Monday, November 28, 2011

Cedar Maintenance

Most of the work I do to maintain prairies and barrens at Blue Jay Barrens revolves around controlling the growth of Eastern Red Cedars on the property. Early on in my management efforts I removed thousands of medium sized cedars that threatened to eliminate the prairie vegetation. The fields were opened to the sunlight and the threat from large cedars was minimized. Now I deal with the constant influx of young cedars into the prairie fields.

Birds eat cedar berries and then pass the seeds out with their droppings. The seeds are quick to sprout and produce new trees. Fortunately, most of the seedlings cannot compete with the plants in the field and they soon die. There are still plenty of survivors left. I like to go through the fields and cut the little cedars when they’re about a foot tall. At that size, the cut cedar quickly decomposes and disappears.

When small cedars are cut by the mower, they rapidly regrow into a tight mass of branches. It works best to cut the small cedars the year before I mow the field, but the weather doesn’t always cooperate with that plan. The grass and other plants are extra tall and lush this year because of the excessive amounts of rain we had during the growing season. Trying to do cedar maintenance this winter would be a waste of time because of the difficulty in finding the cedars in the tall grass.

It’s easy to see the cedars in the more open areas of the field. This density of cedars is not typical of the entire field, but you can usually figure that conditions in the open areas mirror what’s in the tall grass. If you’re going to walk the field cutting cedars, it just makes sense to do the work when you have the best chance of seeing all of the cedars.

Cedars in the short grass fields are much easier to deal with. Regardless of growing conditions, it’s always easy to see the trees.

The soil conditions that keep the tall grass from becoming established, also keep the cedars from growing very rapidly. It’s been ten years since cedar maintenance has been completed in this area. The tough conditions make it hard for the cedars to get established. I’ll probably do my cedar maintenance in the short grass fields this winter. Fortunately, there’s never any shortage of work to be done.


  1. The birds bring us plenty of those little cedars here in the city, too.

  2. Hi Lois. If you let the little cedars grow in your lawn, the mower will create some neat bonsai trees in just a few years. I've got a few in my yard that have gotten quite wide, but are only noticeable in late winter after the snows have mashed down the surrounding grass.