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Plant An Oak Tree To Inspire Optimism For The Future


by David Salman, Chief Horticulturist

To celebrate Earth Day on April 22, 2020, we are giving away a free Burr Oak Tree seedling with all plant and flower bulb orders of $75 or more, while supplies last. Read on to learn more about what makes Oak trees special and how to plant your new seedling.

Oak trees have long been a part of human history and mythology. To the ancient Greeks, the oak was the tree sacred to Zeus, King of the Gods. In Norse mythology the oak was sacred to Thor. In more modern times, the oak has widespread symbolism in many European cultures and is considered a symbol of endurance and strength. In fact, the oak was designated as America’s National Tree in 2004.

Oaks are vitally important to all the ecosystems in which they live. They are an essential species at the base of the food chain, where they provide food for native insects, which are in turn of utmost importance for nesting songbirds to feed their young. The trees also provide vitally important acorns that feed mammals, both large and small, before the onset of winter.

Oaks are long lived and provide shade and beauty in our landscapes. Contrary to the notion that they are slow growing, young oaks are vigorous growers when planted into sites with decent soil, given adequate water and protected from browsing deer. From my personal experience, I’ve grown an oak from an acorn and watched it grow into a beautiful specimen over 30 feet in height in just 25 years. Indeed, planting an oak is a gesture of love for our planet and all those that dwell on it. Take a child and show them how to plant this seedling. It’s a skill that they’ll need for the future. 

"He who plants a tree plants hope."

Lucy Larcom, Poet & Teacher (1824-1893)

How To Plant Your Oak Tree Seedling

The Burr Oak is a large growing tree (50-80 ft. tall x 50-80 ft. wide). It’s well adapted to a wide range of climates, growing conditions and soil types. Oaks develop a deep, strong tap root as they grow, so take care to place your seedling where it will have full sun and plenty of room to grow and mature.

  • Dig an 18 inch wide x 12 inch deep hole. Loosen the soil at the bottom another 6 inches, but don’t remove any more soil.
  • Mix the backfill (soil taken out of the hole) with several shovels of compost (NOT sphagnum peat) and a couple of handfuls of Yum Yum Mix or comparable nature fertilizer.
  • Refill the hole with the compost/Yum Yum Mix enhanced backfill, and gently firm the soil with a downward cutting motion of the shovel blade.
  • Remove the seedling from the pot by putting your fingers across the top of the pot and turning the pot upside down. Squeeze the sides of the pot and gently pull it out of the pot, carefully handling the roots.
  • Dig a pot-sized hole in the soft soil and place the seedling into the hole. Set the top of the seedling’s root ball/base of the plant even with the surrounding undisturbed soil.
  • Fill the top of the hole with water. Let it soak in and water it again with a root stimulator/water mix. This should settle the soil so that the seedling is slightly lower than the surrounding soil and create a shallow pan which should be filled with mulch (compost, chopped up leaves or bark chips).
  • If deer are a problem in your area, it’s best to protect the plant with a physical barrier. Using chicken wire or a similar material, place a cylinder 8 inch across x 3-4 foot tall over the seedling. Secure in place tying it to a bamboo or wooden stake.
  • Water every week or so as the weather warms and use some more root stimulator mix once a month through the summer.
  • Gardening with kids? Take a photo with the child and the tree, so you can have a yardstick and memory of the event that you can revisit each year to see the child’s and the tree’s growth.

“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”

Greek Proverb