Forestry How To...

This page contains articles intended to provide guidance to landowners who wish to undertake common forestry practices like tree planting, weed control, timber stand improvements, and commercial timber sales.

Reforestation Projects

by Mike Kay

Using Seedlings

Thousands of acres of trees have been planted in Frederick County over the last 10 years. Most of these plantings utilized seedling sized trees due to affordability, portability, ease of planting etc. These plantings were conducted with the best of intensions to improve water quality, create habitat, or increase our forest land base. Despite these noble intentions, some of the plantings fell short of their desired goals due to heavy losses of the young seedlings. Sometimes mortality can not be avoided because it is due to factors beyond our control like prolonged drought etc. Many times however, we can help increase the odds of our planting being successful by following some guidelines like the ones presented below.

Numerous tree plantations have been established in the county


Before you plant you should do a little planning to think through the effort that you are getting ready to embark upon. This planning process should be done well in advance of the planting, preferably before you initiate any kind of activity. You should consider such things as: What is the purpose of this planting? Is it to buffer a stream, create wildlife habitat, beautify a hillside, enlarge a forest, develop a windbreak or aesthetic barrier, maybe you want to grow valuable trees for your future or your children. (This might give you the motivation to live a long life.) Knowing the purpose of the planting will help you to determine the best way to proceed. Assessing the site conditions is very important and it is covered in more depth in the seedling selection section. Another important question to ponder is, can I do this myself or do I need help. If you have never planted trees before you should search for help. There are a number of good books, publications, and web sites you can visit to help guide you through the process. You can also obtain the advice of professionals and other knowledgeable individuals many of which will be willing to work directly with you on your project including MD Forest Service personnel. Talking to a neighbor that has a successful planting is another excellent resource to consider. If you are just starting out, you can get your feet wet by planting a small section of the field the first year and proceed from there. Also, you can get helpful planting experience by volunteering to plant trees at public tree plantings many of which are conducted in conjunction with Arbor Day or Earth Day events. In Frederick County we are always looking for planting assistance and you can gain valuable instruction and experience by volunteering at these events. If your project is more than a couple acres in size you should consider having a planting plan prepared by a qualified individual and having professional tree planters handle the project. These professionals can guide you through the process and let you know about any cost incentive programs that might be available to help you fund the project.

Professionals are available to help you plan for your project

Wise Seedling Selection:

Before planting you should evaluate the site and choose planting stock that would thrive under the prevailing site conditions. These site evaluations should consider the lay of the land, movement of water (hydrology), and predominant soils. Is the site wet, can it be drought, might it be wet in the spring and dry in the summer are questions you should be asking. Once you make this determination you should choose plants that thrive under the prevailing conditions. You determine this by knowing a little about the “silvics” of a plant. Most good tree and shrub identification manuals have a short description of what kind of site a plant is best suited; if for instance, the manual mentions that white pine prefers well drained soils then it will not be a good choice for planting in a swampy bottom. An easy way to determine which trees are suitable is to visit a forested area near your site having the same site conditions. The native trees growing in these areas are probably going to be a good choice for your planting. Sometimes, following this site review process, you determine that your favorite tree would not be appropriate for the planting. Despite your disappointment, you are generally much better off planting a more appropriate tree and who knows you might develop a new favorite.

Are you planting a dry hillside or wet lowland area?

Other factors that you should consider when choosing seedlings might include aesthetic features, size of tree vs. the available growing space, presence of deer, your geographic location, the history of success or failure with a specific variety, and maintenance considerations. There are numerous varieties of trees and shrubs that have a multitude of characteristics, choosing the right variety for your planting helps ensure that it will thrive.

This site requires trees that can tolerate seasonally wet conditions.

