Does your yard need a new look? The Howard Nursery is selling extra trees, wildlife boxes

Brian Whipkey
Pennsylvania Outdoor Columnist

If you’re looking to plant trees or would like to improve the wildlife habitat on your property, the Pennsylvania Game Commission has tree seedlings and bird boxes available.

The Howard Nursery, located in Centre County, grows tree and shrub seedlings for use on state game lands, hunter access properties, the Seedling for Schools program, and other Game Commission conservation partners. Any remaining surplus is available to Pennsylvania residents for purchase. Seedlings are sold in units of 25.

Brian Stone, Howard Nursery Forest Nursery manager, looks at burr oak seedlings Feb. 10, 2022, at the Howard Nursery in Centre County.

Brian Stone, manager at Howard Nursery, said they have a variety of tree seedlings including oaks.

“The sawtooth oak is one of my favorites species of oaks because it can produce acorns in less than 10 years," he said. "It’s a white oak, which means is highly palatable to deer and other wildlife. They have seedlings up to two feet tall. They also have red oak trees,  black locust, Washington hawthorn, sawtooth and northern red. Three conifer species are available this year, including northern white cedar, and white and Norway spruce that create thermal cover for a variety of wildlife.

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“The Norway spruce is a great species to replace stands of hemlock that succumbed to the woolly adelgid,” Stone said. 

Shrubs include graystem and silky dogwood, northern bayberry and ninebark. Stone says ninebark has attractive white flowers and is an excellent nectar source and pollinator.

Orders of 12 or more total units qualify for applicable discounted pricing. With the discount, prices are as low as $5.50 per unit. Regular prices range from $8 to $10 depending upon the seedling species.

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The staff at the nursery also makes a variety of wildlife habitat structures.

Bluebird nesting boxes built by staff at Howard Nursery are available for sale at the nursery office, as well as the Game Commission’s Harrisburg headquarters, region offices and the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area. Nesting-box kits also are available.

Some of the bluebird boxes that are built at the Howard Nursery in Center County.

A single box sells for $14.84, including sales tax. When purchasing two or more boxes, the cost is $12.72 each, including sales tax.

Customers can select pre-built boxes or choose kits that can be assembled as a woodworking project. The kits are popular with Scout troops, summer camps and conservation groups who are interested in helping wildlife. Special pricing is available for organized educational activities. Call the Howard Nursery or region offices for details.

“Building and placing nesting boxes is a great project for individuals, families or civic organizations interested in connecting with wildlife in a natural way,” Bryan Burhans, Game Commission executive director, said in a news release. “What better way to usher in spring than attracting bluebirds to backyards and properties.”

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Boxes should be placed on a free-standing pole 3 to 5 feet above the ground, facing south, if possible, and facing a nearby tree or fence where young birds can safely land on their initial flights from the box. To reduce predation and competition from other species, no perch should be placed on the box; bluebirds do not need one.

Boxes are also available for the American kestrels, bats, flying squirrels, barred owls and wood ducks.

Brian Stone, Howard Nursery Forest Nursery manager, holds a bat box Feb. 10, 2022, at the Howard Nursery in Centre County.

A brochure of the Game Commission’s bluebird nesting boxes and other wildlife structures is available online by navigating to the Howard Nursery page at www.pgc.pa.gov. Place your cursor on the “Information & Resources” tab at the top of the homepage, then click “Get Involved,” and select “Howard Nursery” to find the “2022 Wildlife Homes Order Form.”

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To place an order, call Howard Nursery at 814-355-4434 during regular hours, Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Orders can be placed by FAX at 814-355-8094. The nursery is located at 197 Nursery Road, Howard.

Brian Whipkey is the outdoors columnist for USA TODAY Network sites in Pennsylvania. Contact him at bwhipkey@gannett.com and sign up for our weekly Go Outdoors PA newsletter email on your website's homepage under your login name. Follow him on social media @whipkeyoutdoors.