Planting Your Seedlings
October through February is the best time to plant your seedlings.
When students participate in the decision-making about the tree 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 students to visit the proposed tree-planting site before the event. Review the environmental values 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 tied to the new tree, buried when the tree is planted or worn by the tree planters.
- Wood chips or straw mulch
- Materials to mark the planting sites-stakes, ribbons
For each seedling:
1. Dig a hole four times as wide as the container and just as deep. Do not plant trees in holes where the tree will be lower than the soil level. Trees planted lower collect too much moisture around the trunk, which encourages the crown to rot.
2. Roughen the sides of the hole to allow for root.
3. Carefully remove the seedling tree from the growing container. Take care not to harm the delicate root system. If trees have been kept in containers for more than one year, the roots need to be carefully loosened before being placed into the hole. Carefully straighten or cut a circling taproot. If the taproot has been severely damaged, the tree may take several months to recover from the shock of planting and side roots will take on the function of supplying the moisture to the young tree.
4. Position the tree in the hole and refill the hole with the original soil. Carefully tamp the soil down to prevent large air pockets from drying out the roots.
5. Cover the soil layer around the tree’s base with 4-6 inches of mulch and water the tree thoroughly so that the soil will settle around the roots. Make sure that the mulch does not actually touch your seedling. Do not plant trees in very dry or soggy soil. Roots grow well in moist soil where adequate oxygen is present.
6. Mark the tree once it has been planted using three stakes placed around the outside of the root ball. Have students make stakes or protective devices for the new tree. Add ribbons or streamers to call attention to the tree. Most trees will establish the correct growth pattern without additional help.
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.
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 atered anymore.