Majestic oak trees, which grow from a small acorn, can grow for hundreds of years. Acorns are small nuts with a definable cap and are about the size of a large grape. There are many varieties of oak trees including white oak (Quercus alba) that can grow 50 to 100 feet tall and wide, water oak (Quercus nigra) that can grow 50 to 60 feet tall and wide, black oak (Quercus velutina) and red northern oak (Quercus rubra L) that grow 65 to 90 feet tall and wide. It is no wonder we gather the fallen acorns to recreate this spectacular shade tree. The best time to collect acorn is in the fall after the nuts from the tree. Here’s how to plant an acorn collecting from the ground. [Picture courtesy of Leif Knutsen, Wikimedia Commons]
Collect lots of acorns. You can sort them under the tree or scoop up a bunch to sort at a table and chair. Toss out any acorns with cracks or holes. Place the remaining acorns in a bucket or sink filled with water. Toss the acorns that float to the surface. The most probable growers are the acorns that sank. Drain off the water. [Picture: Leaves and acorns from northern red oak (Quercus rubra),
courtesy of Lynk media, Wikimedia Commons]
Acorns from some oak trees, like red or black oak, need a period of cold to germinate. Shortly after falling, white oak acorns germinate. The easiest approach is to plant any kind of acorn in the autumn shortly after they fall to the ground.
How to plant acorns
Clear weeds and sod from an area at least 1 foot in diameter. Turn the soil to a depth of 8 to 10 inches. Break clumps and remove rocks or other debris. Push three to five acorns down 1 to 2 inches near the center of the cultivated soil. The folks at Texas A&M University say that acorns will germinate no matter which direction you place them in the soil. A common method, though, is to push the pointed end into the soil (just don’t worry if it shifts sideways in the process). Not all acorns will grow, so planting several in one location will increase the odds of success. Water gently to moisten the soil down to a depth of 2 inches over the acorns, which may take about one-half gallon of water. Continue to water every seven to 10 days if there is no rainfall and until the ground freezes.
Squirrels or other woods creatures may dig your freshly planted acorns. Covering the area with chicken wire will save the acorns for above ground scavengers. Adding 2 to 3 inches of organic mulch, like wood chips or leaf mold, will help to keep the soil moist and help block weed growth. Continue to water about twice monthly through the following years when the acorn sprout should appear. If multiple sprouts appear, allow them to grow in close proximity until they are dormant, autumn to early spring. Gently pull out the weaker seedling(s) while they are dormant. Immediately transplant the pulled seedling(s) if desired. Replant the seedling to same depth as before.