A guide to making more money by Gabe Elias.
Chapter 1: An Introduction
So you get two planters in a piece of ground how many ways are there to manage the land? Well that depends on your perspective, but realistically there will be 4 ways, the way the first planter would manage it, the way of the second planter, what their crew boss would do, and what they realize they should have done after they finish the piece.
Land management is perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of planting. In terms of the skills needed to be a successful planter, managing land not is not as clear cut as the definition of a good tree. At the same time is it also not an aspect of an individual planter’s drive, initiative and work ethic.
Managing land has a strategic element to it. And to muddy the waters, there is no right answer. There are many techniques and strategies that many planters employ for a myriad of different situations. It can also be a personal matter for a planter that’s reflective of their style and approach to planting in general.
Within the next few weeks, we’d like to illuminate some of these techniques and strategies to assist up and coming planters with some accrued knowledge and perspective to equip them with more options in their land management tool box. With this weekly series we’ll cover a myriad of topics from basic approaches, efficiency, area planting, site prep and advanced techniques. Here’s to a productive and profitable season 2010.
Just the basics
Let’s quickly elaborate on the two most simplest forms of managing land. Every rookie quickly learns these:
- The Line Plant – simply put, you plant lines. From the road or starting point of your piece you plant a relatively straight line into you piece of land and upon meeting the end of the block you turn around and attempt to plant a parallel line to the line just planted; repeat.
- The Back Fill – It’s similar to the line plant, starting with your first line into a piece and reaching a terminus, you plant a line perpendicular to the line just planted that is flush to the block boundary. While planting this line you encounter the end of your piece, you turn around and plant a line parallel to the line just planted until encountering your starting line. Depending on the quantity of trees in your bags, you either repeat these perpendicular lines, or follow your initial back to your starting point; repeat only this time you continue to plant the perpendicular lines of the last perpendicular line as you the piece of ground becomes closed in an L shape.
On a fundamental level, the Line Plant and Back Fill will inform any land management decision, but they are not the most efficient ways of covering ground. These two systems presuppose a requirement to push through any physical obstacles or tricky areas until there is a definitive boundary. Further, most pieces of ground do not have square boundaries that can be easily filled with straight or perpendicular lines.
Effective land management is all about effective time management. When a piece of land is managed properly, a planter is maximizing their time spent planting the individual seedling, not moving between microsites. On a fundamental level, an effective land management will assist a planter in avoiding obstacles or hindrances that can slow their motions. It will also afford the planter better cognizance of what portions of their piece are yet to be planted. Ultimately, it will assist to keep a planter’s time spent in the field focused solely on the act of planting.
The next portion will discuss aspects of Maximizing Efficiency with a focus on land management.
Chapter 2: Maximizing Efficiency – Making the right decision
Let’s take a moment to review the actions in the normal process of planting trees. As a quick list, we have walking between microsites, digging a hole, inserting a seedling, closing the hole and repeat. By far the most time consuming of these activities will be moving between the microsite. But in moving to the next microsite we must first determine where that spot will be.
In effect there will always be associated steps to planting a tree that go beyond putting a seedling in the ground. From a land management perspective, a planter can use many strategies to maximize their time for planting seedlings. Of course, there is always a physical dimension to planting trees, in that moving quickly or having a smooth planting motion will help decrease this time. But by the same token no one can move that quickly if the terrain is impedes motion and a smooth planting motion isn’t so effective when climbing over obstacles. Being strategic in how you choose to move through the land or how many trees you bag up will only help to improve your efficiency.
Thinking Temporally, Planting Locally
So let’s break down all the associated tasks of planting a seedling. These aren’t necessarily in any particular order. Nor are they always required for every contract specification. Rather it’s just a list of all the steps needed. They are here to illuminate the point that effective land management is fundamentally involved in effective time management.
