Forest regeneration question


Wisconsitom, I've seen you talking about forest regeneration on other threads. I'm wondering where I can learn how to properly manage (or leave alone) our little one acre woodland? We bought our house 15 years ago, and went about raising kids, being busy, and gardening in the little bit of sunny area in front. We live in New Hampshire and have a mix of northern hardwoods and pines (sorry, I don't know what kind of pines). The woods come up to the house in back & on the sides. Since we both love the woods, we have let them be. Our neighbor to one side agrees with us, and beyond her is a 100 acre nature preserve owned by the town. The guy in back has acres and acres, and the part next to us is all woods. It's small town New Hampshire, after all. We've got a lot of woods.

I've been dreaming of a native woodland garden for years, and am finally working toward that. We've also come to the realization that we have to cut some trees or at least limbs, because they are touching the house in a few places now, or are about to. My reading so far has been mostly about shrubs and wildflowers, and I find myself feeling like I have a lot to learn about my native trees, and definitely about the forest ecosystem as a whole. Any suggestions of where to start learning? I especially need to figure out how to manage the trees/forest right near the house. Much as I love letting my woods be, I'd like to keep the house, too.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Hey, thanks for noticing, Candogal! Now, forest succession/regeneration is indeed one of my key interests and IMO, one of the more fascinating aspects of nature, and I do like to see this process in action. In your case, you really have one major issue, which you've already identified.....keeping your house safe. I know the type of forest you describe. We've got lots of it around here too. And while the northern hardwood/mixed forest has been called "the asbestos forest", fires still can occur, albeit, rarely. So I'd pay attention to not having lots of flammable stuff too near the house. This doesn't necessarily even mean tree removal but it could indicate the need for some judicious pruning. Particularly, the pine-family members can burn even when green and growing. So I'd not have too many lower limbs hanging over and onto the house. Use good pruning techniques (ie. ISA-guidelines) if you're unfamiliar with the method to properly remove limbs from trees. No sense starting a bunch of decay process by sloppy technique.

Then beyond acre is a nice-sized yard but it's not exactly a "timber stand". Nevertheless, I applaud your intent to do right by your little patch of woods.

First, are any serious invasive species present? Buckthorn? Garlic mustard? That would be my first goal-to be sure my property is rid of such destructive species,species which really can ruin the whole thing.

Beyond that, it comes down to what you want. Some folks with an ax to grind (Buh-dum-bum) will state that forests must be managed, or some similar bit of half-fiction. It really just depends on how you want things to proceed. Do you like songbirds and rare wildlife? Leave your stand to go to maturity. Do you favor deer, grouse, and other "game" birds and animals? Then do some cutting and felling so that young regeneration occurs, since most of those beasts tend to need young stock to feed on.

Can you do something in the middle? Yes, of course you can. Need a little firewood? Go ahead and make some wood, but don't forget, many birds and other forms of wildlife like dead trees, also known as den trees or 'snags', to remain.

As far as sources, I like the USDA Forest Service Silvics pages here on the interwebz. Highly technical stuff-maybe beyond your needs-but it'w a great place to have your eyes opened to all the info that is out there regarding such things. I don't even really know how exactly it is that I've come to know so much about this process, but I do. Probably just been interested in it myself....for all my life.

Do some poking around, see if anything I've said here helps to get you started, and then get back to us. Maybe others will know some good sources of info as well.


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In NH, chances are most of the pines are white pines. Maybe some red pines, but mostly white (pinus strobus). They are the fluffy looking pines that lose their lower branches, have gray bark that doesn't peel off and needles in cluster of five. You probably also have some spruce, paper birch, beach, maple, red oak, and maybe ash.

Part of this depends on what your objective is. A pretty fairy tale forest where you can stroll beneath the old trees? A stopping point for migrating birds? A wildlife habitat? A collection of rare and endangered plants? You just don't want to screw up the neighboring forest?

First thing is don't plant any invasive species in your yard. (Especially no honeysuckle or ivy! Ivy can pull down trees.)

Don't rake the needles away. Don't chop down all the saplings...trees get old and die, saplings are their replacements. You can remove some if you need space to walk, but leave some. If you live by the water or your land includes wetlands, be particularly careful to leave trees near the water.

Look up invasive species. Then mark any trees that are invasive, (eg Tree of Heaven, Norway Maple, Black Locust), a threat to your house or diseased. Get rid of them. (A real forest has a place for dead and diseased trees...but most of us don't have room for them in our yard.)

Mark any trees that are rare natives or which you find especially pretty. (American Beach?) Mark them to preserve.

Buy some rare native trees and add them to the mix if any of your yard seems bare after doing the above.

The NH State Nursery sells trees cheap...not all native.

Look for Emerald Ash Borer and Asian Longhorn Beetle. If you see any signs of them, report them to the state of New Hampshire.

You probably don't have enough land to do it, but I understand there is a way in NH to promise you will never develop a piece of land and consequently get a break on property taxes.

Try asking these questions in the New England forum and the Woodlands Garden forum.

Here is a link that might be useful: NH Invasive Species List

This post was edited by edlincoln on Thu, Sep 11, 14 at 18:00

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