Reforestation of neighborhood due to emerald ash borer infestation

Asked February 9, 2015, 2:52 PM EST

I am a master gardener and am exploring the possibility of reforesting our neighborhood "commons areas" that have been devastated from the emerald ash borer. I have read the publication on recommended alternatives to ash trees and have a good idea for some various replacements. The land in question is now wet in areas (probably as there are no trees consuming the water anymore). Do you have any suggestions on how to approach a project like this in an economical manner? I have planted many trees in my own yard, but with the scale of this project would need to use hundreds of bare root or small container trees. Do you have any suggestions for sources to purchase seedling trees and how to best protect them after planting from deer/rabbits?

Oakland County Michigan master gardener program lrk

3 Responses

If you are planning to do this yourself, it is going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible. This is even if you stretch it over several years. You did not say how much land you are looking at or your tree choices, so I cannot comment on those.

You are going to have to look at your tree choices and determine which ones can handle saturated soils. If trees that cannot grow there are put in or close to these areas, they will just die. You can look for growers in Michigan that might sell small trees but many do not. They are either seedling size or much bigger that are sold to growers to get larger before they sell them. Make sure your choices do not have any major disease or insect problems.

You are also going to have to be able to water these trees if there is inadequate rainfall. We have had several droughts - 2002, 2005 and 2012 - in recent history and if trees are not mulched and watered, they cannot survive.

Then, there is the problem of weed control. If trees are placed too closely, you cannot mow around them. If they are too close, you will have many die as the years pass from over-crowding.

Using some kind of a fence around each tree is about all you have. Repellants don't work in the winter and you cannot use chicken wire because the big holes will let voles through. You've got critters, high (deer), low (voles), and in between (rabbits), and you have to keep trees protected at the top as they grow.

If no one is eager to help with these common areas with work, money, or planning, they are not going to appreciate this effort.

Gretchen,

Thank you for your response.

I know that this is an ambitious project. Basically we have sweeps of what was once treed land now mostly filled with dead trees due to the Emerald Ash Borer and some Dutch Elm. This involves the "common areas" in a suburban subdivision. I don't have an exact measurement of the property size, maybe two acres total.
I believe the biggest threat is deer and rabbit grazing. Will have to look into some type of cage that can deter this. I plan on starting very slowly to see if the trees even take. Found a good source of inexpensive trees through the Oakland Conservation District annual tree sale. There is a limited selection, but I will try a variety of evergreen and hardwoods. ( White pine, blue or norway spruce, cedar, black walnut, sugar maple and red oak). Those are the ones that seem most tolerant to some moist conditions. Planning on placing a few select trees in the high spots of the land, no closer than 8 feet apart. Initially will be much farther apart than that.

There is no mowing done in this area they have been strips of naturalized woods. The biggest concern is the foraging of deer and rabbits. So will try some type of cage. Coming up with the cages is going to be the biggest challenge. I figure even if we start very slowly, replanting a few trees, it will help the renew the woods with a diversity of trees.

Thanks again for your advice,

Meg

Good luck. A couple of things to consider: the white pine, blue spruce and Norway spruce and sugar maples are intolerant of wet soils. Black walnut has a chemical called juglone in its roots and when its roots and certain tree roots make contact, the trees die. Red maple and white pine as well as the spruces can be affected.

The trees that you get through soil conservation district will be small seedlings only a few years old. If they are planted with weed competition and not watered, they will not survive. Obviously, mammals are going to be a big challenge. This is why tiny trees are often planted in nursery beds until they get to be knee high. Then they are transplanted to their final locations. This way, they can be watered and weeded.