Planting acorns

Posted: Friday 26 October 2012
by Kate Bradbury

Yesterday I popped an acorn into a pot of compost. I've no idea what I'll do with it when it's germinated, but, for now, I have the beginnings of an oak tree in my flat.

An acorn growing on an oak tree

Yesterday I popped a fresh, green acorn into a pot of compost, covered it up and watered it. I’ve no idea what I’ll do with it when it’s germinated, but, for now, I have the beginnings of an oak tree growing in my flat.

As a child, I went through a phase of growing oaks and horse chestnuts in my bedroom. My mother would ask what I planned to do with the trees I was raising, and made it clear that under no circumstances was I to plant them in the garden. I can’t remember what happened to my little potted giants - I’ve a horrible feeling I came home one day and they were gone.

No one is voicing concern over me growing an oak tree in my flat. The pot has pride of place on a chest in front of a sunny window and the plant will be well looked after. The acorn came from a huge oak growing in a nearby cemetery. It’s a local tree - it belongs here.

Too few trees are grown from seed these days, or so it seems. We gardeners are used to the instant impact of buying in and planting half-grown specimens, but in doing so we miss out on the magic of raising something so huge from something so small. Seed-grown trees take time to germinate and an age to mature, but they should require less maintenance than semi-mature versions - they have plenty of time to adapt to their surroundings.

The 25th anniversary of the Great Storm passed last week, and with it came details from conservation bodies about the current state of Britain’s woodlands. The storm provided conservationists with the perfect opportunity to replant vast swathes of coniferous woodland with native broad-leaved trees, and cement plans for a greener, leafier future. 

Apparently Britain now has more tree cover than in the last 150 years, and by 2060 it’s hoped we will have as much as there was in 1086. Yet the Woodland Trust says tree planting is at a 10-year low. 

We gardeners can all raise trees from seeds, especially those of us in cities, where tree cover can make a huge difference to pollution levels, urban temperatures and the likelihood of flooding. Not every gardener would welcome an oak tree growing in their flat, but there are plenty of smaller specimens we can grow, such as hawthorn, hazelnut, crab apple and rowan. We don’t have to plant them in our gardens if we’re worried about their eventual size or would rather go for instant impact - but we can all pop a seed in a pot for the future. If we don’t, who will?

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oldchippy 26/10/2012 at 14:00

Hi Kate,I have a friendly Jay that has planted acorns in my garden,Left to there own devices I now have growing five 16 foot tall oak tree in the border,They could only have been there just over 9 years,So they must like my garden to have grown that big so quickly.


nutcutlet 26/10/2012 at 14:21

I think I'd soon have a forest if I didn't weed out the ashes and the field maples  and the hazels.

chicky 26/10/2012 at 19:25

I planted an acorn this time last year, and it germinated this spring.  It lives outside, in  a sheltered spot.  Any ideas how I know when it will need potting on?  And how long (or how big does it need to get) before taking it out of its pot and finding it a permanent home in the garden?  The acorn came from a special place, and I don't want to lose the resulting sapling !

nutcutlet 26/10/2012 at 20:14

If you've got a place for it to grow where it's not going to get swamped by bigger plants it could be planted out in its dormant period this winter. Any time when the weather is reasonable, not frozen or under water. It wouldn't mind being moved next winter if you haven't got a permanant place ready. It's better to let the roots extend rather than confining it to a pot.

oldchippy 26/10/2012 at 20:17

Sue10 I have a holme oak growing in a pot the roots have escape in to the ground ,I brought it with me 10 years ago before that it was in a deep pot for about 8 years from an acorn,They have long tap roots but you can grow them as bonsai tree, My tree is about 4 foot tall.


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