Is there anything special I need to do to get some hickory trees and oak trees started from acorns? I harvested the nuts in the fall, screened out the ones that floated, soaked the remainder through some cold weather, put them in soil in quart bags and kept them in the refrigerator all winter.
They've all got white shoots (radicles?) that have sprouted. Those will be the taproots? Just plant them in protected soil for a year before I move them into an area with light for their new homes? I'd appreciate any suggestions from experience. Thanks again.
Good work, those are indeed the roots sticking out.
Now, if you plan to use pots to give them a start, let me suggest you use something like a 24 inch long piece of 6 inch PVC Pipe instead of a "normal" pot.
The reason is that tap roots like to go deep and they will get very long, very fast, you have to give them a place to grow down.
Most of this type of seed is never planted deep, squirrels are the normal gardener that plants these trees, so one to two inches is plenty.
I have started White Oaks by the same method you have started and what works best for me is to place the acorn just at the surface.
The root is what I bury in soil then I just make sure the nut is peaking out of the pressed down soil.
From there I just water in with my handy dandy B-12 root starter solution and let it grow.
Bryant, I have been transplanting oaks and hickories, and I have heard that the taproot will never develop properly and will form a weak tree. Since I heard about it I have been planting nuts instead but I already transplanted several. Should I destroy the transplants? The trees were all about 1' tall, dormant, but I am sure I didn't get the whole taproot, as you said it seems to be twice the height of the tree or more...
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Tj, The only real concern with that type of transplanted tree is wind damage, they will tend to topple in high winds once they are tall and have spread their canopy.
A cut off tap root, if able, will end up sending branches down to anchor it to the soil. If these branches find cracks in the bedrock, they will work their way down into those cracks and the tree won't go anywhere.
I dug up a hickory last year that had two branches on the tap root (not sure why since it is in a forest) those roots had worked into the bed rock and that tree was really hard to get out of the ground.
I live on a mountain ridge, in the forest, so for me the ideal is to plant directly.
I have to let the trees roots find the cracks in the bedrock (which isn't that far down) so they will hold themselves up in the high winds we get.
When I lived in a valley I didn't have to worry so much since the spread of the roots of a tree would be able to hold it in place fairly well.
in that place I even planted a giant redwood and it grew 8 feet a year from seedling. It was cut down 15 years later because it was already 4 feet across (top soil there was 100 feet deep).
I grew butternuts from seed last year. I planted the cold stratified nuts in 6" pots in the spring and transplanted them to their final resting place once they sprouted and were 4" tall. The biggest thing I learned was that I almost (or actually) transplanted them too late. The tap roots had already hit the bottom of the pot and started to coil a bit. So I'd suggest you either plant them directly in the ground now or if you put them in pots first, be ready to then plant them when they are still very small. Or do as Bryant suggests with the pipe for a pot but be ready to have a very interesting challenge as you try to get that "tube" of potting soil planted without it all falling apart.
One thing that helped me transplant is that some little "weeds" also were growing in the pot and their roots held the soil together as I transplanted the desired nut tree into its new hole.
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Sounds like you're off to a great start. We started some saw tooth oaks by first choosing the tree that had acorns remaining on it the longest (a trait we liked) and then storing the acorns in damp crumbled leaves/duff in the refrigerator until they sprouted. We then made a temporary seed bed, layed the acorns in a grid pattern and barely covered them with soil/crumbled leaves/wood chips. Covered the seedbed frame with an old window and raised it up higher as they grew.
In this same bed, we planted some pear trees that were volunteers from the compost pile where I had tossed a lot of scraps after canning pear preserves 😋.
This past weekend was the beginning of moving trees to their new, perminate homes. We transplanted 6 pears and 4 oaks so far.
When we began to dig in our seed bed, we removed the board walls of the bed and loosened the soil below the trees with the broadfork and then dug with the shovel. There wasn't a problem with the pear trees, but boy the oaks had long taproots! Measured over 15 inches! Two of the four trees were not injured but broke off the last 2 or 3 inches on the other two's taproots.
Dug wide, deep planting holes, added some compost, watered well, topped with wood chips and a staked tree shelter. (Said a little prayer.)
We've still got more to transplant and are giving away a few to friends. We're expecting snow tonight, so we'll be back to planting again when the weather breaks.
I hope my long story has something of use for you. I wish you lots of luck!
The first picture is from June. The cows that ate my onions in a nearby bed also stuck his head under the window and bit the tops off some of my trees 😕.
The second picture is from today. The wooden frame was just lifted off and we had it lined with dog food bags that still remain.
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