A lot of people don’t release you can grow most of our native trees from seed, but being the Tree Warden in my village of Weybread, that is just what I have been doing. Anyone can take part in this project even if you have a north facing balcony! I hope you can see how happy my Walnut Tree Seedling is, despite the onset of Autumn.
It is so very satisfying, when in the spring, little miniature trees start emerging and I’d love to share that pleasure with you! We need to plant billions of trees to help evert the climate emergency and give refuge to wildlife. By collecting and nurturing tree seeds can all be part of this climate revolution. I’ll tell you the key stages …
• Collecting seeds from healthy native trees only
• Growing and caring for the seedling in pots, in an outdoor shaded sheltered place
• Transferring the trees to larger pots or a bed when they are too large for the pots
• Protecting the trees from foraging animals and weeds and not letting them dry out.
• Giving the tree a new and suitable home – the right tree in the right place!
Don’t be tempted to plant trees near buildings, drains, paths or even necessarily on a boundary with a neighbour with out prior consultation.
Do think hard about find the best location so that the tree has a chance to grow to maturity and old age and that it never becomes a nuisance or the source of an argument. If you can’t find a suitable location, get in touch with your local Tree Warden or Parish Council and ask how they can help, or if you can help them with their Tree Agenda.
The collection of seed can begin as early as September, but there are still many seeds which are currently at the right state of maturity. With just a quick glance around you will find chestnuts, crab apples, acorns, alders, ash and berries such as spindle, rowan and yew etc. Only pick healthy looking mature fruit. Some species can be trained as hedging trees and some do best when allowed to grow up as full trees.
How to Grow Trees from Seed
Remove the outer part of the fruit – take the spiky fruit caspule off chestnuts, cut the fruit away from crab apples to expose the pips, rub berries to expose the seed etc.
Put all the seed or pips you have gathered in its own pot by species – label them if you can. For potting soil, I use garden loam mixed with sand and grit which I gather from a lane nearby where the grit mounds up by an old ford. With using reusing old plant pots there is no financial outlay. The method is called stratification and it is the most efficient way in terms of soil, space and time to create new trees.
Then just leave the pots outdoors over winter in a shady, sheltered place and in the spring little trees will appear. Give them individual pots and grown them on. Never let them dry out, so you will need to check them through the winter and more regularly through next spring and summer!
Pot the individual seedlings into their own pots when they are large enough.
When the seedlings begin to fill their pot, if possible place them in a nursery bed, or find new homes for them if you don’t have the space.
I highly recommend reading the Tree Council Website which gives more detail.
We are very fortunate to have hedge and some trees on our plot and one of the things I appreciate the most, is that they bring birds and extra wildlife into the garden. If I quietly walk up to our hedge in on a winter morning, our hedge is alive with sparrow chatter and it does make you feel warm inside and totally privileged.
Whether you would like to just have a little tree nursery on your balcony for your seedlings, or if you would like to grow them on a bit, find permement homes or plant them out on your own land, trees give not just many forms of pleasure and they can really help, over our lifetimes, to mitigate climate change and to product very useful resources for everyone.