Best/easiest way to plant pine tree seelings

nate1981December 7, 2013

I'm going to be planting some pine tree saplings/seedlings very soon and it will be my first time.. Any good tips on spacing or patterns?

We're planting loblolly pines in zone 7 for privacy and to attract wildlife....we're probably going to space them 10' apart....

I have about 7/8 acre to fill...i will have more than enough there a good way to measure the rows? or should i just randomly scatter them around the vacant field?

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

your base issue.. is that you have no goal.. just a bunch of seedlings ..

of which you dont tell us the size .. so its hard to tell you how to plant them ...

define this, and then you can begin to define how to do it: WHAT IS YOUR GOAL ... or multiple goals..

e.g. hide a neighbor.. a road.. define a tree free area... say the bocci court ... etc ... how do you use the space.. and how do you plan for the future.. etc ....


ps: where are the seedlings coming from.. and do they need to be hardened off prior to planting???? .. bare root or potted ... do you need planting instructions.. or is this only placement???

    Bookmark   December 7, 2013 at 8:21AM
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Speaking from experience, planting them random looks more natural, but if you want to mow the first year or two you have to somehow mark their locations. Planting in rows takes more time and patience and doesn't look as natural, but is easier to manage
What I do to mark them, is find sticks that will last for some time about 3-5 ft tall, stick into ground near the tree and tie a piece of bright logging tape to it. You won't have that much growth the first year out of the pine but everything grows which makes it hard to locate the trees when mowing. Use a tool called a dibble bar to plant the trees. And if you can mulch around the base.
I have hand planted hundreds of loblolly seedlings the last few years and these instructions work the best for me. Good luck. Eric

    Bookmark   December 7, 2013 at 8:54AM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

Nate, if you can fit it into the plan try to squeeze in another species as well. Not only for variety's sake, but in the event a new found pine bug comes along you will not lose everything.

Ask the previous owners of my home or those who are tearing out all the white ash around the gateway arch because of EAB.

Of course don't ask the arch fellas about why they are replanting with all sycamores, it just takes some folks longer to learn I guess.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2013 at 9:18AM
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Hi nate1981,
treenutt sounds like the voice of experience and gave you the most helpful answer. Random groupings is more natural and desirable than rows. Loblolly Pine lends itself to this informal layout. Also flagging tape or the free standing flags is gonna be really helpful the first couple of years.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2013 at 9:30AM
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For your zone, I'd prefer Shortleaf pine over Loblolly, they're stronger wooded, drought tolerant, and more resistant to breakage from ice or snow. Slower growing in early stages but probably worth it in the long run. Loblolly pine is WAY over planted, since it's the #1 species used by paper companies in the southeast.

I also agree with mixing in some slower growing hardwoods like white oak and hickory (avoid faster growing ones or they'll outcompete the pines). If there's ever a pine beetle outbreak you don't want to lose all of your trees.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2013 at 11:09AM
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I posted my goal...the trees will be planted for privacy and for a wildlife refuge. They are seedlings I've ordered from the North Carolina forestry service...i'm imaging them to be around 12" tall or so...they will be bareroot. I've read how to plant, i was asking about planting patterns. The seedlings come fresh and ready to plant within 10 days. That is my goal....unless you don't think thats a good reason to plant? what should my goals be?

I'm seriously considering 'random' planting...I would really prefer the more natural look....i dont want it to look like a tree farm particularly as these are simply for privacy, wildlife, and so i don't have to maintain this old abandoned tobacco field with my lawn mower any more. I realize I will have to mow for a while longer until the trees become big enough to spread the needles and give good coverage....and then it will be easier to keep 'neat'. I've got about 7/8 of an acre that is split diagonally by an above ground power line...i've marked it off 15' on each side....i'm not going to plant there because the electric coop will just cut them down in 7 years and leave a horrible mess. Do you have suggestions on how to 'random' plant?

I've already ordered the loblolly pines, they should arrive within the next 14 days

    Bookmark   December 7, 2013 at 11:33AM
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I randomly planted where I thought my tractor would squeeze through. I guestimated roughly 10 ft. Ur going to have about a 12 year wait if ur waiting for them to the get the size ur talking about. If you want the understory blocked off from the sun then ur going to have do a little more research because I'm not exactly sure. Take pics and keep a log. And by the way deer love to rub against them in the fall. Good luck

    Bookmark   December 8, 2013 at 10:09PM
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To piggyback on treenutt - pines are the #1 preferred choice for buck rubs locally. After a year or two you might want to look into protective measures to keep them away until the trunks are of sufficient caliper to be unappealing to the deer.

Several posters on here have a laissez-faire attitude about buck rubs however I had a 3 year old loblolly pine completely girdled early in the rut season this year. If I had big grouping of them I had invested time and money in, I would certainly be concerned about potential damage from the deer.

