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The Tribulations of Exotic Conifer Production from Seed

Seedling picture

"You have to be scientific, strategic, plan carefully, be thorough and work hard. Despite all this, you will always be at the mercy of the weather"

close-up picture of multiple yearlings in the field

Many people ask us how we grow evergreens from seed. There are no secrets to this, but it is a complicated and scientific business. Some of the procedures are described on this page.

We usually obtain our seed in January or February of each year. It arrives dehydrated and it must be frozen immediately to prevent germination. One week before we are ready to sow the seed, we put it through a stratification process. This means we put the seed through a period of varying moisture levels and temperatures. This replicates what the seed would normally go through before germinating, on the forest floor.

Stratification has long been recommended to increase the germination of Fir seed, but seldom to help that of Spruce. However, in our own germination tests we have found that Spruce seed responds well to cold moist stratification.

Most species of conifer seedlings have an ideal growing density of 35 to 55 seedlings per square foot. They have to grow very densely so the seedlings can protect each other. In order to achieve the optimum growing density, we must calculate the optimum seeding density. This is calculated using the optimum germination rate of the seed, after cold moist stratification.

Once seeded into fertilized, rolled, well-tilled soil in raised beds, we seed into the beds and then spray a pre-emergent herbicide. We then apply mulch. In order to replicate the seedling emerging under a mother tree in the forest, we install 50% shade cloth over the seedbeds. Lastly, we install the irrigation system.

Conifer roots stop growing at high soil temperatures, so we have to irrigate during the heat of the day.

After two to three years, we dig the seedlings up. We use a mechanical digger because it is less damaging to seedling roots that using manual tools. We then transplant the seedlings mechanically, so they are further apart.

After a further two to three years, we dig the transplants up again. At this point, they are either sold to our customers or we field-plant them.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please feel free to contact us.

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