Once you determine the variety of tree you want to plant, determining which nursery you obtain your seedling from is very important. A good seedling should have a full, well developed root system a healthy succulent top with a variety of colors, as apposed to being brittle and straw brown in color. And, depending on the species, it should have a terminal bud and it should be dormant meaning that it has not leafed out. These seedlings should be ordered from an area in close proximity to you which will help ensure that they are delivered in good shape and that they are adapted to the local environment. Some nurseries sell seedlings grown for different lengths of time usually expressed as 1/0, 2/0, 3/0 seedlings. The longer they are grown in the nursery the larger and more expensive they are. Before ordering a larger or more expensive alternative (3/0 vs. 1/0) you should ask yourself if the cost justifies the larger tree. In my experience, it is worth the additional cost to purchase an older tree for slower growing varieties like a hickory, beech, spruce, maple etc. because the 1/0 variety may be too small for effective planting. With fast growing varieties like white pine, ash, locust, sycamore, elderberry etc. the extra size may not be worth the increased cost. And, sometimes you may receive a large tree with very small roots which might result in growth stagnation or die back of the top before the root /shoot ratio is back in balance.

One you determine which trees you wish to plant and how many you will need you need to submit your order. Most seedling nurseries only ship trees for spring planting; and, they begin taking orders in the fall. These nurseries have a finite amount of trees so when all have been ordered they will no longer be available. With this in mind I suggest that you place your orders in the fall for the upcoming spring planting. This will ensure that you get the variety you want in the numbers you desire. Most nurseries will allow you to hold your order with a credit card; and, they will not charge the card until they ship your trees, usually sometime in mid to late March here in Frederick County, Maryland.

Some seedlings waiting to be planted

Good site preparation:

Site preparation is the process of removing obstacles from the site to permit you to plant your seedlings and developing a “cover crop” which will allow your tree to grow and thrive. If your field is overrun with thorny bushes or invasive plants you need to get these under control before you plant otherwise you will have to control them after the trees are present which is much harder, or the weeds will overrun the plantation. Your cover crop should be something that will give the seedlings a good opportunity to grow and develop. Planting trees in dense grasses increases competition for water when it is dry and could harbor destructive populations of mice and voles, rodents which have devastating impacts on young plantations. Planting a low growing cover crop like clover helps control weed growth, enriches the soil, and is exposed enough not to attract mice and voles.

This clover cover crop will enrich the soil, help reduce weeds, and provide little or no habitat for mice and voles.

Seedling Transport and planting:

The care you provide for your young seedlings makes a big difference in growth and survival. Nurseries usually pack trees in such a way that they will stay fresh for about two weeks. Once your seedlings arrive, you should store them in a cool dry place and attempt to plant them within a two-week time period. The sooner you plant these trees the better. Most nurseries send postcards indicating when they will ship your trees to you. If you know you’ll be getting the trees ahead of time you should make plans to have them planted by the end of the first weekend. If you are planning for a large planting i.e. >1,000 trees you should look for a seedling cooler to store your trees until they are planted. Seedling coolers can keep a seedling fresh for a couple of months or more as long as they are receiving periodic moisture. If you have contracted your planting out to a professional you should relay that you would like to have the seedlings planted as soon a possible. In my experience with spring tree plantings, I have noticed that seedlings planted during March and April fare much better than those planted during May or June. This is especially true if we experience a summer drought. There are some specialized tree planting tools like dibble or planting bars, available which makes the planting process much easier and less time consuming. These tools can be purchased for Forestry supply houses or you may be able to rent or borrow some from your local forestry office. You should consider using these tools if you have a large quality of trees you wish to plant yourself.

A commercial planting of trees using a mechanical planter

A commercial hand planting operation

Protective Devices:

There are a number of products on the market which protect seedlings from deer, rabbits, beaver, and our own aggressive mowing habits. These products may consist of tree shelters, weed barriers, repellents, and deer fencing to name a few. (I am not aware of any good barrier for mice and voles on the market today. The best way to prevent mice and vole damage is to reduce their habitat by your mowing schedule.) If you are planting deciduous trees then it is probably a good idea to acquire some of these. If you are planting on a budget I suggest calling your local forestry or parks office because we can probably put you in touch with a landowner who would be willing to provide you with these barriers for free or at a small cost. (The cost may be the labor you provide removing them from the landowners site.)

Tree shelters can help protect young seedlings.


