A hard summer for seedlings

Seedlings dying after a summer drought

Sometimes even Oregon’s famously fantastic tree-growing climate throws you a curveball.

On the forest acreage where we live near Forest Grove, we had planted about 60 Douglas-fir seedlings last winter. This past September, most of them died within a period of a few days. It seems the stress of the atypically dry spring and warmer-than-usual summer was too hard on them. What a disappointment. We’ll just try again this winter.

Since these seedlings are on the lot where we live, I could have watered them, but it just didn’t occur to me that that would be necessary. It’s usually not.

We’re not sure what we’ll find when we return to our 89-acre woodland in the Coast Range near Mist later this fall. We had harvested six acres in 2012 and did most of the replanting the following winter. Then last fall we burned slash piles and planted a few dozen seedlings where the piles were.

We’re confident the seedlings that have been in the ground for two seasons will be fine. And we’re hopeful the trees we planted last winter will be OK, too, as the climate is cooler and more moist there than it is at our home. Like most landowners, we intentionally overplant, expecting that some seedlings won’t survive. But we don’t expect a high percentage to die. So, we’ll see.

Even on the relatively small scale of our woodland, it’s a tremendous amount of hard work and expense to get a new forest established. Oregon law requires trees are “free to grow” within six years after harvest. That means they are thriving and can outgrow competing vegetation.

I can imagine the concern larger timberland owners must have through a summer like 2014 if they had hundreds of newly replanted acres. Even with all the forestry knowledge we have today and high-quality seedlings, the weather remains a wild card.

Kathy Storm


9755 SW Barnes Rd., Suite 210        
Portland, OR 97225        
Phone: 971-673-2944        
Fax: 971-673-2946

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