In my last column, I gave a few starting hints if you decide you want to save seeds from trees this fall. This week, I have a few more pointers and one precaution.
If you are storing the seeds indoors, you should make sure the seeds do not dry out. During the period of refrigeration, moisture can be maintained by placing some peat moss inside the jar or bag. The moss should be moist, but not overly wet. Check periodically to insure that the moisture level maintains a proper balance. The best temperature is around 36 degrees. Slightly higher temperatures may be acceptable, but a longer time period will be needed to satisfy dormancy requirements.
When you plant the seed, it is best to plant directly where you want the plant to grow, thus avoiding transplanting. However, some people may prefer to start the plants in a nursery setting, where you may be able to give the plants a better start. An example would be the case where the soil at the final plant location might not be the best.
Generally, seeds do not have to be planted deeply. A good rule is to plant the seed about twice as deep as the seed’s largest dimension. If planting in the fall, a cover of mulch to protect the seeds from winter extremes is helpful. Also, you may want to protect the seed from foraging wildlife by placing a wire mesh or basket over the seed.
Some seeds have specific needs. Acorns are an example. To avoid weevil damage, soak the acorns in the water at 120 degrees for 30 minutes, to kill any weevils that may be inside. But be careful, since higher temperatures or longer times may kill the acorn as well. Other seeds may need to have their seed coat broken, so it pays to find out any specific requirements for the seed you want to plant.
One final caution: if you are saving seed from a particular variety of tree or shrub, you will probably be disappointed because the offspring plant may not resemble the parent plant. This is due to the nature of genetics and the formation of the seed embryo after the flower is pollinated. This is particularly true of fruit trees. If you have a “Golden Delicious”; apple tree and want another one, the only way to insure this is through vegetative propagation, i.e., grafting. Trees grown from seeds, in this case, won’t be true to type. You may get something similar, or something entirely different, depending on where the pollen came from that pollinated the flower.
Tim Baker is an Extension professional and field specialist in horticulture for the University of Missouri Extension.