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The Forester
Chapter III. Manner of proceeding with Planting Operations


MANNER OF PROCEEDING WITH PLANTING OPERATIONS. EXPENSES OF LAYING DOWN LAND UNDER NEW PLANTATIONS. THE KEEPING OF TREES IN A YOUNG PLANTATION CLEAR FROM GRASS AND WEEDS. THE NATURE AND NECESSITY OF THINNING PLANTATIONS. THE NATURE AND PRACTICE OF PRUNING PLANTATIONS.

SECTION I. MANNER OF PROCEEDING WITH PLANTING OPERATIONS.

In all planting of young forest trees, the superintendent of such operations should be a man who has had considerable practical experience in that line of work. No man should undertake, or be allowed to undertake, the management of planting operations, who has not had at least ten years’ experience in his profession; unless he has had such experience, and that rather upon an extensive scale, he will not be able to judge for himself in any extraordinary contingency. A man who is allowed to undertake planting operations without proper practical experience, is generally put off his way by every change of the weather, and then knows not how to proceed; in such extremities he seeks the advice of others, who, very likely, are as ignorant in the matter as he is himself: consequently, the mind of an inexperienced man is liable to give in to wrong advice, and then the whole work goes wrong; time is lost, the work is badly done, and, in the end, failure is the sure result. This state of things, I am aware, often happens in planting operations; therefore, for the guidance of those who may not have experience enough, I shall here lay down, in a general manner, the way of proceeding with planting operations as they ought to be done.

The land having been all well drained, when it is intended to plant young forest trees, and the drains having been allowed to act upon the ground for at least one month previous to commencing to plant, and also the greater part of the pits made for any hard wood that may be to plant,—the next important point that the planter has to attend to is the bringing forward the young trees from the nursery. The superintendent of the planting operations, previous to the arrival of the trees upon the ground, must walk carefully over the whole of the land to be planted, and note down in his memorandum book the number of the different sorts of trees that will be required for the planting of each division, as it naturally divides itself according to soil and situation; and having noted this in his book as correctly as he possibly can, he will, upon the arrival of the cart with the young trees, cause to be sheughed in a careful manner, in

Laid in quantities in furrows, to prevent their withering.
each district, the number and kinds of trees required for it.

The number and kinds of trees having been laid down in their respective places, the superintendent of operations will next bring forward the number of men that may be thought requisite for the work to be done; and each man or planter ought to provide himself with a boy for the purpose of handing the young trees, and each boy should be provided with an apron for holding his trees when taken out of the ground, as well as to keep their roots safe against any cutting winds that may prevail. These matters being all properly arranged, the superintendent will, when his men are all collecting in the morning, strive to be the first man upon the ground, and arrange in his own mind quietly as to what sort of a day it is likely to be; and if it have the appearance of being a fine one, put the men to plant upon the most exposed parts of the ground, and if otherwise, upon the most sheltered parts. Although the day should prove wet, if the men have all collected, and are willing to work, let them do so, but only as long as the ground is not saturated with rain, which can at once be known when the young trees will not firm in the ground; as soon as the superintendent sees that the men cannot, with the usual beating, firm the trees in the ground, let him give orders to drop work at once; to persevere in such a state of tilings is the worst of management. However, upon dry ground, this will seldom occur. If the day should prove frosty, let the men be set to make pits in a dry part of the ground—an operation which should always be left for days of this nature; but the superintendent should be most careful never to allow a tree to be planted in such pits till the frost has been properly thawed out of the earth; to plant a young tree among frozen earth will kill it as certainly as if it had been put into boiling water: therefore the" planter should always be extremely careful to avoid this.

In planting a piece of ground, if there be hard wood to put into it, those should be all planted first; that is to say, previous to planting firs among them. In order to save time, I very often cause a few men to go on filling up the pits that have been made with hard wood, in the proportions that may be thought necessary as to the number of each sort; and immediately behind these I cause perhaps twice the number of men employed in planting the hard wood to follow them with the firs, filling up the ground to the requisite closeness as they proceed.

The superintendent must go backward and forward among the planters, minutely examining their work; in short, he must examine almost each tree as it is put into the ground, whether it may be done by the pitting or notching system, and see that it is properly planted and made firm in the ground; and when the least fault is observable, it ought to be checked at once, and the fault laid to the person who did it. Every cut made with the spade in the act of planting a tree should be firmly closed, in order to prevent the drought from taking effect upon the roots.

The principal use of the boys in the operation of planting is to put the plant into the pit, and to hold it there until the men have it properly fixed in its place; the boy should never be trusted with making firm the plants, as is too often done by careless planters, but the man should be made responsible for the good planting of the trees. In planting by the notching system, the boy puts the roots of the young tree into the cut as it is opened by the man with his spade; and in this case also the man must attend to make the trees firm in their place. Many planters throw down a tree to each pit, and that for a considerable distance in advance of the men at work, which is decidedly a bad way of going to work, for by this method the roots of the young trees are often exposed for half an hour and more to the open air, which is always against their welfare; whereas, when boys are employed for the purpose, they keep the roots of the plants sheltered in their aprons from the drying winds, and, at the same time, the man has always more opportunity for the handling of his spade properly than if he had to stoop down and lift a tree each time he came to a new pit, which he must do where no boys are employed.

SECTION II.—EXPENSES OF LAYING DOWN GROUND UNDER PLANTATIONS

In calculating the expenses likely to be incurred in the laying down of a piece of land under a crop of young forest trees, the proprietor has to consider, first, the nature of the figure in which he may intend to lay out his plantation. Upon the form or figure of a plantation much of the expense of fencing it depends; and as this item forms a very considerable proportion of the entire cost, it will be proper here to show the circumstances which, when attended to, lessen this expense.

