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Growing Tree Seedlings in Seed Trays Versus Direct Seeding

 
garden master
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Location: Zone 7b/8a Temperate Humid Subtropical, Eastern NC, US
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I wanted to share some successes and failures with some of the recent apple seeds I've planted.



I had a lot better success direct planting the apple seeds instead of in a seed tray, but this was mostly due to the seed tray being in a building outside, that I didn't visit often, and also did not have a good light source.

The directly planted seeds were so much easier though, just plant and forget! I will officially be planting all of my future apple seeds directly in the soil.

I like how with direct seeding, most of the time, the seeds are being selected for having natural germination success and being vigorous growers.

Have you planted tree seedlings before? If so, what kinds have you planted, or what do you hope to plant soon?

Which way do you think you will plant, directly or in seed trays? What are some of the pros and cons from your experience if you've planted them before?
 
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I have a few apply tree seedlings right now. I used the cold-stratifying method over the winter. I planted them in a closed container in moist peat moss, and left them in the fridge. They took about 3 months to germinate/sprout, but most of them did.

This was with 10 seedlings. I planted them into larger pots with some local soil mixed with their sprouting medium. They've been left outside under the cover of the balcony, getting filtered sunlight for the past month, and sub-par spring temperatures. Of the 10 sprouts that were transplanted, only 3 are actually growing, and 2 of these are strong.

I'll definitely germinate a whole lot more next time, and I'll try the straight-into-the-dirt method!
 
gardener
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I direct plant peach, plum, apple, pear, persimmon, mulberry and am planning on plantings of cherries (two species), orange, lemon, grapefruit (the citrus has to be in a conservatory in my area).
When I plan on raising trees for transplant I like a 2 foot long piece of 6 inch pvc pipe for the container, this lets the roots grow just like they were planted insitu so there isn't a problem with root structure or growth when I place out the yearling trees.
 
pollinator
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:I direct plant peach, plum, apple, pear, persimmon, mulberry and am planning on plantings of cherries (two species), orange, lemon, grapefruit (the citrus has to be in a conservatory in my area).
When I plan on raising trees for transplant I like a 2 foot long piece of 6 inch pvc pipe for the container, this lets the roots grow just like they were planted insitu so there isn't a problem with root structure or growth when I place out the yearling trees.



Do you have a picture of what you mean?  I planted 80 willows last year and I only have 11 left as the deer ate them.  I've since surrounded with chicken wire but it's expensive and labor intensive to keep them clear.  They are planted in a sea of grass.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Our orchard is a fenced in area to keep the donkey from eating the younger trees, we use 4 foot tall "horse fence", once the trees are large enough that animals like the donkey and deer can't kill the trees, the fence will be moved to a new section.
Our current orchard is about 2 acres in size.

Ammonia can be used as a barrier for deer and other browser animals Just sprinkle it around the area you want to protect (best used as a perimeter and about 18" to 2 feet wide on the sprinkling of ammonia).
I take gallon jugs and just poke a few holes in the aluminum barrier cap that keeps it fresh, then I just hold the jug horizontal and shake it, the ammonia comes out as droplets that way.
The draw back is that if it rains, you have to reapply the ammonia. The use of ammonia in this method doesn't harm plants or the microbiota in the soil, it feeds the bacteria and fungi as long as you don't saturate the soil.

Redhawk

(I don't have the ability to post up pictures yet)
 
pollinator
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If i got enough seed or if the seed is very big and has the capacity to wait out the perfect conditions without rotting, i do seed in the ground. But for small seeds, or if i bought a packet of like 5 dollar and they send 15 tiny seeds i will use trays. It's just easier to control the externals, watering, temperature, place. Close to my windowsill and then move them out to the greenhouse. As well i find that some small seeds do much better in these balcony hanging long trays. Dill for instance or cabbages works very well for me in balcony trays. Seeding thick, and they will come, it's like if they call each other, one starts and then the rest comes. Could be that in nature they evolved if they feel the rooting hormone of a competitor, be quick or be left behind in the shade of those competitors. But that's just me theorizing. Who knows, this is what works for me. Having said all that, i like to have enough seed saved of everything so i can sow thick and outside on site, saves all that fiddling and time of transplanting plants.
 
gardener
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I have about 45 black locust ( Robinia pseudoacacia ) planted in a seed tray using little peat disks that when hydrated expand to around 2-3" tall. I scarified the seeds by boiling water, poured that water into a ceramic mug, then dropped the seeds in and let them sit for 24 hours. Those which swelled were planted (which was the full tray, 72 I think), and the tray sat on the dinner table covered with a plastic cover that came with the tray to keep the moisture level high. Once 1 or 2 seeds sprouted I adjusted the cover to allow a little air to circulate, and kept misting the seeds twice a day. Once most of the seeds sprouted, I moved the tray outside during the day, leaving the lid cracked open a bit. One night I forgot to bring the tray in, and ~60 seedlings became 45 and I found a couple snails in the tray...

Now the seedlings are big enough, maybe 2-3" tall, that they stay out 24/7 without the lid and I haven't seen more snails. I'll be moving them into small pots that are maybe 1 gallon or so for greater root growth, and was contemplating making cloth pouches for the soil instead of plastic, so roots could air prune and branch more, rather than fewer growing longer and wrapping around the plastic inside. This fall if I have enough that are large enough, I'll make the long drive to the future homestead 2700 miles round trip, oof) to plant them and surround each with a 4' fence around 6' in diameter, to hopefully hold the deer at bay. The goal is to give them the late fall, winter, and early spring to get the roots established, before the dry summer months can desiccate all the growth and kill them.

If I can plant 40+ that would be ideal, and once I get home I'd start another batch of seeds to bring back the following fall. If the first batch survived, then it would become a yearly deal and the trees would mature with 1 year intervals, and I plan to coppice them once they hit 3-4" diameter for firewood (so no splitting needed) and then ideally cut again after 5 or so years of regrowth when they reach the same diameter. I'll probably aim for around 100 trees per year, and plant them around 10 feet apart. This would give me right around 400 trees per acre, so perhaps 2 acres or so will work, it's all theorycrafting for now.
 
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