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Winter days ideal for replanting forests in Oregon
Reforestation worker planting seedlings in western Oregon
Worker planting seedlings in western Oregon
January 21, 2010
Contact – Kevin Weeks (503) 945-7427
Winter weather and gray days in Oregon keep many of us indoors. However, these conditions are ideal for planting trees, around our homes or to help regenerate Oregon’s forests.
Oregon has actively promoted replanting trees as a part of forest management since the Forest Conservation Act of 1941, and a key facet of Oregon’s landmark 1971 Forest Practices Act requires landowners to complete replanting of forests within two years following timber harvest. According to the Oregon Forest Resources Institute, that means between 40 and 50 million tree seedlings are planted every winter and spring in Oregon on forest land owned by families, industrial timber companies or by federal, state and local governments.
Oregon law requires reforestation when timber harvesting reduces the number of trees per acre below density levels (also called ‘stocking levels’) specified in Oregon Department of Forestry rules. The amount of trees replanted depends on site characteristics and the landowner’s forest management plans, but at minimum 100 to 200 seedlings per acre must be planted to meet reforestation rules. Most Oregon forest landowners opt to plant about 300 to 400 tree seedlings per acre.
Reforestation is great for Oregon’s future, as our forests provide a mix of environmental, social and economic benefits. Trees provide recreational opportunities, promote wildlife and provide wood products for consumers. Oregon’s forests also make a positive contribution to our environment in many ways, including providing clean drinking water and absorbing greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.

The How-To of seedling planting
Step One: Planning ahead
Carefully plan, evaluate and prepare your planting site. Consider the condition of the planting site including the soil type, the direction the slope faces (also called aspect), any vegetation present, local wildlife and pests. Site characteristics affect the resources that new trees need for survival and growth, including water, sunlight, temperature and nutrients.

Step Two: Site Preparation
Choose an appropriate site preparation method, or combination of methods, for your land. Several methods are available to prepare sites for planting, including mechanical, manual or chemical. Costs for site preparation depend on site conditions, the methods used, existing vegetation and the amount of logging debris left behind from timber harvest.

Step Three: Selecting your tree seedlings
Not every tree can grow anywhere in Oregon – nor should it. Select the proper species and seedling stock-type for your area. Different tree species are adapted to different site conditions, so it’s important to choose seedlings specifically for your seed zone and elevation. This also prevents an unwanted invasive species of tree or plant from potentially causing harm to a local ecosystem.
The Oregon Department of Forestry has additional information about selecting tree seedlings, seed zones and finding tree seedling nurseries in the Private Forests area of the ODF website.

Step Four: Plant a tree…or a thousand
Winter is the perfect time for planting. Plant conifer seedlings in western Oregon from January through March. In eastern Oregon – or higher elevations statewide - plant trees as soon as possible after snow melts and the ground thaws, generally late in March through April. Keep your seedlings cool (34 to 40 degrees F) and moist, and handle them gently at all times.
Site conditions will dictate the spacing between trees. In western Oregon, plan on spacing seedlings generally about ten feet apart; for central and eastern Oregon, trees are generally spaced about twelve feet apart. It’s wise to select planting spots in good soil with mineral content that is free of weeds. It may look awkward at first to see 10-12 feet between a seedling and its neighbor; however, think a few decades down the road when the crowns of trees will reach out several feet.

Step Five: Tend to the growing tree
Most gardeners will tell you plants require maintenance and care. Once tree seedlings are planted, maintenance is needed to ensure their continued survival and growth. New tree seedlings require enough water to thrive, as well as protection from grazing wildlife and from weeds seeking to compete for water, space and nutrients. Maintenance during the first few years of the tree’s life can be accomplished in a number of ways. Under Oregon law, the stand of trees must be “free to grow” (able to grow above surrounding grasses and brush) within the sixth year of the trees’ planting.