Planting Acorns Outside
Plant your acorns from late October to the end of February.
When students participate in the decision-making about the acorn planting, they will want to take a greater role in the care and stewardship of the trees, so the class should participate in the site selection process. Choose a sunny spot where the soil is loose and puddles don’t form when it rains. Do not plant your seedlings close to buildings, the sidewalk, driveways or other immovable objects. Also be sure your trees won’t touch any power lines when they grow up. Think back to the size of the oak trees where you gathered your acorns to get an idea of their eventual size.
Take the students to visit the proposed tree-planting site before the event. Review the benefits trees provide, especially to urban environments. Encourage students to imagine how the new trees will change the site. You may want to choose names for the tree (or the grove of trees) planted.
Help your Tree Stewards to make pledges to take part in caring for the new trees. Write tree care pledges on paper cut in the shape of a tree, leaf or acorn. These can be buried when the acorn is planted or worn by the tree planters.
- Acorns (2 per student)
- Milk carton (1/2 gallon) or wire screen and string (one per student)
- Wood chips or straw mulch
- Scissors or garden clippers
- Oak Seedling Adoption Certificate for each student
For each student:
1. Dig a hole about 10 inches deep and 6 inches wide, setting aside the removed soil to reuse. Use either a milk carton, with the top and bottom cut off, or the wire screen to make a little house for your acorns. This will help protect them from hungry animals. The wire or carton should touch the bottom of your hole and will be below ground level when you are finished planting.
2. Fill the hole almost to the top with the soil you set aside. Make sure to keep big rocks and grass out of your acorn house. Gently place two acorns on top of the soft dirt floor of your acorn house. If they already have roots, be careful not to break them.
3. Cover the acorns with ¾ inch of soil. Carefully water the inside of your house two times. Make sure the acorns stay buried after watering. If you used wire screen for your enclosure, tie the top closed with string.
4. If your acorns are planted in a busy area or a place where lawn mowers are used, make them more noticeable by marking them with stakes 3 to 5 feet tall or use bright marking tape.
5. Distribute the Oak Seedling Adoption Certificates. Read and discuss the responsibility involved in caring for the seedlings. You may want to read the pledge together and then have each student sign his/her certificate.
6. Check your acorns often. Within 1 to 6 months, you will be able to see your seedlings pushing up through the soil. Acorns spend a lot of time growing roots before they send up a shoot, so be patient. If you have more than one tree growing in each house, wait for them to get 6 inches tall, and then carefully remove the smaller of the two seedlings. Make sure to clip it just below the soil level so it won’t sprout again.
7. Keep competing vegetation, especially grasses, away from young seedlings. These and other plants rob soil moisture and nutrients. Pull any weeds within 2-4 feet of your acorn house and cover the area with mulch. Make sure the mulch does not actually touch your seedling. If you used a wire screen, keep the enclosure tied until the seedling reaches the top. Once it reaches the top, leave it untied.
8. Water young trees once a month during the dry season. Begin watering one month after the last rain in spring and finish at the first good rain in the fall. Give your seedling 5 gallons of water at each watering. After 3 years, your seedling will not need to be watered anymore.