Whether you just have a large backyard or many acres of land that you would like to make more attractive to wildlife, one of the best ways to do so is by planting native trees and shrubs.
Not only do these plants have the potential to provide valuable food and cover to a wide variety of birds and animals, but they also offer aesthetic value and other benefits to your property.
The Game Commission began producing seedlings and other plants at its Howard Nursery in Centre County for wildlife food and cover on state game lands back in 1954. Production at that facility now amounts to 2 to 8 million seedlings each year. In addition to supplying plants for state game lands, the Howard Nursery also takes orders for plants each fall from landowners enrolled in the Game Commission's various access programs and then in the spring from other landowners interested in providing better habitat on their properties with the use of native trees and shrubs.
"Landowners may purchase seedlings for wildlife food and cover, watershed protection, soil erosion control, and for reclamation of disturbed areas, such as surface mine site and utility right-of-ways," Annetta Ayers, Howard Nursery superintendent, said. "All of our stock is inspected annually by the state Department of Agriculture and is believed to be disease-free."
The Howard Nursery is currently accepting seedling orders from landowners this spring until April 22. Order forms and information can be found on the Game Commission website at www.pgc.state.pa.us. Click on "General Store" in the menu bar at the top of the homepage, then click on Howard Nursery in the drop-down menu listing and scroll down to the 2012 Seedling Order Form. Order forms can also be obtained by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Howard Nursery, 197 Nursery Road, Howard, Pa., 16841.
Although a few species have already sold out for this season, many popular species are still available, such as: Eastern white pine, red pine, white spruce, Norway spruce, Douglas fir, Eastern hemlock, Arborvitae/Northern white cedar, blue spruce, silky dogwood, graystem dogwood, flowering dogwood, arrowwood viburnum, American highbush cranberry, winterberry, pin oak, red and black oak mix, chestnut oak, black oak, black walnut, American mountain ash, Washington hawthorne, assorted crabapple, American sweet crabapple and assorted standard apple.
Seedlings are sold in bundles of 25. Prices for most species are $6.25 to $8.75 per bundle, discounts are offered for orders 12 or more bundles, making prices as low as $3.75 per bundle for some seedlings. Shipping and handling charges are additional.
The nursery offers some guidelines to help property owners estimate the number of seedlings that will be needed for their property or a particular project.
Evergreen trees should be planted about eight feet apart, and that spacing would require 1,000 seedlings for 1.5 acres.
Hardwood trees should be spaced 8 to 15 feet apart, so 100 hardwood seedlings would cover about one-quarter acre, while 1,000 seedlings would cover about 2.5 acres. Other shrubs should be planted six to eight feet apart.
"Due to conditions beyond our control, such as ice and snow, wet weather, frozen ground, we may not be able to ship trees as early as we would like," Ayers said. "Generally, seedlings ship in the month of April."
Seedling orders are typically shipped by UPS on Monday through Wednesday to assure delivery for weekend planting. Because the Howard Nursery is located in the geographic center of the state, most orders will arrive the next day.
Arrangements can also be made to pick up orders in person at the nursery. For more information on purchasing seedlings from the Game Commission, contact Ayers at 814-355-4434. Hours of operation are Monday-Friday 7 a.m.-3:30 p.m.