When a proprietor intends to plant a piece of land upon his estate, say to the extent of fifty acres, he cannot exactly calculate the sum that would be required for the fencing of it until he has laid out the line of plantation, and actually measured the same—unless, indeed, he shall fix upon a regular-sided figure; and in order to illustrate the truth of this, I shall here give an example : —To lay out a plantation of fifty acres in extent, in the form of strips of four chains, or 88 yards broad, the proprietor would require to erect 5676 lineal yards of fence to inclose it; and supposing the fence used in the inclosing of this plantation in the form of strips to be stone dyke costing Is. per yard, then the whole expenses of fencing, in this instance, would amount to L.283, 16s., equal to L.5, 13s. 6d. per imperial acre upon the land inclosed.

Again, supposing that instead of laying out the fifty acres in the form of strips, the proprietor wished to lay out the same quantity of land in the form of a regular square ; then the side of a square that would contain fifty acres will be 490 yards; consequently, the four sides added together will amount to 1960 lineal yards, which would be the extent of fencing required, instead of 5676, which was required in the last instance, although the same quantity of ground is inclosed in both cases. And taking again the 1960 yards to be stone dyke at Is. per yard, the whole expense of fencing the square of fifty acres would be only L.98, equal to L.l, 18s. 6d. upon each acre of the land inclosed. Now this at once points out to proprietors of land the great utility of planting all plantations in a solid compact form in order to prevent a large original outlay; by the cheaper method a much more valuable plantation is raised, independent of any other consideration.

The above examples point out the impossibility of giving any thing like a just rule whereby the expenses of fencing ground for a new plantation can be ascertained, which in all cases must be influenced by the form in which the ground is laid out: however, in calculating the probable expenses necessary to be incurred in the laying out of plantations per acre, I shall give two examples, as under:—

The first example contains the highest cost per acre that ever I found necessary for planting of hard-wood plantations, —and the second contains the lowest that ever I could get the work done properly for. I am aware that many planters say that they can do the work more cheaply—but this of course must depend upon the average amount of wages as given to labourers in the district; what I have stated above is taken from notes of expense actually incurred by myself; and, of course, I can speak with certainty upon the subject only so far as my own experience goes.

SECTION III. THE KEEPING OF TREES IN A YOUNG PLANTATION CLEAR FROM GRASS AND WEEDS.

Any piece of ground having been planted with young forest trees, in order to keep them in a healthy growing state, it is necessary to have them kept clear of all long grass, as well as any other weeds that might have a tendency to injure them, by over-topping and crushing them down. Upon this head, the forester should keep a sharp lookout during the summer season, particularly the first one after the young trees have been planted; and wherever it is observed that the grass or any other weeds are likely to become strong, and to fall down upon the young trees, a careful man, with a few women and boys under his superintendence, should be sent over the different young plantations, who, with common shearing sickles, should be made to switch away all grass, &c., from every young tree that may require this to be done.

This work must be carefully done, particularly where boys or other young people are employed, as they are very apt to cut off the tops of many of the young trees if they are not strictly looked after; therefore, the man who is put over them should not work alongside with them, but go immediately behind them, and closely inspect all that they have done as the work proceeds, observing that they do not pass over any young trees requiring to be cleared, as well as seeing that those cleared be done in a proper manner. This operation ought to be performed twice during the summer season, viz.—between the middle and end of the month of June, and a second time in the month of August; and where the trees are growing among vegetation of a rank description, the same work may require to be repeated for three or four years successively, or at least until such time as the young trees rise above the rank growth of the weeds in the summer season.

Young trees, besides being apt to be injured by grass and other common weeds, are often still more seriously hurt by whins and broom growing among them. It very often happens, that young trees are planted where whins and broom have been cut down, and not grubbed out by the roots; in which case, the whins in particular are sure to push out a stronger and more vigorous growth than ever the following year. Whenever this may have been the case, the planter ought to have particular attention paid to sueh parts, and see that the young growths of the whins as they rise up do not hurt the young trees. And for the purpose of elearing away the young shoots of the whins, a strong siekle will be found to answer the purpose well; and in the doing of the work, they ought to be shorn clean by the surfaee of the ground, where-ever they are found among the young trees, whether they may he injuring them in the mean time or not: for though the whins may not hurt the young trees in many places in a young plantation for the first year of their growth, they will decidedly do so the second year, when it will he much more difficult to get the better of them. Therefore it is always necessary to cut such rubbish during the first year of their growth, when in a soft state; besides, if they are allowed to stand undisturbed upon the ground for a whole year, they give shelter to rabbits, hares, and other vermin, which are always a most dangerous stock in young plantations.

Where whins have been, even although they may have been grubbed by the roots previous to the ground being planted with trees, it is, I am aware, a most difficult matter to take them out so clean as to prevent any roots that may be left in the ground sending up shoots of considerable strength the first summer after; consequently, it is necessary to attend in a particular manner to those young plantations where whins have existed previous to the young trees being planted. I have frequently seen large tracts of young plantations entirely ruined from not having been cleared from rubbish in due time; and in such a case, where this necessary clearing of the young trees has been neglected, a replanting of the ground must take place before any thing good can be expected. This of course is the cause of a great outlay of money, all which might have been saved had due attention been paid at first.

The necessary expense of doing this sort of work is but trifling. Upon the estate of Arniston, we employ a man with six young people, from the beginning of June to the end of August, constantly clearing among the young plantations; and I find that where no whins are, the expenses of keeping clear a young plantation, for the first four years, costs about 16s. per acre; and where there are whins to contend with, the operation costs about 25s. per acre, until the trees rise above them.

SECTION IV. THE NATURE AND NECESSITY OF THINNING PLANTATtONS.

Thinning is one of the most indispensable operations in arboriculture. The right understanding of the nature and design of thinning plantations forms one of the most important points to be aimed at by every practical forester.

The object which ought to be aimed at by the forester in the act of thinning, is the regulating of the trees in a plantation to such a distance one from another, and that in such a manner as is, from well observed facts, known to be favourable to the health of each tree individually, as well as to the general welfare of the whole as a plantation.

