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Planting trees from seed and not from seedlings

 
Adele Fike
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Location: South African
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Paul Wheaton advises that trees with tap roots be planted from seed and not from seedling as the tap root will be deformed / stunted.
What does one do in the instance were the fruit tree requires a stronger root stock than that of the natural fruit tree ( i.e. it needs to be grafted ) and one does not have access to the stronger root stock?
Is it better, in this instance, to transplant grafted trees than to grow from seed?
 
Fred Morgan
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This is a bit of a myth, regarding taproots. (just so you know, I am a bit of an expert in growing trees) Just because you destroy the tap root, doesn't mean it will never come back. Think of it this way, if you cut out the central leader (i.e. main trunk) of a tree, does that mean you will never have to prune for that again? Yeah, you wish. Trees are incredibly resilient, and will attempt to grow back, no matter what you do. We plant trees all the time from nurseries, and yes, it would be nice if they still had their tap roots, but after a few years, the tree does have one. The roots will seek nutrients, never fear. And as far as stability, there is nothing harder to keep up, than a tree alone in a field. In the middle of other trees, they are protected from winds, etc.

So, do what works for you. Now that I have said that, let me say, if you can direct seed, do so. The GROWTH will be much, much better.

Here is the hierachy, for me, of where to get a seedling.

1. Wildling, with first tree leaves - the very best. The reason is that nature has already selected for the best for you, the others didn't survive. You should make the root ball (or section of ground) as deep as the seedling is tall. This is because the root extends down, generally as tall as the seedling. If it is a particularly rare tree, I will take it up to waist high, after that, probably going to die.

2. Seeds, if they are large. We have some trees that all we do is take the seed, place it on the ground during the rainy season, point down, and stomp on it. You can't get much easier. I have seen seedlings come up from this practice that are 1 meter high, in two months when the conditions are right.

3. From a nursery, with dirt. We make a hole, 20 cm by 30 cm for ever seedling. Imagine planting 150,000 + that way!
 
Adele Fike
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Location: South African
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Thank you Fred. Your info. makes planting a food forest a lot easier.
 
Fred Morgan
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Regarding grafted trees, if you wish to grow grafted trees, plant the root stock, first, using seeds if you wish, then, after they are well established, graft on the variety you wish. This way, you have a fast growing, healthy root stock, sprouted in place, and the variety you want above. Learning to graft isn't that hard, and can be very interesting as well.

But I do agree with Paul, take the long view when you can - sometimes in our hurry to finish our job of getting our permaculture in place, we forget it is NEVER finished. It is a progression. After all, fruit trees don't last forever.
 
Adele Fike
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In one of the pod casts I heard that if you prune a tree some of the roots would die off....I always thought that pruning a plant encouraged root growth...which is correct?
 
Ivan Weiss
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Location: Vashon WA, near Seattle and Tacoma
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I have no basis to dispute what Paul says, and that's not my intention, but in my case I am forced to plant tree seeds in pots because (1) I don't know exactly where I'm going to put the seedlings yet, and (2) until they are large enough to see amongst the brush, I want to be able to find them when I do set them out in the field.

I have 35 Chinese chestnuts that I started in 1/2-gallon pots in early spring. They all showed nice, healthy-looking leaf and stem development (deep-brown stems and dark green leaves, all shiny, not dull), but not a lot of root. I'm in the process of potting them up into 5-gallon pots, filled with sifted topsoil and leaf mold compost, with plenty of pulverized biochar and coffee grounds. So far none of the seedlings have been root-bound, or even close to it.

If anyone thinks I'm doing this wrong, please do set me straight, because I want to learn proper practices. I have sent for this book -- The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation -- to learn more.
 
                            
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Location: Ava, Mo, USA, Earth
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Fred Morgan wrote:This is a bit of a myth, regarding taproots. (just so you know, I am a bit of an expert in growing trees) Just because you destroy the tap root, doesn't mean it will never come back. Think of it this way, if you cut out the central leader (i.e. main trunk) of a tree, does that mean you will never have to prune for that again? Yeah, you wish. Trees are incredibly resilient, and will attempt to grow back, no matter what you do. We plant trees all the time from nurseries, and yes, it would be nice if they still had their tap roots, but after a few years, the tree does have one. The roots will seek nutrients, never fear. And as far as stability, there is nothing harder to keep up, than a tree alone in a field. In the middle of other trees, they are protected from winds, etc.


