clearing a bit of woodland

mattkalmanMarch 11, 2013

i recently purchased over twenty acres of woodlands in upstate new york. i have spent the past year exploring the young forest, marking out paths and getting a lay of the land. i plan on being a responsible steward to my woods and making sure everything stays healthy. our house is on a little manicured lawn that runs fairly close to the woods.
what i want to do is simple. i want to expand our yard around fifty to one hundred feet into the woods. i want to keep the large trees and clear out everything else. remarkably it is already pretty clear. there are very few shrubs and around five saplings for every large tree. the floor is covered with leaves and a few fallen branches.
i was wondering if i could remove the leaves (and yes, i know the benefits of leaves on a woodland floor), the small sapling and fallen limbs and create more of a park-like setting between my woods and my lawn.
and, of course, what the best, safest, most responsible way to do this is.
thanks.

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butterfly4u

Matt,
Responsible way to do that? Well, good luck.
You probably have 4 feet of leaves without even realizing it.
That's why nothing is growing there. LOL!
What do you want to plant there after you get rid of all the tons of leaves? Grass?
The work is tremendous.
Unfortunately for me I have tons of willow oak in my woods, I have gorgeous 80 ft pines, bu the willow oak travels underground, it's awful.
I have cleared a small area behind our home out, and the bramble is still lying there, wih all those leaves. It's all rotting i guess. Every year new things just grow up around it.
Last year I saw 2 very big snakes that scared me, so now I try not to get too close to some of the thick stuff.
I would like to clear that off, leave the beautiful pines, mabey put a bench out there, someday when I get brave again and put the snakes out of my mind.....

    Bookmark   March 13, 2013 at 11:47PM
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Nick4Natives(5b)

Your idea will work, but expect to remove the leaves from this area of a yearly basis in order to have grasses thriving there. I would remove the saplings and brush with a saw to the ground, apply an herbicide to the outer ring of the cut stump of each so that they will not grow back, and then remove all of the leaves. As for plants/grass, you have options. Prairie Nursery sells a No-Mow grass that does well in shaded areas, but does require leaf removal. There are sedges that do well in this setting too, such as Pennsylvania sedge. It is difficult to grow from seed, but does spread naturally if given time. Otherwise, any shade tolerant grass seed mix should do fine. You may need to check the soil's pH before planting since it could be acidic.

Here is a link that might be useful: Improved Ecosystems

    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 12:59AM
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woods_man(6b MO)

Or you could leave the woodland look, but clear the brush and saplings, replacing them with shade-tolerant flowering shrubs or some ornamental understory trees, leaving the leaves where they lay.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2013 at 12:30PM
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mosswitch

Leaves will rot. You may think a couple of feet is there, but I found that a spot where I used to dump fall leaves (for about 10 years), when I wanted to plant hostas in there, the leaves were only a few inches thick and the soil was wonderful. Over the years I probably dumped 10' of leaves in there, couple feet at a time. They turn to that wonderful, woodsy soil that grows beautful wildflowers.

I cleaned out a small patch of woods over a space of 15 years or so, a little at a time, cutting out catbriar, wild blackberries, all kinds of saplings and a thick growth of honeysuckle. I hauled away the brush, cleaned out rusty car parts, glass, and broken skeet targets, and planted wildflowers, ferns, hostas, dogwoods, Japanese maples, redbuds, viburnums, and lots of other shade grden plants. I made paths, built brush-wood and gabion fences, stacked a brush pile for the wild critters, a small pond in the hole where a big tree fell, a dry creek; and I'm still working on it!

It isn't an easy job or one you can do in a year or so, but I love my little woods now!

Sandy

    Bookmark   April 2, 2013 at 2:38PM
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mattkalman

thanks for the replies.
i have begun the clearing process and it truly is a beast. two whole weekends devoted to clearing everything but the larger trees and i have a measly 400 square feet to show for it. i am joking of course, but it is definitely exhausting. fun, but exhausting. now that spring has sprung i am seeing more and more grasses (maybe sage) spring up from under the removed leaves. hopefully they will someday cover the entire area. i am also seeing leaves sticking out of the ground. no twig, no branch, just a single leaf sticking up. it is very odd, something i have never seen before, but i am assuming that they are leaves of the viney roots that lay just under the cleared ground.

and of course, the hardest part is removing the tree stumps. who would have though that a 5 inch diameter sapling would be so difficult.

i will let you know what happens. and if anyone else has any tips, let me know.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 3:49PM
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s8us89ds

Is sure is pretty to have a park-like shady area with no underbrush. But when those canopy trees eventually die (and they eventually will), there will be nothing left but a grassy field. And it will take someone decades and decades to try to re-grow that canopy. There's a reason that tall trees keep smaller siblings by their side. When it's time for the tall ones to go, there's something ready to take their place. Without those smaller siblings, a forest is on a long, slow death march.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 8:09PM
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