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Tree lovers should explore the Kentucky seedling program

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Division of Forestry offers millions of tree seedlings each year

By The Staff

Late last winter, a large white bag arrived on the front doorstep of my friend’s home. For weeks, the two of us had waited for the slightly muddied bag to appear and when it did show up we were quite impressed.

Months before, my buddy had caught wind of a seedling program offered by our own Kentucky Division of Forestry, and the bag contained what was soon to become a wind break and privacy screen for his new home’s backyard. For a price that would generally only cover the cost of a single pine tree at a retail nursery, he purchased and had delivered more than 100 white pine seedlings.

Once we completed the project in his yard, we wandered and sprinkled our own farms with pines for days to come and still had trees left over in the giant white bundle. This was my first experience with the Forestry Division’s seedling program and all summer I’ve looked forward to filling out my own order form for this season’s seedling delivery.

Two state-operated nurseries in Marshall and Morgan counties annually supply the millions of 1- and 2-year-old seedlings to homeowners and landowners looking to supplement or decorate their acreage and yards. The young trees began their dormancy period with the first frosts of autumn, and in the coming months workers will begin pulling the seedlings from their bed and placing them in cold storage until the small trees are shipped out across the state after the first of the year.

However, time is of the essence for those of us wanting to secure some saplings, because certain kinds of trees quickly sell out each year long before deliveries start. Now’s the time for interested individuals to visit www.forestry.ky.gov or call (800) 866-0555 to place their orders before the pickings become slim. As stated earlier, the prices are extremely reasonable. Bundles of 10 trees average around $30 delivered, and large bundles of 100-plus trees cost around $50 after shipping costs. Several dozen varieties of trees are available - dogwoods, ash, birch, hickory and black cherry just to name a few. To keep costs down while ensuring a wide assortment of wildlife friendly trees, a handful of friends and I are splitting several 100-tree bags of persimmon, nuttall oak and sawtooth oak to plant around our hunting properties.

Individually we will all have plenty of “gamey” trees with very little invested in the venture, aside from a bit of legwork during a portion of the calendar when cabin fever is at its absolute worst. In the wake of January’s ice storm, I suspect the seedling program will benefit Kentucky’s woodlands now more than ever because of the massive destruction some counties sustained once the weather broke.

While nature generally can take care of itself when given the proper time, we can certainly find reason to lend a helping hand in this aftermath to give our forests a head start on the road to recovery.

Additionally, it is also beneficial to have some genetic diversity among our native trees. Even if you already boast some good white oaks or yellow poplars on the back 40, introducing some “new blood,” so to speak, will only help ensure better quality in the long run.

Check out the options for Kentucky Division of Forestry Seedling Program, get together with some friends or neighbors and take a step to improve one of our finest natural resources.

Geordon T. Howell is outdoors columnist for the Daily News. He may be reached by e-mailing highbrasshowell@yahoo.com.