- Bagging Up
- Selecting a Microsite
- Moving to the microsites
- Driving the Shovel
- Opening the hole
- Inserting a Seedling
- Closing the hole
- Looking for trees
Now say for example we want to plant 2000 in one day. In for example 8 hours of field time, you would have to plant a tree every 14.4 seconds. To plant 5000 trees in the same time requires 5.76 seconds. This doesn’t allow for the required time of bagging up, eating, smoking, bodily functions, or moving pieces if necessary. In essence, planting trees is a by-the-second action.
Every second misspent is a loss of efficiency and by extension a loss of money. Managing your land effectively can be vital in reducing time for many of the above actions. Bagging up the correct amount of trees can reduce time spent deadwalking. Having a systematic approach to natural boundaries can reduce time selecting a microsite. Strategically approaching obstacles can minimize the loss of time spent climbing and pushing through obstacles. The ability to select appropriate microsites can negate the need for screefing. Proper use of natural boundaries or scarification can eliminate the need for flagging. Ultimately, a well organized planter will not be wasting time looking for trees because they already know where they are.
Consistency, Consistency, Consistency
As with all things planting, consistency is crucial for success. In effective land management, consistency is also key. From my perspective, I find land management to be more of a matter of decision making. Of course, planters are not paid to make decisions they’re paid to plant trees. The following concepts are intended to assist planters in their decision making process. A fast planter, will not only be moving through the land quickly, but they’ll also be making numerous decisions on the way, quickly and systematically. How many trees to be bagged up? Which side of their piece to approach first? What pockets to be filled? What desired densities? Any obstacles or area planting to be considered? How to reconcile where there last line of trees went with the new lines to be planted? These are just a few of the decisions to be made while in the land. A planter consistent in their decision making process will have a natural advantage, because they will have a piece organized by a scheme that makes sense to them and won’t be confronted with wtf moments in the land where they are wondering what the hell they did on the last bag up.
Certain actions like deadwalking and ‘looking for trees’ are by definition inefficient. A consistent land management scheme will help to minimize deadwalking; that is the act of walking through the land without planting any trees. Further, a consistent scheme that takes advantage of the macrosite as a whole (in terms of natural boundaries such as obstacles, topographical features, site prep etc) will help to minimize the time spent on looking for trees. Many highballers say it’s important that you know where your trees are, but what they are not saying is that they use a consistent system for using natural boundaries recognize where they have planted and what land is still ‘open’. Just as a planter wants to completely cover their ground and not leave any holes, a non careful planter may find themselves planting ground they’ve previously planted and consequently have to spend time pulling the ‘double plants’ to maintain quality. As such being able to quickly recognize where you’ve been will only maximize your time in the land.
The next chapter we will apply some of these of these ideas into a wholistic approach that can be used as a formative schema for managing land.
Chapter 3: A Wholistic Approach & Some Key Concepts
A wholistic approach that takes into consideration the many challenges faced in planting each day will always assist a planter in maximizing their return on any given piece of land. But such a scheme cannot be rigidly made of absolutes. Often a flexible scheme is required to cover ground of various geometries.
Starting with the basics we want to review a few initial concepts that will inform the more advanced techniques to be discussed in later sections. These basic ideas are important because they are employed in every land management scheme. Essentially, these are the building blocks of land management that can be modified and incorporated into anyone’s personal style and approach.
Microsite, Coverage & Macrosite
Microsite – we all know what a microsite is; it’s an acceptable location under the contract specifications where a planter can plant a tree. Not all microsites are created equally, some will be obstructed by obstacles (slash, big rocks etc), some will have extraneous materials (duff, water, loose soil, etc.) covering the acceptable plantable materials, some quality specifications will have stipulations for the kind of tree to be planted in different materials, in some types of site prep there may be restrictions in terms of the tree location relative (above/below) to the hinge, and some other contracts may require a tree to be planted adjacent to an obstacle (stumps, fallen over logs, etc).
As it is every planter’s job to completely cover their ground and plant all available microsites, any land management scheme must focus on the microsite as it’s primary consideration. Depending on the calibre of the land compared to the tree price, a planter may want to maximize the availability of microsites. Conversely there may be situations where a planter simply wants out of the piece, and minimizing the presence of microsites may be the appropriate strategy. Regardless, the microsite is always the primary focus of any land management scheme and is important for a planter to be able to quickly identify the kind of microsites they want to be planting.
