The Q&A Archives: Burr oak tree

Question: how do I PLANT A BURR OAK SEED, given to me by a friend?

Answer: There are two ways to plant. The first is to simply plant the acorn in the ground where you want the tree to grow. It will be dormant for a few months and then it will sprout and grow. Or, you can start them in little containers or styrofoam cups and plant them out in the garden when they have grown a few leaves. Here's how:

Choose swollen or plump-looking, mature acorns as soon as they fall from the tree in autumn. Put acorns in a plastic bag with an equal amount of leaf mold or peat mix and barley dampen. Close the bag loosely and store in the refrigerator at between 32 to 35 degrees (whites will continue to sprout at between 36 and 39 degrees). Check acorns throughout the winter and keep just barely damp. Acorns need about 1000 hours of low temperature dormancy. Plan to plant your acorns in late April from the 15th to the 20th. You can leave them in the refrigerator and plant as late as July, but an early start will produce stronger seedlings.

To plant, use a good quality potting soil mixed with the same amount of milled sphangnum moss. You want a porous, sponge-like soil. Take an 8 ounce styrofoam cup and punch three to four pencil-sized holes in the sides next to the bottom. Fill to the top with moistened potting soil and tap to settle the soil leaving about an inch watering space. Place the acorn horizontally, barely under the surface. Water until it comes out the bottom and place cups on a southern windowsill. Never let the soil get completely dry, always prime first and water until it drains. Check moisture daily or more often if necessary.

In about three weeks the stalk will be five to six inches and the first set of leaves will have spread. About mid-May it is time to harden the plants off. Gradually increase exposure time to outside sun and air. Set the trees outside during the day and return them to house or garage at night. About a week of this hardening off procedure and your trees will be ready to be planted out in the garden.

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