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Growing Trees from Seed

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Wakefield Tree Warden Roger Parkinson recommends plastic milk bottles as very practical containers. "I have used this method to grow hundreds of trees with a success rate of more than 90 per cent," he says. Here is his step-by-step guide to help seed gatherers in his local community.

Cut round the upper part of the plastic milk bottle with scissors, just above the handle. Keep the handle in place so that the container is easy to carry and water can run through to the lower part of the root ball. Cut several slits in the base of the bottle to allow good drainage. Use a well-drained compost made from mixing garden compost and soil with a grit sand, or use a good seed compost. Do not use peat. Not only does it hold too much water so roots rot, but it is also environmentally unsustainable. Put three or four seeds in each container with the seeds slightly covered with compost. Stand the containers out of the way in a corner of the garden until shoots start to show above the soil in May. The seeds like to be exposed to frost during winter, then stand the containers in an area with better light in spring. The seeds are a favorite food for mice and squirrels so cover the containers with mesh until the spring. Water to prevent complete drying out during dry spells. After a year or two, plant out the trees during the winter. If you need help to find a suitable site to plant your trees, contact a local conservation group like the Tree Wardens. Extract from The Tree Council, Web Site Magazine Summer 2010