Key Concept: ‘Think a few trees ahead’ – It is always best be to be thinking about the next few microsites to be planted. This helps to prevent you from planting yourself into a corner. It also affords you the ability to adjust your coverage pattern to position your body in an optimal location to negotiate obstacles. The individual act of identifying a microsite, moving to it, and finally planting a tree is not typically the most taxing of tasks. As such, keeping in mind your next few microsites will help to keep you on your toes to prevent small mistakes.
Coverage – we’d like to use this term to refer to the specific strategies employed by a planter to ‘cover’ their ground. Within this conceptual framework, most planters will already associate this term with the majority of land management. For our purposes, coverage refers to the specific strategies of moving between microsite to microsite and the amount of ground a planter can cover with one bag up. Primary concerns when covering ground include the planters general movements in regards to obstacles and/or a pocket when moving from tree to tree.
In this regard distances between trees (min max spacing); the overall density (stems/ha); as well as species requirements are paramount. For example, some forms of site prep allow for pushing minimum spacing. Conversely, depending on ground conditions a planter may want to cover some portions of a macrosite at a certain density. Alternatively, there could be different stock situations for different areas of a macrosite. In terms of maximizing efficiency while covering ground, all these items should be considered beyond simply a coverage pattern that results in bagging out at the cache.
Key Concept: ‘Bagging Up = No More, No Less’ – Depending on the size of tree, in land management terms bagging an appropriate number of trees for the size of your piece will help maximize efficiency. Bag up too many trees and it may harder to move through the land. Bag up too few, and you may not have enough trees to effectively cover your ground. If your contract spacing is, for example, 2 meters, and according to you map, your piece is 250 meters deep, you could easily bag up 250 trees, line plant 125 trees to the back of your piece, and line plant 125 trees back to your cache. In this ideal situation, bagging up 300 trees would be absurd because when you return to the cache 50 trees would remain; not enough to line back without having to deadwalk back out not to mention leaving a partially filled line in the coverage pattern. The same can be said for bagging up 200. This kind of example illuminates the importance of bagging an appropriate number of trees to adequately cover the depth, shape, and size of your piece.
Key Concept: ‘Always Be Covering’ – When setting your coverage pattern it’s always important not to be walking over already planted trees. An effective coverage pattern will always leave the unplanted (or open) ground closer to the cache than the planted (or closed ground) so that the planter can always be planting trees from the moment they step away from the cache to the moment they return. This will always help to prevent holes, but also will help a planter manage their bag ups and prevent deadwalking.
Macro Site – it should be self evident, but its the piece of ground to be planted conceived as a whole. Items to be considered will include natural boundaries, such as treelines, block boundaries, flag lines, and topographical features such as ground elevation or rock deposits. When considering a piece of ground as a macrosite, a successful land management strategy will divide the piece into smaller sections that the planter would like to ‘cover’ strategically. The primary concern here is to strategize your land break down is two fold. The first is to break down areas in your piece so as not to cut yourself off from your cache. In other words, considerations of how to square off pockets or fingers along the treeline and/or maintaining a backfill for as long as possible so you won’t need to shuffle away from the cache. The second aspect when breaking down a piece is to not separate any two portions of unplanted land. Unplanted areas left behind planted ground can easily be forgotten about and left as holes. It is always best to keep the unplanted land left square so that all the unplanted ground is one geometric shape. Cutting off portions of open ground from the the rest of the open ground will inevitably result in deadwalking.
Key Concept: ‘Keep it Square’ – Keeping Square is an abstract concept that refers to the overall level of organization within a piece. Most planters typically refer to the planted portion of the ground as being square. While the planted portion may be organized impeccably, I always describe ‘squareness’ to a rookie in terms of the unplanted ground. Ultimately, it’s the unplanted ground that requires a planters attention. For example, to consider a back fill, the unplanted ground will have a consistently square shape as the lines across the back and up the side continually reduce the unplanted area in a square pattern.
