Doug Tallamy, a professor of entomology at the university of Delaware, shares how you deserve to plant one oak tree in your own backyard.

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By Doug Tallamy

Oaks have a reputation for being tough to transplant successfully. This deserve to be true if you seeking immediate gratification and also attempt to plant an oak that is too big, or a potted oak the is too old. Oaks construct massive root solution which castle grow quickly when young—it’s among the factors oaks are so great at protecting our watersheds and topsoil. To transplant an oak that’s already several feet high you need to root prune it virtually to death. If it survives the transplant, that will thrive very small for years afterwards as the tries to develop new roots. The is difficult to believe but oaks planted together acorns or young saplings record up and also pass 15-foot transplants in just a few years. Finally, huge transplanted oaks space expensive, often thousands of dollars for a tree v a 50 percent possibility of dice in the an initial year.


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Several Quercus rubra (red oak) line a driveway. In ~ maturity, red oaks with 50 to 75 feet tall v an equal spread. Photo by: shapencolour / Alamy share Photo.


Potted oaks have similar problems. Oak roots grow so quick that a potted oak can become root-bound in a solitary season. A potted oak the is 5 feet tall may be root-bound, v a high probability that choking chin to death once in the ground. Tree that have been root pruned as soon as successively moved to larger containers have a good chance the survival, however will not be as vigorous as a tree planted straight from an acorn.

Oaks also have a reputation for being slow-growing. I have heard landscape professionals tell clients no to tree oaks due to the fact that they won’t live long enough to gain them. Yet that is fixed the case. Ns am creating this together I sit under a pasture oak that ns planted 16 years ago from an acorn. The is currently over 30 feet tall, and I have the right to assure you, i am enjoying it!

The good news is that all of these problems—transplant difficulties, root-bound plants, and also expense—can be conveniently avoided if girlfriend plant her oaks once they are small. This is how:

Choose the ar wisely. return some varieties remain small even as soon as mature (e.g. Dwarf chestnut oak), most oaks will become huge trees much faster than girlfriend think, so snapshot the area a mature oak (and its source system) will occupy in 20 years.

Start small. Planting one acorn or little seedling is the best way to go. Collection acorns as shortly as they loss from the tree.

Acorns from types in the white oak team germinate right away in the fall, for this reason they must be planted immediately. They will send a radicle (embryonic root) directly down right into the soil and spend the winter the way. Then, in the spring, the young plant will shoot up in the direction of the sun. Acorns native the red oak group wait until spring to germinate, therefore they can be stored with the winter through 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 also squirrels until the plant is well above the soil line. Have tendency them in your pots v the first summer and also then plant them into your garden in early September. Be certain to water them till they room well established.

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

Protect your oak indigenous deer. I usage five-foot-high cable fencing material and type a cage about 5 feet in diameter about the oak. This can seem like overkill at first, yet your oak will fill the cage in just a few years. When the tree grow well about the cage, remove the cage and loosely wrap the trunk with plastic or cable fencing product to discourage damage from “buck-rub” (bucks favor to rub their antlers against trees through a 2- to 3-inch diameter trunk). This scrapes the bark off and also can quickly kill the tree. Be certain to eliminate the fencing prior to the tree grow into and also around it, and also remember that young bark can gain sunburned too.

Don’t fertilize her oaks. Oaks are adjusted to soils low in nitrogen and also doses the fertilizer can create rapid development periods that separation the bark or stimulate lush leaf expansion that is at risk to insect infestation.

Use the right soil. If you room worried that your soil is poor, inoculate the planting site with a little soil and litter native under an developed oak that the very same species. This introduce the mycorrhizae species that assist nutrient exchange in her oak.

Create the right-size planting hole. You can make the feet wide, however don’t do it deep. The most common resource of transplant mortality is indigenous planting a tree listed below the root-line. Many human being dig a deep hole and back fill to the suitable depth. Yet the loose soil in the bottom of the hole commonly settles a couple of inches, just enough to sink your tree into the peril zone. Destruction your feet no deeper 보다 the root round of her tree. If you favor to dig, make your hole wide, however do not make it deep.

Mulch the best way.

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You can mulch with oak leaves yet do not build a volcano of mulch alongside the trunk. This may cause trunk rot.

Editor’s note: For more information top top planting oaks, see the college of California page on how to grow California Oaks. (Although the title refers to “California,” the information is universally appropriate.)

This bonus contents accompanies “An evolution Pair”—an article about how the relationship between blue jays and oak trees has actually shaped the organic world and how girlfriend can assist that connection continue—in the loss 2017 issue of Garden Design magazine.