Whether you’re planting a single tree in your yard or several acres on a farm, tree planting is an honorable act to perform. The paybacks are many and not fully appreciated.
Trees can provide income to their owner, pleasing views, and places to hike, hunt or play. Trees are extremely important for erosion control, having many miles of fine roots that bind and protect the topsoil upon which man and beast depends.
To wildlife, a grove of trees is home and food source. Trees produce oxygen and provide wood and paper that all use on a daily basis.
Planting one or two trees in your yard is an easy enough task, but what if you want plant a lot of trees, say a half-acre or more? For that you probably want to plant seedlings, which are baby trees about 2-3 years old and 8-24 inches long. What kind to plant depends on your personal desires and the conditions of the place you want to plant. Step one of any big scale-planting job is to contact your local state forester, who can answer any question you have about tree planting.
When you know what kind of trees to plant you can order them from a nursery usually at a reasonable price. The Tennessee State Nursery has a good selection of tree species for timber, wildlife and erosion control projects, and will sell seedlings in bundles as small as 25. A catalog for seedlings is available from the local Tennessee Division of Forestry office or online at http://planttntrees.org.
While you’re waiting for your trees to arrive, get the tree-planting site ready by mowing or removing unwanted vegetation. You may want to pre-treat planting rows with a herbicide. Again a forester can advise you on what is needed.
When it’s time to plant the seedlings you can use a shovel, but an even better way is to use a tool called a “dibble” or planting bar. It opens a small slit in the ground where you insert the tree seedling and close it back up using the same tool. If you get good at it you can plant two or three trees a minute.
Once the trees are in the ground they need to be protected from tall weeds and grass for a couple of years until they are tall enough to make it on their own. This can be done my mowing and possibly a careful application of an herbicide. After that you can sit back and enjoy watching them reach for the sky.
Government programs may be available to help pay for tree planting and other conservation projects. For information contact your local state forestry office.
Steve Roark is the Area Forester in Tazewell, Tenn. for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Forestry Division.