Tree Growth

Tree+Growth

Have you ever wondered about growing your own tree? These huge giants of the forests actually start out very tiny, are the perfect size to fit in a small pot, and will grow anywhere! But, even with all the seeds that a single tree can produce, only a small number of them survive and grow into the big, fully-grown trees that you have in your own backyard. In this article, I will tell you about how to find saplings, care for them, and the changes that happen after the first winter. 

Finding Tree Saplings

You might be surprised, but tree saplings are very easy to find if you keep an eye out for them. Often, they’re growing in the cracks of your very own driveway! One of the best places to look for tree saplings would be at your local park or playground. The faster that you get your sapling moved into a pot, the more likely it is to survive. Places where you can find trees the most are under other trees or inside the mulch, rocks, and sand that you might have at a playground, or (as previously stated) near driveways. Young trees tend to grow in places that have loose soil, or rocks or rubber mulch in a few cases. It makes it easier for them to grow roots, but it isn’t healthy for them in the long run. The type of tree you are growing doesn’t matter much, but some varieties are very fast-growing, like the mimosa, ash, and elm trees. Slower growing varieties would be oaks and redbuds. I prefer elm trees since they grow at a nice pace, and only need their pots changed once a year. There are millions of different species of trees, with new kinds still being discovered, so there are plenty to select from. 

Once you find a tree sapling with good roots and leaves, you can either transfer it to the ground somewhere and surround it with something to try and prevent it from being mowed over or trampled, or you can find a pot for it, which is safer due to their small size. The good thing about pots is that you make them out of anything if you can’t get ahold of the right size, price, and material at the store. If you want to buy a pot, one of the best places for that would be Walmart. Local gardening stores usually only supply soil, basic tools, seeds, and fertilizer. But, if you want to do something more creative, you can use an old boot, cups, bowls, bins or tubs, baskets, and many other things. You can paint your pots to add a little more decoration, too. Once, I even saw someone use an old toilet for a pot. Feel free to get creative! 

Caring for your sapling

After you have found the sapling a pot, you should put it in a sunny spot outside, like a porch or deck. Trees use a process called photosynthesis to get important nutrients, where they soak up water from the soil and mix that with sunlight absorbed by the leaves and carbon-dioxide that it pulls from the air. Then, the tree will give off oxygen for us to breathe, and will also convert the materials it absorbed into sugar, which it uses for food. When it comes to watering, I would recommend watering every other day. The first few weeks, your sapling will probably look really droopy and lose a few leaves, but it usually isn’t dead. It’s just going into shock, since when you dug it up, it lost a few roots, and had to adjust to a new environment inside the pot. Eventually it should start to look normal again. If you only have one sapling, it’s fine to just use cups for watering, but if you have others, I would recommend investing in a watering can. It’s probably best to water every other day during the spring and fall unless it rains, and water more often when it gets really hot and dry during the summer. During the winter, do not do any watering, because the water might freeze the soil or even some of your tree’s roots. 

Some people get a little bit more confused about tools that they should use than any other things when caring for saplings, but really, all you need is soil. Most people who have experience with this would probably recommend Miracle Grow. If you ever see roots showing on the surface of your pot, just pour on another thin layer of soil to cover them. Because of that, you should probably get a large bag; it’s worth it in the long run. 

One more slightly important thing that should be mentioned is “activities” that you can do with your saplings. It might sound a little silly, but studies show how plants like music. Music in sounds between 115 hertz (Hz) and 250 Hz resembles sounds in nature, which plants like. Sometimes in the mornings if you run out of things to do or want some fresh air, you can sit with your trees and hum a few songs. Other things are really just sitting there and doing some sort of project like knitting or crocheting. It tends to help me calm down and relax better, because of the extra oxygen that trees give off that we breathe in. If you are wondering about certain species that appreciate music better, I have noticed that the mimosa seems to really enjoy it.

Changes After the First Winter

After your sapling has survived its first winter, it starts to go through some big changes, almost like our teenage years. One of the most important things that you should know about are suckers. Not all species of trees will have these, but they are very bad for any tree that has them. Elm trees are prone to having them after their first winter when spring returns. Suckers are branches that start growing beneath the trunk that your tree developed in the first year, but aren’t part of your tree. They are results of changes in hormones, and are not part of the parent tree, but are a whole different plant altogether. They root down on the trunk and burrow shallow roots inside the parent tree. Then they steal the nutrients from it, which can cause major damage. Make sure to immediately cut off suckers when you find them! I have had personal experiences with these, and it made the tree’s leaves start turning brown and it stopped growing. These are especially dangerous to young trees, but don’t really matter to fully-grown trees. Some suckers will look like other saplings in the same pot, but they are actually closely connected to the roots of your other sapling, and are very difficult to separate from the parent tree if left in for too long. 

 As your sapling continues to grow, you might want to consider finding a permanent home for it. The original branches from the first year will have started branching out, and have grown longer, while the trunk has gotten taller. Most saplings are ready to be planted in the ground in the spring after their first winter, but depending on the amount of growth they have, you might want to wait one or two more years. You will have to make some phone calls about where you can plant your tree, because gas, water, and electrical pipes and wirings, along with internet cable, can be running through the ground where you want to put the tree that you could accidentally damage. When transferring, you should loosen the soil from your pot and put it and the tree in a hole that you have dug. Then, cover the area with more soil or mulch. If you have a sapling cage, you should probably put that around your tree, so that it doesn’t get mowed over. Barbed wire or old fencing should probably work, too, but there have to be holes in it for sunlight if it’s taller than your tree. By the time your tree is planted, you can water it less often, and just let it do its own thing. If you take good care of it, your tree will stay there for years to come. 

Tree growing is a wonderful hobby that can be interactive throughout the whole family, and helps us connect to nature and give back to the community and our environment. Trees can provide shade, homes, and plenty of oxygen. And as time passes, who knows? You could be standing under that very same tree that you grew from a sapling with your grandchildren someday and tell them about it, as well. Sadly, even with how special this is, few people even know about it or provide advice in almanacs, or on the internet. It’s a little different for everyone, but knowing about the supplies you need, sapling varieties, and caring for your sapling before and after the first winter are the best places to start.  Maybe you should consider trying to grow your own tree if you haven’t already.