Growth, mineral nutrient content, and market value of young eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis L.) and eastern white pine (Pine strobus L.) were evaluated using 10 ground cover treatments over a 4 to 5 year growing cycle. Hemlocks were taller and had greater market value when managed with straw mulch, bare ground, and cultivation than with tall broadleaf complex, orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata L.), or ‘Kentucky 31’ tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.). Hemlocks grown with blackberry (Rubus spp.), short broadleaf complex, nimblewill (Mulenbergia schreberi J.F. Gmel.), or Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis L.) ground covers were intermediate. Mulched white pine had greater height, stem diameter, branches per node, and market value compared to trees in tall fescue. Higher P and K concentrations in needles were associated with poor growth. Straw mulch, short broadleaves and nimblewill have the potential for replacing Kentucky bluegrass, orchardgrass and tall fescue in conifer planting systems.

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Author notes

Paper No. 10446 of the Journal Series of the North Carolina Agricultural Research Service (NCARS), Raleigh, NC 27695-7601.

2,3Professor and Research Associate, Department of Horticultural Science Raleigh, NC

4,5Extension Specialist, Department of Horticultural Science and Associate Professor, Department of Soil Science, Mountain Horticuitural Crops Research Station, Fletcher, NC.