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Big J

Encouraging natural generation after clearfell

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Another replanting question.

 

We've got a western red cedar clearfell to do in the summer, with around 4.5 acres to come down. About the same area again is also to be thinned. The object of the clearfell is to return the woodland to native hardwoods, and the reason for clearfelling this compartment and only thinning the others is that it is of generally poorer quality. 

 

The block is on a fairly steep slope, faces east and is free draining acid loam over rock. We would like to replant, or at least encourage regeneration. 

 

The slope is just about gentle enough for an excavator (with skilled operator) to be able to move around freely. I was wondering if there was a way to cultivate the land with a mulcher or such like in order to encourage birch and cherry regeneration, possibly including some form of seed planting? We (myself and the landowner) aren't desperately keen to replant with trees, stakes and tubes because of the cost, the disposal issues at the end, and the visual impact of the tubes on the hillside. 

 

I'm aware that cultivated ground will probably spring up with birch anyway, but I'm just looking at a way of speeding up the process. 

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I'm not the voice of experience here, but my concern with mulching an area that big without planting trees would be the amount of competition between your native hardwood seeds and the fern/bracken/bramble that is going to spring up if given the right conditions (ie, nice mulched clear ground). The cost and difficulty of having to keep said invasive species down to allow trees to thrive, i think it would be easier/more cost effective to plant whips. 

 

Better to wait for someone with the science to come along and give you the right answer.

 

I like your posts 👍

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11 minutes ago, Mark Wileman said:

I'm not the voice of experience here, but my concern with mulching an area that big without planting trees would be the amount of competition between your native hardwood seeds and the fern/bracken/bramble that is going to spring up if given the right conditions (ie, nice mulched clear ground). The cost and difficulty of having to keep said invasive species down to allow trees to thrive, i think it would be easier/more cost effective to plant whips. 

 

Better to wait for someone with the science to come along and give you the right answer.

 

I like your posts 👍

That is definitely a concern, as brambles are an issue in the locality. 

 

We are hoping that the ground is sufficiently acidic to perhaps suppress the invasive, non-tree species on the slope. Additionally, there are a few hardwoods scattered through the stand (some cherry and birch) and we're going to leave them standing despite the likelihood that they will blow. Even a year or two standing would mean a huge drop of seeds, saving us quite a lot of planting.

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We had a project to return PAWS (Plantation on Ancient Woodland Site) to native hardwood species. 

 

Very large blocks of conifer were removed and the ground left to naturally regenerate.

 

For the first few years we got very dense bramble growth but eventually Birch, Ash, Willow, Hawthorne and Oak started to push through what looked to be pretty impenetrable stuff.

 

15 years on these areas are now thick stands of mixed young trees. No trees planted.

 

It worked well for us, but will be very dependant on soil, site history, surviving hardwoods in the stand and in surrounding areas and browsing levels.

 

Wouldn't be able to necessarily endorse it for your situation unfortunately.

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8 hours ago, Big J said:

Even a year or two standing would mean a huge drop of seeds, saving us quite a lot of planting.

Stupid Question time. :D

 

Can you buy seeds? Just wondered if its feasible to wander around the site sowing in the same way a Farmer would have done a few hundred years ago?

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2 hours ago, trigger_andy said:

Stupid Question time. :D

 

Can you buy seeds? Just wondered if its feasible to wander around the site sowing in the same way a Farmer would have done a few hundred years ago?

In the period following the end of WW2 and 1970 quite a few heathland site were re afforested, mostly with pines in the drier eastern counties. Two places locally used seed where there were too few seed trees established. The technique was a rough chisel plough and then broadcast, by hand or fiddle, 6lb of seed mixed with sawdust per acre.

 

The problem was/is the scots pine grew like mustard and cress and competition was so great that at P25 the trees were still less than 75mm.

 

We used to respace them by hand  all the time there was a market for pergola poles, tree stakes etc,. but otherwise you had to wait for the dominant trees to suppress the rest.

 

In the event the ecologists decided lowland heath was sufficiently rare that much has since been clearfelled and reverted to heath.

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A few thoughts.....

 

Nat regen is generally unreliable for tree crops as seed fall, conditions, germination rates and spacing are all unpredictable.  None of these are insurmountable problems, especially if you are wanting to establish an amenity woodland rather than a commercial crop.

 

Bad Points:

  • Timescale can be highly variable, you may get a good crop quickly, but it might take a prolonged period of time.  This can be problematic if grants are being claimed or if the landowner wants to see results.
  • Spacing again can be highly variable, you may have areas of a site with 10K+ stems per ha and others at sub 1K / ha meaning you spend a lot on either enrichment planting or cleaning.
  • Species can be unpredictable, almost bound to get birch, other species can be less reliable.
  • Shallow rooting, generally considered that self seeders do not root as well as planted trees (although quite how natural forests have managed to survive quite so well if this is the case has always puzzled me).
  • A lot of the savings are simply not there - if you're talking about doing ground prep to encourage nat regen then you might as well plant (cost not that much more for a more guaranteed result); if you're talking about having to stake and tube any planted trees then the nat regen is also going to need some form of protection.

Good Points:

  • Saves you buying and planting trees.
  • Minimal ground prep.
  • Spacing and size class more variable over site (if this is what you want).
  • Trees grow from local seed (phenotype??) better environmentally.
  • You can always go back and do enrichment planting later if you have/want to.

 

Not sure of soil conditions on your site, in my experience birch will regenerate almost anywhere from dry to wet, cherry a little bit more unpredictable.  Bramble is a problem for all large mamals moving through, this is a nightmare for those of us who have to work in these places, but it will also keep the nibblers largely at bay.  Bramble can suppress trees and cause poor form as a result, again this needn't be a problem if it isn't going to be a crop.

 

If it's only 4.5 acres that's roughly 2 ha so you're not really looking at that much planting, albeit if you can save yourself some planting that's probably a good thing.  What's happening in the 4.5 acres being thinned, are you looking for regen under the remaining crop?  If so would it be worth fencing the whole thing as opposed to using tubes on the clearfell?

 

I've never heard of anyone broadcasting seed as a form of establishement, but this doesn't mean it doesn't happen.  I have the feeling that you'd end up paying a seed collector or nursery a lot of money for seed to get a result which isn't guaranteed and would be slightly pointless if you've got seed trees on site which would give the same result.

 

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Shallow rooting, generally considered that self seeders do not root as well as planted trees (although quite how natural forests have managed to survive quite so well if this is the case has always puzzled me).

Any mores info on this?

 

Always thought self seeders grew/rooted better than planted trees?

Would it mean self seeders blow over more  than plantation trees?

Edited by Stere

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