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Planting black locust in quantity, and simply?  RSS feed

 
Wes Hunter
Posts: 214
Location: Seymour, MO
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Hello all,
I've got a few questions about planting a large quantity of black locust seeds, preferably in the simplest way possible.

I've got a fencerow of over 1000' in length that I'd like to convert to a (mostly) black locust hedge.  I'll be interspersing some apples (by dropping apple cores here and there) and an assortment of other miscellaneous tree and shrub seeds, but likely it'll be 75%+ locust.  My soil is incredibly rocky (really, my rocks are somewhat soil-y), and I have no particular intention of transplanting individual trees

I collected a bunch of seedpods from a couple of black locust saplings late summer.  I don't know how many seeds there are, but I reckon I've got enough for most of the fenceline.

My rough plan is to use a pick-ax to chop a long, shallow trench along the length of the existing barbed wire fence, then drop seeds in every foot or so.  Mulching probably isn't going to happen, in part because the grass is thin (because the neighbor's cows, overgrazed on their own pasture, stick their heads through and overgraze a couple feet on my side of the fence as well, and because the neighbors spray herbicide--which drifts somewhat--to control pesky weeds like clover), and in part because I don't intend on spending much time at all on this project.  I'm more than happy for this to take a few years to get established, likely filling in blank spots where necessary.

So, when should I plan on starting?  I'm in zone 6.  The ground is currently frozen, but our winter temps will fluctuate quite a bit, so frozen ground isn't a permanent winter condition.  Will the seeds do well if planted soon-ish, or am I better off waiting until spring (and wet weather)?

I gather that I should soak the seeds first.  Scarification isn't happening.

I could be convinced to start the seeds indoors and transplant them out, IF this would result in a significantly better success rate, and IF I could transplant them when they are still small and have a relatively undeveloped root system (again, I will not be digging holes).

Thanks for any advice!
 
Adrien Lapointe
steward
Posts: 3402
Location: Kingston, Canada (USDA zone 5a)
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My experience has been that they will germinate very sporadically if at all when they are not scarified. I have used the hot water method with good results, but I have read about two other techniques: 1. physical scarification (too time consuming) 2. Acid scarification (I don't have sulfuric acid at home and don't really want to bother with it). For the hot water scarification, I just pour boiling water over the seeds and let them sit in the cooling water for 24 hrs.

Once the scarification is done, I just plant them in a nursery bed and transplant them later. They seem to transplant very well and don't really have a taproot.



I think it is probably worth trying to plant some now (after scarification) to see what happens. My experience has been that they seem to only germinate once it gets warmer.

Btw, this is my go to book for woody plant propagation:


The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation
 
Wes Hunter
Posts: 214
Location: Seymour, MO
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I should clarify that by not scarifying, I meant not clipping or abrading each seed.  Soaking is no problem.

If seeding now, should I let the seeds dry before putting them out (to avoid wet seeds in sub-freezing weather) or is that no concern?
 
Adrien Lapointe
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Posts: 3402
Location: Kingston, Canada (USDA zone 5a)
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I have never tried drying them after soaking.
 
O. Donnelly
Posts: 31
Location: Hudson Valley Zone 5b
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I germinated about fifty plants last year. I tried three methods:  plant without any treatment, cover in boiling water and sit for 24 hours, cover in boiling water and sit for several days (I think 4-6). I had by far the best result with option three. Nearly every seed sprouted. About half sprouted with method two. None with first method. They grew very quickly in a paper quart milk container. They should be blasted with an oscillating fan from the time they emerge, or they will grow too spindly and week.  They are tough plants and grow stronger with abuse.  Alas I got behind in my projects and only planted out four.  They were unprotected and were chomped to the ground by deer by the next morning.
 
Wes Hunter
Posts: 214
Location: Seymour, MO
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Interesting that soaking for an extended period would have that significant of a difference in germination rates.

Did you start the seeds in the fall/winter after collecting them, or wait until the following spring?  How long between seeding and transplanting?

On the whole, I guess I'm wondering what the pros and cons are of putting soaked seeds out now, versus waiting until spring to put out either soaked seeds or slightly started seedlings.
 
O. Donnelly
Posts: 31
Location: Hudson Valley Zone 5b
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I collected seeds in late fall, stored in a ziplock in the refrigerator (in the pods, dry). Planted inside late April I believe. I think they'd be ready to transplant within a few weeks but I didn't keep detailed records. The important thing is deer protection. Even though they were surrounded by succulent vegetation, they got chomped.
 
Blaze Gorski
Posts: 29
Location: USDA zone 5b Ulster County, NY, USA 1200' elevation, catskill mtn foothills area
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Thanks O. am in the hudson valley and collected some seed this year ans will try your long soak method
 
Lance Kleckner
Posts: 122
Location: West Iowa
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If planted near the fence, will have to be far enough away or the cattle will just eat them.  

When I planted b.locust seeds, I scarified, but once I got some plants going, never had to mess with seeds again.  I planted my seeds in a nursery and transplant the trees out every year and new suckers take off, ready for another year.  
 
Jeff Stainthorp
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Location: Yakima, WA
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Wes Hunter wrote:Interesting that soaking for an extended period would have that significant of a difference in germination rates.


This caught my eye, and sent my gears turning. That is a very interesting point, indeed. My thoughts go something like this: Black locust is a survivor. By that I mean the genetic impetus inherent in black locust to continue the species is quite strong, which means it won't sprout for just anyone, or to be more accurate, anyplace.  Perhaps it is because in nature, black locust pods hit the ground in fall and lay dormant until the perfect conditions. Where I live (high desert), the ideal situation for a black locust would be a seedpod in a small depression in the earth, where the scant winter moisture will collect either as dew, rainfall, or snow, thus charging the seeds to sprout in the spring. I could be completely wrong, but it seems like a concentrated, extended soak like was described is a compressed version of what happens in nature.

I guess the boiling water doesn't really fit into that theory, so maybe I'm just crazy.
 
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