Frequently Asked Questions
Some of the acorns are very small. Should I plant only the big ones?
- Acorns, much like people, come in many different shapes and sizes. In order to contain the broadest possible genetic diversity, we sort our acorns for health regardless of size. Your bag should contain a variety of sizes. Please plant every acorn we give you. This can be an interesting starting point to investigate if bigger acorns produce bigger seedlings.
How often should I water?
- Don’t let your potting soil dry out! Watering must occur when you first plant your acorns. Frequency will need to increase with warmer temperatures and as your seedlings grow. Pay attention to how the soil at the top of your pots looks. When it looks dry, poke your finger into the soil from the bottom of the pot. As long as it isn’t soggy down there, water.
How do I water?
- Put your pots outside on a grassy or mulched area. This will absorb the runoff which will contain traces of fertilizer. Add water until it flows out of the bottoms of the pots and the soil looks evenly wet. Let drain for 10-15 minutes. In the classroom, keep your seedlings on the plastic tray to contain additional drips.
How long does it take for the seedlings to sprout?
- The most difficult time for the Seed to Seedling project is the time between when the acorns are planted and when you see the first shoot break the soil surface. Acorns grow roots first, long before they grow shoots. Acorns will germinate 2-4 weeks after planting (if they haven’t already done so in the refrigerator!) Roots will be substantial and some shoots will appear 8-10 weeks after planting. Most shoots should be visible by week 14.
- If you have more planted acorns than students, feel free to designate one to check on periodically by gently dumping out the pot. Do this prior to watering when the soil is at its driest. Reserve all the soil and return the acorn gently to its pot after investigating the roots. If you do this gently, it won’t affect the growth of the seedling.
When should my pots go outside?
- Begin placing your seedlings outside in the sun once you see shoots appear. Remember to bring them back in at night and protect them from hungry squirrels and scrub jays. If you have big sunny windows (full sun), you may be able to keep your seedlings inside all the time. Seedlings need lots of light to grow.
How often should I take my pots out and for how long?
- It depends on how much light they get inside. If your classroom is very dark, take them out each morning and bring them in at the end of the day. If your classroom is moderately bright, take the seedlings out at least two days each week. If your classroom has large windows and full sun, you may never need to take them out. It is difficult to give oak seedlings too much sun.
Do I need to fertilize?
- No. Slow release fertilizer is already in the potting soil. Because of this, please be cautious about what you do with the water runoff.
My seedling has a white powdery substance growing on the leaves. Is this bad?
- Powdery mildew is a symptom of overwatering and poor air circulation. Monitor your watering closely and increase the amount of time your seedlings spend outside in the sun.
Should my seedlings be tall and spindly and unable to hold themselves up?
- If your seedlings are growing rapidly and seem unable to support themselves, increase the amount of time they spend outside in the sun. This rapid growth is a sign that they are not receiving enough light.
The leaves on my seedling are very pale and/or yellow.
- Very light green or yellow leaves are a sign of too little sun or too much fertilizer. Please give them more time outside in the sun. If the problem persists, call the Tree Foundation for assistance. This can also be a sign of poor water quality or over-fertilization.
Can we keep our trees at the end of the project?
- We would love to get you trees for your school! Unfortunately, we can’t give you the seedlings we are growing. These acorns have been specially selected from specific project locations. Once they are grown to seedling size, we will be returning them to their “families.” We often use the “field trip” analogy to make the students understand this concept. The acorns are on a very important trip away from their families. They really appreciate the care provided by the students but at the end of the project they need to go back to their own homes.
Please call the NATURE Program Manager at 916-924-8733 if you have questions or concerns.