Long Leaf Pine Forest
The longleaf pine field is 13 acres in size bordered on the north by private road SE74th Court, bordered on the east by another 13 acre field which the owner raises mice for commerical sale, bordered on the south by 160 acres of pines and some hardwoods and on the south by 27 acres of the orignal Double Wheel Ranch. Within the 13 acres there are 6 islands containing tooth ache trees, Laurel oaks, Turkey oak and mature pines. The pictures and the pages that follow illustrate the steps taken to establish the longleaf pine field.
The longleaf pine field when purchased was overgrown by weeds and raspberry bushes as you can see by the picture on the left. The weeds were taller then the tractor and gave the bush hog fits. Buried within the weeds were old fence post, fence wire, barbed wire, tree logs and stumps that were not readily visable.The base vegetation after the debri was removed was bahai grass. The theory was that the bahai grass would fill in the blank spots if the weeds were kept under control and that seems to hold true as can be seen in later pictures..
The field has now been cleared of weeds and debri and the bahai grass is starting to fill in the blank spots. Time has come to decide on what we can do on this land to improve the environment and habitat for the wild animals. We contacted our local forester at the Florida Division of Forestry for assistance in putting together a plan for reaching our objective. Our local forester and a member of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission came out and review the land, discussed our objectives and developed our Forest Stewardship Management Plan (FSMP). Click here to review the FSMP. As indicated in the FSMP we decided to plant the 13 acres in longleaf pines.
Now that the decision has been made to plant longleaf pines other decisions need to be made as to how to prep the field, plant bareroot or containerized seedlings, hire a commerical planter or do it ourselves, straight or curved rows, where to get the seedlings and when to plant.
. We preped the field by disking the rows to remove the grass and any weeds. The rows run east and west and are curved to prevent the hunters from standing at the end of a row and plunking a deer, also it looks cool.
. There are 12 feet between rows and the trees are nine feet apart within the row.
. We chose containerized seedlings because they have a higher survival rate over the bareroot seedlings.
. We chose to plant the seedlings ourselves because of the satisfaction of saying
that we did it ourselves.
. We picked Blantons Nursery as the longleaf seedling provider because they were close to us and they were flexible on how many trees we could purchase at one time and their price per tree was right.
. We started planting in the month of July because we seem to get more rain at that time of the summer.
To plant the seedlings we used a tool called a "Dibble". Click here to view the dibbling procedure. We planted 3,400 longleaf pines in this field over a 4 week period. On Mondays and Tuesdays we disked enough rows to plant 1,000 trees. Wednesday was travel day to pick up the trees from Blantons Nursey. Thursday through Sunday we planted the trees.
When this picture was taken these trees were two years old. They range in height from a couple inches to as much as 18 inches tall.
The blobs of green you see out in the field are where gopher tortoises have dug out a den. We try not to disturb the tortoises den.
We had a tree mortality rate of about 10% the first year. The primary reason for the loss was because of the raccoons going down the rows and yanking the trees out of the ground. Bad boys. We replaced most of the trees that died. According to our State Forester a 15% mortality rate is acceptiable and common.
Maintenance of the pine field has been:
. The first year was to maintain moates around the trees and keep the weeds and grass away.
. Mowing the grass in the rows.
. Disking the fire breaks.