Key Concept: ‘Natural Borders’ – a naturally occurring aspect of the terrain that can be used to separate different pockets. A Natural Border can be anything. It can be a residual tree strand; a pile of slash; a blowdown; a large caprock; a change in topography; a creek. The key is to be able to read the macrosite as a whole and determine what characteristics of the terrain will make for suitable natural borders. See more in the forthcoming Area Planting Chapter.
Key Concept: ‘Keep in the Pocket’ – a pocket is simply the area of ground defined by the natural borders. When managing a macrosite it is often advantageous to cover each pocket in it’s entirety before moving into open ground. Of course there will always be exceptions, but just as a musician keeps the pocket in a groove, so too does a speedy planter keep a tight coverage pattern within a pocket before moving into the next one.
These three fundamentals form the basis for the most important part of being able to manage land effectively and will inform some of the more advanced techniques discussed later.
Chapter 4: Area Planting
Many young planters find area planting challenging. At the end of the day, area planting is quite simple; it’s only planting an area of ground. But in land management terms, area planting is not actually about planting. In my opinion, area planting is better described as ‘defining.’ Specifically, when you are area planting, the first step is to define the actual area that you want to plant. In other words, area planting is all about natural borders.
Area planting is particularly useful when a line plant or backfill force you to encounter physical obstacles that slow down your movements between each individually planted tree. Many planters actually approach natural borders as only obstacles or hindrances. For example, in a piece of ground where there are a number of blown over trees that would need to be climbed over if you were line planting, it would be more efficient to plant the areas behind the blow downs first as opposed to climbing over the blow down every time as you line planted to them. If you systematically plant the whole area between any subsequent blowdowns you are then area planting. However, as we will later discuss, a natural border may not necessarily be an obstacle that impedes movement.
To be clear, blowdowns are not the only impediment that a planter can use to define a ‘pocket’. To this aim, any number of items can be used to define the natural borders of a pocket. Fallen down trees, residuals, patches of naturals, slash, geological features, changes from wet to dry terrains, even a flag line, or line of planted trees.
Defining the Pocket
If area planting is all about planting pockets, then the first step will be to define the pocket. As such there are two primary concerns.
The primary concern here is to utilize the obvious and/or features that would otherwise impair movement. In other words, objects that need to be climbed over, swampy ground or terrain that is otherwise hard to move through, overgrown patches that need to be picked through, slash that is hard to negotiate, or any thing else that may slow down your normal planting rhythm.
The secondary concern is utilizing features of the macrosite to facilitate quick recognition of areas that have been planted versus areas that are ‘open’. It is important to note that the more consistent a planter is in defining a natural boundary, the easier a planter will be able to recognize it in the future.
This concern can be expanded to include areas of ground where microsites are not readily available. If we consider planted land as not containing available microsites because they’ve been planted, macrosites with large rock deposits; natural regeneration; wildlife habitats (such as bird nests) or creeks (depending on your contract); or other obstructions that will prevent a tree from being planted in an acceptable material, would similarly necessitate a large amount of deadwalking. Therefore, a wise planter will want to use such features as a ‘natural boundary’ of a pocket within a land management scheme.
Planting the Pocket
Having defined the pocket the next step is to identify which spots within the pocket are to be planted. An efficient planter will be able to ‘read’ the ground in terms of which spots are best for the contract specifications. Further, as the pocket may have an irregular shape, a planter will want to decide how to maximize/minimize the number of trees in the pocket. Typically, I’m of the mind that when you are in the pocket it’s always best to maximize, but some would disagree. To maximize the number of trees in a pocket, the planter will want to be sure to hit microsites that are right up close to a natural boundary – corners between logs are great for this purpose. This will maximize the difference in spacing to the centre of the pocket and increase the likelihood of being able to plant a tree without violating a spacing requirement. Alternatively, if you want to minimize the number of trees in the pocket, spacing a foot or two off a natural boundary will squeeze the dimensions of the pocket and may prevent an available microsite via the contract specifications.
