Why We Plant Trees

Every year hundreds of thousands of hectares of forests are harvested in Canada. Harvesting trees  is different than deforestation in one key aspect: harvested forests grow back, either by natural regeneration or planted by hand.

By law, all forests harvested on public lands must be regrown. Approximately 90%, of Canada’s harvested forests are on public land. Lumber and Pulp Mills gain the rights from government to cut, and in turn government legislates that these trees be replaced. This is where we come in: mills hire us to plant seedlings in their cut blocks.

Related image
Here, a newly planted cut block is seen in the foreground with stumps still visible. Mature forest in the middle and sides and another slightly older tree plantation in the background.

It takes many hands to fulfill these contracts and plant millions of seedlings. It is the hands of tree planters that keep Canadian forestry vibrant and sustainable – gives the birds new homes and keeps the air clean. We are certainly a cog in the industrial forestry machine, but a positive one none the less.

Thinking About Planting?

Canadian Treeplanting is one of the worlds toughest jobs. Its hard to understand just exactly why that is until you have experienced it. But, we’ll give it a shot.

It is important to get a thorough understanding of what you are committing to before coming out – you will have a 3 week probation period to learn how to do quality job and earn over minimum wage. Get a head start and read the materials here, chat with planters you know and, please, feel free to email your prospective project manager with any questions.

What a Tree Planter Does

Individual planters are responsible for reforesting a small section of a larger cutblock.  This small section of land is called a “piece”.  These pieces are assigned to planters by a field staff, or foreman.  Planters bag up -put seedlings into their bags- at a cache.  A cache is where tree seedlings are stored on blocks. The cache is also where planter day bags, water and supplies are kept. A cache is nothing glamorous, but often defined by a fancy insulating forestry tarp (a “silivicool” tarp), which keeps the tree temperature regulated.

Image result for tree planting bags
“bagged up” – note: it is not good practice to have all seedlings “unbundled”, although this person may be ambidextrous.

Planter’s tools include shovel, bags, plot chord, gloves and boots. After a planter is bagged up, they will begin working their land. With full bags weighing up to 40 lbs, it is imperative to learn to plant quickly to start shedding the weight and earning money appropriate for such a task.

Once a planter has bagged up, they head into their land and begin planting quality trees in an orderly fashion. Meticulously working their land to (see Land Management) ensure every square meter is covered.


Camp Life

the mess side of the Kitchen tent
shower stall

Next Gen works out or remote bush camps. Camps consist of: four large Weatherhaven tents, (Kitchen, Dining, Office and Dry Shack); the fridge trailer; and the shower trailer. Our showers are reliable, hot and you can adjust the temperature – a serious perk. The Dry shack is where you will find an air tight wood stove to dry your wet items of clothing from a rain day and one of the best places to store your gear and personal items not fit for your tent, (essentially anything scented).


The food is fantastic and prepared by two, often impressive, cooks – please see the Food section of photos to get an idea of the meals. Our cooks are able to prepare for many dietary restrictions; it is important that you let us know before the season so that they can adequately prepare.

There is hot buffet breakfast served in the morning, typically between 6 – 6:50. At this time there is also a lunch table set out where you can prepare your own lunch for the block. Items on this table include sweet treats, lunch meats, veggies, fruits, cheeses, nuts, breads, veggie spreads, etc. Tupperware containers are required to package your food.  You may eat more than you expect, so bring a couple extra.

Dinner is prepared by the cooks and there will be appetizers ready upon arrival to camp. The main course is typically not served until all trucks have returned home from the block.

A note on water – it is your job to bring water containers with you. There is plenty of potable water on camp, but ensure you bring 4 – 6 L worth of bottles with you to the first shift.


This is up to you. For the better part of 4 months, you will be living in what ever accommodation you bring with you: be it tent, trailer or otherwise. We will be moving camps with trucks, so there is no need to bring a tiny tent, unless that is what you truly desire. It is recommended to buy something you can stand up in, or at least comfortably get dressed in. Also think of how you will keep your gear dry, is there enough room in your tent? Try to make the most wonderful sleeping surface possible, a thick foamy or a couple of thermarests can go a long way. Make your home nice for you. Ah, and don’t forget tarps.

