2018-06-09 / Outdoors

INSIDE THE OUTDOORS

We owe it to those who follow

June is a great time to be alive in the Pennsylvania Wilds.

After the magical rebirth of April and May, nature surrounds us with all her glory. Hikers can traverse their favorite section of woods without bundling up in heavy gear. Bird­watchers can enjoy forests full of bird choruses and species that were ab­sent for winter and early spring.

It’s also a time when we can give something back to the earth that supports us by planting trees.

When I was a young child I would to with my father each year as he planted apple and other fruit trees. This Johnny Appleseed mentality stuck with me.

Not too many years ago, I planted 300 seedlings as part of habitat improve­ments on the old family farm. Species included white pine, white spruce, red elderberry, Washing­ton hawthorn, American hazelnut, flowering dog­wood, American mountain ash, pin oak, scrub oak, and winterberry holly seedlings.


Deer depend on vegetation for their survival. They can wreak havoc on many species and are particu­larly fond of seed­lings that are eas­ily accessible and meet their nutri­tional demands. Tubing and fenc­ing can protect the younger trees as they’re taking root and matur­ing. Deer depend on vegetation for their survival. They can wreak havoc on many species and are particu­larly fond of seed­lings that are eas­ily accessible and meet their nutri­tional demands. Tubing and fenc­ing can protect the younger trees as they’re taking root and matur­ing. My family had the forest­ed hillside on the property logged a couple years ear­lier. Unfortunately, after a couple summers there was little sign of regeneration. To make matters worse, Japanese stilt grass and garlic mustard (two inva­sive plants that will prevent the establishment of tree seedlings) established a firm foothold.

In order to restore the more beneficial understory cover and mast, my cous­ins and I got to work. In areas of moderate shade, we planted shade-tolerant evergreens, mainly white pine and spruce, in clumps or pockets to provide cover and to break up the open woods.

In areas with more can­opy openings, we planted hazelnut, mountain ash, dogwood, and red elderber­ry seedlings. We used the treetops left from logging as barriers to reduce deer browsing by planting these seedlings in the middle of the tops. Although difficult work, it was much easier and more economical than buying tree tubes or fence.

Plenty of sunlight reaches the forest floor in these areas, allowing these tree and shrub seedlings to mature rapidly. As these species grow up, they will all provide structure in the understory of the forest, as well as wildlife cover and food in the form of browse, berries, and nuts.

In these same openings left by the logging, we planted red and white oak seedlings and protected them with tree tubes.

On the edge of the old field we planted oaks, chestnut, American persim­mon, and apple trees. These will grow quickly in the open sunlight and produce lots of hard and soft mast for wildlife. These trees have all been fenced or protected with tree tubes.

Although it has been hard work and financial investment, the fruits of our labors are starting to pay off as the property is transformed into an oasis of wildlife activity.

When I plant trees, I visualize what the area will look like when the trees grow and think about all the wildlife that will use the improved habitat. It gives me satisfaction to know that I am making a differ­ence.

When planting trees, there are several things that should be taken into consid­eration. Most fruit and nut trees planted in the shade of other trees will never grow to bear fruit during their planter’s lifetime. Always seek to plant trees in areas where they will receive plenty of sunlight.

The second most impor­tant consideration is pro­tecting the seedlings. Deer browse many tree species, never allowing them to grow. Rodents girdle trees, killing them, and thick grass chokes out seedlings and provides a haven for meadow voles.

Investing in tubes or fenc­ing and keeping the weeds cut in a radius around the seedlings is essential for the survival of most species of tree seedlings.

If you’re ever looking for a way to give something back for the many benefits we all derive from the natural world all around us, please consider planting a tree – or 300 of them if the spirit really moves you!

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