Sunday 20 October 2019

Keeping warm in your forest this winter!

WINTER IS a time to take stock of your young farm forest and carry out important management work that will have long term benefits. Good management is the key to getting your forest of to the best possible start. The active involvement of forest owners is crucial and can be an ideal way to keep warm this winter! CONTROL OF VEGETATION:

In wintertime, competition from vigorous grass, broadleaved weeds and scrub is the biggest threat to newly planted and other young trees. Grass and broadleaved weeds can effectively smother a small tree or damage it by lying over it during the Winter. Briars, thistles and furze may also severely damage young trees. Bracken is particularly damaging as it initially shades out young trees and then lies on any surviving trees resulting more than likely in plant losses.

There are two types of vegetation control at this time of year: - Manual - Chemical MANUAL:

At this time of year the most simple and effective way of removing grass and broadleaved weeds from around small trees is by manual grass-cleaning. This can be done using a briar hook, by trampling by foot or simply by hand. The grass and weeds are carefully pulled away from the vicinity of the trees and flattened. Manual grass-cleaning is ideal work for a forest owner to get involved in. CHEMICAL:

Where problematic furze, birch and willow have developed to a thick woody stem stage, winter is the ideal time for control using a 'Cut stump treatment'. As the term suggests the stems of the furze are cut and herbicide applied onto the freshly cut area. The recommended herbicide should contain Glyphosate as the active ingredient and applied as a strong 20% solution.

Remember – Take care when using herbicides and always read the label. FORMATIVE SHAPING:

Formative shaping is a very important management operation early in the life of a broadleaf crop which sets the young trees on the road to producing quality timber. Formative shaping encourages the growth of a single straight stem without heavy side branches. Winter is a suitable time to shape most broadleaves and is the ideal time for Oak. The leaves are gone from the trees making it easier to see what branches need to be removed and the subsequent result. It is important to carry out shaping early, often and with moderation. Shaping concentrates on the removal of forks and excessively large side branches.

Formative shaping will not make a good tree out of a bad one and so the choice of trees for shaping is as important as the operation itself. TREE NUMBERS:

It is necessary to have a sufficient number of trees when your forest is four years old and the Maintenance grant is due. The right number of trees helps the farm forest to be on the right road to producing a quality crop. In young forests it is normal for some trees to fail and so it is important to know the extent of the losses and to replace these with new trees as soon as is practical. If you are concerned about the number of trees growing in your young forest winter is an ideal time to take a stocking plot to accurately assess the situation. How to take a stocking plot: 1. Randomly pick a spot in the forest.(At least 8 metres from hedges, fences, unplanted areas etc)

2. At this spot secure end of tape to spade and measure out to 8 metres.

3. Note starting point and with tape extended walk a complete circle ie circle with 8 metre radius.

The number of live trees should meet the minimum stocking for a particular type of tree as set out by the Maintenance grant. If the plots indicate tree numbers below what is required you may need to discuss the situation with your forester. FENCES:

Grant aided plantations are required to be stockproof and so during the winter it is always advisable to check your fences for any weakness eg Damage due to fallen trees, a gap in a rabbit fence made by badgers or a poorly secured gate. Remedy this situation yourself if possible and check the repairs over the winter. Accidental or deliberate trespass by cattle, horses, sheep or goats can seriously damage both trees and drains and must be prevented. WALK YOUR FARM FOREST!

Your young farm forest needs care and attention to reach its full potential and become an environmentally attractive and valuable crop. Your own active involvement can make an important contribution to this objective even if the maintenance or management is under contract. I have outlined some of the jobs you can do yourself this winter but even if you are not in a position to do these try to walk your forest regularly and be familiar with what is going on in your forest.

Remember – Your active involvement can make a real difference…..its good for your trees and for you!

Frances Mchugh,tea gasc Forestry Development Officer

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