Here are those essential jobs to be carried out in young forests over the summer.
By now, grass and weeds should be controlled. Competition from grass and weeds is the biggest challenge for small trees and effective control is crucial. Lack of weed control in the early years is the most common cause of poor performance and plantation failure.
Chemical control using herbicides is the most common and cost effective method utilised. Chemical control is often used in combination with manual grass cleaning which can be particularly effective against overhanging vegetation after the growing season.
Don't forget that by year four, trees should be free growing and growing clear of vegetation competition.
Check for frost damage
Severe winter cold rarely damages trees in Irish forests. However, late spring and early summer frost can be harmful when the buds start to burst. Frost damaged buds will appear brown in colour and can die off. The best prevention is to plant frost resistant tree species.
Take broadleaf foliage samples
The nutrient requirements of trees are low in comparison with agricultural crops. Trees planted on certain soil types however can develop nutrient deficiencies resulting in slower growth and reduced timber yields in the future.
Walk your forest regularly and check for common symptoms of nutrient problems:
- Changes in tree colour
- Reduction in shoot growth
- Reduction in leaf size
- Dieback of top or side shoots
- General reduction in vigour
Remember that other factors can produce symptoms in trees similar to those caused by nutrient deficiencies such as poor drainage, exposure, frost and vermin damage. Always identify the cause of a growth problem before trying to rectify it!
Where symptoms occur, foliar analysis can determine the a possible nutrient problem. August is the appropriate time for foliar analysis of broadleaves. Approved forestry laboratories provide reports that identify deficiencies and recommend corrective fertiliser applications.
Carry out broadleaf shaping
As mentioned in a previous article, shaping is the process of removing forks and very large competing side branches in order to produce long straight lengths of timber for a high value market. The best time to shape broadleaf trees is summer, including August, or winter.
Shaping is required for the payment of the second instalment grant at year four for broadleaf plantations.
Check on progress
Go for a walk in your forest. Once you become familiar looking at your trees, you will find a lot of the checks I have mentioned are common sense. And while you're out on your walk, also keep an eye on nearby ash trees to check for signs of ash dieback.