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General Forestry => Ask The Forester => Topic started by: etd66ss on September 14, 2021, 06:15:42 PM

Title: Building a wood lot
Post by: etd66ss on September 14, 2021, 06:15:42 PM
When I bought my 60+ acre lot about 20 years ago, I logged about 6 acres of it for homestead and ponds. I used a lot of the pond spoils to build up about a 4 acre area 2-3 feet. I didn't scrape off topsoil before spreading the sandy loam pond spoils. And I later found out the sandy loam that I dug up was really tough on seedlings, they pretty much stay seedlings for 5-6 years before the roots hit the original topsoil then they take off.

Here is a pic of the sandy loam I spread out. It seems like quite a sterile orange sandy loam, grass barely grows well in it:


(https://forestryforum.com/gallery/albums/userpics/66578/Land_0286.JPG?easyrotate_cache=1631656362)
 

I'm ready to build my house now and this is what the site looks like about ~12 years after I finished the ponds:


(https://forestryforum.com/gallery/albums/userpics/66578/Woodlot-01~0.jpg?easyrotate_cache=1631656828)
 

And this is what I want the site to look like eventually with house, barn, etc.  Including the new wood lot:


(https://forestryforum.com/gallery/albums/userpics/66578/Woodlot-02.jpg?easyrotate_cache=1631656933)
 

I like to forage for seeds and plant my own seedlings:

 
(https://forestryforum.com/gallery/albums/userpics/66578/0912211044.jpg?easyrotate_cache=1631656999)
 
 
(https://forestryforum.com/gallery/albums/userpics/66578/0906211427.jpg?easyrotate_cache=1631657023)
 

The seeds I tend to forage are:

Burr Oak
Red Oak
Pin Oak
Swamp Oak
Honey Locust
Shagbark Hickory
Shellbark Hickory
Bitternut Hickory
Black Walnut

I am wondering. Would I just till the area and inundate it with whatever types of seeds I can get my hands on and let nature take its course, or is it more complicated than that?

Right now that area is raised up to about the highest point on my property, would I need to remove some of the loam to make a bit of a depression to help hold some water?

What I have learned over the last few years when planting seedlings into the loam I spread out, is to use an earth auger and drill until I hit the original topsoil, then fill the drilled hole with good topsoil and then plant the seedling in that. They grow real well that way.

I also generally buy 300-400 Norway Spruce seedlings each spring to plant around the property, would definitely put some of them in this new wood lot.

Just wondering how I'd go about this... 
Title: Re: Building a wood lot
Post by: GullyBog on September 14, 2021, 07:17:45 PM
The soil is holding you back but you figured a way around that with your auger.  Now the soil is holding weedy competition back.  There is an opportunity for an easy maintenance design.

Title: Re: Building a wood lot
Post by: Ianab on September 14, 2021, 08:13:06 PM
I am wondering. Would I just till the area and inundate it with whatever types of seeds I can get my hands on and let nature take its course, or is it more complicated than that?


That would work to eventually create some sort of forest. Heck you can simply do nothing, and random trees will gradually colonise an open area. 

It gets more complicated when you want a particular sort of forest, for timber / aesthetics / wildlife / conservation etc. (all valid reasons to want to grow a forest) You might not want the "lucky dip" of whatever nature decides to throw into your new forest. Then you find out how some species are best at colonising open ground (need full sun to get started). Others are shade tolerant, and need the shelter of other trees before they grow naturally. 

You start to see why people get university degrees in Forestry so they can understand some of this. You don't need that to grow a "forest", you can achieve that by doing nothing. But if you want to influence what actually grows, there's plenty to learn. Like your auger trick to get around a soil problem and help your seedlings get started. 
Title: Re: Building a wood lot
Post by: mike_belben on September 14, 2021, 08:29:55 PM
Is this to be a sawlog woodlot, or firewood or naturey stuff?
Title: Re: Building a wood lot
Post by: thecfarm on September 14, 2021, 08:37:29 PM
No maples? I did have an area that was covered in white maple. Have a bunch of red oaks that are growing down by the wood pile. No taller than 6 inches, if that. Need any?
Title: Re: Building a wood lot
Post by: etd66ss on September 14, 2021, 08:54:25 PM
Is this to be a sawlog woodlot, or firewood or naturey stuff?
Just nature. However, I have been trying to introduce more oak to my lot, I have some but the percentage is very low I have a decent amount of red oak, lot of pin oak, but very few burr oak & swamp oak, and no white oak at all that I can find). It's primarily a soft maple/ash forest with various species of pine which were planted in the 1940's along with Norway Spruce. There are ofc many other species like cottonwood, beech, hickory, box elder, wild cherry, black walnut, various willows, basswood, purple ash, northern catalpa, etc...