Planting trees is not a plant and forget proposition. If you plant trees and neglect them only to find an excellent plantation then you got lucky. The young seedlings need plenty of tender loving care especially until they become well established. (Usually after tree growing seasons.) After you plant your trees you have to mow the site 2 to 3 times per season especially if you have a dense grass cover like fescue or bluegrass. The most important mowing should be conducted in the fall around late September or early October. This mowing will reduce grass cover during the winter when mice and vole damage is at its worse. Mowing at this time will not allow grasses to grow back much, and cause the thatch to decompose before the onset of winter. (Mice and voles love thatch so if you leave it around trees during the winter it is the same as not mowing at all.) Besides the fall mowing I like to mow in mid-June and August. If you are using tree shelters, deer fencing, or some other protective device for the trees then you have to spend time with maintenance. Maintenance items include removing bird nets when the seedling is growing near the top of the shelter, straightening the shelter if it is bent over, replacing broken stakes, and removing the shelter when trees have outgrown the enclosure. I normally like to remove shelters when the tree has grown 8 feet in height and 2 inches in diameter (about the diameter of a half dollar.) You should also make sure that you aren’t cultivating noxious weeds along with your trees. Regular mowing, along with monitoring and possible control methods might be necessary if you have weeds like Canada thistle, Johnson grass, multiflora rose, or ailanthus coming up in your field. In my opinion mice and voles are the most destructive pest to young tree plantations. The best way to keep these animals in check is to reduce their habitat either by your choice of cover crops, regular mowings, or choosing trees that these critters don’t like to eat. Moderately wet sites that have well established fescue and bluegrass cover are real magnets for mice and voles.

Most plantings require periodic mowing.


Consider monitoring a planting is a good way to ensure success. Sometimes we can spot a problem before it occurs or correct a bad situation before it gets worse. As an example, let’s say that you notice that a few trees are being girdled near the ground. After you make this observation you learn that voles have inflicted this damage and you take measures to ensure that it does not escalate. Being proactive may have just saved your planting because voles have a tremendous capacity to reproduce and their damage can spread throughout the entire planting. Another benefit of monitoring is that you may notice that a certain species did not do well after the first year and had poor survival. If this is the case, you may decide to fill-in some of the vacant areas with another variety that has greater potential to thrive. At the end of the growing season it is a good idea to assess your survival and consider partial replants to raise your survival to more desirable levels. Monitoring lets you see what is or is not working so you can determine which the best way to ensure success is.

Monitoring let’s you know what you assess the condition of your planting.


Sometimes filling in some vacant areas is a good idea. As an example, let’s say that during your fall seedling monitoring you discover that most of the white pine that you planted are missing, and conclude that those deer that congregated there in the evenings were feasting on them. This mortality resulted in a big gap in the planting. You then decide to replace these trees with a variety that is distasteful to deer or decide to place enclosures around the seedlings. Taking these measures will help ensure that your planting develops in a desirable way.

Sometimes you need to fill-in some of the empty areas. Note the use of a Tree planting bar to do this work.


Hopefully some of these suggestions will guide you to a successful planting project. Every planting is a bit different so some of these guidelines may not be appropriate for your planting. For example, most of my recommendations were targeted to ensuring tree survival. Let’s say that you are not as concerned about developing a forest as you are providing a partially treed meadow for wildlife. If this describes your objective you may not care to mow and won’t get too upset if tree survival lags behind because you welcome mice, voles, and other field dependent species to your area. No matter what are your objectives, the best way to ensure planting success is to plan ahead, develop a strategy, select proper seedlings, prepare a welcoming site for them, keep them fresh, plant early, maintain the site, monitor, replant if necessary, and hope for rain.

Logging Permits

by Mike Kay

If you are conducting a logging operation you need to have a permit before you begin.

If you are conducting a logging operation on your property where at least 2,000 square feet of soil is being disturbed then you are required by law to have a logging permit displayed on site before the harvest begins. As the owner of the property you are legally responsible for acquiring that permit, and you will be responsible for any fines or law enforcement actions that are levied as a result of these infractions. Obtaining a logging permit in Frederick County is a matter of visiting the Public Works Department on 118 North Market Street, Frederick, MD 21701 and requesting the necessary forms. These forms should be filled out and returned to the Public Works Department with the payment. It should be noted that there are two potential applications, one for a Standard Plan where the limits of disturbance fall below a certain minimum (<15,000 sq feet and 500CY), the logging roads and skid trails are on a 15% or less gradient, and no logging is occurring in wetlands are within the designated stream buffer. Another requirement for a standard plan is that no streams are crossed in the course of the operation. If any of these requirements is not met then you need to posses a Non-Standard “Custom” Plan prepared by a Registered Professional Forester.

