What to Do With Acorns

Yesterday MeemsNYC asked me in the comment section of my What Would Thanksgiving Be Without the Nuts? Plant them of course! I gathered up a small box of acorns and brought them home with me from my in-law's house. You're probably wondering why would he gather up a bunch of acorns to plant when they self sow readily on their own?

Here's the reason why:
This beautiful and stately oak tree is where all the acorns I gathered originated. If you look at the tree itself you'll notice the nice central leader which should be characteristic of a strong trunk. During the growing season this tree is covered in foliage making this area a shady retreat during the hot southern summers we suffer! But there is a problem - it is very close to the house. It isn't a big deal right now but years down the road it could be. One of my goals with the acorns is to grow a few of the offspring of this oak to plant around their property in other places so if they need to remove this tree there will still be others of the same lineage around.

My other thought of course is that I would like to have an oak or two myself and maybe donate a few others to my daughter's school which seems to be rather bare in the tree department. It's a relatively newer school with just a few plantings to add some greenery to the landscape. Some beautiful shade trees covering the playground areas would be ideal.

Another thought is that by making sure some of these trees grow into saplings and eventually into large oak trees I may be helping to reinvigorate the hardwood trees in Tennessee.  There have been losses of old growth forests in our state but there are efforts underway to help preserve them.

How I'm Growing the Acorns

It takes acorns a long time to become a large tree but every tree has to start somewhere. While cuttings may be possible the large number of acorns each tree produces generally make propagating them from seed much easier. When gathering acorns I tried to select acorns that did not have any holes in them. That is a sure sign of a non-viable seed since a borer has decided to have lunch on that oak embryo. I placed 18 in a planter and covered them with a layer of soil equal to the size of the acorn. When planting I kept them about 3-4 inches apart. Once they sprout in the spring I'll need to transfer them to deep pots for their taproots to grow.

The rest of the acorns (and there may have been 100+) I spread in a holding bed then covered with a layer of soil as above. Hopefully my losses to rodents will be minimal but just in case that's why I planted some in the planter. Most species of oak require some cold stratification to germinate but rather than store them in the refrigerator (which I know my wife wouldn't be too pleased with) I decided to plant outside. It works for Mother Nature right? We should get an adequate number of chill days to allow some of the acorns to germinate properly. We'll will see!

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