Planting a DF seedling 2 - Alicia Christiansen.JPG

An Oregon forest landowner planting a Douglas fir seedling.

As the rain settles in and the snow blankets the mountaintops, the forest is breathing a sigh of relief (and many of us are too!). At last we are getting some much-needed precipitation that will help our forests grow, fill our rivers and sustain the Oregon we love so much.

While some dreary wet days may be ahead, those are the days foresters and forest landowners look forward to the most because that is exactly what is needed to help establish and grow our next generation of Oregon forests.

Winter time, specifically the months of December through March, is the perfect time to plant native conifer seedlings in western Oregon. During these months, the trees enter into dormancy — meaning they are no longer actively growing — making it the perfect time to transplant them from a nursery into the woods.

Like any plant, baby trees are especially vulnerable when they are in the process of being transplanted. By planting them while they are dormant, you’re helping ensure that the tree survives the process and has the best chance of successfully establishing itself in its forever home in the forest.

The process of getting a tree seedling into the forest requires a lot of planning, many hands and many miles. One to two years prior to planting, a landowner will place an order for the needed number of seedlings with a nursery. The seedlings are grown from seed collected from the same area, or seed zone, and elevation band where they will be planted.

One to two years later, when the seedlings are ready for planting, they are lifted from the growing area at the nursery, bagged or boxed, and placed in an on-site cooler for storage. The landowner (or forester) will coordinate getting the seedlings transported from the nursery cooler to a cooler closer to the planting site for storage.

Then, a tree planting crew will pick up the seedlings and bring them to the site to be planted. The crew will only bring enough trees for one- or two-days’ work at a time, thus limiting the exposure the seedlings will have once they’re out of the cooler. The crew will work at a fast and experienced pace — often planting upwards of 800 trees per day per person!

One important piece of a successful reforestation process is managing any competing vegetation that would hinder the ability for a seedling to establish and grow. Landowners have many tools at their disposal to deal with this issue of competition, often through the use of herbicide application both before and after planting, to help with tree survival.

Herbicides are applied by licensed herbicide applicators under very specific guidelines that are dependent on the targeted vegetation species and species of tree planted. There are also strict guidelines for when and how to spray based on time of year, weather conditions and proximity to sensitive areas.

Another option for helping control competing vegetation is manual or mechanical brush removal combined with the application of a weed mat. Weed mats are similar to what you would use in a garden to prevent weeds from popping up — they cover about 9 feet 2 inches around the tree and block any vegetation from growing near that new seedling.

Of course, there are tradeoffs for using any of these methods discussed, so a landowner or forester must use the combination of tools that make the most sense for their situation and land management goals.

If you are interested in learning more about how to successfully plan, plant and care for seedlings, then come to the “Successful Reforestation Practices” workshop on Saturday, Jan. 15 from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. This workshop is offered by the Oregon State University Extension Service and Douglas County Chapter of the Oregon Small Woodlands Association.

This workshop will provide participants with a comprehensive opportunity to learn about the reforestation process from start to finish. Participants will learn how to order, transport, store, plant, and care for forest seedlings. Professional foresters will demonstrate how to properly plant trees using different tree planting tools, then participants will get to practice planting themselves. Vegetation management options will also be discussed, including the use of weed mats and herbicide application to reduce competing vegetation.

This field-based workshop will take place in the Archie Creek Fire burn area and is free, however registration is requested. This class is for forest landowners of all sizes and experience levels.

To register for the “Successful Reforestation Practices” workshop, visit beav.es/UEy or call OSU Extension in Douglas County at 541-672-4461.

Alicia Christiansen is the Forestry Extension Agent for OSU Extension Service of Douglas County. Alicia can be reached by email at alicia.christiansen@oregonstate.edu or phone at 541-672-4461.

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