Tips and resources for farmers and gardeners
Oaks from Acorns
"The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
To grow plants from seeds, you don't need to go to the local nursery and buy a colorful packet. A little knowledge can create a rewarding do-it-yourself experience.
One plant that is relatively easy to start from seed is the oak. Acorns mature in early fall. You can tell the seed is ripe when the outside changes from green to yellow, brown or black and the caps can be easily removed. Acorns can then be plucked off the tree or picked up from the ground soon after falling. It's important to note that acorns left on the ground for several days begin to dry out and become a food source for insects and wildlife.
Acorns then should be transferred to a sealable plastic bag and placed in a refrigerator set at 37 degrees Fahrenheit (F). This cold storage -- called stratification -- mimics the acorns' need to go through a winter in order to successfully germinate. Most acorns need at least 60 days of stratification (only white oaks don't require this).
After stratification, they can remain in the refrigerator until warmer weather permits outside sowing; or you can sow them inside if you have access to a greenhouse or other area with temperatures of 86 degrees F during the day, and 68 degrees F at night. Sixteen hours of sunlight or artificial light is also necessary.
Water the acorn until moderately moist, with a few drips coming out the bottom of the pot, and continue watering every few days until it has sprouted and can be planted outside after the danger of frost has passed.
Select a sunny location with enough room for the tree to grow. Dig a hole about 1 foot wide and the same depth as the pot. Plant the seedling slightly higher than it sits in the pot. Support the seedling while carefully adding soil around the roots using moderate compaction.
Add 2-3 inches of wood chips 18 inches around the tree, keeping the mulch away from the stem. Water the seedling well, and do so every week in its first year if rainfall is less than 1 inch a week.
A wire cage is usually a good idea to protect a young seedling from things like wildlife and lawnmowers.
Source: Nebraska Statewide Arboretum
The Nature of Home
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