Planting trees takes forethought, planning

WILLMAR -- One of Rick Reimer's favorite sayings is 'They say the two best times to plant trees are today and 10 years ago!' Both hold true: A tree planted 10 years ago would have matured and would be providing its intended benefits. A tree plant...

WILLMAR -- One of Rick Reimer's favorite sayings is 'They say the two best times to plant trees are today and 10 years ago!'

Both hold true: A tree planted 10 years ago would have matured and would be providing its intended benefits. A tree planted today would start the process.

Which is why Reimer, from the Kandiyohi County Soil and Water Conservation District., wants to get the word out. Think about planting trees today and reap the rewards later.

"It's always advantageous to plan ahead," he said.

People come to the Kandiyohi SWCD for a number of reasons. When it comes to trees, they want to plant windbreaks and shelterbelts, improve water quality and habitat, or remove undesirable species from their land.


"MnDOT wants to plant trees to control snowdrifts," which would help keep snow removal costs down, Reimer said. "Another reason is habitat management. We are trying to promote diversity in the habitat."

So why think about planting trees now?

"You can get your site prepared the best you can," he said. "The best time to plant is the spring of the year. You can go out to windbreaks and can see how bad the trees look now because they don't have leaves."

The quality of groves and shelterbelts can't be easily determined when the foliage is full, but winter shows how well the tree structure is holding up.

When it comes time to decide, Reimer said the first question people need to ask themselves is, 'For what purpose are you thinking about planting trees?'

Is it for snow control, erosion prevention, non-native species control, or just plain looks? This decision is the key to what to plant and where to plant it.

"We really go off of the soils (to decide what will work best). We do some homework and check the topography and the soils and that will help determine what we're going to use," Reimer said.

Then comes the materials -- where to get them, how to plant them, etc. Luckily, the SWCD is like a one-stop shop for all of that.


"That's where our expertise comes in," he said. "We also offer the material for them. We can help them plant it, design it, make the site preparation."

The thing that really shocks people is it may not cost much to do this. With all the programs out there, from the Conservation Reserve Program to many state and local grants, the cost could be from 75-90 percent covered.

Projects like waterways, windbreaks, sediment blocks, buffer strips and riparian plantings are eligible for cost-share dollars through the SWCD and the Natural Resource Conservation Service.

"The practice dictates what will be available, Reimer noted. "If it's on non-ag land, it could be a different cost share. It depends on the site. Some of these areas, like for Shakopee Creek, other groups may have programs available."

Buffer strips are the most common project SWCD sees. Conservation buffers are areas of permanent vegetation - trees, shrubs, etc. - that block unwanted elements.

When placed correctly, buffers can "mitigate the movement of sediment, nutrients and pesticides within farm fields and from farm fields," according to the National Resources Conservation Service web site.

"Buffers are huge for us. If we can get more of them, that would be wonderful," Reimer said. "Water quality is a big issue for us. And getting more wetlands restored."

Some local projects SWCD has worked on include building sediment blocks at Eagle Lake to control erosion and supporting the bank of the north fork of the Crow River.


"It doesn't wash tons of soil down to Koronis Lake. We used willow root rods to add habitat components and stream barbs to interrupt the flow towards the center of the river," he said.

SWCD doesn't do this alone. Like many other local, state and national organizations, SWCD joins forces with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Pheasants Forever, the National Wild Turkey Federation and numerous local watershed districts and lake associations to complete projects.

"There's a myriad of groups we work with and they have different focuses. Yet they're all willing to work together," he said.

For more information on planting trees or other soil and water conservation concerns, call the Kandiyohi Soil and Water Conservation District at (320) 235-3906 ext. 3, or your county's Soil and Water Conservation District office.

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