Reforestation User Guide

Planting Planning Guide



The first step to a successful reforestation project is a plan to guide decision-making and action.  The purpose of this guide is to highlight important topics to consider when planning a reforestation project whether your aim is to reclaim mine land, reforest pasture for timber, establish a riparian buffer or establish woody plant cover for another purpose. Take some time to collect the information outlined below and include into a plan to guide your planting project. Doing so will better focus your resources and efforts to “Plant Like You mean It” and make sure your planting Survives, Thrives, and Succeeds!

Pre-Planting Season Activities (best accomplished at least a year in advance)

  1. Define primary planting goals and objectives - Identify at the beginning of the planning process well ahead of breaking ground. This process is critical to make sure your physical and financial resources are focused and better-prepares others to help, whether for hire or volunteer service.
    • Purpose for the planting
      • Why am I planting? May include multiple reasons including
        • Reforestation
        • Reclamation
        • Field windbreak 
        • Homestead shelter-belt
        • Water quality
        • Legacy
        • Aesthetics / privacy screen
        • Recreation
        • Financial return
          • Short-rotation biomass production
          • Long-term investment in timber and other natural resources
          • Consider certification programs to enhance the value of your property's output
          • Get help understanding tax implications
        • Soil stabilization / retention
        • Environmental mitigation
        • Permaculture
        • Wildlife (click here to view our Wildlife Habitat Planting Planner for more information)
        • Other
      • What do I want to accomplish?
        • Establish goals for the project to provide direction and benchmarks to gauge future performance.
        • Goal setting could benefit from consulting with professional wildlife or land management expertise.
      • When do I want to see specific results?
        • Short-term  goals (1-3 years)
        • Mid-term goals (3-5 years)
        • Long-term goals 5-10 years and beyond

  1. Establish a budget to include
    • Site assessment
    • Site preparation
    • Plant materials – Only budget for the number of plants you can actually afford to protect and nurture through to full establishment – “Plant Like You Mean It” means only planting what you can help Survive, Thrive  and Succeed.
    • Plant protection and growth products for woody plants – Again, only budget for planting stock you can protect and nurture through to full establishment:
      • Examples include - tree tubes, tree bark protectors, support stakes, weed control
      • These items need to be budgeted at the beginning of the process. It is much more cost-effective to establish seedlings with tree survival and growth products than to replant lost or damaged seedlings afterwards
    • Planting equipment and labor
    • Planting aftercare follow-up – specific tasks to promote long-term success of your project
    • Professional fees (i.e. property land survey, tax advice, consulting fees) 

  1. Conduct a site assessment - baseline analysis of the property to include:
    • Topographic maps and aerial photos clearly delineating property boundaries and existing vegetation patterns
    • Soil analysis information
    • Wildlife survey
    • Plant hardiness zone definition
    • Eligibility for cost-sharing
    • Threats to new planting stock above and below ground
    • Source of supplemental water in the event of drought conditions during plant establishment phase
    • Existing and future plans for adjacent properties if known 
    • Utilities – both above and below ground
    • Process can be helped through consultation with professional land management expertise

  1. Choose plant materials based on your goals and objectives
    • Choosing a nursery – Research potential nurseries and select local supplier if possible who can be of service before, during and after you plant.
    • Getting help - Consult with your nursery, land management professional or wildlife biologist to:
      • Best match plant species to your region and site
      • Determine type of planting stock best suited for your project
      • Determine how many seedlings will be needed (also driven by your budget)
      • Determine best time to plant
      • Choose a blend of species to extend the range of benefits to support your goals 
      • Layout your planting to achieve optimal physical distribution as in the case of edge creation, successional plantings and forest openings
      • Determine best planting method (hand vs. mechanical)
      • Ordering plant stock - Order as early as possible even the year before actual planting if possible.

  1. Deciding between a do-it-yourself approach or hiring professional assistance
    • If you wish to conduct your own planting determine the following
      • Do I have the knowledge and skill to oversee the project? If not, can I acquire them ahead of time?
      • Do I have the time it takes to do the job right?
      • Do I have the site preparation/planting tools and equipment that will be required? If not, can I afford to acquire them?
      • Do I have access to the manpower needed?
      • Do I have resources to safely transport and temporarily store seedlings after receiving them from the nursery?
    • If you wish to hire a contractor for all or part of your planting project research potential candidates to include the following information:
      • Experience – How long has the contractor been managing properties for wildlife including preparing, planting and performing follow-up for projects similar to what you have in mind?
      • References – Does the contractor have references from other clients readily available for you to research?
      • Project Assurance – Will the contractor sign a consulting or project contract specifying prices for service and a guarantee for agreed upon results related to the work performed?
      • Project Insurance - Does the contractor have adequate general liability and equipment (auto, field equipment, etc.) insurance?

  1. Planting site preparation 
    • Invasive species /competing vegetation control – Identify control method best suited to you property and project
    • Mulching Grazing Manual (scalping with hand equipment)
    • Mechanical (mowing, tilling/disking, etc.) 
    • Burning – confirm with local jurisdiction regarding required permits
    • Chemical – always follow label instructions
    • Soil preparation
    • Initial weed control
    • Planting layout
    • Property line confirmation

  1. Make record keeping  an integral part of your project
    • Documentation including photo/video should before project implementation and continue through to long-term goal achievement
    • Budget review
    • Start a planting log or diary to record your activities which can provide invaluable reference information to measure performance and problem solve.

Planting Season Activities 

  1. Planting logistics plan
    • Stock location, marking/flagging – Layout and mark the planting site ahead of planting date;
    • Planting stock transport and handling plan – Consult with nursery supplier about the best way to handle the plant materials you’ve decided to use;
    • Labor planning – Scheduling help needs to be done in advance to make sure resources are available when your planting date arrives.

  1. Incorporate plant protection and growth measures at time of planting – “Planting Like You Mean It” means making sure your new planting Survives, Thrives and Succeeds. Be sure to budget for Plantra seedling establishment “tools” to keep your newly planted stock from being killed or damaged by wildlife and human impacts.
    • Tree tubes (tree shelters) – To protect and grow nursery-grown seedlings, wild “volunteer” seedlings and direct seeded nuts and acorns;
    • Tree bark protection – To protect sapling trunks against antler rub and chewing rabbits and other rodents;
    • Fertilizer – Early nutrition doesn’t end at the nursery, it needs to continue in the field
    • Weed barrier – stop weeds before they start and make sure your plants get all the sun, soil moisture and nutrients they need to compete.
    • Repellents – to use in conjunction with physical protection
    • Rodent control – Install gopher guards below ground and encourage natural rodent control by attracting owls, hawks and other predators to your planting site.
    • Planting site monitoring – Don’t forget to install basic precipitation monitoring equipment to help determine if supplemental watering is needed. Also consider installing trail cams to keep track of wildlife using your planting area and to keep track of human visitors including those unexpected.

Post-planting season Activities 

  1. In the field
    • Planting inspection
      • Survey to assess survival and growth including photo and video documentation
      • Condition of tree tubes, stakes, weed barrier fabric and other supplies to protect and grow seedlings 
    • Competing vegetation management
    • Tree pruning
    • Inspect and maintain remote monitoring equipment (replace trail cam batteries, empty rain gauge, etc.)

  1. Administrative/record keeping
    • Periodic project review - Performance measured against original goals and objectives 
    • Planting assessment
    • Survival
    • Growth
    • Corrective measures if necessary
    • Budget review of expenditures vs. projected costs 
    • Project diary update

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