Other requirements that may be necessary to obtain a logging permit in Frederick County come into effect if certain conditions are met in relation to the logging site. The first condition relates to the Zoning Designation of the land. If your property is located in a Resource Conservation Zone then you need to prepare and submit a logging plan to the Frederick County Forestry Board for approval. The Forestry Board accepts plans throughout the month and reviews them at regularly scheduled meetings held on the second Monday of the month. Following these meetings the board makes plans to conduct a site visit to review the marking of timber to make sure that it adheres to the intent of the plan. The Board will send a letter to the applicant stating whether or not their plan has been approved. You can contact the Forestry Board for an informational sheet on what is necessary in the plan.

Another special requirement is whether or not the logging operation is to be conducted in a stream buffer and if a stream will be crossed in the process of extracting logs from the site. If these conditions are met then the applicant must acquire a Buffer Management Plan from a MD Licensed Professional Forester and may need a special Stream Crossing Permit issued by the MD Department of the Environment or the Army Cops of Engineers.

Another special circumstance comes into play if you are logging in anticipation of developing or subdividing your property. If this is the case you must follow the regulations that pertain to Land Clearing, Construction and Development and the provisions in Frederick County’s Forest Retention Ordinance. On the Standard Plan form there is a section where an applicant is required to sign a Declaration of Intent stating that their forestry operation is not a prelude to development and that they understand that they will be subject to the Forest Retention Ordinance (FRO) if they are logging in anticipation of developing the property.

Finally, if the proposed logging operation is located in any area where a special easement is in place such as a Forest Retention Area, the applicant must follow the requirements for logging as specified in that easement. In most cases this entails having a MD Registered Professional Forester prepare a Forest Stewardship Plan for the site, mark the timber, and supervise the logging operation.

When you apply for a permit, the Public Works Department sends the application to the Soil Conservation Service where this agency reviews the plan for sediment and erosion control issues. Once the Soil Conservation Service finishes their review, they send it to the Zoning Administration who reviews the plan looking at whether or not the activity is allowed in the particular zoning designation. The Zoning Division also reviews the application making sure that it contains an approved Logging Plan should the site fall within a Resource Conservation Area or be involved in another easement program. Once the Zoning administration signs off on the application it is sent back to the Public Works Department that make a final review of the application then they submit the permit to the applicant. It is the Public Works Department’s responsibility to inspect the site during the operation and they have the authority to suspend operations and levy fines depending on the circumstances.

The logging permit process can be very complicated especially for those who have limited experience in acquiring permits or conducting logging operations. For these reasons it is a good idea to communicate with the logging contractor, sawmill, or forester that you wish for them to acquire the logging permit; and, state in a written contract that you will not permit the operator to begin their logging activity until they are in possession of a permit. Another option is to employ a Consulting Forester to administer the sale. Most consultants will acquire the logging permit for the landowner as part of their services.

Ready for market.

Tree Farming - A case study

by Claude Eans

Outstanding Tree Farmer Award

History of this Tree Farm

When this property was purchased in 1986 it was a recently developed abandoned old farm. The entire farm property occupied land on both sides of Harp Road in Frederick County Maryland. The terrain was rolling and suitable for mostly dairy production. This portion of the farm of around 150 acres or more was originally purchased by the Girl Scouts of America. Later it was sold to Dr. Earl Vivino who developed it into a subdivision named Scouts Knoll. We purchased our choice of the woodland lots

consisting of 28.8 acres. The holdings of Dr. Vivino were divided into rural lots of 85, 19, 16 and 29 acres. We purchased the first lot in the property and that was all we could afford although we would have loved to have purchased the 85 acre lot.. Dr. Vivino retained the 85 acres across Harp Road from us. Our property was in a state of neglect and had massive planting of alternating rows Scotch Pine and Southern White Pine. There was an additional eight acres of mixed hardwoods mostly Oak and other mixed hardwoods on the property. There was also another area of secondary growth from a previous timber cutting.

