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Too late to plant trees by seed?

 
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Hey all, I want to start some trees by seed right now, with the idea of planting them in the ground in the fall. Will there be enough time between now and then for the seedlings to be strong enough to survive winter? I'm looking to plant red maple, pin oak, bald cypress... I'm in Michigan 5B.
 
gardener
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I think of you plant in fall the seeds will stay dormant and germinate next spring, which would work. I'd just wait until October and sow
 
steward
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Many species have natural inhibition mechanisms that keep them from germinating until the time is right. For example, while oak and maple seeds might fall on the ground at this time of year, they may not be germinating until next spring. You can't go very far wrong if you follow the trees natural life-cycle.
 
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If we are talking about the onion/garlic family or the kale-cabbage family or even some grains. I would say go for it. But most fruit and nut trees will probably just stay dormant until next years (spring).
 
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I agree with the above, but I think some species of maple do actually sprout in the late summer and then overwinter. I'm not sure of that, and not sure if red maple is one of them.
 
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In a warmer zone than you, I've had decent luck planting tree seeds in small pots whenever I could find the time to mess with them.  The trouble with planting them in the ground in the fall is that young seedlings of many tree species (I'm sure there will be exceptions) are much more frost-sensitive than more mature saplings and they are tender and tasty to every kind of nibbler from shrew-size on up to whatever your largest deer species is locally.  So what I do is some version of what they used to call "heeling in" with my small-potted seedlings.  True "heeling in" is planting them temporarily in the ground, but I leave them in their pots.  

Since I don't have inside space to keep them watered and illuminated and growing, I "plant" them, pots and all, in a protected outdoor space that the nibblers can't get to and where they won't freeze as much or as hard.  Because our ground temps here don't usually get very cold even when we have snow, I put my little seedling containers in a rodent-resistant high-walled container with drainage that sits on the ground.  Then I bury the pots and most of (or all of, if they are tiny) the seedlings in nice loose mulch -- arboreal wood chips that are about a year old are perfect, but hay or straw would work just fine.   The idea is to protect them from wind and ice and dehydration and eaters, but expose them to the long-term average outdoor ground temperature, which they ought to survive in dormancy if they are appropriate trees for your zone.  We tend to have fairly dry winters; if your mulch was prone to getting saturated you would want to provide some moisture protection to avoid having your impromptu cold frame (which is what this sort of is) turn into a compost pile, but then you would also need to water lightly a few times during the winter I would think.  

Just some thoughts -- perhaps you can adjust them somehow for your local conditions.  
 
Matt Dale
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Thank you everyone for all the info, that's very helpful. Yeah I was thinking of starting them in cups then transplanting them in the ground when I decide where to plant them. But it sounds like I should just wait until next spring to start them...
 
steward
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Just want to add to this thread that some seeds need stratification, or being frozen, before they will germinate.
 
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I'm planting peach pits from our tree as fast as we eat them...most in pots and others on the edge of the garden.  I've always planted them fresh and usually had good luck.  The pots will sit out all winter and usually sprout in the spring.

Last summer I planted pawpaw seeds fresh from locally grown fruit, again in pots overwintered outdoors.  Several of them, not all, popped up late July a whole year later.

I think it just depends on the tree and it's seeds and it's natural cycles.

The squirrels here 'plant' black walnut seeds as soon as they fall from the tree.
I find young maples and locust all over here that have sprouted from seed where it has fallen naturally off the tree or blown in the wind.

Back when we had groves of american persimmon we would pick them up on our walk to eat and spit them places we wanted more and some would always sprout.

I've never had any luck with dried fruit seed germinating...others do though so it might just be me.
 
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Matt Dale wrote:Hey all, I want to start some trees by seed right now, with the idea of planting them in the ground in the fall. Will there be enough time between now and then for the seedlings to be strong enough to survive winter? I'm looking to plant red maple, pin oak, bald cypress... I'm in Michigan 5B.



Go ahead and plant those tree seeds, next spring they will sprout just like nature designed them to do.

The ideal time to plant any tree seed is when it falls to the ground, that is how nature plants trees which means it is the ideal planting time.

Redhawk
 
Bryant RedHawk
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James Freyr wrote:Just want to add to this thread that some seeds need stratification, or being frozen, before they will germinate.



Most actually James, if you plant tree seeds right now (middle of August) they will sit dormant through winter (stratified by nature) and they will sprout in the spring just when the weather is right for them to survive and thrive.

Only humans forget about how nature has designed all plants to replicate themselves and thus perpetuate their species.

Many fruit trees have seeds designed to survive the fruit being eaten by animals, where that animal poops out the seeds, they will grow having their fertilizer right there with them.
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