The acorns are dropping, it’s time to pick them up

If there is a well established oak tree somewhere near you that you have admired, (and you live in the southern hemisphere) about now could be the time to collect some acorns and plant them. Don’t be put off by the moderate growth rate, the quality of the result in the longer term is well worth it, and you don’t have to hold your breath while they grow.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We collected these acorns yesterday from magnificent old street trees in Violet Town. I propagate from old trees well proven in this climate and landscape. Our seedlings from these trees are just this year bearing their first acorns, in fact some of those are the lighter acorns in the top picture. These particular acorns have been carefully selected for their freshness and firmness, for planting.  Mostly we just rake the acorns up, remove most of the dirt and leaves in a big sieve, and store for goat feed over the next few months.  The goats make their own firm decisions about which ones they will eat.  The goats’ milk becomes more mellow, richer and creamier 24hrs after their first feed of acorns in the autumn.


March 2015   Dappled light coming through the heavy shade of oaks planted here in 2006. The canopies are still small, but growing well. Heavy shade, soil improving qualities, fire retardant, beauty, and acorns for concentrated autumn fodder are why we planted these. These are possibly Algerian oaks. These trees are only semi-deciduous, staying green until the end of July, going brown in Autumn, then dropping their old leaves just as the new growth comes. This makes them well adapted to this relatively hot and dry climate, as they are able to make use of the usually more moist conditions in winter.

We have been planting oaks here since 1996.  We were collecting acorns for autumn goat feed supplement anyway, so it was a no-brainer to try planting them. This is the oak establishment method that has worked best here, on this farm in this climate.

  1. Autumn, approx March yr1.      Collect or source acorns, keep in a damp cool place [eg in veg garden soil] or in a plastic bag in the fridge over the first winter.
  2. Late Winter, August yr1       Plant in veg garden if you haven’t already done so
  3. Summer, yr1   Grow in veg garden over the first summer.  A couple of times over summer drive a spade about 30cm under the tree seedlings, to cut the tap root and encourage more shallow root development.
  4. Late Winter, August yr2     dig up from veg garden, prune excessively long roots, and plant out into spots or rip lines cleared of grass, with whatever compost you can spare.
  5. Spring yr2    Keep about a 1m radius around the tree clear of strong competitive grass for the first summer in the field
  6. Spring yr3   Clear strong grass away from young trees again to give them a chance to grow with the Spring moisture and warmth.

prewatering to plant oaks, Nov 06

Nov 2006. The first year of planting, David follow up watering in acorns seeded direct into rip lines, in a drought year…….. I must have been keen!  That area looks a lot nicer now. The previous photo, of the foliage, was taken about 6m to the right from here.

We have not tried leaching the tannins from acorns so we can eat them ourselves, but some friends do, and there is lots of information available about this, for example here.