The end of November is not a time when a person’s thoughts turn naturally to trees – unless it is to start thinking about Christmas trees. Many people assume that trees in the winter time have no useful function – the beauty of their foliage is gone; birds find no happy home midst the naked limbs; neither fruit nor flower is produced. “For all practical purposes,” these people say, “the trees are dead. They might just as well be a bunch of telephone poles standing around out there.”
And yet the season that is just beginning is actually just as important as any other in the benefits to be derived from trees. This is especially true for farmers and ranchers. A shelterbelt cuts the costs of heating houses. It gives protection to cattle and reduces the amount of feed required to bring them through the winter. It collects the snow which otherwise would fill the yards and make movement much more difficult for man and machines. It makes a relatively pleasant oasis in a windswept landscape.
How does one go about developing such a valuable asset? Does one wait until spring to plan a shelterbelt? Does one suddenly on a bright, sunshiny morning in May decide that he’s going to plant a shelterbelt and forthwith gather up an armload of assorted trees and start jabbing them into the ground? In far too many cases that is about what happens. And that is one of the reasons we don’t see more good shelterbelts. Many of them are doomed to failure the day they were planted.
A shelterbelt is just like a crop of wheat or potatoes or alfalfa. To be successful a crop of trees has to be planned. What kind of trees? How far apart? How many rows? How much ground should be prepared? How would it be prepared?
On a dryland farm the planting site should be summer fallowed for at elast one year before a tree is set out. If such a summerfallowed site is not already available it is too late to plan a shelterbelt for next year.
On an irrigated farm the trees should have a good firm, clean planting site. Orders for trees for next year must be in before January 31. Before placing an order it is necessary to know what kind of trees are needed and how many of each species. Your Soil Conservation Service will be happy to help you make those plans.
It would be mighty nice to have a healthy stand of trees around that farmstead. Flowers in the spring, cool shade on those scorching summer days, fruit in the fall and protection from those icy fingers during the winter. Those are pretty big dividends for a small investment of time and money.
by Harry Corry