FYI Some Facebook comments that may be of interest.
We post photos of young trees grown directly in place from seed that have grown so fast and are so healthy, that readers question whether they are real. This is understandable The swamp chestnut oak in the photo is 20 years old, very healthy, 15 inches in diameter and 45 feet tall. Most of urban and residential trees are abused and neglected, so we are not accustomed to seeing trees that are treated well.
Here is how to grow large, fast growing, healthy trees from seed:
1. Stop mowing the place the tree will grow, a year or more in advance. Trees grow poorly in compacted soil. Cease treating the grass with herbicides.
2. At least six months in advance, mulch the planting site thickly with grass clippings, straw, or leaf mold to smother the grass and weeds in a circle about 5 feet in diameter.
3. Select seed of a tree species that is well suited to the soil and site conditions. If you don't know how to assess species-to-site relationships, get advice from a trained forester. Planting a species well suited to the site is extremely important. Don't plant a tree just because it is a kind you like. Instead, plant a species that will grow well on your site.
4. Using white oak planted in September as an example, pull the mulch back to bare ground. Loosen the soil about 2 inches deep. Press about 12 acorns into the surface of the soil, very shallow.
5. Place a very light layer of leaf mold over the seeds.
6. Protect the seeds with Droste cans, tree tubes, or tight fencing.
7. Mulch the area of smothered grass with a thin layer of leaf mold mulch. Light weight leaf mold mulch is superior to heavy commercial woodchip mulch.
8. Several seedlings will appear in late April or early May. Be patient.
9. Keep at least three seedlings the first season.
10. DO NOT attempt to transplant the extra seedlings. Cut them off at ground level
11. Water the young seedlings in dry weather.
12. Lightly mulch a 5 foot circle around the seedlings using a mixture of leaf mold and untreated grass clippings. Very light layers can be added during Summer and Fall. Pull weeds by hand.
13. Under no circumstance allow lawn mowers or other heavy vehicles cross the mulched areas. Soil compaction is the unseen, unrecognized enemy of young tree roots.
14. Maintain the protective fencing.
15. During the second season, very light fertilizing can begin. Perhaps the equivalent of a table spoon of 12-12-12 twice a Summer. Water in dry weather.
16. At the beginning of the 3rd season thin to the strongest sapling. Again, do not attempt to transplant the saplings. Cut the excess saplings at the soil surface. If they resprout, cut them again.
17. In the 3rd season, fertilizer can be applied at slightly greater rates. Spread it thinnly and evenly on the mulched area, bit not against the trunk.
18. If deer are a threat, higher fencing may be needed.
19. Continue to keep lawnmowers away from the planting site. Root and soil damage do far more harm than we realize.
20. Watering can be done in dry weather.
21. In the third Winter, judicious pruning of lower branches can begin. If you are not skilled in pruning, get help or advice from.a certified arborist. Early training is far more valuable than expensive, corrective pruning of older trees.
22. In successive years, continue light mulching with leafmold-grass clipping mixtures. Light layers can be added at regular intervals, never very thick and never up against the trunk of the tree.
23. Fencing can be removed at 4 or 5 inches in diameter.
24. Watering as needed and light fertilization should continue.
25. Regular, little at a time pruning should continue. Get advice or help from your arborist.
26. Keep mowers and heavy equipment away from the drip edge of the tree for the next 500 years.