In order to grow any plant to that size which the species to which it belongs is known to attain under favourable circumstances, it is necessary that it have space of ground and air for the spread of its roots and branches, proportionate to its size at any given stage of its growth; and upon this the whole nature and intention of thinning plantations rest.

It is, in my opinion, much to he regretted that there does not exist, both among proprietors and foresters, a sounder knowledge relative to the nature and intention of thinning plantations than there is. I have frequently seen plantations upon a high situation going back, from having been injudiciously thinned; and in a low situation, I have as often seen them going back from not having been thinned at all: where the blame rested I know not, neither is it my business to inquire into that, but this I must say, that in all such eases there is evidently bad management.

There are, indeed, few proprietors’ estates in Scotland upon which there is not considerable room for improvements, as regards the thinning of their plantations. There is a decided loss of timber, as well as shelter, whenever plantations are made too thin; and there is also equally as decided a loss where they are not sufficiently thinned. Wherever plantations have remained long in a close state, and are thinned suddenly and severely, which I term injudicious thinning, they are at once cooled; and that I reckon equal to being removed a few degrees of latitude farther north, or to a situation a few hundred feet higher than the original; and the natural consequence is, that the greater part of the trees which have undergone such treatment, become what is generally termed hide-bound—the bark contracts, and prevents the free flow of the sap, consequently it stagnates and breaks out into sores; the trees fail to make wood; and, in fact, the whole plantation falls into a state of consumption and declines gradually. I have frequently been called upon to examine and give my advice relative to what ought to be done with plantations in such a state as that described above; and wherever I have found plantations above thirty years old to be in the state described, and to have stood in the same state for four or five years, without showing much signs of any improvement, I have always in such cases recommended to cut down at once, drain, and replant the ground. However, I may here mention, that if the situation be a rather sheltered one, and the soil dry, a recovery of an over-thinned plantation will often take place, although the trees, after having been checked, will never attain that size they would have done had they been otherwise treated ; but where the situation is exposed, and the natural soil cold and damp, recovery is out of the question.

Upon the other hand, where plantations are not enough thinned, the trees become drawn up weakly, and seldom attain the size of useful timber before maturity comes upon them. And where any plantation has stood long in a state without being thinned, particularly a fir plantation, it is, I may say, impossible to recover it; for if even a very few trees be thinned out, a number of others, from the want of their shelter, are sure to die, which ultimately causes blanks to occur here and there, and the wind getting play in such blanks, great havoc is often done among the trees during a storm. As an instance of this, I may here mention, that upon the estate of Arniston, a fir plantation of above thirty years’ standing, and to the extent of nearly forty acres, had been allowed to grow on in its natural state from the time that it was planted up to the period stated, when an attempt was made to take a few trees out of it, by way of thinning it gradually; and this having been done, many more were blown down the very first storm that occurred, and an opening having-been made by the wind, the whole plantation in a short time became a complete wreck, so much so, that when I came to the place, I had the whole cleared off and replanted.

From what has here been stated, it will appear evident that there is a great loss sustained by every proprietor who allows his plantations to be mismanaged, either from not thinning them, or from over-thinning them; and the result may be reckoned the same in both cases.

Upon many estates, I have often regretted to see plantations of considerable extent, and of perhaps forty years’ standing, with the firs all overtopping and crushing down the hard-wood trees. From the appearance of such plantations, it was evident to me, that they never had been thinned: the hard-wood trees were miserable-looking things, and not more than ten or twelve feet high, striving for existence; while the firs, which, of course, grew more rapidly, were more than thirty feet high, and of a broad spreading habit, from having been widely planted among the hard wood: and in this state many plantations have been allowed to grow up, under the false impression that the firs were of more value than the hard wood for the sake of shelter.

Now, I beg to ask if any circumstance could be a more convincing proof of the want of sound knowledge relative to thinning? If the hard-wood trees had been relieved in due time, would they not at forty years’ standing have been valuable, both as timber and as affording shelter? Could not the firs have been all taken out for estate purposes, and been of value to the proprietor, while at the same time they left a more valuable crop of hard wood on the ground? But as the case was, the hard-wood plants were useless, and past recovery; and upon the ground where a valuable crop of hard wood might have been, there existed only a few firs of little permanent value, either for shelter or as timber.

The distance at which trees in a plantation ought to stand one from another, must in all eases be determined by the nature of the soil and situation upon which the trees grow, and also upon the ultimate object the proprietor may have in view as regards any particular plantation; but as a sort of guiding rule for thinning, I may here state, that if in any particular plantation it should be intended to rear up trees for park or lawn scenery, then, in such a ease, the distance between each individual tree ought to be at least equal to the height of the same; and this rule ought to be kept in view at all stages of the growth of the trees, in order that they may have free room and air to form spreading tops as well as massive trunks, which is the true and natural form of every tree, and which constitutes the great beauty of lawn trees.

If it should be intended to rear up a plantation of hard-wood trees principally for the sake of value in timber, and of giving shelter at the same time, then, in such a case, the distance between each individual tree ought to be equal to about one half the height of the same; and this ought to be kept in view at all stages of the growth of the trees, in order that they may not have so much free air and room as to allow of the spread of their branches horizontally, nor yet to be so much confined as to be drawn up weakly from the want of air. If it should be intended to rear up a plantation of firs or pines, for the sake of shelter and timber, then, in such a case, the distance between each tree ought to be a little more than the third of the height, which is the distance found most favourable to the useful development of the fir and pine tribes, as timber trees.

