Average distance between trees

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#11)  Re: Average distance between trees

Postby Don » Tue Mar 17, 2015 1:39 pm

Gaines-
You are a wealth of forest knowledge that we too seldom call upon...good to hear from you after what seems like a long time, may your woodlands have benefitted from your focus in the interim!
Doug-
I unabashedly endorse Gaines views aired here, and those he's constrained himself from delivering...: > )
-Don
Don Bertolette - President/Moderator, WNTS BBS
Restoration Forester (Retired)
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#12)  Re: Average distance between trees

Postby DougBidlack » Wed Mar 18, 2015 10:39 am

Gaines,

thank you very much for your advice.  I was hoping you'd make some comments and it is clear to me that I'll have to make some changes but I hope you don't mind my wanting to argue for something between what I have planned and what you suggest.  I'll go over some of the important points that you've made and I'll put in my own two cents worth on each and then I can eventually decide on how to go forward with a new planting plan.

1.  Aesthetics.  Obviously this all comes down to what I think is beautiful so this is easy.  I once remember a friend who asked me why I was planting so many oaks because he thought they looked ugly!  When I pointed to a big, beautiful white oak and asked what he thought about it he said that sure, they're beautiful when they're big but not when they're young.  I disagree!  I think they are beautiful when they are a foot tall, 120' tall, growing in the open, growing in a forest...well, you get the picture.  So, I think a planting will look beautiful in 40 years if the trees are 40' tall or 80' tall.

2.  Arboretum vs Forest.  Most all of my plantings to date have been like what you would find in an arboretum.  I've planted around 60 bur oaks, white oaks and swamp white oaks in a field and spaced them at least 120' from one another and in most cases significantly more for a kind of oak opening or oak savanna sort of effect.  My mom and I have also planted some trees only 20-30' apart for a more forest-like effect and several of these trees are now over 70' tall.  These trees include Norway spruce, blue spruce, Oriental spruce, Serbian spruce, silver maple, European beech, American beech and tuliptree planted near other trees that were already present such as pignut hickories and black cherry.  I love both sorts of plantings.  Initially the planting that I'm now considering was to be more open with much more space between trees but I'm now looking to change that to something closer to a forest-like planting.

3.  More openings to be able to view trees from a distance.  The planting that I'm now working on will have lots of trees on the edges for this sort of viewing and I've mostly tried to put more shade intolerant trees or those with great fall colors in these positions.  I've also tried to put slower growing trees on the edges as well.  Some trees, like black tupelo, fit into two or more of those categories.  I'm also now thinking of creating more space around a few trees that are already present but will be overwhelmed by faster growing trees and/or ones that will ultimately be significantly larger.  So, I'm now going to clear out larger areas around the hybrid buckeye, post oak, blackjack oak and Georgia oak so that they won't be shaded out and they can be better appreciated from a little distance.

4.  I'm going to try harder to group trees with similar growth rates next to one another.  So I'll plant the sycamores and cottonwoods near each other and the bur oak and shellbark hickories near each other in the river floodplain area as an example.

5.  Possibly increase spacing to 30' for the deciduous trees.  The Arnold Arboretum has a nice planting of oaks and these are generally spaced about 25' apart or maybe a little more and they look great.  The northern red oaks are generally planted among other northern red oaks and other faster growing species though.  In any case this planting, in particular, made me feel that I could get away with something similar.  They also have a wonderful planting of black walnuts that is simply stunning but it is quite small with a pathway alongside allowing more light.  These are also spaced 25' or more apart.

If I go this new route with the above clearings and greater spacing I'll obviously need to reduce the number of trees to plant and I think it will probably be best to reduce the diversity as well.  Not just to completely drop some species but to reduce some from maybe 5 trees to 2 trees or 3 trees to 1 tree so that the more dominant species like beech and sugar maple or white oak and pignut hickory can, if anything, be even more dominant in their respective plantings.

I still wish to plant fewer trees and prune rather than dramatically decrease spacing and thin trees over time.  Planting is difficult for me due to the difficulty of collecting seed and the fairly narrow window of time to plant in the Spring.  Pruning, on the other hand, can be done over a fairly long period of time so that it can be spread out over many months or even years which makes it easier for me even though the total amount of time required will actually be greater than for planting many trees close together.

I probably missed some things but I trust that I'll be able to get to them later.

