I've searched the forum and haven't found a topic on economically raising tree seedlings so I thought I'd start one since I have 350 tree seeds in cold stratification right now and hopefully some of them will need to be planted out.
Tree seedlings have different demands than herbaceous annuals. For example their root systems typically need more space to develop and the shape of the pot is different to allow for tap root growth.
I'm looking into ways to economically grow tree seedlings in a way that is reasonably eco-friendly and assists in transplanting. I found that there are biodegradable potting bags made from cellulose which is an option. Where to source them is a mystery to me at this time.
I'm considering using disposable paper coffee cups as pots. Used ones are free, and the 16 oz ones are probably suitable for one growing season before the seedling gets too big.
OK so it turns out that paper coffee cups aren't lined with wax as I thought. It's actually a thin film of polyethylene plastic which means that the cup can take 20 to 30 years to decompose. From what I've been reading, the disposable paper coffee cup is an environmental nightmare.
However, there are some being manufactured using https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polylactic_acid as a liner. Not too sure about how environmentally friendly the manufacturing process actually is, but at least the plastic breaks down.
Here's a couple videos on air pruned beds. Apparently you can start a MST* of seeds this way. The first is from Twisted Tree Nursery in NY and the second is the first video in an Edible Acres series on making his own (I'm not sure if he finished the series).
*MST = metric shit ton
"Hundreds of years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in or the type of car I drove... But the world may be different because I did something so bafflingly crazy that it becomes a tourist destination"
Some of the tree nurseries plant the seeds in 5 gallon bucket pails or large crate bins of loose soil/compost mix. After a year of growing, they are still able to separate the roots. This allows the roots to grow deep.
I would be hesitent to plant trees in paper cups or too small of containers because it might not allow the roots to grow deep enough the first year.
Depending what you want to do & the whys, it is still possible to plant directly in the soil where you want the tree to grow. This is more of a hands off approach. Eaither let nature take care of it or you make sure that it has enough moisture.
About 10 years ago I started about 3000 trees from seeds using styrafoam "beaver blocks." They were ok but not the best as everything needed to be transplanted into plastic pots.
There is a new fibre bag available from China at a good price that can be directly planted into soil. The cost is not much for a few hundred. If you are planting nuts or anything with a big taproot get them tall and slender.
I bought about 1000 to try them out for trees and cloning trees and shrubs etc. this year. Too early to see how well they work.
Ordered from AliExpress, see link to page. Search the site for best deal.
I am propagating a lot of trees and shrubs and the cost of pots is something I looked at. I decided to get a big roll of heavy landscape fabric and a sewing machine for my oldest daughter. I got her to make bagged pots. There are youtube videos on it. Very easy to do, a project we did during winter months. The advantage was that as I used them, I could get her to make them in different sizes to suit the tree or shrub that I was growing. Also to advantage, they last a few seasons! I reuse them as well.
Tip: Don't skimp on thread, leads to much sadness
Zone 3 prairie
Common Weeds And Wild Edibles Of The World (HD video)