In order to give a clear and practical description of the manner of proceeding with thinning operations in the forest, it will be necessary to treat of them under three distinct heads; and which I shall do in the proper place—(see under the heads, System of thinning mixed hard-wood, fir, and oak plantations); but it may be necessary here to observe, that all plantations, ere they require to be thinned, must have grown for at least eight years, and even this period may in the most of instances be far too early; in fact, no particular period can be specified as to the length of time that a plantation should stand, previous to commencing to thin it; for in this case, much depends upon the nature of the soil and situation, upon whether or not a plantation may have been well laid out, and upon the state of the ground, as being dry or damp. These things considered, it will appear evident, that no particular time can be stated as to when a plantation should be thinned for the first time; but that this must be judged entirely by the state of the trees, whether they may have grown rapidly or not. I have myself found it necessary to thin a young plantation of seven years’ standing, at which age the trees were twelve feet high; but upon the other hand, I have much oftener seen plantations of fifteen years’ standing, scarcely the length of requiring to be thinned: therefore, observation upon the spot is the only sure way of determining this point.

SECTION V. THE NATURE AND PRACTICE OF PRUNING TREES.

For three or tour years past, many conflicting opinions relative to the pruning of forest trees have been issued in some of the periodicals of the day ; which opinions, I believe, have had more a tendency to darken the point referred to, than to throw light on it. Many have recommended pruning as an operation eminently favourable to the health of forest trees; many more doubt this; and as many more affirm that pruning ought not to be practised at all: and each, as he advocates his own peculiar system of management as regards this, gives an instance of some plantation he has had under his care, as undeniably illustrating the advantages of the system he recommends. Now, all the diversity of opinion arises from the want of a properly extended knowledge upon the subject in question. A man of extensive experience comes to find, that no particular rule can be laid down to answer the pruning of trees in all cases—he finds out that pruning in some cases is proper, and in others improper; but the inexperienced man, who wishes to be instructed in the art of pruning, when he sees one man strongly recommend pruning in all cases, and another as strongly urge its not being practised in any, is brought to a stand. He becomes bewildered, and knows not how to proceed; he is not able in his own mind, from deficiency of experience, to reason whether in his own case he should prune or not. Now, the only way reasonably to confirm the mind upon this important point is, not to lay any particular stress upon any particular example that may be given; but to examine the true nature of the art of pruning, and the tendency it has to improve or retard the healthy development of trees ill various situations; in short, in order to a right understanding of the nature of pruning, as applies to forest trees, attention must be paid to its effects upon trees under every variety of circumstances. I consider it proper, that every proprietor of plantations should be able to judge for himself in the matter of pruning, and to detect proper from improper pruning ; and to this end, I shall enter minutely into detail under this head, and give a distinct statement of my reasons for pruning in one case and not in another. But before entering into detail regarding the practical operation, it will, I think, be proper first to examine the effects that the amputation of a branch from a tree has upon its constitution; and such previous knowledge will prepare the mind for a bettor understanding of the true nature of pruning, as it is generally practised among foresters.

A tree, through the agency of its roots, draws liquid nourishment from the earth in which they are placed, mostly in a state of solution in water; which liquid nourishment, or what is generally termed the sap of the tree, ascends the trunk through the longitudinal vessels, or pores of the wood; from which again, each branch or limb of the tree is supplied in succession. The body or trunk of a tree forms one bundle of longitudinal tubes, through which the sap ascends from the roots to the branches; and from this bundle, each separate branch is supplied by its own separate line of tubes; or, which is the same thing, each particular root of a tree has to dj^aw nourishment from the soil to supply its own particular branch; and the communication between those two points is maintained by a particular set of vessels in the trunk of the tree. The watery part of the sap, when it ascends into the leaves, is for the most part given off by them in the form of perspiration, and the sap which remains at this point undergoes a change previous to its descent in the form of proper woody matter, which change is effected by the leaves inhaling carbonic acid and other gases, which enter into the composition of the returning sap; and in this manner there is a continual circulation of the sap in the tree—the roots drawing in and supplying the whole with moisture; which, when it is raised to the leaves, undergoes a chemical change, and is returned in the form of proper woody matter. And now the practical deduction to be drawn from this is, that every branch growing out of the main body of a tree, is by nature meant to act as a laboratory, in which woody matter is prepared and returned for the joint supply of itself and the body of the tree ; and from this we are bound to conclude, that when we cut a branch from a tree, we take away from it the means of supplying it with a certain proportion of woody matter for its enlargement; and this is, indeed, the case with pruning in all cases of the operations. But under good management in pruning, this depriving of a tree of its due means of nourishment is only of a temporary nature; and in one or two years after the operation has been done, and when the tree operated upon has had its growth properly directed, the increase of timber is at once remarkable, as compared with others of the like nature and age which had not been pruned, or with others which had been unscientifically managed.

When a large branch is cut off immediately from the body or trunk of a large tree, the usual sap which supplied it in its ascent from the roots, will be stopped short, and for a time will ooze out at the cut part; but shortly, the sap as it rises in those vessels of the trunk which formerly supplied the branch taken off, becomes stagnated, and causes rot in that part, which can never be the case while the branch remains to draw up and prepare the sap in its leaves; and this is the case in all instances of large branches, as they are cut from large trees. But in the case of a branch being thus cut from a young sapling in a rapidly growing state, the tree is not injured, but improved; the sap of the plant being in such a vigorous state, that rot cannot take place. Now, the practical deduction to be drawn from this is, that the amputation of a large branch immediately from the body of a large tree, instead of being favourable to its health and value as timber, has quite the contrary effect. I say immediately from the body of a tree, because the cutting off of a part of a branch is by no means injurious to the health of a tree ; but upon the contrary, when part of a large branch is cut off, the How of sap to that part is checked, and the body or trunk of the tree is in proportion enlarged.

