Article #7, January 1998
By Bill Cook
Hey! It’s time to assemble those spring tree planting plans and order those seedlings! The days have been growing longer for about a month now! It might sound a bit weird to think about tree planting in the middle of winter but orders and deliveries don’t happen overnight. You’ll maximize your selection choices by ordering early. Remember that these trees were planted several years ago and there are limited quantities. Trees don’t grow overnight, not even seedlings! Contact your local Conservation District and ask for their Tree and Supply Catalog or how to obtain tree seedlings. Look in the phone book under the county listings for “Conservation District” or “Soil and Water Conservation District”. The names for these agencies vary somewhat from county to county.
The availability of tree species may change from District to District and some species may be in short supply. A minimum number of seedlings must be ordered, often between 25 and 500 depending upon the species. Both conifers and hardwoods may be purchased. Most Districts offer shrubs and wildlife packets as well as trees.
Seedlings are generally delivered “bare-root”, meaning the roots are exposed. By contrast, containerized seedlings are grown in Styrofoam blocks with a variable number cells. Each cell contains a seedling and root plug complete with soil. Bare-root seedlings often are categorized by numbers such as “3-0” stock or “2-1” stock. The first number refers to the number of years since the seedlings were planted in the nursery before they were either packed (lifted) or transplanted. The second number refers to the number of years after the seedlings were transplanted. So, “3-2” stock grew three years, then was transplanted and grown for another two years before the seedlings were packed. The total age of “3-2” stock would be five years. Older and larger seedlings survive better after planting but are more expensive.
Transplanting “prunes” or “trains” the roots. A bare-root seedling with a more compact and fibrous root bundle is more likely to survive than one with just a few larger roots. Seedlings with more roots will have a better chance of living through the first critical year or two. Of course, weather, site selection, site preparation, weed control, and planting techniques are also very important factors in seedling survival.
When ordering seedlings, consider the soil and location. Different trees have different preferences. Consider such things as soil type, soil drainage, and the amount shade. Unprepared old field sites can be difficult places for seedlings to survive. Grasses are tough competitors for water, light, and nutrients. In some areas, deer browsing can be major problem. Some sort of exclosure or shelter may be needed for certain species. Learn about tree growth requirements and how to prepare the planting site before you order seedlings. Site preparation and planting can be a lot of work and involve some cost. Become familiar with the best techniques for planting. Talk to the folks at the Conservation District, contact your County Extension office for Bulletin E-771 (Tree Planting in Michigan), or call me at 906-786-1575.
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Bill Cook is an MSU Extension forester providing educational programming for the entire Upper Peninsula. His office is located at the MSU Upper Peninsula Tree Improvement Center near Escanaba. The Center is the headquarters for three MSU Forestry properties in the U.P., with a combined area of about 8,000 acres. He can be reached at email@example.com or 906-786-1575.
by Bill Cook, Forester/Biologist, Michigan State University Extension, 6005
J Road, Escanaba, MI 49829
906-786-1575 (voice), 906-786-9370 (fax), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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