MNFGA member Mike Svendsen, down the road from me, is giving away his great idea for starting tree seeds.
He has very successfully used 3″ diameter schedule 20 (sewer drain pipe), 16″ long, filled with potting soil (NOT top soil) and irrigated/watered. Mike fills the cylinder with the potting soil, tamps it tightly, plants the seed at the top, creates a stand to hold it upright on concrete (any hard surface: maybe a brick, concrete stepping stone, whatever you might have?) and then waters it as needed.
You can see his chestnut seedlings that were planted this spring. They look great with roots clear to the bottom of the cylinder. If need be, or when a vigorous tree is shooting roots out of the bottom of a cylinder, Mike can add an additional 16″ piece of potting-soil-filled pipe to the bottom and let it grow deeper roots.
The beauty of this shows when it is planting time. Mike thoroughly waters the cylinder’s soil. He digs a post hole 3-4′ deep in the desired final location for the tree and fills it with a slurry of top soil and water. It must be a gooey mess. He then presses the 3″ cylinder with the tree in it to the proper planting depth in the gooey mess hole. If the slurry is gooey enough, this is easy to do. The pipe walls are smooth so the tree is now easily pressed out of the pipe, potting soil and all, as he lifts the pipe. The roots are now surrounded by the gooey top soil and are undisturbed, ready to grow sideways.
Mike stakes and cages his newly planted trees. They continue growing like nothing has happened. Personally, I think this is very clever and I want to try it at my place. Mike gave me 4 chestnut trees to plant that are in the cylinders. Wish me luck!
Mike had an issue with squirrels (imagine that!) digging out the chestnuts. They stopped when he electrified the metal grid (hog panel) that holds the cylinders upright. The top and bottom grids are insulated and wired to an electric fence charger. The cylinders are open on the bottom grounded electrically), so when a squirrel was standing on the electrified grid and touched the moist soil inside the cylinder, he got shocked and did not get a free chestnut.
Mike’s potting pad has an electric fence around it to keep the deer out of the area. If you can’t beat them, shock them!
Mike has an automatic watering timer for his potting pad area. You can see the black irrigation pipes. He uses a nozzle on a vertical pipe to irrigate the various areas. With the electric fencer and auto-waterer, this is a pretty carefree system.
Mike grows lots of chestnut seedlings this way. He then selects the best of the best seedlings and destroys the runts…why plant out runts when you can select the best?! He also grew some cotton wood trees for kicks. Not sure you can see them in the photos.
The photos were taken on 8 October 2020 and the trees looked great.
Let me know if you try this or maybe if you are already doing it or have seen it done this way. Mike believes this is an original idea. He said our group should patent it and charge royalties with the proceeds going to MNFGA! Thank you Mike for sharing this with us!
Photos and story by Dennis Strahle
Great readiing your post