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On the Block

The surroundings can be beautiful, but they can also be acutely bleak. We often camp in beautiful standing forests, but our days are spent in more desolate looking cut blocks.  They were once vibrant ecosystems, but now it’s just you, your crew, stumps, slash and the occasional “wildlife tree retention patch”, also known as “residual” patch.

A drawing of a

residual patch

Once you arrive at the block, your foreman will assign you a piece.  In your piece, you are responsible for planting the entire area, at a certain density, with high-quality trees.

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Quality Trees

As a treeplanter, it is your job to plant quality trees. There are a few factors in what this means. First, a single tree must be planted to contract specs. Generally, it is what is underground that counts, the seedling’s plug.


The plug must be inserted into the ground straight and snug, not too loose. The required depth of the plug, as in how deep it must be in relation to ground level, varies on contract. Generally, spruce can be planted deeper than pine. Pine need special consideration for their laterals.

As a general rule


Ppruce can be planted at a depth of ‘two fingers deep’, or about an inch, into dirt. Pine, on the other hand, generally, cannot have their laterals pinched, needing the dirt to be around the  "collar” of the tree.

Again this is subject to change contract-to-contract, but generally a seedling’s plug needs to be planted into smearable organic soil. This means that the medium a tree is planted into is important. Trees cannot grow in dry, loose materials, (sticks, litter, chipmunk nest, red rot (again, depending on contract), nor into standing water. Red rot is a term used to describe decomposing tree matter. This can range from a substance that is moist and almost returning to dirt, to small chunks of reddish wood.

Below is a review of
common planting faults

Next, we have the microsite selection. This is the process of selecting the best growth site for the seedling in hand. Different species of trees enjoy different sites, differing in amounts of moisture and sunlight desired. As a general rule of thumb, a well drained, high site is desirable for many trees. Those planted in depressions often grow poorly compared to those planted in higher sites, and this difference can be one of only a few inches.  Higher microsite offer surprisingly longer growing seasons, thawing faster and freezing later. Some trees prefer shade and moisture, so it's not always the case.

Of course, it gets far more complicated when different scarifications are factored in. Each scarification, along with contract variations, has its own specific requirements. Scarification, or site preparation, refers to any modification to land post-harvesting intended to enhance reforestation. Some types of scarification include: mounds, rips, drags, screens and chemical spraying.

Often clients would like the tree planted on the “high hinge” for most scarification. Again, this is an overgeneralization, but a useful one.


Left: A diagram of trench, but could also used for placement of a tree on mounds as well.

* The take home message is that there are many factors in “micrositing” little trees, depending on the tree species and the scarification and contract specifications.

What else? Ah, yes density! A forester determines a required density, a certain number of trees per area. Density is prescribed to a section of land, be it an entire block or a “treatment unit” and is prescribed in trees per hectare. A Hectare is 100m x 100m on the horizontal plane. As in, if you are planting on a slope, it is not along the slope, but the area over a two-dimensional version of the land.


Density is prescribed over the two dimensional, horizontal plane. Often between 1000 and 2000 stems/hectare. Now, to determine if a piece of land is planted at the right density, a “plot chord” is used to take a sample of the hectare. A plot chord is 1/200th of a hectare with a radius of 3.99 m. Because of this, density is often spoke of in terms of smaller numbers, the number of trees desired in one single plot. 1000 stems per hectare translates to ‘5s’, 1200 translates to ‘6s’, 1400 to 7s, 1600 to 8s, etc. Each of these densities has an ideal spacing.

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