Return to the Overcoming Consumerism Index

The comments of Eric Johnson, author of Now dead The Rot Web composting resources site:

Here's a great site with all the information you could ever want on composting.

1. Many types of seeds, especially in cold- or cool-winter climates, are dormant when they fall from the parent tree (typically in the Autumn). These seeds must undergo a period of "cold and moist stratification" in order to lose their dormancy and become ready to sprout. In simple terms, this is a plant's strategy for avoiding sprouting in the Autumn, only to get frozen and killed by the winter cold.

Instead, some kind of chemical mechanism in the seed is affected by cold temperature, and the seed becomes ready to sprout after a period of cold treatment (this can be done outdoors, buried in moist sand -- below the frost line, or can also be done in moist sand in the refrigerator). This period of cold treatment approximates the effects of winter, and keeps the seed from sprouting until conditions are more favorable (i.e. Spring has sprung).

I have had good luck stratifying seeds from oaks, apples, persimmons, honeylocust, chokecherry, etc.

2. Other types of seeds have difficulty sprouting 'just when you want them to' because they have exceptionally hard seed coats that are virtually impervious to water. Thus, they cannot take up water and swell and begin to sprout. I interpret this phenomenon as being an adaptation to distribute seed germination through time, because the seed coats eventually break down and the seed can sprout.

Because the seed coats of the seeds break down at different rates depending on the genes of the seed (I assume) and also the conditions where the seed falls, the seed coats wear through at different times (different YEARS, even), and the parent plant has spread out its progeny over time. Hopefully, some of the seedlings will germinate in a year that is favorable for growth (i.e. no drought, etc.).

Seeds of this type, such as honeylocust, can be persuaded to take up water if a small nick is filed in the side of the seed to break through the seed coat. A small triangular file, or sometimes sandpaper, can be used for this. If this is properly done it becomes much easier to start these species from seed.

3. When I talk with people about tree plantings, or get them involved, I like to emphasize that actually planting the trees is only about 10% of the work. In order for the tree to flourish, it needs regular care for the first couple of years at least. If there is no commitment on someone's part to follow through and take care of the trees, they WILL die. Other climates may be a bit more forgiving, but {the} semiarid climate {of parts of The West} kills trees that don't get care. Equally important to watering in seedling care is weeding. I hand weed, but also use thick mulches to discourage weed growth (and, incidentally, conserve water).

Back to Radical Anti-Consumerism

Back to "How to Raise Trees"

Back to the Index