During my practice as a forester, I have had extensive opportunity of observing the nature and quality of full-grown timber, as it has been effected by different kinds of management in the way of pruning. Having seen much timber of all ages cut up for different purposes at saw-mills, I have had occasion invariably to observe a practical truth, that wherever branches of above four inches in diameter at their base had been cut from the trunk of the tree, the wood for a considerable way under that part which had been so pruned was worthless and of a black colour; and where much cutting of large branches had taken place in one individual tree, I have always found such a tree to be scarcely fit for any valuable purpose whatever, when it came to be cut up; and where the pruning had been done a considerable number of years before the tree was cut down for use, the wounds upon the surface were not easily observable, and in fact, such trees often appear sound to outward appearance; but when the bark is removed, the pruned part is at once observable, and the vessels leading from it, down to the roots, are generally found soft and of a black colour.

Upon the other hand, I have always had occasion to observe, as a practical truth, that in the cutting up of trees which had not had their large branches cut off close by the trunk, the timber was of good quality, and sound throughout, excepting where extreme old age had caused natural decay; and of the truth of this I am perfectly convinced. Therefore, I hereby beg to advise every proprietor of plantations, never, as he values their health as timber, to cut clean from the boll of a tree a branch which is more than four inches in diameter at its base.

Having now pointed out the effects that the amputation of a branch from the trunk of a tree has upon its constitution, I next proceed to detail the method which ought to be practised with pruning operations in all cases ; and in order to a right understanding of this most important point in arboriculture, I shall bring under consideration the pruning of trees, from the time that they are planted out from the nursery, to that of their full growth in the forest, under every variety of circumstances, as I have had occasion to observe them.

Many foresters are in the habit of closely pruning all young hard-wood trees, particularly elms and oaks, when they are newly taken from the nursery grounds, and preparatory to planting them out into the forest; which system of close pruning is most injurious to the health of all young trees when newly lifted from the ground. The system of pruning which is generally practised by foresters in this case is, to cut off clean to the main stem, all strong branches, and only leave a few small twigs near the top of the plant, with the view of drawing up the sap. The natural consequences of such a cutting off of all the stronger branches from a young tree are, that, when the sap ascends in the plant in the spring, it is arrested at the wound where the first or lowest branch was taken off, and escapes from the cut part by evaporation; and the sap being thus arrested, there is a natural effort made by the plant to produce young shoots and leaves at this point, in order to convert the sap into proper woody matter; consequently, we almost always find a few young shoots made the first season immediately under the part where the lower strong branch was taken from the plant, and all the rest of the young tree above this growth of young shoots dies—the sap not rising to carry on life above the part where the new shoots spring out; and, even if the sap should not be all arrested at the point referred to, the part above it remains in a sickly and unhealthy state; while the young shoots produced lower down draw all the nourishment to themselves, and ultimately form a distorted unshapely plant, unless it be carefully attended to, by giving* some one of the shoots the preference, and, cutting away all the rest, allow it to become the top.

The proper manner of proceeding with the pruning of forest trees, as they are newly lifted from the nursery, and preparatory to planting them out into the forest grounds, is to shorten all the stronger branches that have the appearance of gaining strength upon the top or leading shoot of the young tree; and this shortening of the larger branches ought to be done in such a manner, as to leave only about one third of their whole length remaining, with, if possible, a few small twigs upon it, in order the more readily to elaborate the sap as it rises in the spring; and in this state the young trees may be planted with the greatest assurance of success. The great advantage of this method of pruning young trees is, that when the sap rises in them, the first summer after planting, there being a regular supply of small proportionable branches along the main stem, leaves are formed, and sap is drawn up regularly to every part of the tree; consequently, the tree maintains an equal vigour throughout. Were all the branches left upon the young trees, the roots, from the effects of removal, would not be able to maintain the whole with due nourishment; and the consequence would very likely be, that the plants would die down to the ground-level, from which part of the trees numerous young shoots would issue, much in the same manner as they do from the cut part of those trees which have been over-pruned.

It is now a well-ascertained truth among all practical foresters, that when a young tree is in a vigorous state of growth, and the wood full of sap, previous to its having made any hard wood, any branch may be taken off without doing the least injury to it; therefore, it is just at this stage of the existence of a tree, that it can with certainty be made to do well or otherwise, according as it may be attended to, to give the top the lead in the growth, to check the stronger branches, and to give the tree that shape it may be intended it should have when it attains full age.

When young hard-wood trees have been pruned in the manner above recommended, and after they have been planted and grown in their permanent situation for the space of five or six years, they will by that time have got themselves properly established in the ground; which circumstance is known by their putting forth considerable shoots of young wood. At this stage of their growth, it will be necessary to go over them all with the pruning-knife, and cut close to the main stem or trunk all the parts of the branches that were formerly shortened, and, at the same time, to take off clean with the knife all other branches that may have gained strength, or may have the appearance of gaining strength, upon the top or main shoot; but it should he particularly observed, that this pruning ought never to be allowed to be done until the young trees have decidedly established themselves in the ground, and are in a vigorous healthy state of growth; for, if it be done while the trees are in a sickly state, no advantage will be gained, but, upon the contrary, much injury will be done.

