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Tree Planting Instructions

Each species has specific site requirements. The area to be planted, spacing, species selection, and the purpose of planting will determine how many trees you should order.

Species Recommended Spacing in Feet Trees Per Acre
Wildlife 6 x 6 1,210
Conifer 8 x 8 680
Hardwood 12 x 12 300

Rectangular spacing should be used in all plantings to make access and maintenance easier. For Christmas tree planting, allow enough distance between rows to accommodate two to three feet of growth plus the width of mowing equipment.

Site Preparation

Land preparation is essential for successful planting.

  • If grass or brush occupy the site, the entire area to be planted should be mowed before planting.
  • After mowing, the ground should be worked to expose the soil and remove vegetation. Seedlings must be planted in soil, not the sod layer. At a minimum, the sod should be scraped around each planting hole to expose mineral soil.
  • Herbicides can be used to remove competing vegetation. Contact your Cornell Cooperative Extension Agent for assistance and always follow label instructions.
  • Areas that have recently produced agricultural products will need little preparation unless grass or broad leaf vegetation has taken over. Investigate pesticide use on agricultural fields before planting. Trees will not tolerate some herbicides which persist in the soil for several years after application.
  • Clear-cut areas should be planted as soon as possible after harvest. Slash removal may be necessary. Contact your Regional Forester for assistance.
  • Fertilization has a minimal effect on seedling growth for the first few years. During that time, root systems develop and spread out seeking additional water and nutrients. Soil samples can be taken to a Cornell Cooperative Extension agent for analysis. Fertilizer application will be recommended based on your soil's requirements.

Wind Breaks

Properly designed windbreaks protect buildings and livestock, conserve energy and act as snow fences. Plant in a straight line or "L" shape, perpendicular to prevailing winds. Locate the windbreak 100 to 300 feet from a building and extend it at least 100 feet beyond the area to be protected. Plant three or more parallel rows 10 to 12 feet apart with trees planted every 8 feet in the row. Contact your local DEC Forester, the Natural Resource Conservation Service or County Soil and Water Conservation District for assistance.

Wildlife Plantings

Seedlings provide food, shelter and runways for a variety of wildlife. Plant shrubs no closer than six feet apart as hedgerows or borders around conifer and hardwood stands.

For streambank stabilization, plant dogwood and streamco, sandbar or pussy willow, two to three feet apart near the water-line. Or plant toringo crabapple 12 feet apart.

Wildlife Habitat Improvement Packets provide a continual food supply for birds and other wildlife from late summer through the winter. Plant like-species together to improve pollination and fruit production.

The Long Island Shore Packet is designed for erosion control. The species included are salt-tolerant and can survive the dry environment of the seashore.

Hardwood Plantings

Steps need to be taken to protect hardwood species from wildlife. Deer will browse seedling tops while mice and rabbits eat the bark which can girdle the seedling. Oak, maple, cherry and ash are often damaged. Tree shelters and mesh cloth are available commercially and can be placed around hardwood seedlings to protect them from wildlife and improve growth. Contact your Regional Forestry Office for management advice.

Conifer Plantings

Most conifers survive very well in New York State. Mowing between trees will reduce competition for water and nutrients from grasses and broadleafs. Herbicides can also be used to reduce vegetation. Always read labels and follow directions carefully. Vegetation can be left near newly planted conifers to provide shade until the seedlings become established.

Planting By Hand

  • Carry seedlings in a bucket of water; take only enough seedlings with you to plant one row. Do not soak roots more than one (1) hour before planting. The remaining seedlings should be left in a cool, shady location.
  • Prepare a hole deep enough for the entire root system using a grub hoe, shovel, flat spade, or planting bar.
  • Place the seedling in the hole; longer lateral roots can be pruned to about 6 inches. Make sure the entire root is buried and the seedling is standing straight. Plant the seedling at the same depth as it grew at the nursery.
  • Firmly pack the soil around the roots using the heel of your shoe. This will eliminate any air pockets that may cause the roots to dry out, killing the seedling.

For projects requiring 5,000 or more seedlings, machine planting may be economical. Contact your Regional Forestry Office for tree planting contractors in your area.

Care After Planting

The most common cause of seedling mortality is mowing. Mark your plantings well and stake the rows. A fence should be constructed around a plantation to prevent livestock grazing. Leave green vegetated areas as firebreaks and remove dead material to reduce risk of fire.

Planting Guide of Site Requirements
Species Soil Condition Possible Uses
Dry Well
Moist Wet
White Pine acpt optm acpt lumber, pulp, posts, poles, windbreak
Scotch Pine acpt optm pulp, windbreak, Christmas trees
Red Pine acpt optm lumber, pulp, poles, Christmas trees
Norway Spruce optm acpt lumber, pulp, windbreak, Christmas trees
White Spruce optm acpt lumber, pulp, windbreak, Christmas trees
Larch acpt optm acpt lumber, pulp
Austrian Pine optm acpt pulp, windbreak, Christmas trees
Douglas Fir optm Christmas trees
Butternut optm lumber, veneer, nuts
Cranberry optm acpt acpt wildlife
Crabapple optm wildlife
Dogwood optm acpt acpt wildlife, streambank stabilization
Red Cedar


optm acpt erosion control, wildlife
Red Oak optm optm lumber, wildlife
White Oak optm optm lumber, wildlife
Streamco Willow acpt optm optm streambank stabilization
Bayberry acpt optm acpt erosion control, wildlife
Rugosa Rose optm optm wildlife, beach stabilization
White Cedar optm wildlife
Black Walnut optm lumber, veneer, nuts

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    2369 Route 50 South
    Saratoga Springs, NY 12866-4738
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