Many trees are now dropping their seeds and it's a great idea to collect local seeds and grow them on as trees grown from local seed stock are well suited to local conditions i.e the soil, climate and seasonal patterns.
Autumn is a great time to be collecting seeds and then planting them in pots.
Woodland Trust: How to grow a tree from seed
The Tree Council: Seed Gathering Season 23rd September-23rd October
Hello Trees: How to grow trees from seed: Resource sheet
Plant a tiny acorn in a pot to grow a mighty oak
Season: Sow seeds in autumn
When to collect: Collect some acorns from mid-September to December. Don’t let the acorns dry out. Make sure you collect acorns in good condition, they should be green or brown in colour with no holes where insects may have burrowed inside, the caps should come off easily.
Growing Conditions: Acorns need cool conditions in order to be able to begin to grow (germinate). Plant ~4 acorns in an ~6inch pot with drainage holes and compost and then place the pots outside where they can be watered by the rain. The seedlings can be kept in this pot until the roots begin to emerge out of the drainage holes, when it can be potted on to a slightly larger pot. Tall pots are better than squat ones, to allow the roots to elongate. Repeat this as often as necessary. The saplings can be kept in pots for 2-3 years.
Mature horse chestnut trees grow to a height of around 40m and can live for up to 300 years.
- Place your conkers in a container of water, discard the ones that float these have dried out.
- Using only the conkers that sink, plant them about 2cm deep individually in pots of soil/compost, between now and the end of November.
- Water well and place in a sheltered spot outside.
- Protect the pots from predators i.e. squirrels, mice etc. and from hard frosts, a cold frame is ideal, keep checking them to see if they need watering, but don’t overwater.
- The conkers will need to go through a period of cold temperatures to encourage them to germinate in the spring.
- Keep your young trees watered and re-pot as they grow bigger.
- Ask the landowners permission before you plant your new trees into the big wide world, they can grow very large.
A Devon Special Species and is nationally scrace. Seeds usually ripen from September to October.
Directions for Propagation from Plants for a Future Seed : best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. If you have sufficient seed it can be sown in an outdoor seedbed. Stored seed germinates better if given 2 weeks warm then 14 - 16 weeks cold stratification, so sow it as early in the year as possible. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. Seedlings are very slow to put on top-growth for their first year or two, but they are busy building up a good root system. It is best to keep them in pots in a cold frame for their first winter and then plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring.
Where to grow: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.Succeeds in most reasonably good soils in an open sunny position. Tolerates light shade, though it fruits better in a sunny position
The Conservation volunteers have great advice for collecting, sowing and growing Hazel here
A few key points
The ideal time to collect is when the nut is easy to remove from the husk. This indicates that they are just about ready to fall. Carefully pull the clusters of nuts from the branches and keep in buckets or breathable bags.
The nuts (without their husks) are thrown into a bucket of water. Those that sink will more than likely grow, those that float won’t (or will produce a much smaller seedling). Simply discard the ‘floaters’, somewhere where the mice can clean up, and keep the ‘sinkers’.
Mix the ‘sinkers’ with an equal amount of horticultural sand (one handful of sand to one handful of seeds). Find a pot large enough for this mixture and a bit more. Place a few stones in the bottom of the pot for drainage and cover these with sand. Add the seed/sand mixture and cover with a few centimetres of sand. Label the pot and place somewhere shady.
Hazelnuts are a great food for mice. Wherever you put them, mice will find them! You will need to cover your pots with some wire mesh with a small enough mesh size that mice can’t get through. Leave the pots for the winter.
When the seeds show signs of germination (check them from the end of February) it is time to sow them. In pots, simply place two seeds about 2-3cm deep, firm and water. Keep the pots moist.
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