Friday, February 1, 2013

Land Management

When I walk through pines or hemlocks, I notice a serious lack of undergrowth. Pines drop such a profusion of needles that almost anything that might try to grow underneath is choked out or left with too little sun. Hemlocks seem to kill what's underneath- maybe with too much shade or maybe through their rhizosphere. So, in places where I want grass to grow or where I would like to encourage any sort of understory to help fight erosion, I am eliminating pines and hemlocks and pretty much any evergreen.

A friend recently questioned this line of reasoning with the argument that trees themselves fight erosion. I cannot argue against that. However, there are places, like here-

where I see other problems. Snow did not collect here so the ground did not get that gentle blanket. Water did not even penetrate the needles that collected here. We had many good reasons for cutting down these trees, but a benefit I did not predict was this. It has taken two summers for grass to establish, but this winter, the snow collects here as well as anywhere. And that little drop off is definitely eroding less as daisies, grass, briars, daylilies, etc. grow on it.

This hill also had no grass and an abundance of pine and fir. The yard above was slowly working its way downhill. Again, we cut down the trees and stayed off the hill. Grass grew. Now, the dirt stays put even in thaws like we're having now because there's grass to catch snow and no dense foliage to keep it from collecting. Come spring, when everything really thaws, the roots of the grass will also keep the thawing mud in place.

Cutting down trees can certainly lead to erosion, but sometimes, it's actually a better choice.


  1. I have always heard that the pine needles impact the acidity of the soil and keep things from growing. I googled it before I made that comment and saw a couple of articles that said the acidity was myth.

  2. The soil was already good for pine trees, already acidic, I'm sure before the pine trees grew. However, plants create in their root zone as pleasing an environment as they can. The bacteria and fungi that act as the plants' stomachs can alter pH significantly.

    I'm glad you stopped in!