Oak trees are one of the most popular hardwood trees native to North America. Scientifically called Quercus, which literally translates to “a beautiful tree,” these trees thrive across the United States. They’re popular for their sturdy wood, which is used for building furniture and for hardwood floors. They are also regarded as a keystone species since the entire ecosystem depends on such trees for their habitat and survival.
Oak trees are a stately addition to your landscape and provide excellent shade during harsh summer days. But how do you plant and care for your oak tree sapling? The team of professional arborists at Mr. Tree is here to share some tips you can follow.
Growing the Sapling
The first step involves growing an oak tree sapling. You may consider purchasing a sapling from the nursery or using acorns.
Once you harvest the acorns, discard those with holes or mold. Soak the acorns in water, remove the caps, and store them in a zipper bag in the refrigerator for a month. If you have collected red oak acorns, you will also need to add moist sawdust or peat moss along with the soaked acorns. Make sure to keep checking the soaked acorns to discard the moldy ones. Keep the zipper bag open for some time to let the fresh air in. This will help you control the mold.
If this feels like a lot of work, you can always contact your local nursery or tree service. Many will have oak tree saplings for sale. Since the seeds have already germinated, these saplings can be planted almost immediately.
Prepping for Planting
You can either plant the acorn directly into the soil or start with a container. If you’re starting with a container, ensure that it’s at least 10 gallons. Fill it with potting soil and place the acorns an inch deep. You can plant several acorns in one pot. You can place the pots indoors by a sunny window. Once the seedlings appear, make sure to transplant them within one year.
If you want to plant the acorns directly in the soil, start by digging a hole and loosening the soil using a shovel or your hands. The soil needs to be crumbly to ensure that your planting is a success. Fill up the hole with soil, leaving a one-inch-deep hole. Then place the acorns in the hole and fill it up. Tamp the soil thoroughly to eliminate any air pockets. Water the area well to help the soil around the sapling settle properly.
Oak trees prefer well-drained soil. The soil should also contain magnesium, calcium, potassium, nitrogen, phosphorous, and sulfur to support the healthy growth of the trees. In case you aren’t sure about the soil’s nutrient profile at the site, pick an established oak of the same species as your oak tree sapling and collect some soil and litter. Add this to the soil at the planting site to introduce the mycorrhizae—a healthy symbiotic relationship between a fungus and a plant—that helps in nutrient exchange for your oak tree.
Over the next few years, the sapling will grow into a majestic adult tree. When choosing a site for planting the sapling, bear in mind that a mature tree, even smaller oaks, such as the dwarf chestnut, will require a lot of space to thrive. So you must ensure there aren’t too many obstructions at the site that may impact your oak trees’ growth.
Caring for Your Sapling
To ensure your sapling grows well, make sure it’s getting enough moisture from watering. You can also cover the ground around the base with mulch to keep the young roots hydrated and protect them from the harsh rays of the sun.
If you want to provide additional support to the tree as it starts growing, you can consider cabling. Cables minimize the chances of limb failure of a healthy tree with weaker crotches. It can also help to preserve an already damaged tree. Contrary to popular belief, cabling doesn’t spoil the overall aesthetics because it’s extremely subtle. Cables aren’t wrapped around individual trees. Rather, the cables are placed between the branches or limbs to distribute the weight properly.
Oaks are also prone to fungal and bacterial diseases. Canker rot is a prevalent fungal disease, and the symptoms include an overall decline in the health of the tree, dying branches, loss of leaves, or yellowing of leaves in summer. Bacterial leaf scorch is a bacterial infection that results in significant leaf burn. You may also notice a white powdery growth on the leaves due to a disease called powdery mildew. Insects such as aphids, scales, caterpillars, lace bugs, and borers may attack your oak trees. If you notice any signs of infestation, make sure to contact a local arborist immediately who can assess the extent of damage and suggest appropriate solutions.
Pruning and trimming your oak is also an essential part of their maintenance routine. Regular trimming can make your tree look better and ensure that wildly growing branches and leaves don’t obstruct sunlight for the other trees outdoor. Pruning is only required once the tree is fully mature. Pruning removes dead branches and helps to keep the tree lively. Timely pruning can also prevent the old or decaying branches from falling off the tree and causing any damage to your property.
However, both trimming and pruning require a skilled professional who uses the appropriate tools. Amateur trimming or pruning can damage your tree permanently. Your efforts to grow a majestic tree from a sapling will be in vain unless you invest in proper tree maintenance.
Looking for someone who can help you care for oak saplings? The specialists at Mr. Tree are here to help you. Our experienced staff can help you with trimming, pruning, stump grinding, and even removing dead trees. If you have any questions about planting an oak tree, contact us today.