Doug Tallamy, a professor that entomology in ~ the college of Delaware, shares how you have the right to plant one oak tree in your very own backyard.

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By Doug Tallamy

Oaks have actually a call for being difficult to transplant successfully. This can be true if you seeking instant gratification and also attempt to tree an oak that is as well big, or a potted oak that is also old. Oaks develop massive root equipment which lock grow quickly when young—it’s among the factors oaks room so great at protecting our watersheds and topsoil. To transplant an oak that’s already several feet high you need to root prune it nearly to death. If that survives the transplant, it will grow very small for years later on as that tries to develop brand-new roots. That is difficult to believe but oaks planted together acorns or young saplings capture up and also pass 15-foot transplants in just a few years. Finally, large transplanted oaks room expensive, often thousands the dollars for a tree v a 50 percent possibility of dying in the very first year.


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Several Quercus rubra (red oak) line a driveway. At maturity, red oaks reach 50 come 75 feet tall v an same spread. Photograph by: shapencolour / Alamy stock Photo.


Potted oaks have similar problems. Oak roots grow so rapid that a potted oak can become root-bound in a single season. A potted oak that is 5 feet tall might be root-bound, with a high probability the choking itself to death once in the ground. Trees that have actually been source pruned once successively relocated to bigger containers have a an excellent chance that survival, however will no be as vigorous as a tree planted straight from one acorn.

Oaks additionally have a call for being slow-growing. I have actually heard landscape professionals tell clients no to plant oaks because they i will not ~ live long sufficient to gain them. But that is solid the case. Ns am writing this together I sit under a willow oak that i planted 16 years earlier from an acorn. It is currently over 30 feet tall, and also I have the right to assure you, ns am enjoying it!

The great news is that every one of these problems—transplant difficulties, root-bound plants, and also expense—can be quickly avoided if girlfriend plant her oaks as soon as they are small. Here’s how:

Choose the ar wisely. return some varieties remain small even once mature (e.g. Dwarf chestnut oak), many oaks will certainly become large trees much quicker than friend think, so snapshot the area a mature oak (and its source system) will certainly occupy in 20 years.

Start small. Planting an acorn or tiny seedling is the best method to go. Collect acorns as quickly as they loss from the tree.

Acorns from varieties in the white oak team germinate ideal away in the fall, so they must be planted immediately. They will send a radicle (embryonic root) straight down right into the soil and spend the winter the way. Then, in the spring, the young plant will shoot up towards the sun. Acorns native the red oak group wait till spring to germinate, so they deserve to be stored v the winter with a little bit of floor in a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator.

In both cases, ns recommend starting your acorns in deep pots and protect them native mice, chipmunks, and squirrels until the tree is well over the floor line. Tend them in your pots v the first summer and also then plant them right into your yard in beforehand September. Be certain to water them till they room well established.

If you acquisition an oak, buy the smallest one the nursery offers. But remember, acorns space free!

Protect your oak native deer. I usage five-foot-high wire fencing material and type a cage around 5 feet in diameter approximately the oak. This can seem like overkill in ~ first, yet your oak will fill the cage in simply a couple of years. Once the tree grows well around the cage, remove the cage and loosely plunder the trunk through plastic or wire fencing product to discourage damages from “buck-rub” (bucks like to obstacle their antlers against trees v a 2- to 3-inch diameter trunk). This scrapes the bark off and can conveniently kill the tree. Be sure to remove the fencing before the tree grows into and also around it, and remember that young bark can acquire sunburned too.

Don’t fertilize her oaks. Oaks are adapted to soils low in nitrogen and also doses that fertilizer can cause rapid growth periods that break-up the bark or wake up lush leaf growth that is at risk to insect infestation.

Use the ideal soil. If you room worried the your floor is poor, inoculate the planting website with a small soil and also litter native under an developed oak the the very same species. This introduces the mycorrhizae varieties that aid nutrient exchange in her oak.

Create the right-size planting hole. You deserve to make the feet wide, yet don’t make it deep. The most common resource of transplant mortality is from planting a tree below the root-line. Many people dig a deep feet and back fill come the suitable depth. Yet the loosened soil in the bottom the the hole commonly settles a couple of inches, just enough to sink your tree into the peril zone. Dig your hole no deeper than the root round of your tree. If you favor to dig, make your hole wide, but do no make that deep.

Mulch the ideal way.

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You can mulch v oak leaves but do not build a volcano of mulch next to the trunk. This may cause trunk rot.

Editor’s note: For an ext information top top planting oaks, see the university of California page on just how to prosper California Oaks. (Although the title describes “California,” the info is universally appropriate.)

This bonus contents accompanies “An evolutionary Pair”—an article around how the relationship in between blue jays and also oak trees has actually shaped the organic world and also how girlfriend can aid that relationship continue—in the autumn 2017 issue of Garden Design magazine.