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Preparing land for tree planting

 
Sam White
Posts: 222
Location: Caerphilly, Wales, UK
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forest garden trees woodworking
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Hey folks,

I'm looking for advice on preparing land for tree planting. My parents are in the process f planning the planting of just over 4000 trees on a 2.7 hectare pasture situated on the side of a valley. We were told that the conventional method of preparing land for a planting on this scale is to plough in order to get rid of the grass, bracken, etc. However, considering the steepness of the land and the large amount of rain we get in this region, I have concerns about the damage that may occur to the soil in the form of erosion and nutrient leaching if we were to plough.

Has anyone encountered this issue before or have any suggestions/advice? The soil is quite shallow and tends to be stony and terracing is likely to be out of the question in terms of financing. Would ploughing then planting a green manure crop be a viable solution?

Cheers,

Sam
 
Kevin Franck
Posts: 72
Location: Göteborg Sweden
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Sam White wrote:Hey folks,

I'm looking for advice on preparing land for tree planting. My parents are in the process f planning the planting of just over 4000 trees on a 2.7 hectare pasture situated on the side of a valley. We were told that the conventional method of preparing land for a planting on this scale is to plough in order to get rid of the grass, bracken, etc. However, considering the steepness of the land and the large amount of rain we get in this region, I have concerns about the damage that may occur to the soil in the form of erosion and nutrient leaching if we were to plough.

Has anyone encountered this issue before or have any suggestions/advice? The soil is quite shallow and tends to be stony and terracing is likely to be out of the question in terms of financing. Would ploughing then planting a green manure crop be a viable solution?

Cheers,

Sam

I see no one has answered here. I'm not really for mechanical land clearing, especially on the description you are giving since such activity will surely ruin it. But I'm also at a loss as to what your plans are. I'm familiar with the drylands of the southwestern United states, although I live in the mountains where forests were common. Could you explain a little more about your land, existing vegetation now and what trees (I'm assuming you want forest trees) native or non-native you will be establishing ? I write about these habitat restoration techniques on both of my blogs, but especially "Earth's Internet" where I mainly tackle underground forest network symbiosis between trees and soil organisms. I'd love to advise but need more info.

I've written about my observations of neighbours around me up in the San Jacinto Mountains who raped their land by mechanically scraping off all vegetation. This resulted actually in the death of shrubs they wanted to save. But because they disrupted the biological activity under the ground by destroying it, they disconnected other shrubs and trees from the Network in the process.

Get back to me.


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Sam White
Posts: 222
Location: Caerphilly, Wales, UK
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forest garden trees woodworking
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Hi Kevin, thanks for the reply.

Our plans are very much constrained by the grant we've obtained to plant the trees. We've been told to plant a mix of native trees (i.e. native to our region and climate) in certain proportions (ash, field maple, oak, bird cherry and one other which I can't remember) - ash will make up 50% of the trees. We'll be planting at a density of 1500-1600 per hectare with currently no prescribed pattern/plan (although we will make on ourselves). Not sure when we';; be planting but probably early next year.

Existing vegetation is grass, bracken, brambles/blackberries, some rowan saplings and a handful of naturally regenerated oak seedlings.

If you need more specific info let me know and in the mean time I'll check out your blog!

Cheers!

 
John Polk
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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Steepness + heavy rainfall = serious erosion probability.

If the land is not too steep to do it, keyline ploughing could be an answer.
That would allow a large percentage of the rain to soak in deeply, rather than just race to the bottom.

Swales/berms, with the trees planted on the berms would provide the trees with the water they need, plus provide a huge erosion control. If the berms were actually hugelkultur berms, I believe that it would be even better. Over the decades, the natural effects of soil erosion could actually act as a natural terracing...as soils washed down, they would accumulate at the swales, giving an overall more level structure.

If your blackberries/brambles are anything like the ones we have here in western Washington, they will survive almost any earthworks you can do. Never hurts to have buckets of free dessert and jam.

Good luck.



 
leanna jones
Posts: 38
Location: Pennines, northern England, zone 7b, avg annual rainfall 50"
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hi, i don't think you need to prepare the land, certainly not ploughing. just plant the trees, mulching around each one as much as possible. i would put tree guards and probably also mulch around the existing small oaks and rowans. see http://www.treesponsibility.com/ for photos of tree planting among similar vegetation and climate to yours
 
Dave Miller
Posts: 409
Location: Zone 8b: SW Washington
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What animals live there - deer? voles? I have done a lot of tree planting at a nearby wildlife refuge (20,000 native shrubs & trees) and can share what we've learned.

It would be great if you could post some photos and/or GPS coordinates so that we can find it in google earth.
 
Kelson Water
Posts: 81
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i have heard that planting mustard greens is a prep step to planting fruit trees. the mustard's roots add a protective element to the soil, not sure of the specifics.
 
James Flour
Posts: 14
Location: PNW
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Sam, I've planted a lot of trees with a planting hoe and shovel. Usually around here, in Oregon, the hills are too steep to do mechanical planters, and usually you can't get the equipment to go anyways because of the stumps and slash piles. We have shallow clayey soils in the hills.
If you don't have a lot of brush to choke out your seedings, for a couple of acres if you have a couple of days, lots of grit and a planting shovel you can put those in by hand. Planting by hand also reduces soil compaction from heavy equipment and ruts that turn into erosion, but the downside is that it is heavy work. Usually while it is raining.
We get a certain amount of loss of trees from shock, bad weather and mice so we tend to overplant or go back after a couple of years and do interplanting.
 
