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my tree seeds have grown, now what?

 
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Hi everyone,

3 months ago I started sprouting apple and apricot seeds. That was https://permies.com/t/111655/Follow-starting-apple-seeds
I went through few dozen seeds and I'm getting a small set that survives fairly well. It's the attached picture: 1 tall apricot tree on the left and the rest apples.
At this point I'm a little scared to mess up with the next step.

I'm in northern Virginia. When is a good time to put them in the ground? Is it too early for them? Do I need to wait for fall?
Does anyone have a couple of good reference links on how transplant young tree seedlings?


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Hey Fred! I remember the thread.

Your plants are all looking very healthy!

I had started with cold-stratification (in the fridge over the winter) and had several seeds open up after about 3 months. Of the solid 5 starts, only one is healthy and growing nicely, and 2 have died (damn you, slugs!). I've just upgraded them to a larger pot, and it's loving it a week later - already putting up fresh top-growth. (It's night time now, but I'll send pics soon).

Disclaimer: I'm no expert in this - I'm just experimenting.

From what I've read, you don't want to transplant too many times (like any plants), and so put them into a pot they can really grow into. I can't find the reference at the moment - but it also said to keep them outside, semi-sheltered (and semi-shaded) for a full year to harden them off while keeping them protected. I have a back deck covered in Sun-Tuff which I keep them on the edge of. They get some wind and rain this way, but they're still out of the harsher elements and off the ground. I'm not sure about Virginia, though as I'm in a temperate coastal climate the winters don't get too cold.

I'm sure there are many more knowledgeable folks than I that can offer some real knowledge!
 
fred bleuzet
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I had a caterpillar incident two days ago before I took the picture, it's the single pot on the middle left with a single leaf.
I was on the mindset of hardening them, but from what you said I went a bit bolder than what you suggest. Basically on the second set of leaves I put them in full sun. VA summers are very hot, I thought I might as well get them used to it. Maybe that was reckless of me.
So maybe I'll find good size pots to transplant before putting them in the ground next year. But then in winter I'll have to move them in the house, right? From what I read there is a risk of freezing the roots when the plants are in pot.
 
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Hi Fred, if those were my tree seedlings, I'd plant them in the ground this fall. Come late winter, early spring when fruits trees begin to come out of dormancy and go through bud swell, those same hormones cause a new flush of feeder root growth in the soil, which will in turn help the new saplings access more water in the soil come next summer. The only time I would re-pot young trees or shrubs were if I ran a retail nursery and was trying to sell them. I believe the sooner they can begin their life in their permanent home in the soil will minimize stress and the better off the tree will be.
 
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They look great Fred!

You can cut the cup open to minimize root disturbance and transplant them this Fall, like James mentioned, when your weather is mild.

I like to let them get a good amount of growth on them, which helps them not be so fragile, and to also get them in the ground a few weeks before the first frost, so they can adjust naturally to the cold and go dormant at the right time to avoid cold injury.

You can roughen up the edges of the soil if the roots look root bound, but i would do as little as possible to give them a better chance at surviving.

If you dig the hole deeper and wider than the cups, it can help the seedling roots grow into the soil more easily. I like to put down a shredded leaf mulch on top of the soil to hold in moisture and build soil fertility. Watering them in really good can also help give them a good start.

Here's a thread about the apple seeds I've been growing this year.

Growing Apple Trees from Seed with Natural Plant Nursery

I used soil from the ground for the first time this year in my seed trays, and it held too much moisture. Combined with negligence on my part, none of them in the seed tray made it.

I planted some directly in the ground though, and those have been doing really well! I'll most likely be planting them all directly in the ground going forward. It was super easy and low maintenance!

Congratulations again some nice looking apple seedlings, looking forward to seeing how they turn out!
 
fred bleuzet
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Thanks Steve!

I remember your thread, I read through it at the time. I just did it again :)

I'm a little bit confused by cutting open the cups. I kind of imagine that exposing roots to open air is not too good, the root would turn woody. You must have a technique, can you explain in more details? It's not transplanting, right?

I think I'll do some more experiments next year. I heard a theory of programming seeds from some video by Stefan Sobkowiak. The big idea is to sprout seeds in soil that is as poor as can be. The seed grows because it contains all the nutrients it needs to start its life. First the seed shoots a root down to probe its environment and the soil being particularly poor, the seed genetically programs itself to grow in harsh conditions. Then you transplant the seedling into normal soil, it feels like a bounty for the seedling and boom it grows super well.
That's the theory, I can't wait to try it next year.
 
Steve Thorn
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fred bleuzet wrote:Thanks Steve!

I remember your thread, I read through it at the time. I just did it again





I'm a little bit confused by cutting open the cups. I kind of imagine that exposing roots to open air is not too good, the root would turn woody. You must have a technique, can you explain in more details? It's not transplanting, right?



I did word that a little confusing. I was just talking about when you go to transplant it, cutting open the cup on each side so the roots come out easy and the stem doesn't have to be pulled on the young plant.

I think I'll do some more experiments next year. I heard a theory of programming seeds from some video by Stefan Sobkowiak. The big idea is to sprout seeds in soil that is as poor as can be. The seed grows because it contains all the nutrients it needs to start its life. First the seed shoots a root down to probe its environment and the soil being particularly poor, the seed genetically programs itself to grow in harsh conditions. Then you transplant the seedling into normal soil, it feels like a bounty for the seedling and boom it grows super well.
That's the theory, I can't wait to try it next year.



That sounds really neat Fred!

I do something kind of similar to that currently with my plants. I sow the seed or plant it in a good location for its needs, and then leave it own it's own with no watering, and it sends its roots down deep in search of water and gets really well established and tough.

I think I heard of Sepp Holzer doing something similar to what you mentioned, planting seeds in the worst soil and saving seed from the ones that are tough enough to do good there, and then they do really good when planted in good soil.

Excited to see how it goes!
 
Simon Gooder
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Update: my apple tree taking off after transplant. I realize it’s rather obvious they are stunted by their container size. Will be moving other plants to new pots shortly.
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apple tree grown from seed
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apple tree grown from seed, before transplant
 
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