I always have a list of maintenance activities that need to be completed. When conditions prohibit me from working on higher priority jobs, I spend time on one of the maintenance list items. Tasks from the maintenance list periodically get shifted to the priority list. One such activity is what I term Cedar Maintenance, meaning that I maintain the open condition of a field by removing young Eastern Red Cedars from the area. It has been ten years since I have conducted Cedar Maintenance in some of the prairie openings. I decided that Cedar Maintenance needed to be brought up-to-date in order to prepare for management activities planned for next year, so over the next few months I will be searching for and removing young cedars from about 25 acres of prairie area.
In some of the harsher areas, cedars have managed to grow only a few inches tall in ten years. This small plant seems to have died back several times during the last few years. Despite its small size and the fact that it doesn’t yet pose a threat to surrounding vegetation, this cedar is a target for removal. While performing Cedar Maintenance, I remove any cedar that is large enough for me to see.
The largest of the encroaching cedars was found in this field. The ridgetop soils are a bit deeper and provide a slightly better growing environment than the extremely shallow soils on the slopes.
My medium sized loppers, now in their 25th year of service, measure 26 inches from end of handle to blade tip. This largest of encroaching cedars topped out at 30 inches. Had I planted this tree as a landscaping specimen ten years ago, I would be terribly disappointed in its rate of growth.
Checking the growth rings on the small cedar makes me think that it is one that I missed cutting ten years ago. The age looks to be closer to 12 or 13 years.
It’s hard to maintain a precise search pattern in large areas, so I use lines of orange lath to break the field into smaller units.
I then use rows of red and blue flags to break the units into manageable search areas. After searching each area, I move the back row of flags forward to form the next area. When I finish with a field, I’ll have seen every square foot of it.
I collect the cut cedars in bushel sized tubs and deposit the cut material on top of old brush piles. Piling the cedars requires slightly more time, but removing the cut cedars allows me to clearly see that I have left no standing cedars in the management area. This brush pile contains the remnants of the cedars removed when the field was first cleared. At one time the height reached ten feet and I needed a short ladder to climb high enough to put more cedars on top. The green branches in the back part of the pile are some medium sized cedars that were cut from the edge of the field. The smaller pile in the foreground is from my current Cedar Maintenance.
This small pile, about two bushels worth, is composed of one Virginia Pine and about 200 small cedars. It represents cedar growth on about one acre of prairie. I spent two hours compiling this collection, with a little of that time spent looking at interesting things discovered in the field.
Cedar Maintenance generally requires that you be looking down most of the time. Discovery of a rather large collection of Autumn Olive leaves caused me to look up.
Emerging near the base of a mature cedar is the trunk of a large Autumn Olive bush.
The Autumn Olive has grown straight up through the crown of the tree. I watch for things like this, but foreign stems hiding inside a cedar are nearly impossible to spot. Since rain was threatening, I marked the invasive shrub with bright orange ribbon, so I could come back on a dry day to cut and spray.
Leafy Autumn Olive branches don’t leave the security of the cedar until they are well above the ground. I take documentary photos each time I find a large Autumn Olive. My hope is to one day be able to show the photo of the last mature Autumn Olive to be found at Blue Jay Barrens.