Everything You Need to Know About Growing Trees From Seeds

Growing trees from seeds is an essential method of plant propagation in permaculture. Imagine walking through an expansive, mature food forest, picking fruit from trees you planted decades ago. To achieve this dream, you need an abundance of trees with the genetics to thrive on your site. Growing your own trees from seeds allows you to select the strongest seedlings and create something unique.

The Wonderful World of Seeds

Growing trees from seeds is not only cost-effective but also exciting. Seeds are readily available and can provide you with as many trees as you desire. This method allows you to choose the strongest seedlings and even create new varieties. However, it’s important to note that the characteristics of seed-grown plants are often different from their parents due to cross-pollination.

So What Should You Grow From Seeds?

The answer is simple: everything! However, there are certain plants that will yield fruits or nuts as good as or even better than the parent tree. Some examples include heartnut walnuts and the ‘Antanovka’ apple variety. If a tree is self-pollinating, there is a higher chance that the resulting seeds will be true to type, provided there are no other pollinators around.

How to Get All the Seeds You Need

There are two main ways to acquire seeds: gathering them from the natural environment or buying them from reputable sources. If you choose to gather seeds, select plants that display the desired characteristics and ensure they are healthy and vigorous. Afterward, clean and dry the seeds before storing them in sealed containers in a cool, dry area. When buying seeds, make sure to find a trustworthy source that provides seeds suitable for your climate and requirements.

Ready to Start Growing Trees From Seeds?

There are two methods to consider: the natural way and the assisted germination method. The natural way involves sowing seeds outside in the fall and letting nature take its course. Alternatively, assisted germination allows you to control the conditions and stimulate seed germination. This method requires pre-treatment, such as scarification and stratification, depending on the needs of the seeds.

Step-by-Step Guide for Assisted Germination

  1. Work out what treatment the seed needs: Different seeds have different requirements for germination. Research the specific treatment needed for the seeds you want to grow.
  2. Treat the seeds to stimulate the germination process: Some seeds require scarification to break down the hard seed coat, while others need stratification, which mimics the winter conditions necessary for germination.
  3. Prepare your seed potting mix: Use a mix of peat moss (or coconut coir), perlite, and a pinch of compost to create a moisture-retentive but well-draining medium for germination.
  4. Sow the seeds and provide the right conditions: Plant the pre-treated seeds in individual containers or seed trays at the recommended depth. Ensure they receive warmth, moisture, and light.
  5. Transplant and harden off the young plants: After about a month, repot the seedlings or plant them in larger containers. Gradually expose them to outdoor conditions to help them adjust before planting them on your site.
  6. Plant on your site in the desired location: Evaluate and select the most adapted seedlings. Choose trees with desirable characteristics such as disease resistance or early fruiting. Remove the undesirable seedlings and plant the chosen ones in the desired locations.

Starting from seeds allows you to develop fruiting plants perfectly suited to your local area. It may be a lifetime of work, but the personal rewards are worth it. If you need a detailed guide on how to grow your favorite trees from seeds, check out our free, comprehensive Tips Tree Planting cheat sheet. Get started today and create your own thriving food forest!