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An English oak seedling (Quercus robur) reachers towards the winter sun.

An English oak seedling (Quercus robur) reaches towards the winter sun.

Back in autumn, we gathered freshly fallen acorns from the base of a row of massive old English oaks (Quercus robur). Inspired by the dehesa agroforestry systems of Spain and Portugal, we’ve often pondered how a livestock-grazed oak plantation could work on the property. Acorns for pigs, and perhaps even human consumption, timber for the use of our great-great-grandchildren, and in the meantime, a carpet of fallen leaves offering organic matter for composting and mulch. So, with some bags of acorns and few containers of the topsoil and leaf litter from around the parent oaks, we set to propagating them.

We mixed the leaf litter and gathered topsoil in with our potting medium, hoping to inoculate our own medium with beneficial fungi, and then planted the acorns. We planted some close to the surface, and others about an acorn-width deep. After about eight weeks of being kept damp and left in the late autumn-early winter sun, they began sending their first shoots upwards, red furry things with a cluster of jagged leaves at the top. The depth of the acorn doesn’t seem to have had any bearing on their readiness to propagate. Once they’ve all emerged and are about 8-10 cm tall, we’ll carefully thin them, planting out excess strong specimens to their own pots until we have one decent plant per pot.

Grow little seedling, grow!

Grow little seedling, grow!