I have aerial photos of my land from 1938, and pretty much all 60+ acres was orchard, so what I have now is only from the 1940's onward. It was abandoned as AG sometime around WW2 and the local 4H planted a bunch of pine. Unfortunately a lot of Scotts pine, which is now falling down in droves making a huge mess as it gets diseased, forks & breaks. On top of that I am battling Glossy Buckthorn invasion.

I have what seems to be prime soil and elevation (370ft above sea level) for Swamp Oak so plan to plant a lot of that.

But for this woodlot, I'd like to just till and broadcast and let nature have at it. I'm just wondering if I should make a slight depression and let the water slowly shed into he ponds. When the pond spoil sandy loam is dry, it's really dry, and hard as concrete, which is brutal on seedlings. Only places I have issues planting trees is where I spread the pond spoils. Anywhere else the tress grow quite well. When I dug the ponds the sandy loam went to depths of 9ft before I hit any clay. And in many places I have 2-3ft deep of very rich loamy topsoil from decades of rot. I just kind of screwed myself when spreading the loam from the ponds and not stripping the topsoil first. From what I understand, the high water table had stripped it of all nutrients, it's all the same color orange and any trees that grow in it have yellow leaves/needles instead of green for 5-6 years.

I have areas that were once grass that I planted trees with my auger method, but it is not appealing leaving the grass, it just stayed longer grass for 10+ years now. That is why I think tilling the whole area my get me faster diversity.
Title: Re: Building a wood lot
Post by: mike_belben on September 14, 2021, 09:52:43 PM
Look for any weed species that are eeking out an existence in your sandy top coat.  Let them go to seed and propogate them.  They will reach down to your good soil and bring nutrients up.  Barnyard grass and switch grass can also grow in really poor soils and root really deep.  By 3rd year they say switchgrass goes 6-10ft deep.  Panicum virgatum iirc.  


These weeds and grasses will die on top every year and in time mix with your hardwood leaves and such to compost in a thin new topsoil which will help better life establish in time.  

If you can get contractors to dump woodchips or lawn mowings that will help too in time. 
Title: Re: Building a wood lot
Post by: sprucebunny on September 14, 2021, 10:35:24 PM
Maybe you could improve the soil by tilling in lots of manure and ground up leaves ( hay...anything organic) and lime. That will make the top few inches better at holding water and more likely to grow stuff. I'd still probably auger to plant seedlings.
Title: Re: Building a wood lot
Post by: Southside on September 15, 2021, 12:09:10 AM
Do folks who know you call you "Squirrel" by chance? First thing that came to mind when I saw your collection of nuts.   ;D
Title: Re: Building a wood lot
Post by: etd66ss on September 15, 2021, 05:13:44 AM
Do folks who know you call you "Squirrel" by chance? First thing that came to mind when I saw your collection of nuts.   ;D
No, lol. I just started doing this because I wanted "free" trees. I buy trees from the conservation dept. every spring, but it gets pretty expensive when buying 400-500 trees. So I decided last fall to try my hand at planting acorns. It worked well enough that I think I'll be doing this every fall to propagate the more desirable trees around my property.

I consider Silver Maple, Box Elder & Cottonwood to be undesirable, while Oak & Hickory to be desirable etc.