Doug
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#13)  Re: Average distance between trees

Postby gnmcmartin » Wed Mar 18, 2015 1:44 pm

Doug:

  It is good to have some people like us at NTS to have a discussion with about your plans.  There are so many possibilities, so many ways to create something beautiful with trees.  I started here 13 years ago and as I have gone on planting, I have learned a lot, and changed a lot of my ideas about what would be possible.  The biggest mistake I made was assuming that a part of the fields here could be left to come up with volunteers, and create a natural "early succession stage" forest.  Well, no way--too many invasive vines, invasive trees, deer, etc., etc.  And, the most common native volunteer was white ash, one of my favorite trees, but the emerald ash borer is already here. Most of the rest of the trees were ailanthus, callery pears and mulberry. So the best thing was to plant pine groves, and some other things for color and variety. But I am 12 years later planting than I should have been, and have had to do a lot of work clearing out the mess. Well, "live and learn," and "better late than never."

  I assume you have a deer problem, right?  Here, any and all hardwoods I plant MUST be protected, or they will be nibbled to nothing. I have some volunteer black walnuts, and they generally escape the worst damage, but any maple or oak, etc. that I plant is a goner. Buck rubbing also destroys trees.  Again, black walnuts not so much, but just about everything else is at risk, especially pines, spruces, and other conifers.

  Spacing:  I am sure you see the irregular spacing in natural forests.  I avoid regular spacing, and often plant two or three trees of the same species or compatible growth habits, fairly close together. But, in general, I think you CAN get some good results with the kind of planting plans you have.  Keeping the trees pruned so they will look good when they grow large will be a fairly big job.  I have seen plenty of parks where such plantings have worked out well, given proper tending.  But, I have seen some that are not so nice.  In the Virginia Arboretum east of Winchester along route 50, there is a planting of various kinds of oaks.  They are very regularly spaced at something like 30 feet apart, have broad crowns and are about 80 or more feet tall. OK, I go to see the different kinds of oaks, and collect some acorns to plant, but the area is NOT attractive.  If they were all eastern white oaks, and maybe not planted with such regular spacing, they, with their wonderfully high arching branches, would be beautiful.  But this oak collection doesn't look like a forest, nor does it allow one to appreciate any of the individual trees very much.

  It is sometimes hard to see just how a planting will look after it grows up.

  And, as for the beauty of young trees--I heartily agree.  I love my little trees, and love to see their growth, even when they are just a few feet tall.

  Well, I for one, would be happy to look over any specific ideas you have and give my thoughts.  You should have a wonderful time with this project. Some things will work out better than expected, some things may disappoint to some extent, but in the end it will be a wonderful activity.  it will keep you young!

  --Gaines
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#14)  Re: Average distance between trees

Postby DougBidlack » Thu Mar 19, 2015 10:12 am

Gaines,

yes, it is good to have people like you and other NTS to talk to about tree planting plans!

As far as deer are concerned, there are certainly plenty.  At one time their numbers were sky high and they were small and constantly starving to death.  I believe there was a Winter when my mom found three dead deer in the backyard.  The last one she decided to drag up to the house, put it in her minivan and took it to a place at Michigan State to find out why it died.  At that time it was virtually impossible to grow any vegetables without a very strong and tall fence.  My mom even watched one eat frogs from the back pond one early Spring!  Since that time Kensington Metropark has instituted thinning every Winter and the deer are much larger and healthier now.  In 2012 a neighbor killed a Michigan record Boone and Crockett Archery whitetail from an adjacent field.  Damage due to feeding is now less but buck rubs are still a big problem.  It is not possible to grow trees without them being fed upon and rubbed raw by deer every year unless they are protected by fence.

I will continue to think about tree spacing and also the possibility of a meandering, loop trail through the field and how the planting might be set up to provide the best views to a person slowly walking along this trail.  I wonder what you feel is a good spacing within and between groups of trees for say white oak or sugar maple?  How about spacing between trees on either side of the trail?  They could be spaced so that they just barely touch to form a kind of tunnel or they might be spaced even farther apart so that there will always be blue sky above.  I think both possibilities could be attractive and the idea of a trail does appeal to me somewhat, especially since I know I can't really have a true forest any time soon.  I'm heading to Michigan today to collect Kentucky coffeetree seeds and check to see if the tree tubes I put in place last year were protection enough from hungry voles.

Doug
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#15)  Re: Average distance between trees

Postby gnmcmartin » Thu Mar 19, 2015 8:06 pm

Doug:

  Yes a winding path.  And, you can put special trees, maybe those with fall color, or some other especially attractive feature at points where there is a long view of them. I have a couple of "S" shaped paths into the back portion of my land here.  At the entrance of one, I have a group of three Norway spruce on each side of the entrance.  You might want to make the path very wide for vehicle access.  You can vary the "enclosure" effects at different points.