Kevin Franck
Posts: 72
Location: Göteborg Sweden
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James Flour wrote:Sam, I've planted a lot of trees with a planting hoe and shovel. Usually around here, in Oregon, the hills are too steep to do mechanical planters, and usually you can't get the equipment to go anyways because of the stumps and slash piles. We have shallow clayey soils in the hills.
If you don't have a lot of brush to choke out your seedings, for a couple of acres if you have a couple of days, lots of grit and a planting shovel you can put those in by hand. Planting by hand also reduces soil compaction from heavy equipment and ruts that turn into erosion, but the downside is that it is heavy work. Usually while it is raining.
We get a certain amount of loss of trees from shock, bad weather and mice so we tend to overplant or go back after a couple of years and do interplanting.

I've never considered Brush (Chaparral) to be a problem. Over several decades I've learned to leave it. I've written several pieces on my blog about my successes and failures with habitat restoration and tree establishment where is never really existed before. Where I went wrong is where I followed the conventional science-based ideology of chaparral clearance and tree planting. Where I succeeded is where I replicated nature and actually planted tree along side or inside a chaparral shrub. The later actually succeeded where the conventional seedlings-saplings all died. Recently some science has confirmed my methods. Though I wouldn't count on the old school techniques and policies dying anytime soon. Here - I think you'll get a kick out of this and find some things enlightening.

Rebuilding Ecosystems After a Man Made or Natural Disaster

webpage



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James Flour
Posts: 14
Location: PNW
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We don't have chaparral here, just blackberry, scotch broom and maple. The firs will grow through the blackberries but the broom and the maples will outcompete the firs in the first couple of years. And planting among blackberries will make you bloody. I'll take a look at your site.

Do you find that the brush competes for moisture or soil nutrients?
 
Kevin Franck
Posts: 72
Location: Göteborg Sweden
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James Flour wrote:

Do you find that the brush competes for moisture or soil nutrients?

Actually James, no I don't and there is a reason for this. It's called Hydraulic Lift & Redistribution. As Suzanne Simard referenced in her research and video on the true cooperation that goes on between plants within a forested ecosystem, rather than the Darwinian inspired "Survival of the Fittest" religious concept, what modern day research has shown is there being more of a cooperation going on as opposed to competition. Hydraulic Lift and Redistribution takes place in every vegetation eco-type with specific foundational trees and/or shrubs better equipped for this process than others. Add the interconnection of a healthy biologically diverse fungal grid network and the system helps each other.




On another note I have created posts specifically with these subjects in mind, but most seem uninterested in much discussion with it. Clearly if nature is truly this complex and sophisticated in the way it is put together, in the engineered way it operates, surely you expect Science-Based innovations to be all over on this and that is simply not the case despite the volumes upon volumes of research and studies done on these things. Honestly though we all know the reasons why. Most of the conventional science which runs our planet is shackled to big business interests and doing the right thing for free is not an option. Hence we are left with the same outdated death technologies of chemicals and improper land clearing. Certain species of plants which clearly have worth, but considered by certain humans to have less eye appeal will always be removed in favour of what they consider a plant of worth.




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Terri Matthews
Posts: 468
Location: Eastern Kansas
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Sam, I have always planted the trees right through the grass! I have mowed around the smaller trees, to keep the grass from shading them out, but, otherwise trees and grass do very well together! As long as the trees get enough light they should be fine.

However, I have heard STORIES about the blackberries in the Pacific North West. I have heard that they grow tall, and shade out other things. I have never had to mow the grass for longer than a year or 2 and then the trees have grown taller than the grass: that might not be true with blackberries!
 
James Flour
Posts: 14
Location: PNW
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Sorry, when you said Chaparral I was thinking of arid semi-desert which is why I asked. The limiting factor here in the maritime pacific NW is not so much water as sunlight (and some micronutrients...um and maybe some mycorhyza colonies if you are planting a fire burn that was too hot and sterilized the soil. Micronutrients and the fungi are long-term problems, but the competition for sunlight is something that will stunt or kill your trees from the start). Blackberries are not so much of a problem, the douglas firs will pop up eventually and shade out the brambles but they may be slowed down by the competition. Generally the berries just keep you from planting. There has been a lot of discussion about if the trees can shake off the stunting from competition, and the answer is always maybe, but do you want to risk it and maybe have to plant a second time?

That is not to say that the himalaya blackberry is not nature's own version of concertina wire and that a heavy growth of blackberries is not a feral, vicious brush patch that can eat a small tractor and whip you bloody in the process. The small woodlands association here suggests clearing lanes with a cat so you can get in and spray herbicide as the easiest method of clearing large areas. Lots of people don't like that and do it manually. There the best method seems to be a gas powered hedge trimmers and heavy gloves and clothing. My least favorite method was sending the kid out to clear it with a machete - since I used to be the kid with the machete sent out.
 
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