Actually, there are many types of tree that if you cut the leader, you end up with more of a bush: many smaller stems instead of a single leader. On some taprooted trees, the initial meristem (the very tip of the first root to sprout from the seed) is the only part of the plant that is ever attracted to "down." If it is lost, some trees, like white oak, will be stunted and others will develop more of a "heart-root" pattern, and not a true taproot. Just like many trees never regain a central leader after it has been cut. At least with the leader, if you want one you can prune off all but one and recover a leader.

I made the mistake a few years ago of thinning a grove of pine trees too much. That let the wind in and a number of them blew over. I knew that might happen and I thought I had left enough, but evidently did not. Trees that start in the middle of a field and never have protection may grow twisted, but rarely blow over. They grow enough roots to keep anchored.

 
Jordan Lowery
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the answer is it depends, it depends on what type of tree, what type of method of propagation. lots of things. if you study and know about the tree you are trying to grow from seed then you will know which method works best for you to achieve your end result.
 
eric firpo
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A few questions. I saved lots of seeds this year to plant an orchard, but are there any stone fruit trees that breed true from seed?

Also, I've heard Paul (and read Holzer and Fukuoka) say that pruning is unnecessary and it's preferable to just let nature take its course with tree growth. But it seems to me that grafting (if the tree will not breed true) is a form of pruning. So, when do you graft when planting from seed? Year one or two or later?

And will the tree need to be pruned after grafting, since the wisdom appears to be that once pruned, a fruit tree must be pruned for life?

Thanks!
 
George Collins
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Location: South Central Mississippi
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Fred,

Thank you for clearing that up. Ever since I heard that I have had much reservation about a multiyear project that I am carrying out for the future benefit of my kids: planting each of them an acre of black walnuts (I have 7 kids).

Since you have a degree of expertise in this area, I was wondering if you would be so kind as to render an opinion on planting germinated seeds which is how my uncle and I planted approximately 275 black walnuts this past spring. Of course, not all of them made it and we were intending to plant the skips with year-old seedlings that he planted in pots at about the same time we were putting our seeds into the ground.

BTW, we tried direct seeding the year previous and I don't think we got a single tree to sprout.

In your experience, how does planting germinated seeds rank on the scale of "Things that make for happy trees"?
 
Victor Johanson
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Location: Fairbanks, Alaska
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Here in Fairbanks, no trees have taproots--or roots of any kind deeper than about two feet, because the ground is too cold. Even trees that are supposed to be taprooted don't seem to suffer for this; I know a guy who has a Manchurian walnut tree that's about fifteen years old and is in great health. I've dug stumps of sixty year old birch trees, and the roots are only about a foot deep.
 
Fred Morgan
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homesteadpaul Hatfield wrote:
Fred Morgan wrote:This is a bit of a myth, regarding taproots. (just so you know, I am a bit of an expert in growing trees) Just because you destroy the tap root, doesn't mean it will never come back. Think of it this way, if you cut out the central leader (i.e. main trunk) of a tree, does that mean you will never have to prune for that again? Yeah, you wish. Trees are incredibly resilient, and will attempt to grow back, no matter what you do. We plant trees all the time from nurseries, and yes, it would be nice if they still had their tap roots, but after a few years, the tree does have one. The roots will seek nutrients, never fear. And as far as stability, there is nothing harder to keep up, than a tree alone in a field. In the middle of other trees, they are protected from winds, etc.


Actually, there are many types of tree that if you cut the leader, you end up with more of a bush: many smaller stems instead of a single leader. On some taprooted trees, the initial meristem (the very tip of the first root to sprout from the seed) is the only part of the plant that is ever attracted to "down." If it is lost, some trees, like white oak, will be stunted and others will develop more of a "heart-root" pattern, and not a true taproot. Just like many trees never regain a central leader after it has been cut. At least with the leader, if you want one you can prune off all but one and recover a leader.

