Hardwood Management: Planting Guidelines

Purpose and Background

The purpose of this information is to recommend hardwood establishment practices in association with CREP. During the last 10 years, considerable research and effort has been expended to evaluate the various practices necessary for establishing hardwood on open sites. A thorough field check following the 2000 planting season was made with over 850 acres inspected which were planted by 25 different planters. The following recommendations are generalized statewide. There may be local or regional differences that merit changes to these recommendations.

Site Preparation

Site preparation is a necessary step in the establishment of hardwood on open sites. Of particular importance are fescue and other sod control. The following are site prep recommendations:

  • Utilize chemical or mechanical control on vegetation. Chemical application of Oust® or Roundup® by spot spraying, planting-row spraying or overall field control is appropriate prior to planting. Minimize chemical use and follow label directions. Be sure contractors are properly licensed and insured.
  • Prescribed burning may be also used to reduce vegetation competition. Burn in the fall of the year prior to planting or in late winter prior to the spring fire season. Be prepared to consider chemical use in May after planting after vegetation starts growing to ensure seedling survival.
  • Considerable seedling survival success has been achieved through the use of a sub-soiler or soil ripper at designated intervals prior to planting but after vegetative control. Ripping is typically done in the fall prior to planting. This practice breaks up the plow layer and increases root growth area. The typical grid pattern has been 20' by 20'. This practice also allows for easier tree shelter installation. Be cautious to avoid air pockets after subsoiling and during planting.
  • The use of a soil auger with the drill bit matching the diameter of the tree shelter has also been used with good success. Pre-drilling the planting holes, especially for smaller plantings not being done with a contractor or volunteer efforts, reduces planting time per tree and eases installation. Be careful to backfill and tamp the hole properly and completely following planting. Caution should be exercised in heavy clay soils where the drill bit could effectively seal the hole limiting water infiltration and also making back-filling difficult.

Tree Planting

A range of success has been identified with the various types of hardwood planting techniques. The most consistent success has been through the use of the system of tree shelter, stake, and grass mat. This is the standard VDOF system related to hardwood planting on open ground.

This is due to protection from deer browse, vole damage, vegetative control and the beneficial effects of the tree shelter on the microclimate around the tree.

Following are recommendations related to this system:

  • A 4' tree shelter is recommended. A smaller shelter may be used but the forester must confirm the absence of significant deer-damage potential elsewhere on the property and/or by consulting with the local Game and Inland Fisheries biologist. The tract plan (DOF Form 75) dictates tree shelter size. Tree shelter brand will be Tubex, TreePro, or equivalent.
  • Tree shelters must be installed at least 1 inch below the ground surface and tied securely using zip-ties to a 1" by 1 " (7/8" minimum) hardwood stake (typically white oak). Bamboo stakes are allowed but must be at least 3/4-inch diameter at the small end. Steel rebar or other non-biodegradable material may not be used.
  • Grass mats or equivalent must be tied down securely using the metal pins. On very rocky ground, secure as best as possible and consider additional chemical or mechanical treatment to attain grass control.
  • Be careful with planting near power lines, entrance roads, fences, gates etc. Leave room for ingress and egress. Use shrubs in areas where power lines are overhead. Leave at least 15 feet from the center of roads, 20 feet from the dripline of existing trees, and 10 feet off of fence lines.
  • Install stakes on the downstream side of tubes to decrease flood-damage potential.
  • Open-field planting machines are a viable option, particularly in lighter soils of the Coastal Plain and Piedmont.

Tree and Shrub Selection

For best correlation between site conditions and tree selection, please utilize soil survey information, knowledge of current conditions and trees already present on or near the site, and other local or regional information sources. Always choose those species grown locally or at the same latitude as the planting site. A few general recommendations are as follows:

  • Upland oaks do not fair well on wet sites. Restrict oak planting on wet sites to swamp chestnut, swamp white, water, willow or other species adapted to wetter conditions. White oak is common on moderately wet sites in the Coastal Plain.
  • As with pine, seedling handling from nursery to planting is critical to seedling survival. Keep seedlings cool and moist using cold storage, tarps, and dip buckets. Limit exposure time between cold storage and the actual planting.
  • If possible, use hardwood seedlings that have a root collar diameter of 3/8" or greater. Research indicates survival drops markedly when smaller diameters are planted. Inspect trees for bark abrasion due to lifter damage. If abrasion is widespread, consider acquiring new trees for planting.
  • The use of "nurse trees" such as loblolly, shortleaf, and white pine as well as red osier dogwood and other shrubs are beneficial for hardwood tree survival when interplanted and should be encouraged in all hardwood plantings.

Last modified: Thursday, 06-Nov-2014 10:33:19 EST