plots vs. trees battle


Well-Known Member
Every year I internally battle the plots vs. planting trees.

I am in the foothills of Appalachia. Not a lot of Ag around, damn near none. I am doing this all on 60+ acres. Mostly wooded with 4 plots ranging in sizes form 1/8th to 2 acres.

I am thinking about planting apple trees on the edges of my larger plots. I also have a small orchard in the yard.

I also have been thinking about planting a few oaks/chesnuts through the center of my bigger plots. My fear is in the future I might regret this decision.

What are your all thoughts?
I think planting larger trees in plots will be something you would regret.
  • Leaves falling at a bad time
  • Tree root damage from working plots
  • Trees sucking moisture and nutrients from plots
  • Unwanted shading of plots
  • Spray drift affecting either
  • Hanging equipment on tree cages
A few small scattered trees isn't likely to be a big issue. Good luck.
I have a few chestnut & Apple trees in my perennial clover plots. I may add a few sawtooth as well - but I avoid "large" trees in plots and any trees in annual plots where I work the soil.
I would avoid the center of the plot. I would put them on the north end of the plot - that way they don't shade the plot.

Second choice - I would space them on the east border of the plot. Just my 2 cents ...
I always thought that to and now I have trees all over my plots.My 1/4 acre plot has 2 bur oaks planted in the middle and my 3 acre plot has oaks,pears,apples,crabapples,and it fixing to get 15 more pear and crabapple this spring.I also planted 2 strips of NWSG about 20ft wide through the middle
I wouldn't put them in your plots, unless they won't be intrusive. Native hit it on the head, I'd just add sunlight as an extra factor to consider. It'd be far easier to make some space outside your food plots with a chainsaw and plant trees among the stumps and brush. I'd save your food plot spots for food plots given how hard it can be to make new food plot space.

I've got trees growing in my food plots that were there before me. I want to keep them in the hopes i get bumper crops of acorns off them. I also want to use every foot of plot area under them. So those large oaks are going to get spray and pray clover planted around them so their root zone only sees a mower go over the top of them.
I will also add that focus on planting trees ASAP - I drug my feet on doing that and thought "I'll get to it next year" and to be honest it simply gets put off. If I had planted my trees when I first got started I would have productive trees now. Plots are easy and get a lot of attention, but the long term solution is mast, browse and cover and that all come from shrubs and trees. That has to be one of my biggest habitat regrets - putting off planting trees.
Trees really suck the moisture and nutrients up...

Sawtooths in clover.


Oak in clover and WR...


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I agree with whats been said, expand the plots on all sides if possible, plant trees that will grow larger on your north side, and plant trees now and every year. Don't over do it just keep at it. Some years newly planted trees don't do so well and others they all survive--better to go steady each year.
In our area we can have a logger come in and clear cut every single tree down to the ground even if they are all junk trees. The good trees if any are sold as saw timber and the rest is chipped and sold for generating electricity at two different regenerating plants in the area.

All of my plot and field edges are scheduled for that next summer weather permitting. All that will be left will be mast trees and a few sections of cover here and there around the fields. It will be open at first but will grow into brush quickly or mast trees if I plant them. We had one complete edge cut along one AG field this year; within five weeks the deer were on the new poplar sprouts as they came up. Wood chipping is maybe not a viable financial endeavor as a way to make electricity so I'm planning to get it all done at once thinking it is too good of a deal to miss out on as it may not last.

To prepare for planting plant trees in this now would just take a little roundup in sections other than poplar regrowth.
I think diversity is the benefit. Clover, rye or any other cover crop are good but the wildlife needs variety. Deer are browser and a few trees well placed will give them the choice.

Kubota's photo shows the tradeoff on moisture. I like chicory with the clover because of a deep tap root.

Now I will say - there is more than one way to be successful - so if you need a tree free food plot, more power to you.

In my approach, I will have some well placed trees to give the animals some extra choices. ;)

I guess that makes me a tree guy.
I look for diversity. If you have a largely timber tract, with little opening, I would try and preserve the open ground. You could probably clear some less-valuable trees somewhere to plant a chosen tree.
I've not done any big trees in my food plots, but have done fruit trees in some plots, none in others,however as they grow I plan to switch fhe plot to fruit trees and Durana clover with chestnuts on the outside edges, then it leads into a 1.5 acre soybean field.
With small plots like mine i just figure i need all the open space for fall/winter greens. I do have some small apple trees in them, but just a few. If you really want to add those mast trees, i would open up forest canopy and put them there. And that means a considerable space carved out of the timber.
But there is no template. Ive seen some good looking plots with some large oaks in them. Dry years will really hurt your plot growth, like Kubotas pics show.