I've got some thornless honeylocust seeds (about 20). They've been stratified, and I'm ready to plant, but I'm not sure what the best approach is. I haven't started trees from seed before.

  • Will they work in soil blocks? 2" or 4" to start?
  • Is a 2x11x22" flat too shallow? I'm not sure how quickly the roots will go down deep.
  • I've got plenty of milk cartons, some window box planters, various other containers that might work.

It will be 8-10 weeks before I can transplant them outside. I'm assuming that I should grow them for a year in a protected space, so I'm planning on putting them about 1-2' apart in a nursery bed. What makes a good tree nursery bed (soil, location, etc)? Is this plan a reasonable approach?

2 Answers 2


I start these in shallow containers. It does not decrease plant vigor, but the roots go out through the drainage holes, so they are difficult to remove from the pot. Your plan would work pretty well if you got a deeper flat. They can be spaced pretty close. Young seedlings do not bother each other in the first year if they are spaced two inches apart. When you move them out, plant them 1' apart in rows 2' apart. A good bed has at least 6" of good, fertile topsoil of a good balanced loam. Partiall shade is best my zone (6) south, but full sun is better in the northern climates. It should not be too high in nitrogen, or the trees will grow soft and stretch, And won't sell as well. This method is good for a sturdy, vigorous tree. It is very similar to the method I use to raise nursery trees to sell.

  • 1
    Good details, thanks. It's nice to know what an experienced grower does. I started a few in a 5" deep window box planter earlier today, spaced about 3-4" apart. I'll do the rest in another of the same container but spaced closer. Should I grow in this container for a full year and transplant in spring 2013, or can I transplant out late this summer/early fall?
    – bstpierre
    Mar 11, 2012 at 3:03
  • You do not have to grow them for a full year in these containers if you don't want to. You can move them out in Fall after the rains come.
    – J. Musser
    Mar 12, 2012 at 1:07

I have experience with oaks. As soon as they germinate I transplant them into empty plastic pop (soda) bottles - neck cut off and holes punched in the bottom. This because they throw down a very deep tap root. I then bury the bottle in soil. I've never worried about soil type but I've only done this with oaks.

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