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Thread: Managing Sand Hill Plum Thickets?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    Location
    South-Central Kansas
    Posts
    36

    Default Managing Sand Hill Plum Thickets?

    The best (non-edge) cover for quail and pheasants on our farm are the numerous thickets of Sand Hill Plums. (These are also know as Chickasaw Plums in other areas.) Our thickets (mots) are surrounded by native grass and native forbs.

    I believe we have two problems that are degrading the habitat quality of our thickets.

    First, even those these thickets are well-established and decades old, they do not have a canopy that is dense enough to suppress the growth of grass. To my eye, the ground cover between the individual plum trunks is certainly too thick for quail, and probably too thick for pheasants.

    I would like to establish a fire break around some of the thickets and then on a high wind day (15 MPH allowable in Kansas) let a fast fire sweep through the target thickets.

    The literature says Sand Hill Plum thickets are little affected by ground fires when they have bare soil or minimal cover. Does anyone have experience burning their plums when they are going to be subject to a brief but hot grass fire?

    Secondly, our plum thickets are slowly propagating and spreading each year. I need to start disking and mowing the edges. They are basically round in shape and up to 0.1 acres in size. At this size, it is about 40' from the edge to the center and impenetrable to dogs. I would like the dogs to be able to point singles in the thickets.

    Our prevailing wind direction is usually from the south in three seasons and from the north in the winter. Therefore, I want to shape our thickets with the long axis in the N-S direction. Does anyone have any recommendation on the optimum width of the thickets? I want them to be wide enough to shelter quail and pheasants, but still able to be hunted.

    Thanks, Rod.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Cunningham, Kansas
    Posts
    2,301

    Default

    Rod, my experience is that if you want to reduce plum, do summer burns and/or burn 2 years in a row. Spring burns have limited affect on them.
    Trust the dog!

    Troy Smith

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    Location
    South-Central Kansas
    Posts
    36

    Default

    PD,

    Do your summer burns kill the edges of your plum thickets and leave the middles relatively unscathed?

    I have also heard that "green" plum shrubs can be run over with tractor tires. However, dead plum shrubs will shatter and the stubs will pierce normal tractor tires.

    I have no idea if that statement is true, but it could be an expensive lesson to learn the "hard way". Do the tires on your big tractor survive running over plum thickets when your fire break construction crosses a plum thicket?

    Thanks, Rod.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Cunningham, Kansas
    Posts
    2,301

    Default

    Yes, on the bigger thickets the middle often escapes burning. The smaller thickets burn all the way through.

    Around here there isn't much way to avoid plums. We run over them daily and fix tires often enough. I did just replace the front tires on my smallest tractor due to the quantity of thorns in them. On my disk that I use to do fire breaks, I just foam filled the tires and we get along just great.
    Trust the dog!

    Troy Smith

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    Location
    South-Central Kansas
    Posts
    36

    Default

    The fate of your smallest tractor was just what I was afraid of! Thanks for the knowledge.

    I am still using a small, rented Kubota tractor. I predict my future will involve multiple runs of backing a bush hog mower into the perimeters of plum thickets.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Manhattan KS
    Posts
    771

    Default

    The best thing to do is to make Sand hill plum jelly. It tastes way better than quail.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Cunningham, Kansas
    Posts
    2,301

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Fishin'Rod View Post
    The fate of your smallest tractor was just what I was afraid of! Thanks for the knowledge.

    I am still using a small, rented Kubota tractor. I predict my future will involve multiple runs of backing a bush hog mower into the perimeters of plum thickets.
    You do have to take into consideration that the front tires were about due for replacement anyway.
    Trust the dog!

    Troy Smith

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