Spacing for a tree farm
Distance for planting walnuts and red oaks to be harvested. June 3, 2003
What is the best spacing to plant red oak and walnut trees? To plant these in the same lot, can I mix every other one - oak and then walnut - or would it be better to plant solid rows? This is just 200 trees, but I plan on planting more each year.
I plant mine with 12' spacing and mix and match. Seems to be working out good so far.
10-12 feet is a decent recommendation, site unseen. I would suggest you call one of your state foresters and discuss the matter with him/her. The forester will be able to suggest proper planting technique, better survival rate and proper species selection.
Close planting in a large plantation will encourage a natural self-pruning process due to shading of lower branches. With only 200 trees to look after, you might be better to space them a little further and spend a little more time manually pruning. If your final goal is timber, you will eventually need to space them approximately 25-30ft.
In the plantings that we have done, I was advised by the consultant to end up with approximately 600 trees (hardwoods) per acre. You can use whatever spacing works for you to achieve this rate. Also, try to plant the species where they will do the best. Look around if you have any woodlots close by. Some species do better on lighter, well-drained soils and some on heavier or wetter soils. A state forester or consultant could help with this information.
Plant your trees on a 12 foot spacing and plant some scotch pine or other Christmas trees on a four foot spacing in between the hardwoods. You can take out the Christmas trees as they get to selling size. This way you can shade out the weeds and get some income at the same time. Keep cattle out of your woodlot! Purdue University Forestry Dept has a free booklet on growing walnut trees in Indiana.
The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).
Comment from contributor J:
As a forester, I get asked your question often. The best answer is to get someone, a state or private forester, to visit the site with you and make some recommendations. You need to consider local conditions like insects, disease, and deer/rabbit depredation, as well as the site. You didn't mention what you were planting the trees in. Is it sod or under other trees? Good site preparation will increase your survival by 50%. Another consideration is how much time you want to spend with your trees. If you plan to spend lots of time with them, plant them further apart (12' to 15'). If you don't have a lot of time, put them close together (8'to 10'). Interplanting species together is a good thing and maybe you want to consider ash and cherry or some other hardwoods. The main thing is to get someone who does tree planting in your area and ask questions and have fun.
Comment from contributor Z:
Plant as close together as you can afford. It is much easier to remove a tree from an area with a high survival rate than to add trees where missing from death. I planted 15,000 walnuts over 3 years in 1993-4-5. Deer, drought and natural death have claimed 75%. I've used tree shelters (3'-4' and 5'), black weed control pads, spray weed control and mowing.
For my area, less maintenance is better. If competition exists, deer can not get to the sapling. Management can wait until the trees are 15' and taller. So many died along the way time spent early on in pruning and weed eating should have been spent in replanting. I now replant every 5' in 10' spaced rows and mow a 6' path only between rows.