planting spruce in woods


5 year old buck +
Does anyone have any experiences planting spruce in deciduous woods? I'm looking to create some better bedding areas in SE MN in some areas in the middle of my woods that are currently filled with boxelder, elm and buckthorn. I've been working to cut down these junk trees and I think having a couple of 1/2 acre conifer plots would be great future bedding areas. But I'm a little concerned about how the young conifers will do when they're competing against black raspberries, weeds and small seedlings. I can clear some brush around these trees in the winter, but basically they'll be on their own from the planting date until after the deer season is over. I planted a lot of white spruce in WI that are doing well along field edges that were formerly ag fields, but it took several years for them to grow a couple feet in areas with minimal woody competition. I'm concerned that seedlings planted in the woods will be killed off the first year by berry bushes and random seedlings. Anyone have any experience planting spruce trees in areas like this?

I'll probably buy 50 trees from the county either way just to see how they do, but I also know I can pick up 500 white spruce transplants from the MN state nursery for $268 versus the $100 from the county for 50 trees. I know the trees from the county are generally larger so I think they will fare better against competition than the DNR trees, but I'm wondering how the white spruce will fare against weeds growing in the woods in areas with no larger tree canopies above them. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks-
You don't have much to lose other than a few bucks a tree if it don't work. I am doing some this spring hoping for the best as well!
I think it will work

Clear an area so there is plenty of sun

We are going to do the same thing on my friends woods, but we are using plugs.

Larger spruce plugs
I agree that it will be worth a shot. All canopy trees will be gone, but I also know that once the sun hits the ground the weeds, shrubs and other young trees will grow like crazy and I don't have any first hand knowledge of how white spruce will do in those situations. As long as they're not choked out the first year I think I'll be OK, but that's just a guess. I think that for the long term a nice spruce thicket will be a great way to keep a lot of deer bedded on my land. Right now a lot of the deer bed on a neighbor's property where no hunting is allowed, but I know situations like that can change dramatically so I really would like a long term bedding area on my land and a couple spruce thickets would be good.

Now that 2 people said it's worth a shot I just need to decide between 50 trees for $100 and 500 trees for $268 and I think I know the answer. My dad is my tree planting partner and he is typically less than enthusiastic when I tell him of my tree planting plans since I have been known to go a little overboard when I order trees from the DNR. But since the prior thousands of trees we plant look great 7 years later I think he'll reluctantly agree to my plan. Now that I've talked myself into the 500 tree order I'll just need to think about what else I should buy from the DNR since I can pick up additional trees in 100 order sizes once I meet the 500 tree minimum. I have some former pasture areas that could probably use 100 plums and maybe some other shrubs.

Any advice regarding spruce or general planting for bedding areas would be appreciated.
You could get 500 from Itasca for $135+ tax and shipping. It'll speed up your planting, and in my opinion survival. I can't speak to competition yet, we put in our first few hundred last spring.
Are the trees from Itasca plugs? I've never planted plugs before, but we've planted thousands of the bare rootstocks from the MN and WI dnr and they've done pretty well. But it can be quite a chore planting high numbers of the bare root transplants with a dibble bar. I know it will probably take longer to plant 500 trees in the woods filled with downed trees than it would to plant three times that many in open fields.

The MN DNR also has some improved seedlings that are in the price range you mentioned, but I'm thinking the larger transplants may do better against competing weeds/trees, but that's just a rough guess. We planted thousands and thousands of the bare root seedlings with a dibble bar along field edges and they've done really well but even in those areas it seems that they just grow a few inches for the first few years and don't really start taking off until the 4th or 5th year.

What kind of trees did you guys plant for your bedding areas? I think the white spruce will be best since they won't be browsed by deer and they may be able to survive better under weeds and competing seedlings than other conifers.
2 years ago I planted over 1K in a clear cut. I did no prep. These were bare root and I used root gel. Spite the drought I had over 95% survival rate. I stayed out of the area untill this fall and they are doing well but compeating with everything else that is coming up. I went with Norway spruce as deer will not brouse them (so I am told).
They are plugs, and they are darn impressive for 25 cents. You can do multiple per minute with plugs. Here's what mine looked like this spring.
They were 12-16" tall. That is a typical water bottle for size scale.

