If your planting is near an existing forest, squirrels may view your direct seeding as an easy food source. To avoid the loss of planted seeds, provide an even easier food supply by making several piles of walnuts around the edge of the planting. Hopefully the squirrels will take these and leave your planted tree seeds in the ground.
We set out to grow trees, but between our Christmas trees, the bottomland trees and prairie plantings and having water access in the creek, we have created great deer habitat and that has taken a toll on the diversity we had hoped for in our direct seeding. When walnut is planted in high density enough can make it above deer browse to create a good stand. The oaks have tended to disappear under the deer pressure. Just this year we have tried a broadcast spray of Plantskydd and the oaks seem to be holding their own. If this continues to work, I would plant more acorns and less walnuts and treat with Plantskydd for 4 or 5 years until the oak can make it on their own.
We have also had some success with planting cottonwood and willow poles. In a year with average rainfall nearly 100% of the willow will survive but only about 25% of the cottonwood. The cottonwood poles that survive quickly grow into nice trees, but I have not been able to determine what to do differently to increase my success rate with the cottonwood poles. We also have trouble with beaver moving in and harvesting the cottonwood and willow we have planted. We have started painting the poles with a mixture of latex house paint mixed with sand and have not lost a treated tree to beaver harvest in spite of having beavers in the area. It is exciting to me to see these trees growing in solid Reed Canary Grass in areas that are not accessible to do a direct seeding.
This case study was developed with support from the United States Department of Agriculture's National Institute for Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA), Renewable Resources Extension Act (RREA). Project #MIN-44-E02, principal investigator Eli Sagor, University of Minnesota.