Also, that picture of the seeds is only about 25% of what I will ultimately end up with by the end of fall. And mind you, those are only the seeds that passed the float test. Generally about 75% of the seeds I forage do not pass the float test and are used for mulch instead of planting.
Title: Re: Building a wood lot
Post by: Ron Wenrich on September 15, 2021, 06:17:01 AM
Species mix will depend on the how compatible your site is compared to the species you want to plant.  Pin oak usually likes wet areas, as does swamp oak.  Pin oak does well in urban settings due to the soil compaction.  It doesn't root that deep.  Putting a species that favors wet areas into a dry area generally doesn't turn out too well.

Black walnut needs a pretty good site to do well.  Your soil mix probably wouldn't do real great in that situation. 

I like the idea of building up your soil.  Cover crops or putting in manure may help to loosen up the soil and allow things to grow better.

Another way of looking at things is what they do for strip mines back when they didn't preserve the top soil.  They planted a lot of black locust.  I believe you might be in an area where it will grow.  Black locust is a legume, and it adds nitrogen to the soil.  It grows on poor soils and improves the soil.  Other species that were used were short run pioneer species like aspen.  After they started to preserve top soil, they put things back to either pasture or pine. 
Title: Re: Building a wood lot
Post by: mike_belben on September 15, 2021, 06:51:47 AM
Speaking of legumes to fix nitrogen, yellow sweet clover will grow in some really poor dry soils and bring alot of new growth behind it. 
Title: Re: Building a wood lot
Post by: etd66ss on September 15, 2021, 06:59:08 AM
Species mix will depend on the how compatible your site is compared to the species you want to plant.  Pin oak usually likes wet areas, as does swamp oak.  Pin oak does well in urban settings due to the soil compaction.  It doesn't root that deep.  Putting a species that favors wet areas into a dry area generally doesn't turn out too well.

Black walnut needs a pretty good site to do well.  Your soil mix probably wouldn't do real great in that situation.  

I like the idea of building up your soil.  Cover crops or putting in manure may help to loosen up the soil and allow things to grow better.

Another way of looking at things is what they do for strip mines back when they didn't preserve the top soil.  They planted a lot of black locust.  I believe you might be in an area where it will grow.  Black locust is a legume, and it adds nitrogen to the soil.  It grows on poor soils and improves the soil.  Other species that were used were short run pioneer species like aspen.  After they started to preserve top soil, they put things back to either pasture or pine.
Last year I had the Black Locust idea, bought seeds off eBay. Then I found out planting them is banned in New York State as they are invasive, so never planted them.

And as far as the Pin Oak & Swamp Oak, this is why I was wondering if I should scrape off some or all of the loam I spread in that area to get back down to the original topsoil, it would be a 2-3ft depression that I could have slowly drain into the pond as to not hold standing water.

My brother has a ton of Black Walnut I'm trying to propagate to my property, his soil is pretty much all clay, figured they might do well in my sandy loam? Maybe not.
Title: Re: Building a wood lot
Post by: mike_belben on September 15, 2021, 07:03:17 AM
You might have one of the rare circumstances where a moldboard bottom plow could help rather than hurt your soil.  How many inches down until you hit the good stuff?
Title: Re: Building a wood lot
Post by: etd66ss on September 15, 2021, 07:08:32 AM
You might have one of the rare circumstances where a moldboard bottom plow could help rather than hurt your soil.  How many inches down until you hit the good stuff?
I'll dig a few test holes to find out. I know in some areas I built up the grade 3 feet, other areas only a few inches...
Title: Re: Building a wood lot
Post by: mike_belben on September 15, 2021, 07:27:28 AM
Look at how thick the topsoil layer is too.  If theres a foot of good topsoil underneath and nothing to cry about on top, id probably push the sand to one side, push the topsoil out the the other side, put the junk in the hole and cap it in that good dirt.  For 2 inches of topsoil id just start composting on what you got but if theres a foot. And its still black id go after it.


Im not sure if it will completely die off from being buried or not.  Covering it was definitely detrimental to the aerobic part.  Otoh that could probably be reestablished again pretty quickly.    
Title: Re: Building a wood lot
Post by: wisconsitom on September 15, 2021, 08:09:51 AM
In addition to other good ideas, you might consider cover-cropping the area for a year or two.  Things like Canada wildrye, Virginia wildrye (better in wet), Mike's switchgrass, or even things like winter wheat can all help get the soil more amenable to further plant growth.