With the microsites identified, making a concise coverage pattern to plant all the spots without deadwalking.
In some instances a line plant or back fill of the pocket may suffice as a coverage strategy when there are a lot of microsites, yet there are intermittent obstacles or debris.
Moving on to the next pocket
Experienced planters will often identify several pockets at the same time. A careful planter who thinks ahead can organize the coverage in such a way to complete the pocket at the precise location where it would be easiest to move into the next pocket. For example, if the natural boundary is a pile of slash, there may be one point where there is less slash and will be easier to climb over.
Other General Notes
The important thing about area planting is to find a systemic approach that works for both you and the land conditions you are working. Filling a piece of ground with trees is somewhat akin to painting a white wall with a pale grey colour. For the purpose of efficiency is important to be fluid and adaptable in your patterns and your approach, but at the same time it is important to be consistent in your behaviours lest you duplicate work. To continue the painting analogy, until you see the wall you’ll never know how many windows and doors need to be painted around. Some planters may prefer to plant the ‘trim’ of their pocket first, while other may wish to start with the bulk of the fill. Nevertheless, while there is an aspect of personal preference, having a consistent approach will always assist in maximizing your efficiency.
The next chapter will discuss land management in terms of Site Preparation.
Chapter 5: Managing Site Preparation
From a foresters perspective, scarification is a useful tool to increase the planter’s efficacy at achieving the desired density in a block. For a planter, site prep is primarily useful for exposing soil and making it easier to plant a tree in a given microsite.
But on a fundamental level, site preparation can be an invaluable land management tool. Consider, at some earlier time, someone else has already surveyed the piece of ground and driven a large machine through the land. Granted, some may think the driver was drunk while driving that skidder, but still, the fact that the ground has been driven through will at least break up some of the slash that would obstruct movement. As opposed to fighting the site prep, it is often useful to attempt to read the driver’s scheme for the site prep. While it may not be clearly evident to most planters, it is often advantageous to understand the kind of machinery used in the preparation the subsequent results evident in the land.
Scarification as Site Preparation
Often the term of site prep and scarification are interchanged without prejudice. The term scarification is often used to describe preparation because the end result of the preparation appears as lines or ‘scars’ across the block. When comparing trenches to Bracke mounds, for example, where a trench is continuous while mounds are intermittent, this may not be a particularly obvious exchange in terminology. However, from the mindset of a machine operator, the idea of scarification is that a long line resembling a scar, be it a trench or a series of mounds, is made in a singular pass. I suspect the term scarification has been carried over to planting from foresters and their conversations with machine operators. Nevertheless, it is an important distinction to make. As we will see later. Not all prep is scarification. Some kinds of mounds are simply piles of soil, duff, and debris that have no resemblance to a continuous line. But for the majority of machinery, scarification is the dominant mode of preparation.
Read the Macrosite
Perhaps the most perplexing aspect of reading scarification is the incongruity between how a machine operator will prepare a block versus how a crew will divide that same block into individual pieces. Specifically, it only requires one machine operator to prep a block whereas planters work in crews. Because many many operators are paid by the hectare for site prep, they naturally will want to maximize their efficiency for covering a block. But a machine operator’s concerns will revolve around maximizing the distances of each run as they make passes through the block. Also, a driver will not want to turn their machine around. It can be very dificult to make a tight turn in the hard uneven terrain of a cutblock. Even doing a three point turn with their heavy machinery is dificult, especially with a site prep attachment on the back of their vehicle. As such, they’d prefer to do spiraling donuts around the block in a similar way to a wheat harvester.
To read the site prep, the first step is to think like a skidder driver and consider the macrosite of the block as a whole. What scheme did they use when prepping the block? Did they do concentric circles from the treeline inwards? Did they do parallel or perpendicular lines to the road? Did they change tack or direction partway through the block? Were there large rock deposits or residuals that they avoided? These questions may not be clearly evident when planting a fraction of the block. So it is always best to try to put the site prep into the perspective of the block as a whole.
