible stand of hardwoods.

We followed John in his pickup out to Daryl Landsgard's farm. Every forester has his favorite client. You know the type. The grower willing to try new ideas and the one who can be counted on to do his part. No planting succeeds without an involved landowner. Daryl is an enthusiastic deer hunter and wants improve habitat. He doesn’t mind if he produces some high quality hardwood timber along the way. Even though there were seedlings every two feet in this planting, I think Daryl knew the status of every single one.

A typical planting with seedlings has about 700 stems per acre. As I wrote above, John’s goal is to over produce an incredible 10,000 or more stems per acre. It was originally thought this many plants would overwhelm the deer. It would be more than they could eat.

That is only partially true. Although deer do appear to randomly browse as they walk around, in fact deer have strong species preferences for browsing. That means with so many stems nip, the deer get selective and nip what they prefer. In John’s plantings, if there is enough oak, the walnut grows free. Walnut is a fast grower and even excretes the phytotoxic chemical Juglone to control competition. So, even though there is plenty to eat, the deer browse the defenseless oaks. John has found that he needs to use tree tubes to protect the oaks and give them an advantage over the walnut.

At Plantra we are always looking for new and improved methods to establish trees. We have the luxury of working with the best of the best. Not surprisingly, John Olds is truly one of the best. After leaving Daryl’s farm we followed John back to his house. The Olds Estate (It doesn’t have a name yet, but is more than impressive enough to deserve one) sits on the crest of a hill with a commanding view of an immense valley. John wanted to show us what Daryl’s planting would look like in a few years.

The regeneration is so dense you have work up a little courage to enter. John’s biggest problem is deciding what to thin. With so many high quality stems to choose from the choice can be a difficult one.

Darn, too much black walnut!

Direct seeding is not a new concept and has many variations. Arlyn Perkey, author of Crop Tree Management has written about a direct seeding acorns in Tree Farmer Magazine and has a photo journal on direct seeding chestnut. By the way, John Olds says he reads his copy of Crop Tree Management every year. While written for the forestry professional, Arlyn’s clear prose and minimal use of jargon make it very easy to read for anyone. Every woodlot owner should have a copy.

For direct seeding in Iowa and the Driftless Area call:

John Olds

One-Stop Forestry

101 E. Green Street

Postville, IA 52162


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Trail Cam: Smile, You're On Candid Camera!

This little fawn seemed so intent on becoming a star, I decided she had to get a place on the blog.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Trail Cam: Caught In The Act Of Browsing!

(Click on image to enlarge)
Caught you in the act! Our Cuddeback Trail Cams snapped a shot at a deer eating a seedling as it emerges from a 3ft Plantra O-style Tree Tube.

We had installed an array of tubes, from 2ft up to 5ft in height, to show the importance of taller in tubes in preventing deer browse. Keep in mind: in a 1/2 mile long section of hedgerow, these are the only three tubes that are shorter than 5ft... and it didn't take the deer long to find them and start nibbling the emerging trees.

Years ago when we first introduced treeshelters to the USA from Europe 4ft tubes were considered to be the standard for deer browse protection (they didn't offer complete protection, but browsing above the tube tended to be minimal and the tree was established enough to recover and keep growing). Nowadays there are many sites, including this one in west central Minnesota, where deer keep trees mowed off at the top of the tube if you use anything shorter than a 5ft tree tube.

Landowners doing a new planting often face a budgetary choice: Should I protect fewer trees with 5ft tubes, or more trees with shorter tubes. To resolve this quandry, ask yourself the question: What is the minimum number of trees I need to establish per acre or per X feet of windbreak in order to be successful? Then I would protect that number with 5ft Plantra Tree Tubes. If you determine that baseline success number and budget limitations prevent you from using 5ft tree tubes, the I would protect as many seedlings as I can with shorter tubes. Then, when they grow out of the top, you can treat them with Deer Guard deer repellent to protect them until the grow through the browse line.

We'd like to thank this doe for unwittingly helping us illustrate the importance of 5ft tree tubes!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Poodle Trees

When we first started working with tree tubes to protect hardwood seedlings from deer browse we did not have an answer for conifers. In July we visited John Olds of One-Stop Forestry to look at his innovative use of Plantra Tree Tubes in high density direct seeding of hardwoods, but this post is about poodle trees.

A poodle tree is a conifer the deer have browsed into a coke bottle or dumbbell shape. The tree looks like it had the middle shaved like a poodle.

