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Selecting Tools for Hand Planting

Hand planting is the most common method of reforestation planting. In a typical planting sequence, personnel select microsites to take advantage of natural shelter and favorable soil conditions. Various implements are used to prepare a scalp (removing ground cover) and to prepare a suitable hole for the seedling. The seedling is carefully placed in the hole and soil is packed around its roots. Forest litter may be placed around the planting spot to retain moisture.

[photo] A selection of hand planting toolsBareroot or container seedlings are carried into the field and carefully planted using one or more handtools, such as hoes, shovels, planting bars, dibbles, or augers. The choice of tools is influenced by factors such as soil characteristics, brush, slash and duff, expected precipitation (in dry areas, a moisture catch basin should be constructed), the type of seedling, and operator preferences.

Hand planting is labor intensive and costs more than mechanical planting. However, on sites with steep slopes, shallow soils, rough terrain, or many obstacles, the flexibility of hand planting makes it more effective than mechanical planting. Although production rates have traditionally been used to evaluate various planting techniques, the number of seedlings surviving is now being considered during evaluation rather then the number of seedlings planted. An operator planting by hand can make choices that increase the likelihood that seedlings will survive.

The four broad categories of hand-held planting tools are:

Each of these tools has been used successfully, although each tool has an advantage on specific sites under certain conditions. The optimum tool varies with the type of ground and kind of stock to be planted, and with the experience of the planting crews. Select a tool recognizing that the primary objective is to open a planting hole large enough, deep enough, and oriented such that the seedling's roots can be aligned for good tree establishment.

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