  Kentucky coffeetrees--one of my special favorites.

  Groups of trees:  in a forest, pairs, and groups, of white pines growing very close together can be stunning. In one of my pine groves at my timberland, there are several pairs of white pines growing just 4 or 5 feet apart.  Looking up between them is one of my favorite things.  They are about 100 feet tall, but looking up between them one would think they go all the way to heaven. Perhaps my favorite spot is where there are four growing very close together.  Three are within 4 to 6 feet of each other, with the fourth about 10 feet away.  Of course, when growing this close, they need extra room on the outsides of the groups.  I have a couple of pairs or groups of Hemlocks like these also.  I can't walk near these without going to have my look up to heaven.

  Trees in a forest can grow quite close together, and develop very ,very nicely with excellent form.  The most common examples on my timberland are groups of three to 5 red oak trees or Black cherry trees that had their origin as stump sprouts after the forest was cut in 1933. These are some of the true "stars" in my forest land--absolute stunners.  One is a pair of absolutely perfect black cherry, growing straight as an arrow, straight up to over 100 feet, with perfect trunk form.  As veneer trees, each could bring 3 to 5 thousand dollars, but I am not having them cut any time soon.

  Now I am not strongly recommending planting trees as close as these--the bases are joined--because trees of seedling origin will have different genetic characteristics.  Trees of a stump sprout origin are clones, and so grow at well matched rates and forms.  But you could experiment with planting several trees very close to each other, and see how they develop.  If they are not well-matched, thin them out, leaving one or maybe two, depending. But, of course, leave extra room on either side.

  When I plant in the open, I like to plant trees as separate individuals, but also in close groups of three,  If I plant oaks this way, I space them 12 to 15 feet apart. Ditto with pines, or maybe a tad closer.

  I also don't try to have every type of tree--I prefer to plant multiples of my favorites, and those that grow best in the soils I have.  Variety is nice, but I go more for beauty. I don't want a tree of a special variety if it will not develop into an especially beautiful tree.  In this, my land is unlike an arboretum.

  Are you planting strictly natives?  I plant anything, regardless, if it is beautiful and adapted for my area.  A really beautiful favorite of mine is golden weeping willow, but it needs to grow in the open. I love larches, especially the hybrid Marschlinsii, AKA the Dunkeld larch, and formerly called Larix X eurolepis.  wonderful narrow conical growth, nice autumn color, and early spring green.

  And, of course, Norway spruce, one of my favorites of all trees. And, fir trees are wonderful--you can grow the balsam fir, but I think some of the exotics are better. Maybe for your area, Nordmann fir would be a good choice.  But fir trees are very, very slow starters, so they can't compete with other trees until after they get 4 or 5 feet tall.  After that their growth can be moderate. If you are interested, I have lots of other non-native suggestions.

  And, you can grow baldcypress, which I think is one of the top ten, or maybe the top three or four, ornamental trees available.

  And, of the natives, you can't have too many eastern white oaks, which I would argue is the finest hardwood tree that one can grow in our general area. I love the opening statement of the description in the American Forests Association publication, Knowing Your trees.  It starts, "Chief of all the oaks, and outstanding among trees, is the eastern white oak." Among other virtues, which are many, it has the finest growth form of any tree I know, adapting to both forest conditions, where it can grow very narrow and tall, and to open areas, where it spreads wide, with perfect balance.

  Trees from seed?  Would you consider getting seedlings?  That can save time and trouble. Mail-order nurseries sell these for very low prices. Piles Peak Nursery, in Michigan, by the way, in their "seedling store," sells them in bundles of ten, so you don't have to get 50 or more as with wholesale. They have a nice selection of species in good sizes. But they do sell out early. Musser sells seedlings in bundles of 5, but they are smaller, and need special care. Oaks from acorns are very, very easy, as are some other trees.  But some are tricky to grow from seed.

  Voles?  They eat the roots off my little trees, going underground a bit to get to them.  I have lost dozens of oaks to voles, including some expensive exotics and hybrids. If you sink the bases of the tree tubes two or three inches into the ground, that may work.  I have problems with rabbits and groundhogs also, and use three kinds of fencing.  If you need ideas for fencing, or other protection strategies, let me know.

  --Gaines
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#16)  Re: Average distance between trees

Postby Lucas » Fri Apr 03, 2015 2:14 pm

http://www.qdma.com/forums/showthread.php?t=68822

Some other guys really into planting oaks.
We travel the Milky way together, trees and men. - John Muir
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