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Foresting the Plains

Wyatt Smith


Joined: Feb 19, 2010
Posts: 111
Location: Midwest zone 6

I have a friend who lives in NW Iowa which is a cold and windy Zone 4 climate.  She wants to plant 10 acres of trees on one of her fields.  She wants to encourage the maximum biodiversity and follow permaculture principles.

The field she wants to plant was formerly a gravel pit.  She has done rotational intensive cattle grazing on it for 9 years and built up about 8" of black topsoil.  The field is a west facing hill which drys out in the summer time, has a stream at the bottom which floods in spring.  Keyline management might work well.  And, the field is exposed to 15+ mph winds almost continuously.  If the winter weather gets harsh, it gets really harsh.

There is some forest in the area, but fairly low diversity of trees.  I'm planning to gather a vareity of tree seeds where I live (zone 5/6) and mail them to her.

I've never started a large volume of trees from seed.  Any suggestions?  Comments?
Kirk Hutchison


Joined: Feb 05, 2010
Posts: 418
Location: Los Angeles, CA
  I extend my commendations - tree planting is always good. Other than biodiversity, what kinds of products is she looking for - nuts, firewood, furniture/craft wood? Big nut trees are great forest trees, but I don't know which would do well in such a cold area. Perhaps oaks. One could run pigs in, plus chickens and guinea fowl.


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Wyatt Smith


Joined: Feb 19, 2010
Posts: 111
Location: Midwest zone 6

There is plenty of room to grow trees for any conceivable purpose.  My friend is a doomer who wants to garuntee sufficiency for her family. 

I want to try nitrogen fixing trees like locust (black and honey), redbud, etc on swales.  Cyprus would be nice along the creek, but it is a very cold spot for cyprus.  Mulberry would be good for chickens and ducks.  All types of nuts would be good.  Paw paw and persimmon are desirable.

The northern and western property lines are basically small creeks.  A swamp loving wind break is needed there.  What do you think?  A pine perhaps, but which ones?
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    8
we have 10 acres and we have planted nearly all of it to trees over a period of 39 years..we started out (zone 4/5) with evergreens, we used a lot of red and white pine to start out, as they grow fast and provide a lot of wind break coverage..then we also put in spruce (white and black) and hemlock (in the wetter areas for spruce and hemlock so by the creek)..cedar will also grow by the creek.

you can get nurse trees going like aspen, they are great for nursing other groups of trees such as hardwoods..and they'll grow in very cold harsh climates..but are short lived..get them started and they'll grow 20 feet in a couple years..then you can use their nursing ability to start other hardwoods in their protection..our aspens have nursed oak, wild cherry, white ash, red maple and other maples, as well as nut trees.

gravel is good soil for some fruit trees..but there may be a problem unless you can slow the wind..so wait on the peaches and pears until you have a good windbreak going..and then put them on a slope toward the water to drain away any frost.


Brenda

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Kirk Hutchison


Joined: Feb 05, 2010
Posts: 418
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Willows love water. Also cottonwoods, which (courtesy of Skeeter) I know to be very useful.
tel jetson
steward

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 3096
Location: woodland, washington
    
  53
Mangudai wrote:
I've never started a large volume of trees from seed.  Any suggestions?  Comments?


I would recommend she make a nursery in a sheltered spot to start the trees in.  they'll be much easier to care for for the first couple of years if they're mostly in one spot.  planting seeds in place is great for the roots, but she may end up very frustrated by the mortality rate in such a cold and windy place, so a nursery seems prudent.

after an initial windbreak is in place, direct seeding is likely to be much more successful.

but then, if you've got access to a lot of seed, maybe direct seeding from the get go isn't such a bad idea.

willows and cottonwoods are probably easier to propagate as stakes.  their seeds are too fiddly, and stakes root readily.


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Wyatt Smith


Joined: Feb 19, 2010
Posts: 111
Location: Midwest zone 6
Good call. 

Cottonwoods can thrive anywhere on the plains.  Willows might provide a mid story beneath the cottonwoods.  Aspen and Ponderosa can be grow there.  Maple, walnut, ash, and oak predominate. 

I was thinking of sending a few pounds of seed.  They can be started in a greenhouse.
Kirk Hutchison


Joined: Feb 05, 2010
Posts: 418
Location: Los Angeles, CA
  If they have a greenhouse, that should be ideal. Honey locust is good, since it could be animal and human food. What are pests like around there? The thornless varieties would be more convenient, but perhaps less pest resistant.
Dave Miller


Joined: Jun 08, 2009
Posts: 396
Location: Zone 8b: SW Washington
    
  10
I agree that it would be good to start a nursery for most trees.  I would plant willows and cottonwoods as stakes, and direct plant oaks (acorns) because they quickly grow a long tap root which does not transplant well.

