The Atlanta area is in a region of the country referred to as the Piedmont, a type of environment remarkable for its forests. One of the more interesting aspects about the Piedmont is the ability for the forest to regenerate on land that has been clear cut or maintained as lawn in a relatively short period of time. This tendency to reforest quickly is due mainly to the type of soil, rainfall and variety of native plants present in the Piedmont. The land instinctively wants to become a forest and is constantly fighting the manicured landscape. This works in the favor of property owners, who can benefit from a practice known as reforestation, which can save on maintenance costs, provide a self-sustaining buffer, and attract tenants and customers.
What is Reforestation? Reforestation is planting trees very close together from 6’ to 8’ on center. Note that the spacing will vary depending on budget and site constraints. Trees can be planted on a grid or randomly planted. Trees are typically installed small with sizes ranging from liners to 7 gallons, but larger trees may be used to supplement as well. This area is then essentially left alone to let reforestation proceed with additional seedlings that naturally sprout up within the Piedmont. Reforestation is generally just jump starting the forest process.
As a property owner, how does reforestation benefit my development?
Reduces maintenance costs. Reforestation can provide savings on maintenance costs. Very little maintenance is required for reforestation, with the exception of the occasional invasive removal. Compare this to a typical manicured landscape where the mowing of lawn, hedging of shrubs, trimming of trees, etc. takes a large amount of time and expense in upkeep. There are no maintenance costs for fertilization with a forest, and insect control will typically be unnecessary. Also, since a forest is self-mulching with pine needles and leaves, there is no need for annual installation of mulch. Just consider the amount of maintenance for a manicured landscape on a 3:1 slope compared to that same slope utilizing reforestation.
Provides a self-sustaining, natural buffer. A reforested buffer offers a dense self-sustaining barrier that will provide its own mulch and environment for providing additional tree seedlings.
Attracts tenants and customers. Reforestation can attract tenants and clients by making the development more attractive with the plant diversity of a forest, the added wildlife it brings to a site, and the benefit of shade if the reforestation is located near a parking lot, trail or other hardscape.
What kind of effort are we talking about for a reforestation project? Tilling and soil preparation are desirable to give the trees a good start. Adding soil amenities to the tilling process is also beneficial to the initial planting, as well incorporating mycorrhizal fungi as an added boost to getting the trees a good growth spurt. Finally, a heavy application of mulch is used to help preserve moisture for the trees and deter weed growth. In high traffic areas, barriers such as low fencing, roping and stakes or other blockades may be installed to deter vandalism and compaction to soil by the public. This may pertain more to parks, especially near playgrounds and sports fields, than to commercial or residential sites.
What are the ideal applications for reforestation? Landscape areas adjacent to parking lots, or even landscape areas through parking, are ideal for reforestation because it provides shade for cars and pedestrians. Steep hillsides are another prime area for reforestation. Traditional landscaping on a 2:1 or 3:1 slope adds greatly to maintenance requirements due to effort. Also, on slope greater than 3:1, lawn cannot be mowed and more plant material is required to cover this area of the site, which means more costs upfront and from a maintenance standpoint. Reforestation paired with disking and tilling also greatly reduces erosion during and after construction. The rill created during construction with disking on slopes helps to trap and hold water – another benefit of reforestation. Buffers between sites, adjacent wetlands or streams are also ideal locations for reforestation.
Foresite Group has completed a number of reforestation projects ranging from public parks to commercial, industrial and residential developments. Please contact Jason Weckerly at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
About Jason Weckerly
Jason Weckerly leads Foresite Group’s Landscape Architecture Practice Area nationwide. As a Landscape Architect, Jason has always been interested in how an existing site can cohesively blend with the proposed program. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Design from Arizona State University and has been with Foresite Group since 2011. With more than 25 years of experience, Jason has a special interest in in the sustainability of projects well after the contractor has left the site, as well an aesthetic approach of less is more.