Nice thing about the wildryes-and there's more than the two I mentioned-is they're strictly clump-formers, not rhizomatous, so they don't pose such stiff competition to your seedlings.  They won't come up all over the place via root sprouting.

Yellow sweet clover is another invasive item in most places where it occurs.  I spend a lot of time getting rid of it and the white variant.  Would never plant intentionally.
Title: Re: Building a wood lot
Post by: Southside on September 15, 2021, 08:11:26 AM
Funny thing about the black locust is that there a more than a few folks in New York planting them in old pastures to create silvoculture and it's all over the web.

A tillage raddish will also help bring nutrients to the upper layers of your soil while reducing compaction and giving you a planting hole. 
Title: Re: Building a wood lot
Post by: etd66ss on September 15, 2021, 08:22:04 AM
Funny thing about the black locust is that there a more than a few folks in New York planting them in old pastures to create silvoculture and it's all over the web.
It was more the case I guess that I didn't want to introduce a new invasive species as opposed to "breaking" the law. I see how invasive the Glossy Buckthorn is and felt that maybe adding another invasive species wasn't the best option.

This picture shows just how many Scots Pine I have lost over the last ~10 years:


(https://forestryforum.com/gallery/albums/userpics/66578/Scots-Pine.jpg?easyrotate_cache=1631708957)
 

In the areas where the tress fell and opened up the underbrush to the sun, the Glossy Buckthorn is taking over.

It's really disappointing, when I bought the land, all those Scots Pine were alive. I lost at least 50% of them, all about ~70ft tall, would have been great lumber.
Title: Re: Building a wood lot
Post by: etd66ss on September 15, 2021, 04:17:03 PM
I drilled some holes with my battery powered auger today in the proposed woodlot area:


(https://forestryforum.com/gallery/albums/userpics/66578/0915211427.jpg?easyrotate_cache=1631736354)
 

The auger can reach just over 2 ft depth, and I did not hit any of the original topsoil, so  moldboard plow would not help much.


(https://forestryforum.com/gallery/albums/userpics/66578/0915211427a.jpg?easyrotate_cache=1631736426)
 

This picture shows the difference between the pond spoil dirt and the native topsoil:


(https://forestryforum.com/gallery/albums/userpics/66578/0915211439.jpg?easyrotate_cache=1631736533)
 

Young cottonwood seem to thrive in the orange loam:


(https://forestryforum.com/gallery/albums/userpics/66578/0915211437b.jpg?easyrotate_cache=1631736585)
 

In this next picture, last summer I filled in a swampy area with some of the spoils, maybe only a few inches deep:


(https://forestryforum.com/gallery/albums/userpics/66578/0915211449.jpg?easyrotate_cache=1631736658)
 

I planted a lot of acorns last fall, and the results seem to be pretty good, the vast majority produced oak seedlings:


(https://forestryforum.com/gallery/albums/userpics/66578/0915211448c.jpg?easyrotate_cache=1631736700)
 

This is a white oak seedling I planted in the spoils about 8 years ago, not much growth:


(https://forestryforum.com/gallery/albums/userpics/66578/0915211434a.jpg?easyrotate_cache=1631736769)
 

Right next to the above oak I planted another white oak seedling with my auger & fill with topsoil method, it is more than halfway up the tree tube since this past spring:


(https://forestryforum.com/gallery/albums/userpics/66578/0915211434b.jpg?easyrotate_cache=1631736858)
 

This picture shows a roadway that I built up with the spoils, however this time I scraped off about 1.5ft of topsoil first. This was in June 2021, the roadway in the foreground, the topsoil pile in the background. You can see the difference in growth:


(https://forestryforum.com/gallery/albums/userpics/66578/0915211458.jpg?easyrotate_cache=1631737008)
 
