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How To Grow Trees From Seed

Growing trees from seed is not too complicated, but it takes some knowledge to do it right like any endeavor. You need to decide the right kind of trees for the area you live in and determine if you want your trees to have a long life. 

1. Select the Best Seeds for the Job

Consider your location and what trees are best for your climate. But you also want to choose the most vigorous seedlings. Growing your trees gives you that option. Each seed, though, is unlikely to produce the same characteristics as its parent. This happens to almost all seed-grown plants.

However, you can make a clone of the parent tree by grafting. If your tree is a self-pollinator, it is more likely to grow more like its parent tree. 

Overall, the best way to gain these seeds is by obtaining them from their natural environment. Choose plants that have the characteristics you seek. 

If issues arise from obtaining the right seeds this way, you can always buy them.

2. Two Ways to Grow

There are two ways to grow your trees from seeds—the first the natural way, which involves sowing the seeds outside in autumn. The second option is through assisted germination, typically performed indoors.

Seeds from many species are dormant and require a stratification period before they germinate.

Stratification requires cold, moist conditions, which sometimes requires a period of warm and wet conditions first.

So, seeds are expected to survive through winter and then germinate in the spring.

You cannot expect all of the seeds to make it through the winter in their natural environments, as some naturally don’t survive and animals eat some. To ensure that some survive, the plants produce many seeds.

3. Planting in Containers

By letting nature take its course, you will have many seeds germinate. If you want to plan them and use large seeds such as walnuts, you can use containers such as buckets and pots to help aid the process. You will sow your seeds and mix them with some potting soil. 

Place the container outside in a sheltered area, away from the wind. Make sure it will get direct sunlight.

The cold, snow, and freezing conditions through the winter will help ensure the seeds germinate. Cover the container with wire netting to protect the seedling from animals. Check on it regularly and water if needed.

Once large enough, you can place them into cells or small pots and transport them to a greenhouse for protection. Later, plant them on your site.

4. Sow Seedbeds and Nursery Beds

Sometimes you can sow seeds in seedbeds or nursery beds. These seeds should be native to your area. 

First, you’ll need a sheltered site outside. If needed, place a windbreak or something to shade the seeds. A wooden frame raised 8 inches is ideal for draining. Make sure there are not any weeds in the bed. 

The seeds need fine tilth and moisture-retentive surface soil, which consists of small, even particles. The fine tilth helps ensure good contact between roots and soil—this way, the moisture is absorbed for germination. 

Make sure you have some protection from animals. Don’t let your seeds dry out. Cover them with fleece or leaves to prevent heaving. 

Let the seedling grow for a while in the bed, and then transplant to your site.

5. Assisted Germination

Assisted germination can produce better results, even though the examples above can have promising results. With this process, you will mimic nature’s role in getting the seeds to germinate. 

First, you need to find out what treatment the seed needs for germination. Different seeds have different needs. Some require warmth before the cold, and some do not. Some have to germinate with light. You can find most of these things out through online searches for your seeds.

6. Treat the Seeds

Scarification is one of the first steps you may need to complete. Some seeds have hard coats that prevent germination until the coat breaks down. Nature softens these coats with warm, moist conditions in the spring. However, this process can take up to two years to complete. 

To accelerate the process, you can soak the seeds in hot (not boiling) water for up to 48 hours. Soak for 24 hours at first. If they haven’t swelled with water enough, soak for another 24 hours. 

If the seeds require cold stratification, you need to mimic winter conditions. The seeds fall to the ground, are covered with leaves, and then snow falls over them. These conditions keep them cold and moist. 

To mimic this, you need to soak the seeds in water for 48 hours, drain, place them on a moist paper towel, and fold it. Put the paper towel in a plastic bag to keep wet and refrigerate for 4-20 weeks before sowing. 

Some seeds need warm moist stratification before cold. This stage seeks to mimic the seed’s summer dormancy, where the roots typically get embedded in damp soil or mud. 

To mimic this, repeat the same steps as for cold stratification- except the place in a warm, slightly higher than room temperature, area for 12 weeks.

Choose Your Method

As you can see, there are many avenues you can take when planting your trees with seeds–and all of them can be successful. Just choose your path and enjoy it.