Autumn is a good time of year to check if any trees need replacing next winter. Trees may have died off for a variety of reasons.
It is important to replace any failures next planting season, to ensure the forest develops evenly and to avoid unnecessary maintenance later on.
Replanting should take place between November and March depending on the tree species and site type.
To receive the Forest Service (DAFM) second instalment grant, at least 90pc of the trees should be in free growth.
The number of trees per hectare can be estimated using circular plots.
A handy little trick is to place a stake in the ground and tie an eight metre tape or string to the stake.
Tighten the tape and walk around in a circle, while counting all live trees within this circle. You can also tie this eight metre tape or string to a tree - the circle centred on this tree is the circular plot.
Count the number of trees within this eight metre radius circle, and multiply the result by 50 to estimate the stocking density on a per hectare basis.
This means that for a Sitka spruce plantation you should count 50 live trees in the eight metre circle to have a tree stocking density of 2,500 (50 x 50 = 2,500) and 66 for most broadleaves to have a tree stocking density of 3,300 (66 x 50 = 3,300).
Count the trees in a number of plots to get an accurate, representative assessment.
Ideally, tree stocking density should be maintained as close as possible to 100pc to optimise future tree selection and quality timber production.
Check drainage systems
Also check if drainage is sufficient. Trees should have a free draining rooting depth of at least 45-60cm. A high water table may lead to difficulties in nutrient uptake while limited tree rooting space may also affect future crop stability. It is essential to keep a close eye on the drainage system and to keep it effective at all times to avoid the problems described above.
Review your fire plan
Forest fires are a major concern for forest owners. Autumn is a good time to inspect fire breaks and improve if necessary in time for the high risk period of February to May when dead moorland vegetation can dry out very fast and becomes highly flammable.
Where fire breaks are in place, ensure that they are inspected regularly and kept vegetation free. Firebreaks should be at least six metres wide.
Fire plans are essential management tools and cooperating with neighbours is vital for successful fire prevention.
Sit down with your neighbours to review your fire plan and update it if necessary.
Check fence lines
It is important to check regularly the fence lines to prevent browsing animals such as sheep, cattle, deer, goats, hares or rabbits from entering the forest.
Trees may be killed or severely damaged by bark stripping, eating of shoots, trampling on tree roots, etc.
Animals may cause drains to collapse initiating water logging. This will result in an increased windthrow risk.
At the end of this growing season, tall rushes and grasses can flop over on top of small trees. It is important to avoid this, by manually pulling these weeds away from the trees and then trampling the weeds.
Steven Meyen is a forestry advisor with Teagasc email: email@example.com