Step-by-Step Guide

Collection  |  Planning  |  Storage  |  Pretreatment  |  Stratification  |  Planting  |  Aftercare guide



Seeds can be collected as soon as they ripen, they can be collected from the tree or when they have fallen. Select healthy looking groups of trees as a solitary tree is less likely to produce fertile seeds. To ensure its a native species always collect from know sites i.e. ancient wood lands, or areas which have not been cleared for farming. Do not collect from parks or roadsides as these have a good chance of not being native. If you know where your trees will be be planted out, then try to collect from that area. This will give you a good genetic match and the tree will likely grow easier because it will have adapted to these conditions. Finally if you intend to plant near to a nature reserve ask for permission to collect seeds from with in the site and grow from that local stock, thus ensuring the right trees for the area.




There are many factors to consider when planting a tree its not just a case of dig a hole and drop it in. It will require a fair amount of planning, three initial things to remember are what, where and why.


When selecting a site use the following checklist as a guide.

Who owns the site?

Will the owner carry out the planting if not will they allow the planting?

What are the uses of the site and adjacent land and will planting affect these uses?

Will planting damage existing habitats that are already present?

Is natural regeneration present as this may be helped in ways other than planting?

Find out the long term future of the site.


Once an appropriate site has been found, the next step is to choose the correct trees for the site.

Size when selecting a tree consider what it will look like in 20, 50, 100 years time so allow space for height and spread of canopy and roots.

Site conditions type of soil, lighting, water to much or to little,air pollutants and compacted ground. The affects on building and pavements. Trees that produce poisonous fruits i.e. female yews and laburnum are not suitable for areas where children play. Likewise trees that may cause stomach ache if fruits are eaten i.e. crab apple are best avoided near play areas.

Size of tree to be planted, generally the smaller the tree when planted the more readily it becomes established and grows. However small tree stock cannot be planted in the footway because the lowest branches must be at a height of two metres to allow the passage of pedestrians.

As a guide small transplants for the local park/school/front or back garden. Standard trees for streets/shopping precincts. Semi mature trees for prestigious sites for instant impact.


Among the most important conservation and amenity reasons for planting trees are.

To improve landscape amenity, or to screen the appearance of buildings.

To diversify wildlife habitats or provide shelter in open spaces. or to stabilize easily eroded soils and spoil tips.

To replace hedgerows, farmland and amenity trees which have been lost through felling, disease, or old age and were an important part of the local landscape.

To supplement natural regeneration where this is inadequate in felled or derelict woodland.

To produce timber and wood for sale.




When collecting seeds always use containers that can breath i.e hessian or open mesh bags. If seeds become damp or overheat this can reduce the chances of germination. Plastic bags should be avoided except to keep berries in prior to stratification as the rotting flesh will not harm the seeds. Ideally seeds should sown or stratified straight away but if this is not possible leave them in suitable containers in a cool dark place. Flesh from berries should not be removed until you are ready to sow or stratify, as the kernels are prone to drying out. If you want to store seeds for a longer period you must extract the seed, clean, dry and seal in air tight polythene bags with as much air as possible removed. Store in a refrigerator at between 2 and 5 centigrade they may be kept like this for several years. When ready for use stratify in normal way and sow in spring. This is also a good way to store beech seeds until ready for sowing.




Seed from native trees and shrubs have an in built dormancy mechanism. This aids the survival of wild plant populations by preventing out of season germination and by spreading eventual germination over many weeks or years. Dormancy is the result of a combination of several properties held by the seed including physical, chemical and physiological.


To get good germination rates the seed has to be subjected to a pre-treatment regime to remove the dormancy prior to sowing. The treatment is divided into two phases.

  1.   Warm treatment at 20-25 C e.g. an airing cupboard.
  2.   Cold treatment at 1-5 C e.g. in a fridge [not the freezer as           the excessively low temperatures would kill the seeds].


For all seeds requiring pre-treatment there is a standard procedure to follow this is detailed below

  1. Soak seeds for 48 hours at 3-5 C.
  2. Drain seeds.
  3. Put seeds and compost if required into plastic container e.g. a margarine tub.
  4. Place at pretreatment temperatures for the required time. [ see attached page A ]
  5. Once a week open container, mix the seeds and re-moisten if the compost is drying out.
  6. At the end of pretreatment remove the compost and dry the seeds in a cool, well ventilated, shaded place. Any chatted seed must not be dried at all.


The pretreatment regime must be completed in time to allow sowing to be done between mid-March and the end of April. Care must be taken to avoid the drying out of seedlings or inducing secondary dormancy by sowing to late in the season.



Very few seeds will germinate as soon as they fall, they would spend the winter in a dormant state to prepare for germination and growth. Stratification is the method used to provide this period in a controlled condition. Each species has its own requirements for berries it stimulates decomposition of the flesh, the presence’s of which actually inhibits germination. Many seeds need a cold period before they can germinate.

You will need containers such as buckets or small plastic drums, with holes in the base and crocks for drainage. Seeds should be mixed with sand plus a peat- free compost or leaf mould, the mix should be one part seeds to three parts sand mixture. Sharp sand is ideal, it allows good drainage and the sharpness deters mice, never use sand from beaches as this contains salt.

