|FELLING TREES IS A JOB FOR A CERTIFIED FORESTER|
|PAPER BIRCH DIE AND NATURALLY DECAY AT FORTY OR FIFTY YEARS OF AGE|
|A FALLEN TREE TRUNK CAN BE A THING OF BEAUTY|
|...AS IS A PROPERLY MAINTAINED HOME "WOODSCAPE"|
I spent yesterday with a crew from Jay's Tree Care cleaning up a wooded lot around a new home outside of town, so it is a good opportunity to talk a little about how to manage and beautify a wooded lot. An existing woods is a tremendous potential asset but it must be managed. The following tips apply generally to the mixed hardwood forests of the Northeast and Midwest.
First, it is good to have an inventory of the tree canopy and understory vegetation. It's hard to manage what you don't know or understand. If it is pretty much native vegetation the average homeowner will need some professional help to identify both woody and herbaceous plants.
Next, identify hazardous trees and hanging branches which may fall and cause property damage or personal injury. One wants to feel safe in the home environment. Felling trees is particularly hazardous in the woods, as a falling tree can easily get hung up in other trees on the way down and stay there as a "widow maker." Most homeowners would be wise to hire a professional, certified arborist. Many softwood trees such as poplar and birch naturally become decayed and dangerous at maturity, around forty or fifty years of age. Hardwood trees such as maple and oak should be pruned of dead wood and given room to grow, if necessary cutting out other saplings. In a mature forest there may be many valuable understory trees, some of them very beautiful, such as juneberry and nannyberry, so they must be identified and preserved. After felling large trees it is a matter of esthetic judgement as to whether to leave the trunks lay in the landscape, after cutting off and disposing of the branches. Some old trunks can become things of great beauty as they molder over the years. One may wish to leave some standing dead trunks as woodpecker trees if they are stable, not too tall, or dangerous. When possible, woody debris should be chipped and blown back into the woods.
Finally, the home "woodscape" should be managed over the long term to achieve the greatest diversity possible. There is a natural progression from sun loving species to shade tolerant species of trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants over a long period of time, unless this succession is interrupted by fire, blowdown or disease. In order to maintain a healthy diversity of species a variety of trees, shrubs and wildflowers should be added to the woods, or encouraged over time. Many native species are available from nurseries, and with permission and great care many can be collected in the wild. In fact, when a home is being built in a wood area care should be taken to save as many valuable plants as possible, either in place or by transplanting them into a holding area. Once a woodlot is being managed for trees and shrubs attention should be turned to the herbaceous understory of wildflowers, ferns and grasses.
A properly managed home woods is a thing of great beauty and environmental value, and will add immeasurably to the pleasure of the owners.
Political commentary: it should by now be apparent to all that the Attorney General, Eric Holder, must finally go. The Justice Department's secret investigation of the telephone calls of two hundred Associated Press reporters and editors is a direct attack on freedom of the press, guaranteed by the First Amendment. Now that it is not only conservative interests that are at risk from the actions of an out-out-control federal government, but all of us, perhaps the country will wake up.