Planting Layout

graphic of a windbreakThe first step in planning your reforestation project is to think about how it relates to your short- and long-term goals. Such goals might include producing income from timber or wood fiber, improving wildlife habitat, or windbreaks/shelterbelts. Remember that many goals are compatible with each other, allowing a single forest planting to serve multiple purposes.

Proper spacing for your trees is critical. Because tree seedlings are small, there is a tendency to plant them too close together. Keep in mind the mature size of the trees you will plant, and space them far enough apart so you can maintain them with your equipment.

Planting Spacing Recommendations

Just like in nature, the spacing between seedlings can vary and don't have to be planted in a grid pattern. Matching the right species to the site and picking the best planting spot will help your seedlings grow into healthy trees.


Distance between trees in rows (feet)Distance between Rows (feet)Number of trees/acre


You can plant seedlings closer to establish in less time but must plan to remove trees as they grow and fill in windbreak.
Shrubs and small stature trees2-44~4,000
Deciduous Trees6-88900

Wildlife Habitat

Usually fewer trees per acre than for timber production and create gaps with no seedlings, mixed species recommended. Find a balance of distances.
Shrubs and small stature trees4-661,815
Deciduous Trees8-99605

Fiber Production

Spruce should be planted in thinned areas with some remaining overstory trees or in open areas such as old fields. Do not plant a monoculture of spruce.
Shrubs and small stature treesn/an/an/a
Deciduous Trees8-1010544

layout pattern for wildlife and fiber productions

Wildlife Habitat

Mixed plantings of trees and shrubs on a 7 by 8 foot or 8 by 8 foot grid pattern—remember you can allow for variation in spacing. Create gaps of unplanted areas so sun-loving plants that wildlife forage on can grow


layout pattern for fiber production


Fiber Production

The species you plant will depend on the type of fiber you want to produce. Plant seedlings on a 7 by 8 foot or 8 by 8 foot grid pattern—remember you can allow for variation in spacing.




Plant shrubs and trees perpendicular to prevailing wind directions. Plant conifers that keep their lower branches as they mature if you only have room for one row of trees or shrubs. If you have room for two rows, plant slow growing trees or shorter stature trees on the side the wind is coming from and taller trees on the side where the wind is going. If you have room for three or more rows, plant the tallest trees in the middle row to provide stability to your windbreak.

Spacing of seedlings depends on the species you select and how fast you want your windbreak to develop. Windbreaks will develop faster if trees are planted closer together but requires more maintenance to remove declining trees that didn't receive enough resources to grow strong and healthy.

layout pattern for windbreaks or shelterbelts

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