Reading the Microsite or Reading the Flip
The other aspect of reading site prep is to consider the resulting microsites that are available. All site prep involves some form of blade digging into the ground and flipping the layer of soil, duff, and sticks to one side or the other to expose a plantable material. A specific machine will leave a specific mark that can be used to infer the directionality the machine operator traveled Since the machine has already crushed and pushed away slash and other debris, reading the ‘flips’ of the site prep will often illuminate the path of least resistance.
That said, reading the flip should not become a preoccupation. A swift planter will incorporate their ‘reading’ into their planting flow so that microsite and flipside identification become automatic. Straight forward or clear site prep can be a joy to plant because it eliminates the guess work in selecting a microsite. Conversely, messy site prep can be frustrating, because the primary advantage of having a predetermined decision making process will be clouded by constantly trying to reinterpret the scarification.
It is possible, that there is a convergence in the lines made by the machine operator. For example, if the block on one side of the road is shaped like a scalene triangle (where the block is clearly deeper on one side), the machine may have perpendicular lines off the road into the depth of the block and then changed to parallel lines on the other half. If this is the case, there will likely be a convergence at some point in the middle. By the nature of how the pieces are cut, it’s possible to have the convergence running throughout your piece. This will result in the scarification appearing as a massive glut of machine marks with no apparent scheme. However there are signs that can assist a planter in mitigating these situations. Though the specific messiness of the convergence may necesitate area planting, reading this convergence is important to know how to organize the section so as to keep the non converged scarification clean and organized for speedy planting later.
Further, in the odd instance where there is a missed trench or an incongruity in the site prep scheme, an accurate read on the scarification can help to identify the missed scarification (say for example the skidder driver pinched a row in close or split off from other lines). To this aim, we need to discuss how to read the scarification on the level of the microsite. In other words, how to read the flip:
Anatomy of a Flip
Regardless of contract specs, any form of site prep will result in an individual ‘scar’ on the ground that has a consistent anatomy. For any ‘scar’ the machine will dig into the ground along the direction of it’s motion, lift soil, duff, and debris and push it up and away from the initial point of where the blade dug in. This will result in three distinct parts of a site prep that can be used in reading scarification on the level of a microsite.
The Cutside – this is the part of the scar where the machine’s blade initially digs in. Essentially, the cut is the point where undisturbed ground drops off into the basin of the trench, mound, or other depression.
The Hinge – this is the point where whatever was cut out of the ground was flipped over to the otherwise undisturbed ground. The hinge is important to consider because many quality specs require trees to be planted in relationship to the hinge.
The Flipside – this refers to all the material that has been dug out, from the cutside to the hinge, and then flipped on the otherwise undisturbed ground. It typically appears as a clump of soil, duff, and other debris that is slightly higher than the rest of the ground.
Types of Preparation
Trench Scarification – most common in Eastern provinces. This is the most exemplary form of scarification because the cut is made by a spinning blade or disc that is dragged across the block to create a mostly continuous trench. Most often times the machine that creates the trenches has two disc attachments that face away from each other. This is called double disc scarification.
As the machine makes a pass across the block it will make two trenches at the same time. It is important to note that since the discs face away from each other, so too will the flips. Thus, if one stands on a cut side, there will appear to be two distinct trenches with flipsides facing each other.
Reading the flipside in double disc scarification is extremely important. Since each pass results in two trenches that are parallel to each other, an easy system is to plant the pair of trenches together. That is not to say that you plan one tree in one trench and and then another in the other, but rather to plant the entirety of one trench until the trench stops or is cut off, and then returning down the other trench thus effectively planting down the first line. Accurate reading of the flipsides will help to identify the trench pairs.
Sometimes a machine operator will pull one of the discs out the ground to avoid a large rock, stump, or log. Being able to read the flipside is very useful in this situation because as you return to a trench, depending on the orientation of the flipside, you can confirm whether you’ve skipped a trench.
