Now that you’ve got your seedlings planted, some simple periodic maintenance will help them grow into healthy, stormwater-sequestering trees:
Late Winter (February-March): Check your tree shelters, stakes, and nets. Bring along a mallet to straighten and re-secure wobbly or leaning stakes. Replace any damaged stakes. If the bottom edge of your shelters have lifted out of the ground, place a board over the top of the shelter and give it a few taps with the mallet to push the bottom edge of the shelter into the ground—this will help discourage voles from damaging your seedling. Check for wasp nests that may have formed inside the shelters; remove them now, before wasps become active in warmer weather—wasp nests attract large mammals that will destroy the shelters (and trees) to get at the nests. Finally, replace damaged or missing nets—these are important for keeping birds from getting trapped inside the shelters. You can remove the nets when your seedlings grow tall enough to touch them.
When your tree trunks reach 2.5 to 3 inches in diameter at the top of the shelter, it’s time to remove the shelter. Simply cut the shelter from top to bottom with a pair of shears and pull it off. Be sure to gather up all the plastic pieces of your shelter and any zip ties that may be lying around and dispose of them properly. You can leave the tree stake in place, but be sure to remove it before the tree’s growth entraps it. If you’d like to keep your seedlings protected in their shelters for a little while longer, you can use a knife or shears to split the bottom or top portion of the tube if it’s in contact with the growing tree’s trunk or branches—but keep an eye on your growing seedling and remove the shelter as soon as the tree grows large enough to risk constriction.
Early Spring (March-April): Apply A2 stone in a 2-foot-diameter circle around each of your seedling shelters. Alternatively, you can apply mulch or herbicide in a 3-foot-diameter circle around each shelter. This mulched area around each of your seedlings will discourage competition from weeds and help protect your seedlings from rodents. Note: If you opt to apply an herbicide around any seedlings planted near a stream or other waterway, be sure to use a product approved for use near water (such as Rodeo).
Late Spring (May and June): Remove any weeds or invasive plants growing in or near your seedling shelters.
Summer to Fall (August-October): Re-apply stone, mulch, or herbicide around your seedlings to help protect them from rodents over the winter.
Year-Round: Check on your seedlings periodically to make sure their shelters and stakes are intact and that no weeds are growing nearby.
Want to know more? Here are some excellent resources for buffer planting and maintenance: