Amy Grotta's Tree Topics

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Serving small woodland owners and managers in the Willamette Valley and northwest Oregon
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It depends

Fri, 11/07/2014 - 1:04pm

Remember those Magic 8 balls where you would ask a question, shake the ball, and get an answer? I wish life were that simple.

Extension agents get a lot of questions. Some say we are notorious for always answering with “well, it depends.” As an Extension agent I’m as guilty as anyone of using “it depends”, and not because I want to dodge your question. Usually there is more than one answer; more information is needed; and ultimately, you are the one who will be able to answer your own question after more a more thorough evaluation. Here is a sampling of inquiries I’ve received by phone, email, or Ask an Expert over the past few weeks, to illustrate this.


“Do you have advice for the most effective strategies for killing blackberries? We want to use only as much herbicide as is really needed.”

a wall of blackberries

It depends!

How large an area needs to be treated? Is it a site prep situation, or are the trees already planted? Is there desirable vegetation intermixed with the blackberries, and if so, how much?

I hope I didn’t frustrate the askers by giving them a whole lot of questions in exchange for the single one asked. But each situation is different and the “best” strategy will depend on these and other factors. Knowing how herbicides work is critical to successful integrated pest management, which is really what the question is about.


“I have a few acres of pasture and I’m thinking of planting some trees and putting it in forest deferral. Is this a good idea?”

It depends!

Are the soils suitable for growing trees, and if so what kinds? Have you thought about how you will get the site ready for planting? Do you have the ability to control competing vegetation on the site for several years after planting? Are you willing to commit time and money to this effort for the next five years? Will you be able to pay back taxes should the plantation fail and forest deferral be removed?

This person got 5 questions back for the price of one. I’m not in a position to tell her whether it’s a good idea, but I can help her evaluate the answers to some of my questions.


“We have some big trees on our property. Should we cut them now to make sure they don’t overgrow the market?”

big logs coming into a mill

It depends!

Despite common assumptions, some mills buy big logs. Have you checked to see whether your trees are really too big? What are your overall income goals for your property? Are you thinking of removing just the biggest trees, or doing a clearcut? Which course of action, including no action, would leave the stand in better or worse condition over the long run?


I believe that there are no stupid questions. But don’t be surprised if the answer is “it depends”.

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