I made the mistake a few years ago of thinning a grove of pine trees too much. That let the wind in and a number of them blew over. I knew that might happen and I thought I had left enough, but evidently did not. Trees that start in the middle of a field and never have protection may grow twisted, but rarely blow over. They grow enough roots to keep anchored.



Not exactly, if you cut out the leader AND have competition, many trees will start new leaders, often called water spouts. It won't have the same figure, nor be as good, but they will seek light.

And if a tree needs to seek nutrients, it will go as deep as it needs is my experience, but, if they can get all they need near the top, or are prevented due to some barrier, then they will attempt to make the best of the situation.

There are studies of trees which were planted where the tap root was cut, many went ahead and developed a replacement. If you can save the tap root, great, but if not, I wouldn't lose much sleep over it.

But then again, we are talking in general, and I am more of an expert in tropical trees, than northern.

In my opinion, it is best to plant a seedling, not a sapling. After the first true leaves, that is when I like to plant them. My experience is that you don't gain much time by planting larger trees. They might look good in the nursery, but often are already stunted and damaged.

Knowing trees, and seedlings, I always seek out the healthy, young seedlings. Those who own the nurseries know they are the best too, since I have tried to get them to sell me them cheaper because they are smaller, and they just laughed.

One of the directions people are going, in nurseries, is to deliberately remove the tap root by air pruning. Here is an article about doing it with oak - deliberately.

http://www.landscapeonline.com/research/article/4928

I would think their point is correct, many surface roots do better than one central tap root on stability. My radio tower, which is set in concrete, owes its stability to the long cables which run out on all four sides, not the few meters it is sunk in the soil. Oak is a fairly brittle wood, one main root can snap, it seems to me that having many on the surface is more stable.

Just so you know, we grow trees that are more than 120 feet tall, which have no tap root, though in nature, do. We have very little problem with them falling over. In the forest, I have seen more than a few giants fallen, with the tap root snapped right off.


 
Fred Morgan
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Hi George,

By all means, pre-germinate. It is an excellent idea. We have great success with this method.

 
Glenn Koenig
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The oak tree in the article that has a natural taproot has fewer horizontal roots, which is looked at as a negative by the nursery, however maybe this is a positive in a polyculture where shallow rooted companion plants have some space to grow in with the tree. Just a thought.
 
Brenda Groth
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Adele, I have lived on this particular property (although it was redone after a house fire in 2002) for 41 years. We have a habit of throwing out spoild fruit or fruit pits and cores in our fields and woods, and we have also fed our wildlife with food piles in the woods and fields..which means some of those things will sprout and grow.

I have 3 full size bearing apple trees that grew from volunteers and they are pretty special to us, I had other that we lost when we moved our house after the fire, drainfield, well, etc..

there are also several other small baby fruit trees growing at this time, but haven't become old enough to bear yet, so we are waiting to see what they'll be when they bear, i think most of those are apples or pears.

I have thrown out seeds from cherries, berries, nuts, oaks (one is now 30' tall), as well as fruits like apples, plums, pears, peaches, etc..and some of those are growing.

I have also had rootstocks live after the grafts above them died from one thing or another (often deer or rabbits) and I have dug some of those and moved them into my woods, and they are growing, and some are still where they were originally planted and are still growing.

It will be a toss up on what will come of them, the pears may be something like bartlett pears, or might be quince, the peaches will likely be some sort of peach (hopefully freestone)..the cherries bloomed last year (from rootstocks) but the blossoms froze so I don't know what they'll be, but the original grafts were Richland..so it is always interesting to see what will grow from things that we don't expect..however, i have a large property and heat with firewood,IF the growies are not something I want, I will eventually cut them down to heat my house.
 
James Colbert
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eric firpo wrote:
A few questions. I saved lots of seeds this year to plant an orchard, but are there any stone fruit trees that breed true from seed?

