Tending seedlings

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Forum topic by pontic posted 05-31-2020 11:40 AM 327 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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797 posts in 1381 days

05-31-2020 11:40 AM

I planted 187 white oak and cherry seedlings in my back lot. They are doing well, however; we have had a lot of rain.
The lot is well drained so they are not waterlogged. But I can’t get my garden tractor back there to mow around them the entrance is too muddy. I walk back there and the grass is taller than some of the seedlings but the seedlings are still growing wit new shoots. My question is this: Can I just leave the lot be and let the trees grow up out of the grass and weeds and clear later? or will the grass eventually choke out the trees?

-- Illigitimii non carburundum sum

10 replies so far

View John Smith's profile

John Smith

2429 posts in 935 days

#1 posted 05-31-2020 11:52 AM

I would at least run a weed whacker around them to give them
the best chance possible of not being crowded out by the other
vegetation competing for sunlight and soil nutrients.

I lived in S. GA where planting seedling (pulpwood) pine trees were the norm.
it was always a struggle to get them to the 18” height for survival.


-- there is no educational alternative to having a front row seat in the School of Hard Knocks. --

View Lazyman's profile


5410 posts in 2160 days

#2 posted 05-31-2020 12:23 PM

Oak and cherry are relatively shade tolerant so you don’t have to worry about the grass shading them. In the first year or two, the seedlings are doing most of their growing down. The tap root may be longer than the height of the saplings already. The bigger problem is that grasses will compete for moisture and nutrients out of the surrounding soil, especially as it gets hotter in the summer so as long as there is plenty of moisture that won’t be a problem. In fact if anything, the grass may help prevent them from getting too water logged in the short term. Once it starts getting hotter and drier, it would not be a bad idea to use the weed wacker at least as John mentioned and I would even put some mulch or compost around each one to help keep the weeds away and that will also help to provide extra nutrients and give the tree a big boost as well. Just don’t pile them up against the stem. Sawdust from your shop works great as a mulch but compost is a great fertilizer.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View JCamp's profile


1182 posts in 1323 days

#3 posted 05-31-2020 12:26 PM

I wouldn’t take the chance, I’d spend a little time with a weed eater and clean up the area. In comparison to buying and planting the trees again it’s fairly cheap

-- Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might

View OnhillWW's profile


242 posts in 2004 days

#4 posted 05-31-2020 02:33 PM

If you have planted them in rows it could be easier to mow close to them with a push mower. Sharpen the blades, set it low and run it down both sides of the row, as others have pointed out they can take shading but reducing the competition over the next 2-3 years will give them a bit of a head start. Weed whacking works but you need to be very careful that you don’t damage the seedlings which can be a bit of a challenge to control the cutting head in tall grass, I use a blade attachment in that situation as I find it easier to work with in thick growth. Watch for deer grazing, for them seedlings are a nice tender salad.

-- Cheap is expensive! - my Dad

View LesB's profile


2553 posts in 4215 days

#5 posted 05-31-2020 05:57 PM

The weed eater is would seem to be the best solution and making some sort of shield you can put in place before you cut around each seedling will prevent you from accidentally cutting them…I have used a 3 gallon plastic bucket with the bottom cut out and a stick handle attached to it. A metal blade works best for control and there is a newer style that reportedly came from Australia which has two cutters with the last 1” bent down at 90 degrees which cuts closer to the ground and is great for vine growth like ivy and black berries. Here is a picture:

and a web site

I have planted hundreds of trees on my place over the years and I found it was best to clean out the vegetation in a large circle before I plant the tree. Roundup works well for that purpose. They there is also no competition between the seedling and the weeds for nutrients and moisture. Even better cover the cleared space around the seedling with a thick mulch to smother any new growth…. unless you have a problem with critters getting in the mulch and chewing on the seedlings.

-- Les B, Oregon

View therealSteveN's profile (online now)


5761 posts in 1346 days

#6 posted 05-31-2020 06:41 PM

I’ve had land where I lived for most of my life. so I along with the county farm extension. or the Arbor day fund have planted a lot of trees in my years on earth. I will guarantee you if are in the midwest, as we both are, that Deer will be your #1 toll on your planted trees. They will walk down a row of them just browsing their whiles away.

Evidently baby tree is quite tasty to Deer. But I always planted more than I ever thought I would need, cause I figure I can say I was also raising a herd.

As far as mowing, we would plant using a one Man hole auger, and space them a bit wider than my 6” wide mowing deck pulled behind my old Ford. I would pass once along each side, and I intentionally left a good 6” along each row for additional Deer browse. I figured if I left em something, they might leave a few trees.

The spacing ended up working for a tight woods when they got some age on them. When we planted evergreens we went 2 distances wide, to allow for their lower growth. As soon as the hardwoods got to around 7 to 9’ I would cut off all the lower branches, keeping the spread up in the air.

Seemed to work, each place when we sold the baby woods always played as a prominent plus to the buyers.

-- Think safe, be safe

View Redoak49's profile (online now)


4733 posts in 2761 days

#7 posted 05-31-2020 08:30 PM

You are right about the deer chewing little trees off. We put foil around the little ones in the winter as protection. Deer do not like chewing on foil.

View pontic's profile


797 posts in 1381 days

#8 posted 05-31-2020 09:39 PM

I have deer yes but my dogs keep them stirred up. Neighbor told me not to mow too much so the weeds and grass hide the seedlings. Also deer don’t like cherry leaves. Which is why I think that my white oak is receiving casualties.

-- Illigitimii non carburundum sum

View Lazyman's profile


5410 posts in 2160 days

#9 posted 06-01-2020 03:00 AM

I read somewhere that if you put a small piece of Irish Sprint soap by the plants the deer are eating they will leave it alone. Worth a try.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View LesB's profile


2553 posts in 4215 days

#10 posted 06-01-2020 04:34 PM

I read somewhere that if you put a small piece of Irish Sprint soap by the plants the deer are eating they will leave it alone. Worth a try.

- Lazyman

I heard that Cougar poop works well. Problem is collecting it. LOL
Some of the Zoos sell tiger and lion dung for that purpose.

Six foot chicken wire is the best deer block.

-- Les B, Oregon

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