Here is a link that might be useful: The pine tree

    Bookmark   December 9, 2013 at 9:10AM
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Any idea how many feet per year the loblolly pine will grow? There is a vacant lot next door to me that was bushhogged last summer (summer of 2012)....tons of pines have popped up in that field...they haven't cut it since then (summer of '12)....those pines are already 3-4' in height...i'm not sure of the type of pine though.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2013 at 7:13PM
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If they are happy, loblolly can do 2-3'+ per year no problem as you have witnessed

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 1:00PM
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Ive planted 5 loblolly within reach of the water hose, I mulched them and keep the pine tip beetles at bay (which are really destructive in my area). I received them at 1 year old, they are now been in the ground for nearly 2 years and have reached 7+ feet (they were probably under 1 ft at the time). Now around the same time when I planted those 5, I also planted est. 100 out in the wild. Some have reached my height which is roughly 5ft6''. They doing good but as one might expect they are experiencing the full wrath of mother nature. I will say there are 2 determining facts if planted in the correct region, that you will get the most growth. One is water and 2 is competition.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 2:09PM
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Also a little fertilizer on the 5 near the hose.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 2:16PM
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As for patterns, my wife always tells me to plant in groups of 3 in some sort of triangle pattern. I prefer planting them in rows for mowing as mentioned. Of course if you have 2 rows, stagger the trees.
10 ft may be a bit tight long term for Loblolly, I'd prefer 15'. Eventually as time goes on, you will likely see the lower limbs drop off as they begin to close the canopy.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 9:10PM
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The triangle pattern sounds like a great idea...i'm going to go with the 'random' more natural look....but i wonder if i do random 'triangles' how that would come out...sounds like a good idea... :)

I need to decide! my trees came on tuesday (not supposed to come til friday) and i'm going to plant them this saturday and sunday!

    Bookmark   December 12, 2013 at 6:52AM
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For pine trees to grow like they should, they need room to branch out, but if you are screening, then the triangle sounds like a good idea to me. Just remember when planted in the wild its gonna be hard to locate the tree the first 1-2 years. The weeds, grasses, vines and shrubby vegetation will grow much quicker. I learned the hard way the first time I mowed. There are few places where I mowed the first time where a tree is suppose to be. ooops.
Timber co's plant pines in rows and very close together to minimize the work it takes to harvest the tree and to grow as much wood as possible, but doing this also reduces the amount of branching which provides them better lumber. Or something like that.
One more thing, they will require more water than a single planted tree, but it will be easier to mulch them the first year if you use the triangle method. What I would do is mulch "a triangle group" of trees the first year so I could see the difference.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2013 at 10:46AM
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Since your trees came early, I would wrap them up in a wet paper towel and put in the fridge or dig a hole and put them in it and the cover the roots. What ever you decide the roots must stay moist, not soaking or dry. Good luck and let us know how it goes.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2013 at 10:50AM
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Just a quick note of thanks for help/opinions in this thread :) we succesfully (hopefully lol) planted almost the entire box of 1,000 loblolly pine tree seedlings...we did about 2.5 hours saturday and another 2 hours or so today....i'm guesstimating we planted around 600-700 in random i just need to be careful with my roundup this spring ;)

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   December 15, 2013 at 10:28AM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

...and your mowing equipment, for the next few years! I tried, but can't really imagine mowing around hundreds of randomly planted seedlings. I've planted small trees in patterns (not straight lines), and still had problems finding them when mowing.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2013 at 12:35PM
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So, Nate how did everything go this past weekend? Pics?

Curious Treenutt

    Bookmark   December 17, 2013 at 9:03AM
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Was going to take pics, but the seedlings are almost invisible in the field lol....but i think everything turned out great! I'm just going to have to be very careful to not tear them up over the spring....i'm going to either have to spray weedkiller around them or use my weedtrimmer. I planted them too close for my mower to fit.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2013 at 7:12PM
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Your probably going to have a wait few years to use your trimmer or herbicide around your trees. That's what I was planning on doing right after I planted my trees. After the spring growth, when the time finally came to take care of the weeds, I saw I was wrong. There just not room to do either with out doing some kind of damage. Your seedlings are in such a weak state right now and that will last the first year. Don't expect to see much growth the first year, but hang on, because the second year the trees will grow fast. Just do what I did and mark their location somehow so you can keep your eye on them the first year or two. Good luck and keep us informed on their growth.
I am having about 200 more trees (loblolly pine) planted this winter. 100 professionally and 100 or so myself. We had some problems with the timber company next to our property this past summer. They destroyed our fence in two places. They drove a dozer through the gaps and did something. And the heat from their fires scorched a bunch of our large oaks. (we had already lost about 50 large oaks do the drought of 2010). The worse part about it (my opinion) is that they didn't even tell us, I had to find out about it by walking the edges our property. About 10 calls later to different agencies (county, state and the feds) this was the deal we came up with. treenutt

    Bookmark   December 23, 2013 at 9:04AM
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Right after planting them, it may seem easy enough to see your seedlings and work around them, either with some kind of mower/trimmer or with the backpack sprayer. But once the weeds start going batsh*t crazy, it gets extremely difficult to see your little guys. The flagging tape may therefore be a good idea. I never did that though. I've gone increasingly laissez-faire as I went from planting maybe 500 at a clip to this past year's 6000+. There's only so much a guy can do, and even with my extremely minimalist approach, not to mention frequent rainfall in the months directly following our large-scale planting, I expect good success. It's a numbers game-not all will make it, but many will. That's one reason why I plant so many at a time. Plus, I'm covering acreage.


    Bookmark   December 23, 2013 at 4:43PM
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at home depot and lows they sell 2 ft metal stakes with bright attached flagging. $10 for 100.

    Bookmark   December 25, 2013 at 6:53PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

If you're talking about their survey flags, those things usually hold onto the flag about a day before the flag falls off (unless you modify them). I usually put a few bends in the wire and that seems to work for a while. Deer taste test them every once in a while, too.

    Bookmark   December 25, 2013 at 7:24PM
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good to know Brandon. Ill remember that. I'm going to pick some up tomorrow after work for the weekend

    Bookmark   December 26, 2013 at 8:28AM
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I was trying to keep cost on this project as minimal as possible....the flags are $10 for 100...but i need like 6 or 7 bundles....and then i gotta place 700 flags lol....i'm going to wait until spring and see what happens

    Bookmark   December 26, 2013 at 10:47AM
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