Get your roots for nothing and your (red oak) trees for free!

I’ve been telling you that nothing is easier than gathering acorns (and walnuts and chestnuts, etc) and planting the acorns with tree tubes (see previous posts and video).

I was wrong. There is one thing easier: Putting tree tubes on red oak seedlings or stump sprouts that are already in the ground. This is a great way to ensure the future of a certain component of red oak in your woods, and fall is the perfect time to do this!

In the fall red oak seedlings turn bright red while other understory vegetation turns yellow or brown, making it very easy to spot natural red oak regeneration. Chances are you have a lot more natural regeneration than you thought you did. However chances are also that without some protection those young red oaks will never become mature trees, due to deer browse, overshading by other plants, etc. So when you’re walking through your woods this fall (maybe plotting strategy for the coming deer hunt),

1. Keep an eye out for the flash of bright red from natural red oak seedlings

2. Take some flagging tape along and flag some of those red oak seedlings – choose seedlings that are 6 inches to 3 feet tall, and that either get some sun or that you’d be able to release at some point in the future by removing surrounding vegetation that is shading it

3. Head back to the woods with some tree tubes and PVC stakes

4. Prune those red oak seedlings to a single stem

5. Drive your PVC stake about 1.5″ away from the base of the seedling on the north side of the seedling (so it doesn’t shade the young tree)

6. Cover with your tree tube and cinch the tree tube ties around the stake.

Voila! You’re done. The beauty of this system is that these red oaks already have well established root systems. It could be that they have been growing for years but were continually browsed back by deer. You’ll be amazed by how fast they grow once their leaves and terminal leader are protected!

So now you have tubed some natural red oak regeneration, have planted some oak acorns. Now it’s time to plan your nursery purchases. Even though tubing natural regeneration and planting acorns are two great ways to get trees started for very little cost, nurseries have an important role to play in meeting your managements goals. Nurseries sell species and varieties you might not have locally, trees with known genetics and fruit/acorn/nut drop at specific times, genetically selected or hybrid trees that grow faster and begin producing a crop sooner, and can supply the large number of trees you might need for full field plantings.

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