I have now given a statement of the manner of proceeding with pruning operations, in the case of young trees about to be planted out into the forest; and also the treatment they ought to receive after being five or six years established in the ground. There may, however, be,—and, indeed, too often are,—cases where hard-wood trees, while young, have been entirely neglected; and, seeing this, it will be proper to consider the treatment that such ought to receive. I shall first suppose that we have to do with a plantation of young hard-wood trees, which had received no pruning at all previous to being planted; and we shall further suppose, that the trees are oaks, and of five or six years’ standing in the forest grounds. Upon examining the state of young hard-wood trees of the description above mentioned, it will be observed, that the greater part of them have died down to the part resting upon the surface of the ground, and that from this part a number of branches have issued, each contending for the lead in the growth. In such a case as this, no time should he lost in giving the strongest and most healthy shoot the preference, and cutting away all the rest, as well as the dead part of the tree, nearly by the ground, or at least down to the part from where the young shoots issue; prune up the shoot intended to he left for the future tree, by taking off all the stronger branches clean to the boll or stem; and in this manner go over each and every young tree in the plantation, always choosing the most healthy shoot for the future tree, and one which appears to have naturally a good balance of branches, with the leader or top shoot strong in proportion to the rest of the branches. We shall again suppose a plantation of oaks, of the same age as the one above alluded to, but the trees in which, instead of having been planted without any pruning, have been pruned too severely when lifted from the nursery ground, and previous to being planted. The treatment in this case must in every respect be the same as in the former; that is, all the dead wood should be cut away immediately above the point from which the young shoots issue; and the strongest and most healthy shoot being fixed upon for the future tree, it must be properly pruned up, by taking off all the stronger branches, and cutting cleanly away the rest of the inferior shoots, which formerly contended with it. But, in a ease of this nature, where the trees had been overpruned previous to their being planted, there is often more difficulty in making choice of a good young shoot, than where no pruning had taken place at all. And this arises from the young shoots springing from the main stem in a horizontal manner, and that, too, very often a considerable way up the stem. In a case of this nature, where a proper leading shoot, rising perpendicularly, cannot be got, the only way, and the method I always follow myself, is to cut the main stem by the surface of the ground, and allow a set of new shoots to rise up. The chance generally is, that, when the tree is thus cut down, all the new shoots will rise in an upright position, and a choice can be afterwards made; but wherever a proper leading shoot can be had, let it be chosen, although it come away rather far up upon the stem. If it rise perpendicularly, and the plant be in a vigorous healthy state of growth, it will succeed well. This sort of work should be done in the spring months, so that the growth may set in immediately after the operation is performed.

It very often happens that a forester, upon entering a new situation, finds that the several plantations which are put under his management have been hitherto much neglected; he finds that, in many cases, pruning is absolutely necessary, but he is at a stand to know how to proceed. If he be a man who has not had much experience, lie is very apt to go wrong in a case of importance. He looks upon the trees before him, ancl he is, no doubt, aware that pruning is necessary to their health ; but, in consequence of some particular circumstance connected with the trees with which he has to deal, he finds much difficulty in making up his mind as to the manner in which he ought to proceed. If he should be a man who has had extensive practice, he will look back upon his former experience, and consider where and when he had to deal with a case resembling the one that may be before him : if he has, he will review the manner in which he went to work in it; and, at the same time, he will consider the consequences that attended such operations, whether these were beneficial or not; and, in all cases, he will endeavour to govern his conduct in pruning operations by the result of his past experience Whatever method of operations he has known to succeed well, he will put again in practice, according as the nature of the case may require; and whatever method he has found to have been followed by injurious effects, he will avoid putting again into practice except in particular cases, where he is aware it would answer the end desired.

With regard to the pruning of forest trees generally, all would be simple and well, provided a distinct practical rule were attended to, both by proprietors and foresters, for the rearing up of plantations at every stage of their growth; but in practice, the case is almost always the contrary, tfo distinct practical rules being adhered to among foresters as a body, one goes to work in one way, and another in a contrary way, in the same piece of work, and in the manner of doing the work all depends upon the practical experience of the man. A man of sound practical experience finds out for himself what ought to be done, and guides himself in the execution of his work accordingly; but the man of small experience, unless he has some definite rule laid down to guide him, will go to work merely under the direction of his own judgment, whether that may be right or wrong; and if his master, the proprietor, has not himself a knowledge of how the work ought to be done, matters will often go very far wrong indeed, even so much so, that often the greater part of the plantations upon an estate, if not ruined, are made of very little value indeed. We will very frequently see plantations upon an estate overpruned, while those upon a neighbouring one are not pruned at all, which at once points out the bad management that exists relative to forest operations in general.

In one place where I acted as assistant forester, I had a most convincing proof of the want of a practical rule among foresters as a body, relative to pruning, and which told me at once that they have hitherto acted in such matters more according to their own private judgment than upon any well-founded scientific rules. When I went to B- as under forester, I found the head forester an old man, who had reared up most of the plantations upon the estate; and the situation being in a high exposed part of the country, he had never either pruned or thinned much; in fact, in the most of cases, pruning had never been practised at all, from the idea that the baring of the trees of their branches would diminish the shelter that the trees were meant to produce. Many of the plantations consisted principally of a mixture of ash, elm, and plane-trees ; and from the circumstance of the firs having been cut out pretty early, the trees were low-set, and spreading in the habit of their branches, never having been much drawn up, and were about thirty years old. Shortly after I went to this place, the old forester died, and a young man was appointed in his place. The proprietor wishing to have his plantations improved, and having no knowledge of how the work ought to be done himself, he of course left the whole management of his plantations to his forester. The new forester set about the pruning and thinning of some of the plantations at once, and a number of men were set to accomplish this: I was appointed one of the primers, and my orders from the forester were, to prune all the trees left standing upon the ground, and to give every tree a clear stem to one half its entire height. The trees being generally from twenty-fiye to thirty feet high, we gave each tree a clear stem of from twelve to fifteen feet from the ground; and in doing this, we had often to cut off large branches from the boll as thick as itself, which gave the trees completely the appearance of having been manufactured artificially; and, having been very thickly set with branches all along the trunks, when they were pruned, the entire trunk was a surface of wounds. "With regard to the tops of the trees, our orders were not to do any thing, excepting where two or more tops appeared to strive for the preference, in which case we left only one, cutting away the others. Having left that place shortly after this operation of pruning had taken place, in five years after I went to visit it, and that in order to draw for my own private instruction a lesson of experience, by observing the effect of the former severe pruning upon the trees; and the consequence was exactly that which I anticipated in the doing of the work. Upon looking over those plantations, the ruin of which I had myself assisted in bringing about, I felt sorrow to think that gentlemen should he imposed upon by ignorant men. All along the bolls of the trees and about the wounds which had been made in the cutting off of the large branches, young shoots had sprung out; the trees were generally now hidebound, from having been suddenly exposed, and the atmosphere cooled about them—the trunks had scarcely increased any thing in girth since they were pruned, and the top branches had made little or no wood. The trees, generally speaking, were ruined in their health, and all hope of their recovery was gone: and from this example I had indeed a lesson of experience for my future guidance, and my reason for stating the circumstance here is, that it may be a lesson to others also. The question now comes to be, whose mismanagement had been the cause of ruin in the case alluded to ? Whether was the blame attributable to the old forester who neglected to prune and train up the trees as he ought to have done, or to the young man who succeeded him and pruned the trees without due consideration and experience? In my opinion they were both to blame; for, had the old forester pruned and thinned in due time, all would have been well in the end; and had the young forester been more cautious, and pruned and thinned gradually, all might have been well also. The practical truth that I wish to enforce from this instance of mismanagement is, that in every forester great caution, combined with practical experience and reflection, necessary before he commences to thin or prune any plantation. A gardener or farmer, from the temporary nature of the crops which they raise, although they mismanage any of their crops, all can be redeemed in the course of another year; but in the case of mismanagement in a forester, the work of past years is lost, and thirty or forty years, with a considerable outlay of extra money, may possibly not be sufficient to redeem what is put wrong.

