Direct seeding

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As autumn turns into winter, it is becoming more and more difficult to dig holes – the soil is either frozen or heavy and sticky. What do we do then with the Seed It Forward motto about planting anywhere and anytime?

Fortunately, there is a simple and elegant solution for that: direct seeding.

According to the definition*, direct seeding (or direct sowing) consists of sowing seeds directly onto a seedbed in the final growing position for the woodland.

On the one hand, this method presents a series of disadvantages:

  • The seeds sown, and especially young seedlings are more sensitive to climate factors (low or high temperatures, early or late frosts, torrential rains, thick layer of snowm droughts, strong winds, etc.), to the presence of weeds, to the fertility of soil and level of moisture in it, as well as other negative factors; and it is difficult to protect them.
  • The resultant seedlings require more care and for a longer time, but particularly in the first years of life, compared to the saplings that were transplanted from the nursery. Thus, the costs of woodland creation through direct seeding are much higher.
  • A much larger quantity of seeds has to be used in order to achieve optimal woodland density*.

Due to these reasons, or some other ones, the method of direct seeding isn’t very popular in our region.

However, we’d like to bring your attention to the fact that direct seeding represents the essential way of plants reproduction in nature. If not for grazing, wild fires and other limiting factors, all free territory would be now covered with trees and bushes.

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Even forest engineers admit that direct seeding has quite a number of important advantages:

  • The resultant seedlings grow on their definitive place from the very beginning, without risking damage while being dug up and replanted. This is significant, because root injuries, deformations or infections are some of the most common reasons for low rates of trees survival or impaired growth.
  • The costs are still lower compared to the ones associated with production of seedlings in nursery and transplanting works.
  • The technology of direct seeding is simpler than usual “planting”.
  • Direct seeding can be mechanized easier than regular tree-planting.
  • The productivity of direct seeding is superior to the manual tree-planting, regardless of method, so the number of people involved is also lower.
  • Through direct sowing, it is possible to grow trees and bushes on scree / skeletal soils, where otherwise trees could be planted only with protected roots or by using “soil loans”. Of course, it is much easier and cheaper than the latter option*.

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And all those advantages – with the exception of mechanization – fit perfectly to the conditions that we have in Bubuieci, on the former landfill:

  • Irregular thickness of soul layer; many rocks and pieces of trash on various depth, hindering or making it impossible to dig holes.
  • Irregular relief, which also makes planting a challenge – especially on the slopes that are in a strong need of fortification.
  • Low after-transplanting survival rate of the species that we are interested in – for example, oaks.
  • The fact that nurseries lack many species of bushes and trees that we consider best for revitalization of degraded lands (resilient & resistant to human and animal pressure) – elm, Russian olive, etc.
  • The size of the territory – think of the number of trees we’d need to transplant there, and the effort it’d require.
  • The fact that we’d like to really grow and plant trees, not just to transplant them from some other place (nurseries, private gardens, etc.).

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According to forestry practices, direct seeding is done through the followning methods: “nests”, rows or by scattering.

In Bubuieci, it is not very feasible to plant in rows, due to challenging relief. However, there is a lot of space and varied conditions for experimenting with the other two methods.

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Scattering fresh elm seeds, April 2016.
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December 2016 – exploring the slope and “the hundred of hills” of trash.
In good spots we plant acorns of red oak, pedunculate oak and sessile oak.
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Less favorable places – where trash and rocks dominate – are for plums, apricots and ash.
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Or experimental combinations.
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Generous mulching with leaves – to compensate the not-so-favorable conditions, to increase germination, survival and growth chances… and to know, in spring and summer, where to expect new green friends from.
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And dog rose seeds – everywhere.

If it were possible that on this territory some trees and bushes have already appeared and grow, year after year – Russian olives, elms, walnuts, apricots, blackberries, dog rose, etc. – it is almost without doubt that in some years they will have a good young company.
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*Palaghianu C., “Afforestation. Împăduriri. Electronic course support” (in Romanian) – http://www.silvic.usv.ro/cursuri/impaduriri.pdf

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