Most seeds will need stratification (exposure to cold) in order to germinate.  I have had the best success just planting them outside in the fall (vs. a greenhouse).  However large seeds such as acorns will need to be protected from squirrels by covering with wire mesh or some other means.  I have used planting tubes (out in the field) which has worked fairly well for protection both of the seed and the young tree.
Wyatt Smith


Joined: Feb 19, 2010
Posts: 111
Location: Midwest zone 6
Mice and voles beneath the snow are terror on young fruit trees.

Honey locust work very well.  Cows eat the seed and scatter it widely.  A local pasture has about 1000 started that way.
                    


Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
What about mimicking the pattern of succession by starting a shrub layer with some nitrogen fixers a few years before the trees are planted? 

I think Caragana arborescens, siberian pea shrub, is a nitrogen fixer, it's hardy to zone 2 and is generally tough enough to withstand harsh conditions. 

It's considered invasive by some, but the locusts have a solid and deserved reputation for spreading wildly, and would be more of a pain, in my opinion, because they're just larger in general.  A shrub isn't going to compete much with a tree in the long run.
gary gregory


Joined: Apr 09, 2009
Posts: 395
Location: northern california, 50 miles inland from Mendocino, zone 7
Mangudai wrote:
I have a friend who lives in NW Iowa which is a cold and windy Zone 4 climate.  She wants to plant 10 acres of trees on one of her fields.  She wants to encourage the maximum biodiversity and follow permaculture principles.

The field she wants to plant was formerly a gravel pit.  She has done rotational intensive cattle grazing on it for 9 years and built up about 8" of black topsoil.  The field is a west facing hill which drys out in the summer time, has a stream at the bottom which floods in spring.  Keyline management might work well.  And, the field is exposed to 15+ mph winds almost continuously.  If the winter weather gets harsh, it gets really harsh.

There is some forest in the area, but fairly low diversity of trees.  I'm planning to gather a vareity of tree seeds where I live (zone 5/6) and mail them to her.

I've never started a large volume of trees from seed.  Any suggestions?  Comments?


You could even end up creating a future national forest!

http://www.nde.state.ne.us/SS/notables/bessey.html

Bessey's successful tree planting experiment in Holt County on land furnished by Lawrence Bruner in 1891 led to the establishment of forest reservations in Thomas and Cherry Counties in l902. The Nebraska National Forest is the only one in our National Forest system which is planted rather than natural.




Gary
gary gregory


Joined: Apr 09, 2009
Posts: 395
Location: northern california, 50 miles inland from Mendocino, zone 7
http://unlgardens.unl.edu/maxwellarboretum/newplants/historyofbesseynursery.pdf

This may not be helpful, but it appears they tried to make the plantings as diverse as possible, and this article briefly discusses methods and tree types.   
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15213
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Mangudai wrote:
Mice and voles beneath the snow are terror on young fruit trees.


I think we have a few threads that address the moles and voles factor.

The mighty Sepp Holzer says that if you never prune, trees will have low branches which the voles prefer to tree trunks.


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paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15213
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I think if anyone is feeling a bit skittish about planting from seed, they should see "the man who planted trees" - granted, it is animated fiction, but it is based on a true story and the info is solid.
Kirk Hutchison


Joined: Feb 05, 2010
Posts: 418
Location: Los Angeles, CA
  I love that video! It is one of my all-time favorites and should be required viewing in all schools.
John Alabarr


Joined: Sep 25, 2012
Posts: 57
Let nature do some of the hard work for your friend. Plant trees at the top of the hill. As they produce nuts or seeds and they drop and roll down the hill, they will germinate and establish on the side of the hill.
Kevin Franck


Joined: Mar 24, 2012
Posts: 17
Location: Göteborg Sweden
John Alabarr wrote:Let nature do some of the hard work for your friend. Plant trees at the top of the hill. As they produce nuts or seeds and they drop and roll down the hill, they will germinate and establish on the side of the hill.

John part of what you stated actually caught my eye. earlier this months I found a study which actually agrees with something I've been practicing for a couple decades now when it comes to habitat re-creation or establishment and that's a hands-off approach. I don't want to rewrite everything here, but even the California Chaparral Institute agrees with some of these concepts of letting nature do the work for you. Hope some of these concepts helps others.

Rebuilding Ecosystems after Man Made or Natural Disasters - a Holistic Approach



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I agree. Here's the link: food forest dvd
 
subject: Foresting the Plains
 
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