Plan, Prepare, Plant and Protect: Four P’s of Successful Tree Planting

Written by Pat Murphy, Former Tree Nursery Team Leader, WI-DNR

Oak tree planting with tree tubes

Planting trees is a lot like gardening. Follow the “Four P’s” to reap the rewards of beauty, habitat, and timber for years to come.

The WI-DNR Tree Nursery Program provides WI landowners bulk quantities of high quality, competitively priced native trees and shrubs for wildlife habitat, timber production, erosion control and conservation projects. There are many species of trees and shrubs appropriate for Wisconsin.

Note: Landscaping and ornamental plantings are best served through your local private nursery. They usually sell older trees (saplings) in small quantities.

Plan – Knowing the decisions ahead of you is easy using WI-DNR online planning tool. The online tool recommends species, quantities and site preparation based on your goals and current site conditions. Questions? Check out the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) or contact your County Forester. Seedlings are available through the WI-DNR seedling order form and distributed in the spring. WI-DNR offers 50% cost-share to eligible landowners for seedling purchase and site preparation. Federal funding is also available through your local Natural Resources Conservation Service’s EQIP program.

Prepare – Field preparation, just as in gardening, is critical for success and often overlooked by first-timers anxious to plant trees. Fields free of perennial weeds offer your seedlings the best chance for establishment. Your local state and federal natural resource professionals visit your field and provide recommendations at no additional cost to you.

Plant – It’s spring and planting day has arrived! Depending on the planting method, hand or machine, your local forester may have equipment you can borrow or rent to get the job done. Remember to involve young, inexperienced hands to create lasting memories!

Protect – As in gardening, weeds, critters, and disease threaten tree seedling survival. It’s wise to make periodic assessments and schedule maintenance activities. Appropriately timed herbicide spraying or mowing reduces weed competition and rodent nesting material.

Consider planting today what lasts generations. Good luck!