There is also triple disc scarification. For this kind of trenching, the machine operator will have more control on the orientation of the blades and the flipsides may not necessarily face each other. Being able to read the flips will assist in determining the best planting pattern to plant this form of scarification.
Bracke Mounds are made similarly to double disc scarification. Some kind of skidder drags an attachment across a block and the attachment makes small scoops in the ground. The primary distinction is that the process does not create a continuous trench. Rather, the small scoops will appear in rows. The term Bracke comes from the Swedish company that manufactures this machinery.
The actual blades that make the scoop resemble a pinwheel. Essentially, one blade of the pinwheel digs into the ground. As the machine pulls the blade forward the mound is formed as the dirt and duff is flipped along the same axis of the machine’s motion. The mound is left behind as the pinwheel blade rotates over the mound to repeat the process.
Bracke Mounders can have 2, 3, or 4 pinwheel blades. For all models the relative position of the flip to the cut will demonstrate the directionality of the machines path.
The most common strategy for planting Bracke mounds is to area plant. However, there are situations where the lines of Bracke are straight enough to line plant. Reading Bracke flipsides are useful to determine where the machine previously went. Some planters prefer to plant the whole pass of a bracke machine all at once. For example, for a 3 scoop Bracke, they’ll plant the three mounds all at once and then move along to the next set of 3 mounds.
Extractor Mounds – Bracke also manufactures a single head mounder. However this attachment is put on the end of an excavator. This attachment digs a small hole, flips it over and then gives the mound some compaction. Some forestry companies also forgo the mounding attachment and simply have a small bucket scoop dig small mounds in the ground.
For blocks that are mounded in this fashion. The Machine excavator will generally start at the back of the block and move the excavator backwards away from the treeline towards the road. This prevents the excavator from driving over the freshly made mounds.
Generally, the machine operator will want to position the excavator in a spot that can provide easy distance to make a group of mounds without moving the machine again. As such, there are rarely straight lines with excavator mounds and the mode of organization will inevitably be similar to area planting. Of course many mound experts will utilize a scattered line approach. In other words, while they won’t attempt a straight line plant, they will plant a horizontal line of 2 to 3 trees wide and repeat these while moving from the road into the block. This affords some level of flexibility to accommodate the random placement of the individual mounds.
Because the excavator mounds can result in a fairly deep hole or depression that would otherwise be tiring to be climbing in and out of constantly, an useful tip for excavator mounds is to “ride the ridge.” In other words, some planters will keep their feet at the edge of the cut or depression between the mounds, sometimes even planting the high side of the flip with the cut on the opposite side.
Blades / Corridors – In this kind of site prep a bulldozer or other form of land moving device is taken to the block and pushing all slash, debris, stumps and logs to one side leaving only exposed mineral soil. It is more common in the eastern provinces. They are often referred to as corridors, because the slash and debris is piled up into long rows leaving the plantable ground resembling a corridor. Generally, planters will use the piles of slash between each corridor as a natural border and area plant or back fill each individual corridor. Sometimes a the slash boundary between a corridor may ‘open up’ or become somewhat intermittent. In this scenario, it is the planters discretion to curl into the new open corridor or to respect the non-contiguous boundary. This decision should be made depending on the orientation of the corridors in the block. If, for example the new open corridor can be accessed from the road, it would be best to flag it off and treat it as separate. Conversely, it is possible that the corridor has been split off from the corridor you are currently working like a ‘Y’. In this scenario it’s best to curl into the corridor and back fill it to a level that is flush with the fill in the old corridor. This form of preparation is more common in Eastern Canada.
Rocket pocket is a form of blade (because it is dug with a bulldozer). But it is not a continuous corridor. Rather it is analogous to wide and shallow excavator mounds that can typically hold 3-5 trees. It is a common preparation in Quebec. They will appear in rows. Typically, it’s most efficient to treat each rocket pocket as an individual microsite and area plant the rocket pockets. Because Quebec density requirements are different than the rest of Canada, a smart planter will put as many trees into a Rocket Pocket as the minimum spacing will allow.