What to do after acorn germination?

A few weeks after the acorns are placed in the medium of our choice, they will germinate and the radicle will make its appearance. It is crucial to mention that the germination stage will vary depending on the acorn, as well as its strength.

As soon as the radicle appears, we are ready to proceed to the next step of the process. If the acorns are left to germinate longer, the radicle will grow rapidly, hindering the planting further.

At this stage, we have to explore our options and choose the most appropriate method, considering the circumstances and our needs.

The main two factors to consider are:

1. how involved we wish to be in terms of energy, time, money and space.
2. the climatic and soil challenges the saplings will have to fight against. (Yes, it is a fight)

Let s see the possible solutions and have a discussion about each one.

1. Plant the germinated acorn. 

This can be done the moment the acorn produces the radicle or it can be delayed until the taproot has acquired some mass.  A major advantage of this approach is that it imitates nature. The taproot is left intact, maintaining its rock breaking power, piercing into the ground to reach groundwater. Further, any possible transplanting shock an older plant may face, are avoided. The acorn is planted in its final location, as it would naturally.

Another advantage is that it demands minimal energy and space. A small box can hold many germinated acorns and it can easily be carried into the planting location. There, the acorns can be planted with minimal effort, since all is necessary is a small hoe, a trowel, or even our hands or a stick, to plant them.

Ironically, the wildlife these saplings are planted to support by creating a habitat for them, also pose the most serious danger to the reforestation effort. How is that? Acorns like all other nuts are loaded with nutrients and animals, jays, squirrels, mice, voles and hares, may predate on them. For them, the germinated acorns are considered food; they are not aware of our effort and thus may try to eat them. To counter that, a mesh may be used to cover the planted acorns, which however increases the cost and complicates what was supposed to be a simple process. Otherwise, we can plant them around 5-7cm in depth, just like the fresh acorns. What is more, it may be useful to mark our area so that humans do not trample the young and fragile oaklings, therefore an area far from human activity is preferred.

2. Grow the oaklings in a pot

The oaklings can grow safely for a few years this way, preparing them for the hardships again.

You can plant them straight to the pot or grow them in a large container full of loose soil so that they can be removed easily in clumps. 

When it comes to the pot selection. This is where it gets complicated. Pot selection can be daunting and the defining factors are the following:

  1. water availability /climatic conditions, 
  2. the energy to work on the field
  3. space availability.

We must always bear in mind that oaks live for centuries and that how we handle them will affect their future decades ahead. If water is available for irrigation or our climate is humid, then we can save on space by using smaller pots and by doing so, also save on energy, since the holes we need to dig will be smaller. 

If we however, live in an area with scarce rainfall in the summer and irrigation is impossible, such as in a remote area, then we need to preserve as much of the taproot as we can so that it can go as deep in the soil as possible.

By digging out naturally planted oaklings found in dry areas, we can see that there are no lateral roots to a depth of 30 cm and more. In an economy of energy and resources, the oakling does not produce lateral roots till deeper, since they will dry in the hot mediterrenean summer when the soil lacks any moisture.

To counter that we ll need deep air pruning pots to prevent root bound oaks. Therefore, the typical nursery pots or bags should be avoided. A size that works very well, would be 40 cm deep by 20cm wide. Unfortunately the deeper pots are demanding in transportation to the planting field due to their weight and make the digging a lot harder, especially in rocky or clay compacted soil. Power tools may be necessary if that is the case in your area.

3. We can also grow bare root plants, a) hydroponically, b) in soil, or c) in an inert material such as perlite. The key advantage is that we will be able to pull the bare root plant with the least damage to the taproot which should be long and thick. What is more, they are very easy to carry to the field,These options however, can become technical, nutrients and pH measurements are necessary and therefore are out of the scope of the video.

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