Summer Habitat Work – Tree Plantings

By now anyone that is even halfway serious about habitat management already has their spring food plots planted. In fact those plots are likely well-established and hungry deer are already visiting them on a regular basis.

With the ideal planting time for fall-planted food-plots still several weeks away, many think we are at a dead period for habitat work … but are we really? Actually now is the ideal time to be planning your future tree and shrub plantings. A little bit of effort now will go a long ways towards saving you a lot of time and effort later while also increasing the survival rate of your trees and shrubs.

Whether it is tree species such as apples, pears, persimmons and chestnuts for additional wildlife food sources or other species for wildlife cover, every property can benefit from a tree or shrub planting project. Over the past 25 years I have planted thousands of trees and shrubs on my own land and yet each year I still plant more. Through my work as a conservation tree-planting contractor I have planted literally millions of trees and shrubs on thousands of acres across the entire Midwest. Because of this I have learned what works and what doesnt.

One very important but often over-looked aspect of a tree planting project is competing vegetation. When a new tree is planted its roots are not well-established on the new site. Other nearby plants will quickly absorb much needed moisture away from the newly planted and highly-stressed tree or shrub. Thus it is extremely important to control competing vegetation around newly planted trees and shrubs to not only get them off to a good start but also to increase their chances of survival.

I am always planning habitat improvements for the properties that I own and manage. When it comes to tree and shrub planting projects it is far better to have a plan than to simply head for the planting location with a load of trees in tow. Summer is the perfect time to plan and prepare for the tree and shrub planting projects that you will do next fall or winter. In fact it is a great time to prepare for the plantings you will do next spring.

I start my tree planting projects by marking the exact location where I will plant each tree with a small plastic flag. You can go so far as to use various colors of flags for various tree species; red flags for apples, yellow flags for pears, orange for persimmon, etc. Once I have all the flags in place I then use a back-pack sprayer to kill all the vegetation in a 4′-5′ diameter circle around each flag. For herbicide I use a strong solution of glyphosate to kill the vegetation that is already there and also mix in a residual herbicide such as Oust or Atrazine to prevent new weeds from sprouting and growing.

The advantages of this pre-planting prep work are numerous. First of all it will be a whole lot easier to plant your trees on these bare spots that are free of vegetation than trying to dig your holes in grasses and weeds. These spots where the vegetation has been killed will also provide your new trees with a planting site that is free of competing vegetation, especially down in the root zone. Also by flagging out the project you know exactly how many trees of each species to buy. By following this process you will greatly cut down the time needed to plant your trees while also helping get them off to a better start.

For us whitetail habitat freaks the projects never end and there is something to do every month of the year. If you are like me and have spent several years working on your property you may think that you are just about done. Don’t count on it. I thought that a decade ago and yet every hunting season i sit in my tree-stands and think to myself, “If I would just plant a few trees over there this property would be even better”. Then just like clockwork I am out there the next summer with a handful of flags and a back-pack sprayer getting things ready for the next round of tree plantings.

One final note, dont forget that Higgins Outdoors grows and sells several species of potted trees and shrubs for habitat and conservation projects. We also do the planting work on CRP and other tree projects. Contact us if you are in need of potted trees and shrubs or if you have a CRP tree project to plant.

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