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University of Minnesota Extension

Walk through your woodlands or windbreaks

Landowners who have woodlands or windbreaks need to walk through these landscapes each year to assess what trees and understory vegetation is growing, what plants are not surviving, and identify any noxious weeds and plants or invasive species that may need to be controlled or eradicated.

A summer and fall walk-through is suggested, but do it after November to identify buckthorn. Over time these landscapes can change quickly due to environmental conditions, disease and insect infestations, and more.

After a walk through your property, you may want to cut down (or have someone cut down) any hazardous trees or trees in decline and develop a plan to control a patch of noxious weeds or invasive species.  You may want to even consider renovating or replanting trees in the woodland or windbreak.  If you have a Silvopasture system, you may be walking your property more often, checking fences and the condition of the understory vegetation, livestock and selected trees you are planning to market someday.

Properly selected and planted trees and shrubs in the landscape can offer multiple benefits to both urban and rural areas. The benefits of trees and shrubs include producing edible fruits or nuts, saving energy (heating and cooling), protection from the wind or snow, increasing property value, protecting soil and water resources, carbon sequestration, and increasing wildlife habitat, providing living screens, and beautifying the land. When selecting trees and shrubs for your landscape, always plant a variety of species to help protect against invasive insect pests or disease pathogens infesting and damaging your plantings.

Minnesota residents must consider planting shade trees other than green ash since emerald ash borer (EAB) was found in the state in 2009. Extension has resources to learn more about EAB and alternative shade trees. You can also read further from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture EAB program.

“The NRCS recognizes the importance of tree plantings as vital components of source water protection and carbon storage and sequestration.”— Callie Bertsch, MN NRCS State Forester

Remember, diversify your landscape, no one species should represent more than 15 percent of your landscape. Make it a family activity to plant trees or shrubs. You can pass on the benefits of trees when you explain them to your children and grandchildren.

Author: Gary J. Wyatt, UMN Extension educator in agroforestry

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