Satellite view of Eans Tree Farm

The pine planting on suitable portions of the entire farm was done by the Girl Scouts apparently under the supervision of a Forestry or Agricultural Agency at the time. A portion of the pine planting trees was originally intended to be harvested as Christmas Trees as a source of income for the Girl Scouts. The original intent as we understood the history was to harvest all the Scotch Pines and every other White pine for this use. Due to unknown circumstances these trees were not managed and no cuttings were made to the best of our knowledge.

When this property was purchased it was a jungle of tangled underbrush and the pine trees that was practically impossible to walk through. My intention was to establish a home here and to take care of the entire property as appropriate. I contracted with the power and telephone company and provided engineering design for services and installed an access road which is a part of our lot and allows access to the other two lots nearby in the Subdivision. . In 1986-87 our home was built on 2 acres of the property. Then work was started to clean, clear and restore order to the forest on the property. The potential tree farm was inspected, a Forest Stewardship Plan was developed and certification was obtained. Further work was accomplished to make the pine stands more accessible and to allow mowing where necessary and desirable. The farm goals were to provide wildlife habitat and the future harvest of timber products.

Eans Tree Farm pond in Srping (Photo by Claude Eans)

I build a 1/2 acre pond under the supervision of the Soil Conservation Service as a part of the Chesapeake Bay Water Quality Program to control runoff from neighboring acreage. Our pond has wet weather springs and runoff from around 60 acres of drainage to maintain the water level.

The most notable effort was the removal of almost all of the Scotch Pine as they were very vulnerable to Pine Bark Beetle attack and were therefore undesirable at their size which was well beyond Christmas Tree when we purchased the property. Further thinning and other projects have been successful to the extent that we were named Frederick County Tree Farm of the Year in 1989. Once released for growth a lot of our pine stands have grown from an average of around 5 inches in diameter to some well over 24 inches in diameter. It is really amazing to look back at what the property once was and to see it now.

Current status

We continue to maintain our small acreage Tree Farm. The goals were to provide wildlife habitat and this is done by continuously maintaining food sources for various bird and animal species. Most years we have an abundance of acorns and hickory nuts. In the past we have planted buckwheat, sorghum, millet and other grain crops in small wildlife plots. We provide bluebird houses and brush piles for rabbits along with the continuing maintenance of our pond which is stocked with large mouth bass and bluegill. In addition to the bluebirds each Spring we have the pleasure of watching wild turkeys and Canadian Geese raise families. The availability of cover for the turkey and geese allows a successful crop of babies each year which are a joy to watch. These are wild animals and we do not make pets of them. We avoid contact with them and only observe. Last winter during the heavy snow cover however, I did feed both the turkey and deer population for a period of time to prevent starvation. Many would question the wisdom of helping to maintain the deer population, but we also allow controlled deer hunting on the property and strive to see that the harvest is made humanely and safely.

There is a wide variety of wildlife that we are able to observe and enjoy on our property. These include the following:

  • Deer
  • Turkey
  • Canadian Geese
  • Duck
  • Squirrel
  • Ground Squirrel
  • Rabbit
  • Groundhog
  • Skunk
  • Fox
  • Raccoon
  • Mink however not seen now for over 10 years
  • Beaver (on a neighboring farm)

Birds are a constant pleasure to observe over the various seasons:

  • Rufous and Ruby Throated Hummingbirds
  • Blue Jay
  • Blue Bird
  • Owl
  • Red Tail Hawk
  • Falcons-- Unknown Type seen only on occasion
  • American Eagles observed on an adjacent farm once
  • Cardinal
  • Crow
  • Dove
  • Buzzard
  • Baltimore Oriole are rarely seen along Harp Road
  • Finches of various types
  • Songbirds of various types
  • Warblers of various types
  • Water birds, duck, geese, Great Blue Heron

Spring time gobbler (Photo by Claude Eans)

Friends and neighborhood children enjoy fishing in our pond which is maintained in a healthy state by various methods to prevent the buildup of scum and excessive aquatic plants which would deprive the water of oxygen. The plant matter is controlled by small quantities of a color dye fluid which prevents the penetration of excessive sunlight. This allows for clean water teeming with fish.