Also, I've heard Paul (and read Holzer and Fukuoka) say that pruning is unnecessary and it's preferable to just let nature take its course with tree growth. But it seems to me that grafting (if the tree will not breed true) is a form of pruning. So, when do you graft when planting from seed? Year one or two or later?

And will the tree need to be pruned after grafting, since the wisdom appears to be that once pruned, a fruit tree must be pruned for life?

Thanks!


I think with grafts you simply allow the root stock to keep its branches bellow the graft instead of removing them. I believe Fukuoka still pinched young shoots that grew due to damage in order to reestablish a natural growth pattern.
 
Jordan Lowery
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Allowing the rootstock branches to grow will result in a tree that is rootstock not your cultivar. Rootstock = stronger, that's why we graft onto it.

 
James Colbert
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Jordan Lowery wrote:Allowing the rootstock branches to grow will result in a tree that is rootstock not your cultivar. Rootstock = stronger, that's why we graft onto it.



The bottom would be root stock, the top would be what ever you grafted. Just like a multi-grafted tree. I see no reason to believe the rootstock would kill the scion or prevent it from grafting to the tree. Also rootstock is not always/necessarily stronger than the scion. Think about dwarf tree root stock that sets shallow roots. Sometimes size is more important than vigor.
 
Frank Turrentine
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I want to do this very much. But I will also probably continue to buy 18-24" seedlings as always and plant them as well. At least fruit trees. Part of the reason I do that is so dad can watch me plant them, and so he can see at least some results of our fun in his lifetime. Our burr oaks and pines were all less than a foot tall when I put them in the ground in December 2003, and they are pretty substantial already. However, I planted them all just a little too deep, such that the root flares are submerged on most of the oaks. I don't think that's a good development. However, we're on something of an alluvial plain by the river, and the sandy soil tends to build berms around everything as well. I wonder if planting trees by seed would obviate some of that effect.
 
Frank Turrentine
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I found one catalog company this morning with tree seed available. I also stopped on my walk with Otis from the office and picked a handful of live oak acorns just for kicks. I'll check them with water later and see if they seem viable.
 
John Polk
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If you want tree seeds, the largest selection I have found is:

http://www.treeshrubseeds.com/catalog.asp

Reasonable prices also.

 
Frank Turrentine
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that's the one I found as well
 
Cris Bessette
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I grew about 30 American persimmon trees a few years ago and planted them around my property.

One of my favorite trees I grew from seed is a bald cypress (taxodium distichum) I picked the seed up in a park on a road trip through Louisiana.
It is almost 4ft tall after 2 years or so.

I am also experimenting with hardy citrus and other unusual things and this is the cheapest way to get "stock" to experiment with. If something dies, then I am not out much except time.

 
Frank Turrentine
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I feel a little guilty today. The first of the tree orders arrived on dad's door yesterday afternoon. I've got 12 paw-paws, 6 peaches, 4 apricots, 6 grapes and 6 blackberries to plant tonight and tomorrow. They're tiny things, less than 24", I think, but I feel like I lose serious cred by doing it this way.

On the upside, dad gets to see something from these in the time he has remaining, and I would rather get at least some of the hugelkultur done before I plant any from seed. I've got another larger order due next week that includes a lot of native fruit trees.

I don't really feel guilty. I love playin in the dirt while my dad supervises. And I'm too old to worry about cred anyway.
 
winston wilcox
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Here is a guy that lives in new mexico and does awesome stuff.... he grows lots of trees from seed and has perhaps the most unique style i have seen yet of managing his trees. Best channel ever, his videos are super interesting!


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FjSPE7BKiOk&feature=youtube_gdata_player
 
andrew curr
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A Spanish pig farmer told me the gvt subsidises them to lock up areas of dehesa for 15 years, they have over the past 600 years worked out that sowing quercus suber directly is best for the tree thus best for the pigs
I would tend to agree the only problem being grass weeds untill the tree gets to about 3ft
The reason being that oak in particular has a 4to 1 root to top ratio so unless as one person alluded to you have a 4ft pot /hole your 1ft seedling is at a disadvantage
 
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