Monday, January 24, 2022

Penn State Extension: Spring Creek's Bleak Mid-Winter Blues In Dauphin County

By Jennifer R. Fetter, Extension Water Resources Educator

At the Side of Spring Creek is an ongoing article series telling the stories of Penn State Extension staff and colleagues as they establish and maintain a research-orientated conservation planting along a stream.

Yards, gardens, and riparian buffers are covered in snow and ice in most of Pennsylvania and the surrounding region this time of year. 

There is not a whole lot you can be doing for your young trees and other buffer plants right now. Instead, we eagerly anticipate the coming spring and cross our fingers that voles and other rodents aren’t eating our dreams down to the nub while we wait. 

But there is something we can do to get our green thumbs to stop twiddling for a few hours.

Now is the right time to be putting together your list of replacement trees and shrubs for a spring mortality re-planting. 

While the name is less than bright and cheery, it will be great to get our shovels and hands dirty again as soon as the soil is workable. 

Hopefully you spent some time in the summer and fall getting a count of your tree seedlings that didn’t establish or succumbed to other pressures during the growing season. 

We took a first count in June after our April planting. We lost about 14 tree seedlings in the first two months - probably due to less careful planting (that can happen after you have planted 300 trees in a single day.) 

We counted again in late October during our fall maintenance day and tallied a total of 35 mortalities in all - 90 percent survival is sounding pretty good to us! But we do want to replant those 35 trees since it’s only our first year. 

If you are several years into establishing your buffer, you may be happy with the success rate and not need to continue replanting your mortalities. The density most buffers are planted at is in part meant to allow for some trees to not grow to maturity.

With riparian buffers growing in popularity across the state and the region, nurseries can find themselves quickly selling out of tree and shrub seedlings in spring. 

If you are very particular about which species you want to replant with - it would be good to start shopping now and perhaps place a pre-order. 

"Why be particular?" you ask. There are lots of good reasons to be. Most you probably already considered during your initial planting - but here is a new one: Why did the first tree die? 

Was it too wet or too dry for the species you selected? Is there a disease or pest present that really favors that species? 

Maybe this is a good time to plan a swap to something new.

Add a few extra plants to your order if you can afford it, you will likely encounter a few more in need of replacement after the rodents have their way this winter.

In a future edition, we can talk more about those pesky little mammals. I am thinking about adding some kestrel nesting boxes around our buffer…. 

Stay tuned for more stories - At the Side of Spring Creek

(Reprinted from the latest Penn State Extension Watershed Winds newsletterClick Here to sign up  for your own copy.)

Related Articles:

-- Penn State Master Watershed Steward Program – A Look Back On 2021’s Accomplishments

-- PA Chapter Of Natural Resources Extension Professionals Names Ross Snook Of Montgomery County Natural Resources Education Champion

-- Master Watershed Steward Program Receives Healing The Planet Grant From The GIANT Company 

[Posted: January 24, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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