Tree Planting Basics
Is commercial tree planting your objective?If yes then you should aim at producing Fast Growing High Yielding (FGHY) tree plantations whose products (sawlogs) will fetch premium price in the market.
How can you get high quality sawlogs?Like in any business, you can only get high quality sawlogs at the time of harvesting if you did the right things from the very beginning!
Are you aware of the factors that determine the quality of your future sawlogs?90% of the future log's quality is actually determined before and soon after planting.
The remaining 10% are other factors like timing and effectiveness of subsequent plantation maintenance operations and method of harvesting trees.
What factors make up the 90% of the log’s future quality?
The key factors include planning, land preparation, planting, weeding and protection. Let us see how to go about each of them.1. Planning:The key for the success of any plantation lies in proper planning. All plantation operations need to be timed carefully. A delay in carrying out one operation normally affects the subsequent one(s) and which may most likely result into a poor plantation. In order to avoid this, you need to:-
- have sufficient resources (funds, labour and equipment among others) to adequately prepare, plant and then maintain your plantation.
- know your potential planting site: The area size, its soil characteristics, topography, existing vegetation, and the climate.
- choose the right specie of tree suitable for your area (species site matching). Note that trees also have specific ecological requirements where they can grow best.
- use superior selected seed/seedling which you can count on to produce a quality sawlog. Improved seed is definitely the best.
- buy your seed or seedlings (six months in advance) so that they are ready on time for planting early in the planting season: Ensure there are sufficient seedlings (usually 15-20% extra) for beating-up as well.
- clear the area you want to plant so that it is ready for planting in time. A delay in land clearing is one of the common causes of late planting which later leads to poor survival.
2. Land Preparation:
Clearing: By the beginning of the planting season your land should already be cleared. By starting with a clean area you will make all subsequent operations so much easier: It will be easier to do lining out and pitting, to plant, weed, keep fires or cattle out, inspect the work done and to see how well your trees are growing.
Lining Out: The planting lines must then be aligned either in straight lines (on flat ground) or along the contour (on sloping ground). The positions for the planting pits must be marked along each line at the appropriate spacing (usually 2.7m or 3.0m for timber crops).
Pitting: The pits must be at least 25cm deep and 25cm wide and the soil dug out from the pit should be broken down to small clods and placed back into the pit. Seedlings planted in shallow pits will not be firm.
Weeding: Do not plant trees into weeds. First take observations on the status of the existing weeds on your site and decide on the best method of controlling them. It is strongly recommended that where necessary, weeds should first be sprayed with herbicide (Glyphosate) before trees are planted a day or two later.3. Planting:
Rain: Once enough rain has fallen you can start planting (30mm is usually sufficient but this depends on the soil type and drainage). It is strongly advised to plant early on in the wet season. This ensures that the seedling gets water regularly until it is tough enough to survive the following hot, dry season.
Seedling size is important: the seedling should be ready for planting, not too young or small or to old and big. A height of 20cm is the optimum size (as measured from the root collar).
Planting: Some soil is scooped out of the pit and a seedling is placed inside it deep enough to be covered up to the root collar. It should be planted upright in the pit and not at an angle. No seedling should be planted with polythene bags on; rather they should be carefully removed at the time of planting. Use hands (and not foot) to firm the soil around the seedling.
Beating up: This is the replacement of weak and/or dead seedlings. From two weeks after planting, start inspecting your trees as some seedlings might have died. If more than 10% have died, it is advisable to beat up. If more than 30% die, it may be advisable to replant the whole area. Note that the benefit of beating up is achieved when it is done within a month after planting.4. Weeding:
Weeding is the most important job over the next few months following planting. To ensure fast early growth, weeds must be kept to a minimum: remember this is the wet season and the weeds will also be growing fast. Whenever a wet season approaches, farmers should be prepared to spend money on weeding the plantation.
Fire: your plantation needs protection from fire right at establishment phase. Ensure the plantation has both external and internal fire breaks established at the time of planting.Pests and Diseases: For those growing Eucalyptus, termites may be your major concern. They must be controlled well if your trees are to survive. Also the current Chalcid wasp (Leptocybe invasa) is a challenge to Eucalyptus growers but efforts are being put to control it. Trees that are well maintained and planted on right site are less affected by this pest. For the case of pines, there is no major threat from pests and diseases at the moment.
Animals: Animals eat tree shoots and trample on trees as they pass through. Both domestic animals (cattle and goats) and wild animals (antelopes, bush bucks etc) should be controlled to avoid damage to your trees