Most good farmers and gardeners know that there is a limit to how much is too much when planting their crops and vegetable plants. There is a balance between planting them too close and seeing a reduction in yield, and planting them to far apart and wasting valuable growing space. This principal is true because of competition of limited resources. This holds true in the woods but unlike many gardeners and some crop farmers, forest and woodland owners tend to have less influence or control over these resources with one exception. Of course, the one major resource that everyone is concerned about these days is water.
You might say “well, why in the world are you talking about water in the woods, there’s no way I can control that”! In one sense that is true, but not entirely. If your woods is over stocked, meaning too many trees trying to grow in a given growing space, then all of the trees in that growing space will be fighting for sunlight and water, having a negative effect on all the trees in that space. This would be much like planting all of your corn in the field way too close together or never pulling the weeds in your garden. The trick in forest management is to understand how trees grow, and then thinning them at the right time to keep your stand as foresters call it, growing vigorously and healthy and not wasting valuable growing space.
Well managed forests are much more resistant to insect and disease problems and are better able to withstand drought conditions like we have seen this year. Though you may not be able to control the total amount of water in your forest stand, you certainly can direct which trees get more of the limiting resources, giving them a growing chance. A healthy and vigorous tree produces more food for wildlife, more potential wood product, and quite frankly, just plain looks better.
Sounds like a great idea doesn’t it? For more information on managing the forests on your own property, pick up or download a copy of Forest Management for Missouri Landowners. Think of it as forestry 101. Still have questions? Contact your local Missouri Department of Conservation Private Land Conservationist.