Early spring is a great time to plant trees. Frankly, when it comes to planting "bare root" tree seedlings, early spring is the only time. But what can you do to increase the likelihood for your trees' survival going forward?
Site preparation is extremely important for young trees that will be experiencing "transplant shock". Loosen the soil to give roots a place to go, and get rid of immediate growing competition. Often times we are introducing one or two year old seedlings into an environment that provides greater potential for herbaceous weeds and woody shrubs which are much more aggressive. Growing space above and below ground level is at a premium, and almost all other plant types in our area resources more efficiently than tree seedlings. Think of it like painting a wall. The more prep you do, the happier you'll be with the result.
Ideally competing vegetation is controlled before, during and after planting. Even the grass that grows around the base of your tree is stunting its growth. Once the tree is established, periodically applying a 1% solution of glyphosate to surrounding vegetation is effective for tree support.
Deer, rabbits, mice, voles and others are often the difference between success and failure. Seedlings from nurseries have nutrient-rich growth that is very desirable to a variety of herbivores. Suitable plantation species are often preferred foods for wildlife, resulting in selective feeding on your young trees. Deer will also do physical damage to seedlings through antler rubbing, resulting in dead or broken stems. Shielding young trees with fence or a protective tree tube may be necessary for desired survival. There are a variety of tree tubes on the market and one online search will tell you most of what you need to know. Keep in mind, in order to stay above the deer browse line you'll need to purchase tubes that are at least five feet tall.
For more information about tree planting or other forest management activities, visit our website at www.forestry.ohiodnr.gov. This article was provided by Steve McGinnis, Service Forester, Ohio Division of Forestry.