A few years back the overflow pipe to the pond rusted through and we had to do extensive repair work to maintain the pond water level. This was successful without disturbing the fish population. The pond is another source of pleasure for us and others. In addition it serves itʼs purpose to contain runoff which helps to protect the water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and is a source of drinking water for various birds and animals.

We are in negotiations with a Master Logger, to do a thinning of our pine stand and to harvest some of the mature hardwood trees to encourage new growth and replacement Oak trees. We had negotiated a pine thinning in the past to the extent of obtaining and paying for a logging permit. Due to various circumstances and the eventual lack of desire of another pulpwood logger to harvest small wood lots this previously attempted pine stand thinning did not occur. However, it seems that we may finally be successful in this effort. The pine stands are currently exhibiting signs of pine bark beetles so the thinning is a desperately needed measure.

In the past we have also had the hardwood stand sprayed for gypsy moth prevention and we inspect for infestation annually. There have been no further gypsy moth indications to date.

We have also been reviewing and making efforts ot meet the 2010-2015 AFF Standards.

Our management plan is up to date and reflects our current goals and our schedule of activity implementation is up to date. Our management efforts ongoing have kept us in compliance.

Our primary problem other than my age of 71 years is the escalation of Property Taxes which is an encouragement to perhaps seek another place to live. So far we have avoided implementing a move from this property.

Forest health

Efforts are constantly being made here to maintain the health of the forest. The Gypsy Moth spraying efforts have been effective and the soon to be implemented pine thinning will serve to forestall an invasion of Pine Bark Beetle. This thinning effort is being made with the advice and assistance of the Maryland Forrest Service. The forest is being inspected by the owners at regular intervals and there are no signs of disease problems that are not being addressed.


Our current plan addresses and overviews the soil which is characteristic of the Piedmont Platiau physiographic region. This region is characterized by undulating hillsides and soils derived from shales and schists. The Manor soils are associated with the property. Manor soils are moderately deep, excessively drained soils that derived from thin, platy schistose bedrock with significant amounts of mica. Manor soil can be excessively impacted during dry periods like we are currently experiencing. These soils are prone to erosion and we are taking care to prevent to the extent possible erosion whenever the soil is disturbed during out tree farming activities. When we finish with the upcoming pine stand thinning we will insure that the disturbed soil is replanted as necessary to prevent erosion to the extent possible.


We have addressed water issues here. One of our pine plantations stand is adjacent to our neighbors property that borders on a branch of Grape Creek. Our pine plantation helps to provide a buffer to this stream. There are dry waterways on the property that have never to our knowledge shown any flow of water. Nevertheless these dry gullies will not be disturbed or crossed during the pine thinning that will occur within a projected six weeks of this date. This is provided that the pulp wood logger is finished

with a current project and no problems are encountered with a logging permit. The pond water and its overflow are carefully monitored to insure good water quality and the pond impoundment is cared for to prevent any possible breach and loss of the pond during periods of extreme weather events. The overflow has been cleaned several times over the years and repaired once when the original steel culvert pipe with welded on trash rack rusted through. We are committed to adhere to State Forestry Best Management Practices

Threatened or Endangered Species

The property was reviewed using the most current GIS layers and no Threatened or Endangered species were found. This was accomplished by reviewing the GIS website.

Special Sites To the best of our knowledge and after review of historical records to the best of our ability there are no Special Sites such as historical buildings, historical burial ruins, old cemeteries, cave entrances, mineral outcroppings or unique ecological communities.

We have walked the property with Michael Kay a Maryland State Forester. This was done to mark trees for removal recently. We have also researched the ATFS Woodland Ownersí Resources on their site several times.

Integrated Pest management and Invasive Species

We have taken steps to control Ailanthus Trees as necessary. Spraying of bacillus was implemented by helicopter for the control of Gypsy Moths in 2000 and no further intervention is necessary at the present time. Efforts have been made to eliminate poison ivy where necessary and desirable by careful mowing primarily.

Trees ready for thinning

(Photo by Claude Eans)

The soon to be implemented pine thinning is being conducted to make the forest less susceptible to the Pine Bark Beetle.

High Conservation Value Forest

Our small tree farm would not be considered a High Conservation Value Forest.

How to plant a tree seedling