Forester Bill Beck can surprise landowners who worry that planting riparian trees alongside a creek, river or stream will be costly in terms of both cash and labor.
"I encourage them to consider direct seeding, rather than buying saplings to plant. I also recommend that -- if possible -- they use seed collected within 200 miles of their property. That ensures the parent tree is adapted to their property's climatic conditions," said Beck, a Kansas Forest Service watershed specialist.
By planting such species as black walnut, pecan and some oaks, landowners can look forward to future timber income, he said. Forested riparian strips also reduce runoff and erosion, stabilize banks during flooding, provide wildlife habitat, and keep streams cleaner and healthier for fish.
"If landowners have never done something like this before, they may want to contact their district KFS forester before starting," Beck said. "They'll need mature tree seeds or nuts, and they'll need lots of them."
To break dormancy, most tree seeds require a period of stratification and/or extended low temperatures. For example, black walnuts must have 90 to 120 days at around 37 degrees.
Optimum seed number per acre depends on the site. But, direct seeding is high-density planting. In Kansas, it typically ranges from 1,500 to around 10,000 seeds an acre.
"The goal of direct seeding is to produce a thick 'dog hair' stand of young trees. The density helps with weed control. It promotes natural self-pruning by the trees – a real benefit when growing high-value timber," Beck said. "Site size often determines the best planting method. You can broadcast seeds across the soil, plant them in rows by hand, or use seed-planting machinery."
To increase the odds for a successful stand, he said, landowners should then follow this up by controlling seed predators and competing vegetation for about three years.