On the Block

The surroundings can be beautiful, but they can also be acutely bleak. While we often camp in standing forests, most of our 10-12 hour days are spent in cut blocks, a forest decimated for industry. There was once life here; now, just you, your crew, stumps, slash and the somewhat ironically titled “wildlife tree retention patch”, also known as “residual” patches.

a drawing of a residual patch

On the block, you will be assigned a piece, which is a section of land you are responsible for. Namely you will be responsible for planting quality trees. Also, you are responsible for covering all of the land within your piece. This is achieved through effective ‘land management’, which will be covered after Quality.

Quality Trees

It is your job to plant quality trees. There are a few factors in what this means. First, a single tree must be planted to contract specs. Generally,  it is what is underground that counts, the seedling’s plug.

The plug must be inserted into the ground straight and snug, not too loose. The required depth of the plug, as in how deep it must be in relation to ground level, varies on contract. Generally, spruce can be planted deeper than pine. Pine need special consideration for their laterals.

As a general rule, spruce can be planted at a depth of ‘two fingers deep’, or about an inch, into dirt. Pine, on the other hand, generally, cannot have their laterals pinched, needing the dirt to be around the “collar” of the tree.

Again this is subject to change contract-to-contract, but generally a seedling’s plug needs to be planted into smearable organic soil. This means that the medium a tree is planted into is important. Trees cannot grow in dry, loose materials, (sticks, litter, chipmunk nest, red rot (again, depending on contract)), nor into standing water. Red rot is a term used to describe decomposing tree matter. This can range from a substance that is moist and almost returning to dirt, to small chunks of reddish wood.

Below is a review of common planting faults:


Next, we have the microsite selection. This is the process of selecting the best growth site for the seedling in hand. Different species of trees enjoy different sites, differing in amounts of moisture and sunlight desired. As a general rule of thumb, a well drained, high site is desirable for many trees. Those planted in depressions often grow poorly compared to those planted in higher sites, and this difference can be one of only a few inches.  Higher microsite offer surprisingly longer growing seasons, thawing faster and freezing later. Some trees prefer shade and moisture, so its not always the case.

Of course, it gets far more complicated when different scarifications are factored in. Each scarification, along with contract variations, has its own specific requirements. Scarification, or site preparation, refers to any modification to land post-harvesting intended to enhance reforestation. Some types of scarification include: mounds, rips, drags, screens and chemical spraying.

A dreamy Donarian Mounder sequence:

Another dreamy scarificaiton sequence, this time a disk trencher:


Often clients would like the tree planted on the “high hinge” for most scarification. Again, this is an overgeneralization, but a useful one. Below is a diagram of trench, but could also used for placement of a tree on mounds as well.


The take home message is that there are many factors in “micrositing” little trees, depending on the tree species and the scarification and contract specifications.


What else? Ah, yes density! A forester determines a required density, a certain number of trees per area. Density is prescribed to a section of land, be it an entire block or a “treatment unit” and is prescribed in trees per hectare. A Hectare is 100m x 100m on the horizontal plane. As in, if you are planting on a slope, it is not along the slope, but the area over a two-dimensional version of the land.



Density is prescribed over the two dimensional, horizontal plane. Often between 1000 and 2000 stems/hectare. Now, to determine if a piece of land is planted at the right density, a “plot chord” is used to take a sample of the hectare. A plot chord is 1/200th of a hectare with a radius of 3.99 m. Because of this, density is often spoke of in terms of smaller numbers, the number of trees desired in one single plot. 1000 stems per hectare translates to ‘5s’, 1200 translates to ‘6s’, 1400 to 7s, 1600 to 8s, etc. Each of these densities has an ideal spacing.

Land Management

Lesson 1: The Basics

Things get far more complicated than this, but this animation shows the basics of land management. The piece shown is a relatively simple shape, bound by a road in front and treeline on two sides. There are no pockets or residuals – it is straight forward.

General Land Management Basics

  • Have a good understanding of where your piece is. Communication can be hard.
  • Cut a logical “line in”
  • Work your piece from the back (furthest from the cache) to the front (closest to the cache)
  • Follow trees: always plant a tree next to a tree.
    • The only exception to this rule is when cutting a fresh piece, where there no trees yet.
  • Plant the land closest to your cache last