Unlike making rotisserie chicken, streamside (riparian) tree plantings are not a “set it and forget it” activity.
During the first week of April 2019, the entire MyWoodlot team gathered in the Yorktown Heights area to protect and maintain trees that were planted between 2010 and 2018 as part of the Croton Trees for Tribs Program.
It’s become something of an annual tradition just before growing season starts to really kick in. Timing is important because maintenance during the growing season can damage fragile buds, shoots, and leaves, plus there’s a greater chance of getting into yellow jacket and wasp nests.
The streamside tree planting at Hunter Brook Preserve was intended to to slow and eventually stabilize streambank erosion.
We had three days to maintain multiple tree planting locations, including Hunter Brook Preserve, Sylvan Glen Park Preserve, and Hilltop Hanover Farm in Yorktown, Leonard Park in Mt. Kisco, Pine Croft Meadow Preserve and Long Pond Preserve in Waccabuc, and Angle Fly Preserve in Katonah. Each site generally had 50 to over a hundred trees to check out.
As a side, the trip was a really good excuse to visit former WAC Watershed Forester, Brendan Murphy, who now serves as Director of Stewardship with Westchester Land Trust, based out of Bedford Hills, NY. Brendan is an expert when it comes to tree planting, maintenance, and showing others how to do it well. Brendan’s how-to guides on tree tube installation and maintenance, as well as bark protector installation and maintenance, certainly helped me to understand the work to be done.
After a short field demonstration in tree tube maintenance and pruning from Brendan, we set out at Hunter Brook Preserve with 5-gallon buckets carrying hand pruners, a handsaw for larger branches, 8-12” zip ties, work gloves, and a small sledge hammer. Some of us carried extra wooden stakes and bark protectors.
A bark protector on a river birch at Hunter Brook Preserve.
I should also note that we were well-prepared in terms of personal protective equipment and clothing thanks to a helpful packing list from Tyler Van Fleet, which included: Waterproof boots, permethrin treated clothing, sunblock, shades/protective eyewear, and long socks that you can tuck your trousers into. Pants that are resistant to thorns and briars would be a good idea too.
Much of the work involved clearing tree tubes plugged with leaf litter and mouse nests, pruning branches, checking the sturdiness of wooden support stakes, replacing sun-worn zip ties, “graduating” trees from tubes to bark protectors, and counting the number of live trees to calculate percent survival.
Tree tube maintenance is a fantastic social activity.
The weather was fantastic for field work – mostly sunny and air temperatures in the 50s. The seven of us made quick work of most of the sites. I found it to be a relaxing, rewarding, and very social effort. Karl VonBerg even found an owl pellet containing two vole skulls.
Karl VonBerg wins the prize for coolest find: an owl pellet containing vole bones.
Overall, the Croton Trees for Tribs maintenance week taught me that if you are going to plant trees, you’d better be committed to checking on them 2-3 times per year. Brendan suggests checking tree tubes after major wind or ice events, plus again during annual maintenance.
Planted trees also need your help to avoid deer damage (e.g. browsing, rubs) and overcrowding by invasives. With a bit of knowledge about tree planting (right trees, right place), tree maintenance, and a commitment to long-term care, you can achieve survival rates of 90% or more. If you own or manage property along a steam, you may qualify for Trees for Tribs. To learn more, visit DEC’s website: https://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/77710.html