Having given the above example of mismanagement, in order to point out the necessity of using caution in entering upon pruning operations, I shall now proceed to give a few examples of the manner in which I have gone to -work in similar cases of neglected plantations; and I am convinced that, wherever plantations have been neglected as to pruning, if they are under thirty years old, they may, if dealt with as I shall here point out, be recovered, so far as to make profitable timber trees, although probably not to that extent of value that might have been expected had the same trees been properly pruned and trained up in their young state.

When I came to act as forester upon the estate of Arniston, I found that many of the hard-wood plantations under thirty years old had never been pruned at all, and that there was great need for means being used as quickly as possible, to put such into proper state. In setting about this part of our forest operations, I determined to begin with the younger part of the woods, as being most likely to recover quickly, and to be of the most value ultimately if taken in due time, and to go on with the pruning of the older districts of plantations as I could find convenient opportunity. Having laid down this principle, as a rule of procedure, I commenced first upon a plantation of oaks, about twelve years of age—which plantation, I saw, had never, up to the period I commenced upon it, been either thinned or pruned. The first thing I did, when about to commence pruning in this piece of plantation, was to go carefully over the whole, and examine most minutely its state; observing, in a particular manner, whether or not the situation was exposed; and being convinced, from the general bearing of other plantations in the neighbourhood, that the situation was rather sheltered than otherwise, I determined upon thinning-out the firs pretty freely from among the young oaks: having done so, and had the firs all cleared off which were out, I found that the young oaks had been a good deal crushed down by the firs, which had grown very freely as compared with the oaks; and in consequence of having been thus crushed down, many of the latter had grown strongly to side branches, and not to height; but wherever the oaks had had free top room, with firs rather close upon their sides, they were tall plants and generally well shaped. The average height of the oaks was from five to eight feet; the bark of the trees was clean and fleshy, and generally speaking they were in good health. In the pruning of those trees, I first had all the small branches not exceeding two-thircls of an inch in diameter at their base, cut from the trunks, and close to the bark, to the height of about one-third the height of the tree in each case; next, all branches which grew upon the same part, with a diameter at base exceeding the last mentioned, I cut off to within about four inches of the stem or trunk from which they proceeded, leaving the stems in the mean time; and all large top branches, which appeared to be gaining strength upon the leading top shoot, I shortened down to nearly one-half of their whole length : but in all cases where two top shoots appeared, I cut one of them closely away, always leaving the one which appeared to be the most healthy and strong, and which at the same time appeared to come most directly from the centre of the system of the tree.

But I must observe here, that in the pruning of a young hard-wood plantation, all the trees do not require to be pruned to the same extent—in many instances it will be found that pruning is not necessary at all; and so it was in the case of the plantation I am referring to. Wherever a hardwood tree is drawn up rather closely among firs, with sufficient head-room, it seldom produces many side branches, but will grow upwards to the light; therefore, in all cases of pruning, where the side branches upon a young tree are few, let such remain, and merely shorten them down where they are long and slender. Pruning is an unnatural operation, and ought always to be avoided unless absolutely necessary ; that is, it ought to be avoided wherever the tree does not produce unnaturally strong side branches, excepting in so far as to clear from branches one-third of the height of the tree from the ground, in order to form a trunk; and even upon this part, where the branches are large, they ought to be taken off gradually, as already noticed. Having gone through this plantation, and pruned the trees therein in the manner above described, I allowed it to remain so for the space of two years; when I again went through it a second time, and pruned in the following manner all the oaks that stood in need of it.

Having taken out a few more of the firs, which I observed were rather encroaching upon the young hard wood, and having examined the general state of the same, I found that they had thriven remarkably well during the two years since I pruned them. I now found, that from being relieved of a superfluous and unnatural weight of side branches, they were growing tall, and in a generally healthy and rapid-growing state; therefore, seeing this, I cut close to the main stem or part which formed the trunk, all those stumps which I formerly shortened to four inches, and in regulating the tops of the young trees, I merely shortened such shoots as had the appearance of ultimately gaining strength upon the main top shoot. With regard to my reason for not having cut away the strong shoots or branches from the main stem when I first pruned those trees, I have to observe, that had I cut them away at the first course of priming clean to the bark of the trunk, the consequence would have been that the sap of the young trees in its ascent would have been arrested at the cut parts, young sapling shoots would have been formed upon the stem immediately under the cuts, and the general health of the trees would have been injured from the sap not rising unchecked to the top shoots: these evils were avoided simply by cutting off a large portion of each large branch, and leaving a small portion of each upon the stem, in order to continue the regular flow of the sap to that part, and which, from being partially weakened in the branches, was proportionately forced to flow upwards to the supply of the top parts of the trees; after this had taken place, the stumps were cut away without doing any injury to the trees. By this method of pruning off parts of large branches from a tree, I have often brought unhealthy trees to a state of sound health; and as soon as I observed that such trees had regained their health, which is at once observable by their making vigorous shoots of young wood in the top branches, I immediately cut away the parts of the branches that were left, when the wounds were soon made up by the extra supply of proper woody matter, which increased with the health of the trees ; but this cure is only applicable to trees in a young state. I have succeeded in effecting it upon trees under twenty years old.

