Forest Landowner Management Tips for May

— Written By and last updated by Kristin Wing
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Before the temperature begins to get too hot, buggy, and snaky for most folks to get out in the woods, landowners should think about a few “chores” and projects to accomplish on their forest land during the month of May.

  • Remember to file your taxes. The IRS has extended the deadline for tax filing until July 15, 2020. For more information on forest taxes go to

    young pine seedling

    Young pine seedling: Photo by Robert Bardon

  • Check on your recently planted trees. Check the survival of newly planted seedlings before the weeds and temperatures get too high. An easy method to check survival is to conduct a random sample of the planted area using 0.01 acre (11.75 feet) plots. To conduct the sample randomly pick 10 spots throughout the stand and layout 0.01 acre plots. In each plot count the number of live seedlings. Once you have conducted your inventory of the seedlings in each plot, total the number of live seedlings across the 10 plots and then divide by 10. This will give you the average number of live seedlings per plot. To estimate the survival rate on a per acre basis multiply the average number of live seedlings per plot by 100. This will provide you an estimate of the per acre survival rate. If you have a significant loss of seedlings consider contacting NC State Extension , the NC Forest Service, or your consulting forester for further guidance.
  • picture of pre-commercial thinning of young pine stand

    Pre-commercial thinning of a young pine stand: Photo by Colby Lambert

    Assess the competition. Now is a good time to explore the forest to see if the trees are faced with significant competition from neighboring trees and herbaceous weeds. Pine stands that are 3-4 years old and did not apply herbicides before planting, can be overcome with hardwoods and herbaceous weeds. Young hardwood stands that were naturally regenerated also can be facing significant competition from unwanted hardwood species. Checking now to see if action is needed to reduce the competition can result in healthy forest in the future. If you think it needs releasing, contact your local extension office or county forest ranger for more details. To learn more about applying herbicides, see the following publication.

    picture of prescribe fire beginning to burn in forest understory

    Prescribed fire as a forest management tool: Photo by Colby Lambert

  • Protect against wildfire. Evaluate the condition of your fire breaks and refresh them if you are planning a growing season burn, or for wildfire protection this spring and summer. Now is a good time to get them in shape either by disking or a leaf blower to get that mineral soil exposed. It also a good time for rehab in case of erosion, hunt club activity, and atv traffic. For those who own longleaf pine, raking around old trees and cavity trees for RCW’s can help protect those trees from wildfires. Some areas may have burning restrictions due to COVID-19, so be sure to check with your local county forest ranger for more information. 
  • picture of spotted salamander on forest floor

    Spotted salamander, Ambystoma maculatum.
    Alvin Braswell CC BY-NC – 4.0

    Help out the amphibians. Think about creating pools for amphibians on your property. Many of our native amphibians are in danger due to loss of habitat for breeding, egg laying, and survival. Now through the summer is a good time to construct these pools when it is dryer. Pool sizes can range from 20×30 feet to a quarter acre in size with a depth of 1.5 to 2.5 feet deep. To learn more about constructing and maintaining amphibian pools, see the full publication.

  • Review your forest management plan. Take time to review your forest management plan during this time of quarantine and being at home more. Make sure you have written down everything you have done and look at your goals and objectives. Update your plan to include changes in your objectives and for changes to your forest from weather events such as hurricanes, invasive plants, and wildfire events. Contact your consulting forester or county forest ranger for help with updating maps. If you do not have a management plan consider getting one. To learn more about management plans read the full publication.

    woman looking for pest on tree branch.

    Scouting for pest: Photo by Robert Bardon

  • Keep your forest healthy. Always keep an eye out for insect and disease issues with your forests as well. Document what you see and where you see it, and contact your consulting forester, Extension agent, or county forest ranger for further assistance.

For more information related to this article, please contact your local Extension office.