Fill the containers with the seed and sand mix putting a layer of sand on top. Leave out side in a shaded area ensuring they do not dry out below a north facing is ideal. Every four weeks or so empty the containers out and mix the seed mixture up checking for any signs of early germination.

As sowing time approaches, in February, check the seeds for signs of germination. this is important if there has be a mild spell of weather [over 10c]. the seeds may show signs of swelling and the tip of the first root showing. Once germination starts it cannot be stopped, as seeds develop quickly it is imperative that the seeds are sown in to trays or seed beds within a day or two, because the growing tip is fragile and must not be damaged when planted out. If in doubt sow early rather than waiting too long.

Experience has shown that removing the flesh and skin before stratification increases the germination rate of hawthorn, holly and rowen, this is called Maceration. Half fill a strong water tight container with berries and add two pints of water. Next take a pulverising tool e.g. a potato masher or large rounded pole. An up and down gentle pounding action will reduce the berries to mush, the resulting mash may then be stratified in the normal way. However by removing the seeds altogether makes the process more exact by removing the seeds from inhibiting effects of the pigments contained in the skin. By vigorous washing the damp mass with hose pressure and stirring causes the skin and pulp to rise and it can be poured off. Any seeds which float can also be discarded as they are infertile, viable seeds are heavier and will sink. For small quantities of seed the seeds can be extracted by hand, however still do the float test for viability especially on hazel nuts and beech masts. But be sure to dry seeds off before sowing because some seeds can be prone to rotting off if they get to wet.




You are ready to plant your trees to avoid planting dead trees it is essential that:

Prevent the drying out of the roots, for short periods of storage put them in plastic bags keeping them shaded and out of the wind It would not take long for the sun or wind to burn the fine roots.

Keep as much fibrous root as possible this applys to barerooted trees.

Avoid damaging any part of the tree, stems bark or roots.

Prevent heating, by maintaining air circulation around the stems and foliage of trees in storage or transit.

Handle large stock gently by the root ball never the stem.

Planting bare-rooted trees can be done in various ways two common ways are Notch or Pit.

Notch or slit is the quickest but not the most reliable. It is generally used for mass planting of small whips under 90 cm high. Cut a ‘V’ shaped notch in soil lift and plant tree at point of ‘V’ and firm in soil. If there is a thick grassy mat scrape off the top 25mm of soil in a 1/2 metre diameter.

Pit is more labour intensive but ensures more root space and a better success rate. Dig a pit at least 15 to 25 cm bigger than the root ball, if tree is over 1.5 m insert stake before planting tree. Place on down wind side and stake should not be more than 1/3 height of tree. Gently shake the tree up and down while backfilling to ensure good root to soil contact,ensuring root collar is level with the top of the hole, firm soil with sole of foot and water in well.

When planting rootrainer stock the task is made a lot easier by the fact a smaller hole is required so making them ideal for children to plant. Just ensure a 1/2 metre square area of turf is removed a round the tree.



Once the tree is planted most people think that because its native nothing more needs doing. Most trees are lost in their first year due to lack of aftercare, so it is important to have made provisions in your planning for aftercare maintenance.

Factors which prevent healthy tree growth

Weeds- Grasses and other fast growing, leafy perennials will compete with the young trees, depriving them of water, space,light and food. It is important to maintain a 1 sq metre weed free around a tree for at least 3 years.

Animals- Rabbit, deer, squirrels and voles are the main problem in the countryside. Whereas vandalism and neglect account for many tree losses in towns and city’s.

Other factors- Wind, frost, drought and flooding.

Weed control can be managed in various ways

Chemical weed control this must only be used by a person who as a certificate of competence under the Pesticides Control Act 1988.

Hand weeding can be time consuming, but could be a good way of involving local communities in the care of their trees.

Mulching is a simple and effective way of preventing weed growth and at the same time keeping the surface moist and cool. The area to be mulched must be cleared of weeds before laying and the tree watered in well. There are various types of materials that can be used, leaf litter,well rotted lawn clippings, wood chips, old carpets,and proprietary mulching mats. When mulching simply spread a 100-150mm deep layer around the tree about one metre in diameter, keeping the mulch away from the tree stem to avoid rot starting. One application is usually adequate but if their is poor build of natural leaf litter the trees would benefit from subsequent applications. Mulch mats of thick polythene, bitumen or woven polyproylean are available from various suppliers of forestry products. They are normally 600/750mm square with a slit to allow the mat to fit around the base of the tree. They are not bulky to transport, easily fitted and safer than chemicals. You can make your own out of old carpets, roofing felt or black polythene.

Protection from animals needs to be costed on the amount of trees and the shape of the site and type of protection required. To ascertain whether to protect individual trees or erect fencing. Spiral, netlon guards and grow tubes in various heights can protect single trees from voles, rabbits and deers. Stock proof and rabbit proof fencing would be used for larger areas.

Staking of larger trees it is advisable to stake trees over 1.5 metres high. The stake should be no higher than 1/3 of stem height, the tie should be a rubber coller with a pad spacer between the tree and stake see insert. inspect trees twice a year to make sure they are secure and not chafed or constricted by the stake and ties.