Growing an acorn tree takes time, skill, and lots of patience – but the result can be a wonderful addition to a yard or property with lots of benefits for nearby wildlife too. It’s a great way to help future generations and give a sturdy symbol to the land, as oak trees are some of the strongest trees available.
As we mentioned, growing an acorn or oak tree takes a bit of effort, and it’s not for the faint-hearted or impatient. While you won’t need rare equipment or heavy machinery, there are a few extra steps oak trees need to flourish in the wild. If you’re up for the challenge, though, we’ll go through exactly what it takes and how to do it well in this article – so you’ll have everything you need to get started.
Why Choose An Oak Tree?
Choosing an oak tree, or acorn tree, as a staple in your yard or for your property, means adding a long-term sturdy investment to the land. While there are many reasons for choosing this type of tree, a common one is the tree’s resulting sturdiness and architecture. Many of us have seen how tall and strong oak trees can grow and enjoy their appearance across the different species of oak.
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No matter the species, oak tree acorns provide an important source of food for wildlife and are crucial to maintaining a healthy balance in nature and wildlife. This is often the main reason for sticking with an oak tree. Choosing an oak tree for its sturdiness and acorns can really help the wildlife around you as well as provide long-lasting architecture for the land. It’s also incredibly easy to make the decision (especially if you already have an oak tree nearby) because finding the seeds (acorns) needed to get started can be as easy as taking a walk around the neighborhood or maybe even your own back yard.There are a few oak tree options to look at. While there are no “quick starters” or “short cut” options, there are some that offer shorter time spans and faster acorn turnovers. Others will offer better support for wildlife, while another option may fit the aesthetic you’re going for. Whatever your reason and whatever the benefits you are seeking from an oak tree, here are some options to consider before planting:
Pin Oak Tree
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The pin oak tree is one of the faster-growing tree options. it will produce acorns after about 20 years and it will have acorn crops every year or two after it matures – which is the fastest turnover for oak trees. This acorn tree option is a hardy member of the red oak family, and you can typically start seeing acorns towards the end of August. The acorns themselves are about 1/2 an inch long with a shallow cap and tight scales. While these can provide a food source for wildlife, they are not often the first choice or a main source of food.
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If you’re going for the acorn tree with the best food source for wildlife, this would be the one. While it won’t start producing acorns until it’s about 35 years old, and has a span of three to four years between abundant crops, the larger acorn size makes them a top food choice. This acorn tree is in the white oak family and is also known for being hardy and long-lasting.
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This is likely one of the more well-known types of acorn tree. This oak will produce acorns after 20 years and will hit its peak at around 50. The time between significant harvests is longer, though, at anywhere from 4 to 10 years. Its acorns are thin and about an inch long and an important source of food for wildlife. You can expect to start seeing acorns in September and October, and this oak maintains the sturdy title as well.
Growing An Oak Tree From An Acorn
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Now that you have an idea of what kind of acorn tree you are looking for, let’s get into how exactly to grow one. It’s important to know going in that acorn production is not consistent as things like excessive rain, wind, drought, and temperature can factor into how well an acorn tree grows – so be patient with your acorn.
Selecting An Acorn For Your Acorn Tree
The first thing you’ll want to do is gather acorns. Avoid ones that are damaged or have holes in them, and let the rest soak in water for 24 hours. After 24 hours, throw out the acorns that are floating, as these have either dried out or have been drilled out by borers. Depending on which oak tree you are growing (or if you need some help figuring out which acorns you have gathered), acorn trees in the white oak family will sprout pretty much immediately, while those in the red oak family will wait until after the next step, typically.
Let The Acorns Sit
Here’s the first taste of how patient you need to be. After air-drying the remaining acorns, place them in a sealable container or plastic bag with either a slightly damp paper towel or some damp peat moss. You’ll leave them in the refrigerator for 3-4 months, and you’ll need to inspect them regularly for mold (throw the moldy ones out).
After the first trial of your patience, you’re ready to plant the acorns. First, though, wrap them individually in a little piece of chicken wire, with the edges facing upwards. This will help prevent foraging and keep your acorns safe while they sprout. Plant these acorns about 2 inches deep in a nursery pot with a mix of 2 parts compost, 1 part topsoil, or you can use a potting mix.Placement is important for this first planting, especially. You’ll want to place the container in a sunny spot that is sheltered from the wind as well as from intense, constant heat. Typically, aiming for a spot that is in the sun for the morning hours is a good rule of thumb.While the acorn tree is in the nursery pot, it is important to water it sparingly until it germinates (or begins to look more like a plant instead of a pot of dirt). After germination, water your acorn tree two the three times a week.
Choosing the perfect spot for your acorn tree is important too. You’ll need to be wary of other trees and power lines, keeping in mind exactly how large and tall this tree will grow. For it’s earlier years, you may want to protect the sapling from wildlife, too, with hardware or fencing. When you do find that perfect spot, though, be sure to plant before winter, as the tree needs time to settle and acclimate before the chill sets in.
Some Final Notes On Acorn Trees
You’ll need to be very patient with an oak tree, as we mentioned before. It will likely take half a lifetime for the tree to mature enough to produce acorns depending on the oak you’ve chosen. While the time may seem a major disadvantage, there are some other advantages for choosing acorns.Acorns are by far some of the easiest “seeds” to transport. They are protected from external weather to a degree and don’t need any special catering to when being selected and transported.Acorns collected locally are already adapted to the local climate and soil, so there’s likely to be fewer issues as they grow. If you’re taking the acorn to different soils, you can use the first planting to introduce it to the new soil. This will make the adjustment and growth much quicker (even if it’s a local acorn).As acorns sprout, they immediately adjust to the climate, making them more robust to sunburning than other plants (though you do still want to keep them out of constant sunlight, especially if it is high intensity).Make sure you choose a larger nursery pot (a gallon or two to be generous), as the root system will grow better and require less watering as it adjusts to the landscape.
It is important to keep in mind that although oak trees are some of the more robust and hardy trees available, they do still take a careful combination of factors to be successful. Skipping over or running through any of these steps could prevent your acorn from growing, as could a myriad of external factors like extreme weather or wildlife. The oak tree line does have measures to prevent against some damage (as we have mentioned above), but it will need you to cultivate it and protect it during its early years as well.Overall, planting an acorn tree is an investment. It takes a few extra steps to ensure the tree grows properly, as well as lots (and lots) of patience. The end result will be well worth it, though, for generations to come and for the nearby wildlife.