After pruning the oak plantation in the way just detailed, I next set to the pruning of another oak plantation of about twenty years’ standing. This other plantation of oaks was situated in a rather sheltered part of the estate; and from having been nursed by Scots firs, many of which were growing when I commenced pruning operations there, the oak trees were very much drawn up. I observed that the oaks had never been either thinned or pruned, and consequently were growing within four feet of one another—that being the distance at which they had been originally planted. As the situation was a sheltered one, I thinned out a few of the Scots firs, and also a few of the oaks, previous to commencing to prune; and when I had those removed, and the trees standing more upon their own weight, 1 saw that they were, from the effects of having been drawn up, very slender, and not able to stand much exposure or much cutting in the way of pruning, although they were from eight to fifteen feet in height; and seeing them in this delicate state, I only shortened a few of the stronger side branches below, and at the same time shortened a few top branches upon each tree as I found it necessary, in order that they might be properly balanced, and that the wind might not have much power upon them. In this state I left them for two years, when I again examined the trees, and finding that they had improved in a remarkable manner, I again set to work and gave them a final pruning. I have seldom found any plantation make sueh an improvement as this one did during the two years that I allowed it to recover itself before giving it a final course of pruning : this was owing to the gradual manner in which I thinned out a few trees, and cut off a part of the branches as a preparation for pruning. This is what every forester ought particularly to attend to; for, had I foolishly and thoughtlessly commenced to prune severely at first, it was quite possible that every tree in the plantation might have been thrown into an unhealthy state,—which, indeed, I have more than once seen done;—but by having gone cautiously to work, I had the satisfaction, at the end of two years from the time that I first examined those trees, to find them not only stiff, healthy, tall trees, but in a most vigorous state of growth also ; and, finding them in such a state, I pruned them upon the same principle as stated in the former case—that is, I pruned off all the branches to one-third the height of the tree in each case, in order to form a clean trunk; and above this, among the top branches, I merely shortened such as had the appearance of gaining strength upon the top. And wherever two distinct tops occurred in one individual tree, I cut off one, always leaving the one which appeared the most strong and healthy, and which issued most directly from the centre of the system of the tree, although in many cases it did not take an upright direction; for let it be observed, that an oak tree is the more valuable for having a bend in its form, such trees being useful in ship-building.

In a similar manner I have pruned plantations of thirty years’ standing; but in the case of pruning at such an advanced age, no branch should be cut from the trunk that exceeds three inches in diameter, if it is intended that the timber should be of value when of full age; and even where such branches are to be taken off, they should be shortened in one year and cut clean off the year following, by which precaution the vessels which convey the sap to the branch receive a gradual check, and are to a considerable extent deadened before the complete amputation takes place, and consequently the body of the tree is not injured by such gradual treatment. And again, this is in a great measure influenced by the nature of the situation upon which the trees may be growing. If trees growing upon a high and exposed situation are not properly pruned when they are young, they will not admit of much pruning when above fifteen years old; in such a situation the sap of the trees always flows slowly as compared with others in a sheltered spot, and seeing this, pruning ought to be avoided in such a situation when the trees are about ten years old. Trees growing in a sheltered situation are generally in a vigorous state of growth under thirty years of age; consequently, under skilful management, pruning may be advantageous to trees in such a situation at any time under that age; but in all cases pruning should be avoided as much as possible as the trees advance above ten years of age. I have seen foresters practise the pruning of fir-trees ; such a practice is, however, the worst imaginable. The value of a fir-tree is greatly deteriorated by its being pruned; where the branch was cut off, the tree generally loses much of its sap, and is very apt to fall into bad health ; and when such a tree is cut for timber, the pruned knots always fall out of the wood, causing holes, and consequently rendering such timber almost of no value.

In all cases pruning operations arc seldom found necessary to any considerable extent, where the plantations are attended to in the way of properly thinning them. When hard-wood trees are grown pretty close to one another, and particularly with a proportion of firs to nurse and draw them up rather tall than otherwise, we always find the most perfect and sound timber trees; therefore it is from this circumstance that many foresters have maintained that pruning should not be practised at all, and such a state of management is unquestionably the best. But how can this be maintained in all cases? I have known many plantations wherein firs and hard wood were planted originally, but in consequence of the firs having died out, the hard-wood trees were left alone upon the ground at a pretty wide distance from one another, and in this case they spread themselves widely to branches; consequently, in order to check such a tendency, pruning was absolutely necessary, and this I have frequently done myself, and found its effect most beneficial. Hence many foresters, from having only such sort of plantations to deal with, and not having experienced the effects of a more healthy state of things, have recommended pruning as necessary in all cases. And this brings me to say in conclusion upon this head, that a forester, in order to be so profitably, should be able to judge for himself how far pruning is advisable in one case and not so in another; he must take into consideration the situation the trees are growing upon—and if it be a high one he should prune very little indeed, and if a low situation he may use the knife more freely. If the plantation to be pruned has been attended to formerly, there will be very little difficulty in putting it into proper order; but if it has been neglected, great caution must be exercised in order not to expose the trees suddenly by taking off too many branches at once. If the plantation he a young one, the trees may be made to improve although they may have been previously neglected; but if an old one, the chances of improvement by pruning are small.


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