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A recommendation for easy planting of seedlings in heavy clay


Active Member
I am planting 1450 trees and shrubs next week in a crp project. The nrcs office gave me instructions that I had to rototill the rows for planting to make a better planting bed. I rented one and tilled last November. In my opinion one can't get it deep enough to what it should be for best results. So I checked out craigslist and found a one bottom plow. In December, I went back and plowed one way in the middle of the tilled area and then back the same way I came, over the plowed area.

I then plowed some areas the same way as above where I was going to plant some screens of cedar and miscanthus.

I transplanted cedars this past weekend and it was the easiest planting I have done on this farm. I wish I would have done this for the thousands I have planted in the past 10 years. The heavy clay, when I normally dug holes to plant was tough to dig and would stick together in chunks. It was just basically tough to break down to get air pockets out without smashing soil on the roots and compacted the soil in the process. The complete opposite was the experience this time. The freezing and thawing process made the soil crumble and I could put the spade into the ground with just my hands.

Next week my trees and shrubs come and I am using a 3pt tree planter for them and have high expectations for how it's going to go.
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Staff member
Planted thousands in heavy clay. KEY!!!..... kill the vegetation off the fall before. Goes in like butter!!! Don’t plant in mud- wait for it to dry and then GO!
well done! Post some pics!!!


Active Member
Thank you Skip. I will try to remember to take some pics.

The plowed area for the crp tree planting is going into a corn field but the cedar and miscanthus screens are going into a clover plot edge. The plow broke the soil well but left the clover alive in the plow line. I'm going to 24d the miscanthus line the next good day to spray. I'll leave it in the cedar line.
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Active Member
My dad and I got the 1450 trees/shrubs in with the tree planter. It didn't go as smoothly as state forester said it would go. One of the packing wheels was rusted into place and we couldn't get it to move with break free applied as well as a lot of force. I didn't have a source of heat to try that. The bad packing wheel angle would bury many of the seedlings and then I would have to go back and did each one out and in lots of cases pull it out and replant by hand. It took 16 hours to get them all in the ground. I have done better with a 6 guy planting team. The tubing has taken a while as a one man band. I have about 60 hours into the project so far. All trees have 5' tubes. The percentage that are pushing leaves now are in upper 90's with the exception of the pecan and hickory as they seem to be taking forever to break dormancy.

I think if the packing wheel would/could have been in correct position it would have been a dream job. My next tree planting I will try to have the 6 man team instead of the mechanical planter but if not I will go that route again. The plowed dirt made the heavy clay easy to work with. The freeze/thaw made it work like a black earth garden.

The miscanthus I planted in the plow furrow is looking great, 100% emergence and 24d has done it's job.


Staff member
Urs went better than my buddies!!! He borrowed MY TREE PLANTER. Which was frigin awesome!!!
He took a curve on a trailer at like 60-65. He Showed up almost in tears. He says “how do I replace this!?!?!” I said “Oh man, my Grandpa got me that from WWII. It was used in one of the German prison camps & he took it back to the states after the war. Only thing he left me”.
Ha!!! I told him “dude - its all good. This is hilarious!!!! Just a chunk of steel”. & I got him good on the WWII thing!!! Had a new tree planter 3 days later brought over by another buddy.


Active Member
Wow Skip, that is a thing of beauty. Love the story you gave your buddy. Your "Gramps" planter before the crash looked similar to the one we used. I took a couple pics of just the planter. I'll post them up in the near future. That new one your buddy got a hold of looks like a tank.

Thanks for sharing the story and the laugh.
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