Conservation Seedling Program - Planting


There are a number of methods and tools used to plant seedlings. Your method of planting is for you to decide, but be sure to gently remove seedlings from containers before planting. The following are some planting guidelines:


Bare root seedlings are seedlings, which have been grown in an open field nursery. They are lifted in the late winter while still in dormancy. The soil is removed from the root system - hence the term "bare root seedling." The seedlings are then bundled in lots of 25, wrapped in a water retentive medium and stored in coolers at temperatures between 34 degrees F and 38 degrees (F). Storing the seedlings keeps them from breaking dormancy before planting. After shipment of the seedlings is made to the customer it is important to plant the seedlings immediately. If it becomes necessary to store the seedlings, place them in a cooler that will maintain a minimum temperature of 34 degrees (F) and a maximum temperature of 44 degrees (F). Do not leave them in the cooler more than 72 hours after receiving them. When you are ready to plant them place them in a bucket of water and plant them straight out of the bucket. Do not leave the roots of the seedlings exposed to the sunlight. If the roots dry out the seedling will die. 


The soil you are using should be moist.  The root system of containerized and bare root seedlings need contact with moist soil to promote quick adaptation to the planting site.


When planting containerized seedlings you must first dig a hole as deep as the container holding the root system. Then take the seedling out of the tube it was grown in. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU PLANT THE SEEDLING WITH THE SEEDLING STILL IN THE CONTAINER. Knead the seedling and gently tug the seedling out of the tube. If the seedling doesn't want to come out, turn the container upside down and gently tap it against a solid object. When you have removed the seedling, plant it in the hole only as deep as it was growing in the container. Bareroot seedling should be planted up to the top of the root collar


Bring loose, moist soil in around the root system while holding the seedling upright at the correct depth. When the hole is filled, press firmly to pack the soil. Do not over pack the soil! Water and place a layer of loose soil or mulch material around the seedling to conserve moisture. Using wood chips or bark as mulch will retain moisture and greatly minimize weeds growing in and around the seedling.


The right spacing is important. Seedlings are small so there is a tendency to plant them too close together. Shrubs can be planted 3 - 6 feet apart in windbreaks, small trees at 5 - 8 feet, and large trees 8 to 18 feet. Spacing between windbreak rows is typically 12 to 20 feet, but should be spaced for mowing and cultivation equipment width plus 4 feet. Christmas trees are normally planted on 5 x 5 ft. spacing. See "Guidelines for Windbreaks in New Mexico" on our web page under "Other info", our "Reforestation Guidelines" pamphlet, or our "Growing and Marketing Christmas Trees in New Mexico" pamphlet.


The first 3 to 4 years after planting are very important. The number one cause in loss of growth and mortality is poor weed control. The planting should be clean cultivated for as long as the cultivation equipment can work between plants and rows. A mulch or weed barrier can be used in place of cultivation. It is initially more expensive, but in the long run is more economical.


Water or irrigate the planting in the early morning, late afternoon, or early evening every 3 to 5 days depending on the type of soils you have. Water a little more often in sandier soils with a little less water, and water a little less often in clay soils with a little more water. Do not over water! Sometimes, over-watering will cause mortality.


If you're planting is near livestock, wildlife, and pets ask your local forester or extension agent for protection tips. There are protective devices called " Tree Shelters" you can purchase through a Forestry Supply catalog.


Replace windbreak trees that die in the first 3 years. Usually, very few plants are lost after 3 years.


If you need further information concerning where, when, and how to plant your seedlings, contact your local EMNRD Forestry Division Office.

Santa Fe Main Office
1220 S. St. Francis Drive
Santa Fe, NM 87505
(505) 476-3325

Carol Bada
Conservation Seedling Program Coordinator

(505) 476-3334

District 1

HC 75, Box 100
Chama, NM 87520
(575) 588-7831
District 2

P.O. Box 5
Ute Park, NM 87749
(575) 376-2204
District 3

HC 32, Box 2 1701 Enterprise
Socorro, NM 87801
(575) 835-9359
District 4

HC 33, Box 109 #4
Las Vegas, NM 87701
(505) 425-7472
District 5

P.O. Box 277
Capitan, NM 88316
(575) 354-2231
District 6

5105 Santa Fe Hills Blvd NE
Rio Rancho, NM 87144
(505) 867-2334

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