Title: Re: Building a wood lot
Post by: DMcCoy on September 16, 2021, 09:45:56 AM
Your grass area looks tidy and what I would suggest will pretty much end that.  Ramial chipped wood is the best way to build healthy soil.  There are plenty of studies but the one from Canada is the best.
I left my chips in a pile until the fungal mycelium was 4" thick and the upper layer you could lift in large caked portions.  This I laid on my soil(fill area of county road ditch dirt) about 6" deep and tilled in. I also added about 6" of used nursery soil.   Nursery soil is good but nothing like my results.
If you can get your hands on chipped deciduous limbs from tree crews or power line clearing that would be my suggestion.  Tap rooted weeds and clovers are also good options. My 2 cents.
Title: Re: Building a wood lot
Post by: etd66ss on September 16, 2021, 11:57:47 AM
Your grass area looks tidy and what I would suggest will pretty much end that.  Ramial chipped wood is the best way to build healthy soil.  There are plenty of studies but the one from Canada is the best.
I left my chips in a pile until the fungal mycelium was 4" thick and the upper layer you could lift in large caked portions.  This I laid on my soil(fill area of county road ditch dirt) about 6" deep and tilled in. I also added about 6" of used nursery soil.   Nursery soil is good but nothing like my results.
If you can get your hands on chipped deciduous limbs from tree crews or power line clearing that would be my suggestion.  Tap rooted weeds and clovers are also good options. My 2 cents.
I am constantly creating burn piles for fallen trees/branches. Maybe I can find a decently priced wood chipper for one of my tractors and over time just layer up chips in that area.
I also have endless amounts of fallen rotting Scots pine logs I could use. 
Would I need to remove the sod from the area or just plow/till it under?
Title: Re: Building a wood lot
Post by: DMcCoy on September 17, 2021, 08:50:09 AM
Here is the original research I referenced.
Organic Research (https://www.dirtdoctor.com/organic-research-page/Regenerating-Soils-with-Ramial-Chipped-Wood_vq4462.htm)
My experience was and still is beyond anything I would expect.  In that area the grass is darker green than any other area on our property still today, and we have good soils here!  I looks like it has been fertilized(it hasn't-ever) and that was 10+ yrs ago that I spread those chips.  I did not have fore-knowledge of what I was doing, it was only after observation that I started to question what was going on.
My chip source was powerline trimming and was mostly but not 100% deciduous tree limbs.
The paper is pretty clear in distinguishing between hardwood vs. softwood and limbs vs. trunks.
Nutrients are stored (highest concentrations) in:
Hardwood limbs.
Softwood trunks.
I would till the sod under with the chips, more organic material.
I would also try a small area first to see if you get the results you are wanting for the effort spent.
It been a long time since I read that article but I don't remember it taking about composting the pile for a year.  My chips became a literal pile of mushrooms both above and below the surface before I spread them.

Title: Re: Building a wood lot
Post by: mike_belben on September 17, 2021, 11:30:40 AM
you can still take advantage of micorhizal fungus without a chipper by using the spindly top branches. cut them all at the nodes so that they lay pretty flat and nice like corn stalks.  spread out, push some dirt ontop of them and leave it be.  the smaller the stuff is the faster it will become a humus in that dirt.  you can pile it in one area and scoop it up for use in another.  the mixing action and oxygenation will help aerobic biology to colonize as well.  

that white fungal rooty looking fuzz forms a mutually beneficial relationship with plant roots.  it takes carbohydrates that the plant has up for grabs, in exchange for the nutrients it needs, which the fungus has access to.  its how you grown giant pumpkins.  this marriage gives a plant a potentially very large root system, sorta like computers on a network.  it can get as big as you want, just keep linking.

raw mollasses and rain water (its free, AND unchlorinated) splashed on a chip or brush pile will start the white fuzz much faster.

you can also just pile limby stuff in the woods for a rabbitat to keep the critters abundant.  as that breaks down it will colonize under the bark.  few years and i run the piles over into croutons to be taken into the dirt. shading the ground prevents drying out by the sun.  increased moisture increases the amount of things that can live and function under that shade so seedlings and grasses and stuff will come up there in time.


when i do a pond, i push trees to one pile, topsoil to another pile, and then any extra spoil dirt near the tree tops.  once any firewood logs are removed ill push poor subsurface spoil dirt onto the tops into a pile.  itll grow poke weed and ragweed and briars and all that. every few years push it some more and itll just keep getting darker until it becomes top soil itself.