John planted a Fir tree in his yard. I can't remember if it was a Balsalm or a Fraser Fir. The tree is in his yard and he has a dog, but the deer still get to it. In the lower image John is facing the Fir tree by his home. Notice the large dog and the dense direct-seeded forest behind him. That forest brings the deer close to his house. It is perfect cover.

So what can be done to protect conifers from deer browse? There are two choices. 1) Build a deer exclosure with a tall fence or 2) spray with a durable and effective repellent. Deer Guard Repellent it based on latex paint chemistry so it will not wash off in a rain storm. Apply Deer Guard in Fall after the first frost but only when above freezing. The manufacurer recommends applying while temperatures are between 40-90F. Here is a link to purchase Deer Guard:

For forestry in Northeast Iowa contact John Olds at One Stop Forestry, 101 E Greene Street, Postville, IA 52162; (563) 864-3586.


In July my wife, Mitzi and I took a road trip to the 100th annual meeting of Northern Nut Growers at Purdue University. Along the way, we decided to stop at some mature urban plantings to see how seedlings perform long term in the urban environment. We were looking for evidence of trees planted in treeshelters that should be long gone. I was worried I would not be able to find the trees and how would I tell the tree tubed from an ordinary tree. It was easier than I ever imagined. When I saw this tree and I knew it was too small, but it had an early 1990s Tubex Brand Treeshelter. The treeshelter was obviously reused on a new tree. This confirmed the success of the project in the eyes of the residents. I knew then we were on the right street.

The fellow walking into his home confirmed the tree in the foreground was grown in a tree tube. That did it. Time to take pictures. While Mitz moved the car around I snapped away.

Pekin had lost a large number of trees and decided to reforest the city with a lower cost technology that allowed some native trees if the owner wanted them. Small young ornament plants were offered too. These were the small samplings normally grown to large size in a nursery before extraction and planting in the landscape. In Pekin the landscape trees were grown in the landscape and never disturbed by a tree spade.

At you will find a professionally done video. Just click the video link scroll down for “Tree Please!” The small seedlings were planted on the boulevards around Pekin, IL. and then protected with Tubex Treeshelters. As you can see in the pictures, affluent locations were featured.

I was so excited to see the trees. The trees look great. There are no signs of girdling roots - so common when transplanting large balled and burlap trees. The trees have the same buttressing and taper seen in healthy wild trees. The dense root systems of many large potted or balled trees choke the tree as it grows. Natural trees have wide-open root systems that allow the roots to grow large and old without crowding.

This owner on the left is also doing his tree a great favor by protecting the base from mower damage. Urban trees like the unprotected tree below are bumped and scraped continuously at the ground line. This damage kills the thin layer of living tissue just under the bark. These wounds allow deadly pathogen to enter and weaken the tree. If the damage encircles the tree, the effect is to block transport of water to the leaves and the return of food to the roots. Mulches are effective but require replacement. Personally, I prefer shade tolerant perennials. Hosta plants are a perfect choice is many locations.

The number of gorgeous homes and well cared for trees amazed me. These trees are healthy and add thousands of dollars in value to the homes they serve. Below are some more examples of beautiful homes and gorgeous trees.

Monday, August 3, 2009

"Plastic Sleeves" on "Common Oak"

Question: What do they call Chinese food in China? Answer: Food.
What do they call English oak in England? Common oak.

Last night I was reading a book called "The Natural History of the Oak Tree" to my kids. Yes, I'm trying to brainwash them. The book was published in 1993 by DK Books and chronicles the life stages of two oak species common in Great Britain: Common oak (Quercus robur) and sessile oak(Quercus petraea).

I was struck by this passage about the early seedling development of these two species: "By the end of the second year, a new terminal shoot has developed from the apical (top) bud of the previous year's growth, and the sapling has its first side branches. At this stage it is still in danger of being browsed, especially by deer... In plantations and managed woodland, the saplings' prospects are improved by plastic sleeves that protect them from these browsers."

So by 1993 treeshelters/tree tubes were already in common enough usage in the UK to merit mention in a children's book about oaks. Very cool!

Of course tree tubes have come a long way since they were first introduced to the USA. By coincidence (OK, not really since I'm interested in all things oak related) I planted some Q robur acorns in 1 gallon pots this spring. All three have nearly emerged from 30" Plantra Tree Tubes - and unlike the book, all have had multiple growth flushes in the first season (click on image to enlarge).

Of course, just like in the book, their prospects have been greatly improved by the use of plastic sleeves!