I remember as a kid being out in the garden with my grandpa pulling weeds. I couldn’t understand how pulling out some of the plants would help. I figured more plants meant more tomatoes. The same conversation my grandfather had with me about competition and limited resources is appropriate today when talking about Missouri forests. Every healthy crop needs attention—including forests.
If you are driving on Highway 106 east out of Eminence, you may notice some forest gardening taking place in the form of a timber sale on the Rocky Creek Conservation Area. A tree’s best defense against insects and diseases is to be in a healthy. Trees growing too close together and competing for a limited amount of sunlight, water, and nutrients can easily become stressed, slowing growth rates – making them vulnerable to disease and insect attacks.
Carefully planned timber harvests will leave only the healthiest, best suited trees until they are mature and ready to cut. The surrounding trees will be thinned, removed and sold for wood products. Every 20 years or so, the forest can once again be harvested for a variety of uses. From lumber to build houses and furniture, to pulp to produce paper products and everything in between; trees are a vital renewable resource.
The harvest leaves trees optimally spaced not only for increased growth rates, but improves health by allowing more sunlight and nutrients for the remaining trees. Healthy trees also benefit wildlife in many ways including an increase in acorn production. The thinned woods are also preferred habitat for a number of forest dwelling songbirds. The downed tree tops provide cover while tender shoots of new trees sprouting are another welcome source of food for deer.
You may not have noticed the timber sale in progress because of the technology of geographic information systems–GIS for short to foresters. These programs allow managers to consider the view from roads when designating an area for a timber sale. The Missouri Department of Conservation strives to harvest trees in a manner that is acceptable to the public and yet still provides for the wood products we all need. The Missouri Department of Conservation’s Forestry Division works with you and for you to protect and manage our forests. If you are interested in doing some gardening of your own on your property, contact your local MDC forestry staff.