A good video showing how fast these plugs go in... Skip to about the 4:20 mark to see how quickly these plugs go in.
Itasca catalog/website has a sale for some remaining stock at about a nickle off per tree. i THINK THERE ARE SOME 41 WHITE SPRUCE LEFT.
I have about 600 black hills spruce, white spruce, and balsam fir coming from them. These will be planted along the edges of swamps for travel lanes and in some pockets in an 8 year old clearcut for bedding areas. I will plant these in the areas dominated by raspberry and blackberry.

All of the spruce that I have planted in the past were bare root and they just sit still for a few years. I have planted some in a garden situation and moved them with root ball alter and they still stall out. I did use some of the improved strain from the DNR and they did well.

I once ordered larger Norway spruce, bare root transplants and felt they stalled out more than the smaller trees. Probably related to root/top ratio and my light soils.

I plan on releasing my spruce at least twice when they are planted along the edges of a swamp.
I have planted bare root spruce for the past ten years and did plugs last year. The first couple years after planting they are slow to grow. I would try and knock down some of the competition so they would get some sun but not enough to completely bake them. After a while they really take off. One other thing I noticed with the plugs, the taller they were in the container the harder time I had making sure they stayed upright. I bought 4a plugs, some of which probably pushed 16" tall with the special tool for planting. I know I had them planted the correct depth but the taller ones are top heavy. The norways I bought were considerably shorter and stayed upright all summer. I did 500 plugs and that was still a lot of work, but they went in very good.
To each is own. If you like bare root go with bare root. Try some plugs though, you might get hooked on the ease of planting and the survival. My experience is that plugs start out a little slower than bare root as far as growth, but they catch up and are about even in 10 years. The survival is much higher. I actually look forward to planting plugs, compared to be not so fired up to plant bare root.

A mix of both might be nice too.
I've planted lots of spruce in deciduous woods over 20 yrs. In my experience, the Norways did better than whites in areas that were cut down or seriously thinned. The whites are supposed to do better than Norways in partial shade, but the opposite was true for me at camp in N. Central Pa. The woods are comprised of oaks, hickories, maples, birch, white pine, a few hop-hornbeam, and a few hemlocks on the lower north slopes. Our biggest prob. for seedling establishment is ferns. I spray Gly. around the spruce ( not on them )to kill the ferns. As far as other seedlings, briars, etc., I just cut them down w/ weed whacker or spray them as well. The main thing is to keep as much sunlight / light on them.

After planting so many spruce over that time span, I don't look for much growth in the first 2 or maybe 3 yrs. What I've tried and found to work is starting in the 2nd yr., I sprinkle a little 10-10-10 around each spruce seedling. The first 2 - 3 yrs. the seedlings are establishing a good root system. Once they get going, the fertilizer speeds up growth and gets them to pass other competition and be able to survive better - even if other comp. is around them. For me, years 3 thru 7 are when things really get cooking. Once they get established, they even thrive among ferns - which have a thick, gnarly, matted root system. On rocky, thin mountain ground !!!

I don't know what kind of soil you have, but I bring a bed-load of mushroom compost with me to set the seedlings with. The thin mountain ground w/ rocks doesn't allow me to dig or scrape up topsoil. Some of the spruce get tucked into voids / crevices and filled in w/ the mushroom compost. Watered-in, they seem to do O.K. and send out roots thru the rocky, thin ground. I bet you have more / better soil than I do where these are planted. My point is - given a little care - they should do well for you in the deciduous woods. Some of my locations are pretty shady with young tree whips all around, and they still got established. I'd try the fert. trick starting in yr. 2 ( just a light sprinkling of 10-10-10 or 13-13-13 ) to get things moving for you. I use the fert. up to year 7 or so, then stop it because they're generally doing pretty well by then - 6 to 8 ft. tall. As young seedlings, I give them a 2 ft. dia. circle of competition-free growing room. Best of luck with yours!!
We scattered 600 size 4A Norway, White and Black Spruce throughout mostly hardwoods last year. The area was fairly canopied for this growing season by Hemlock or Fir as we call them here. We had almost 100 percent survival rate so far.
We are thinning out those hemlocks as we speek to get some light to the forest floor for next season.
I reported the above duplicate posting to the ADMIN. Technical glitch I guess.