Drawing of calendar with magnifying glass

Taking a look ahead can benefit your woodlands.

Updated: August 15, 2022
By Andrew Kling

The calendar may say August, but all across the region, fall is just around the corner. Trees are storing valuable carbohydrates to help them through the colder months, and deciduous species are preparing to shed their leaves to save energy. Birds that have been feasting on spring and summer berries, nuts, and more are getting ready to migrate to warmer climes. Animals are preparing caches of food for their winter dens, or are getting ready to change their diets with the change of seasons.

Humans are also preparing. Stores that were featuring swimsuits and outdoor furniture are touting back-to-school clothing and supplies, and youngsters are counting down the days remaining in their summer vacations. When I lived in the Washington, DC area, you could always tell which counties had started school before Labor Day by the increase in commuter traffic.

Two hikers in the woods
Two hikers entering the woods.

August and the days ahead are also a good time to get your woodland property ready for the fall. While you may not think about wildfires being a problem in cooler weather, they can start any time of year. Consider creating or updating a fire preparation plan that includes ensuring firefighters have access to your woodlands, either by trails or by roads. It’s also a good time to look for signs of invasive insects or the presence of invasive plants. For example, look for the egg masses of the spongy moth. Read more about these topics in this issue’s News and Notes.

And it’s also a good time to learn more about what you can do for your woodlands, or for your property in general. The Woodland Stewardship Education program offers two online courses that run during the fall: “The Woods in Your Backyard” and “The General Forestry Course.”

“The Woods in Your Backyard” is designed for those who own 1-10 acres and who want to learn about getting more from their land, instead of spending hours each week mowing acres of lawn. Learn about how to turn the areas into beneficial natural areas such as woodlands or native meadows. The course features a variety of techniques and activities that help you understand your natural areas and your goals for managing them, which leads to the development of a tentative flexible timeline that will help you with future projects. Learn more about the course in this article.

The “General Forestry Course” is an in-depth look at "silviculture," the art and science of growing forest trees. The course itself is now more accessible than before, with upgraded graphics and revised content. The curriculum takes you through a wide variety of topics related to managing forests. These include how to inventory woodlands, how to manage them for better health, for timber, and for wildlife, and much more. You don’t need to own woodlands to take the course; you just need to have access to one so you can complete the course’s activities. There’s more information in this article.

So while you’re outside enjoying the last days of summer, don’t forget to look forward. Now’s the time to prepare your woodlands and other natural areas for the seasons and years ahead.

Branching Out, Vol. 30, no. 3 (Summer 2022)

Branching Out is the free, quarterly newsletter of the Woodland Stewardship Education program. For more than 25 years, Branching Out has kept Maryland woodland owners and managers informed about ways to develop and enhance their natural areas, how to identify and control invasive plants and insects, and about news and regional online and in-person events.