Its quite easy to grow most native trees from seed, its slightly slower than buying saplings, but it is much cheaper, indeed its almost free, and if you collect your own seed then you know where your seeds have come from. I collected, with help from my wife about 2,000 Beech masts last autumn, we collected most of them from another area of Ninewells wood and some from a picnic area about half a mile away.
It is essential to know the right way to treat the seeds of each tree species. There are web sites which tell you what to do. Quite a lot need a period of cold before they will germinate. In the case of beech it’s quite easy, just put them in a plastic food container with a little moist but not wet compost and put the container into the fridge, (taking care to ask permission from your wife). Leave them in the fridge and start to check them from mid January onwards. They will germinate in the fridge.
Some germinate quicker than others so I remove the ones that are growing and place them in a separate container, ready to take them to the wood. One of the biggest problems is rodents, rabbits and even deer. Last year we planted lots of germinating beech seeds in a little plot at the woods and half of them were eaten probably by mice and voles before they even produced their first seed leaves and the rest were eaten almost as fast as they put their heads up above the ground. So this year I am planting them individually where I want them to grow and protecting them from the outset. The technique I am using is this, 1. Select a suitable site ( where the leaf litter is not too deep and it is also not waterlogged) and insert a bamboo cane.
2. Dig a little hole as close to the cane as possible, and place a seed or two into the hole. Make sure the newly emerging root is facing down ( it always seems to fall the wrong way up, like buttered toast, so you have to gently turn it over) Then cover with soil, pressing this down gently.
3. Now place a plastic sleeve over the cane and push it down into the soil a little way, taking care not to push it directly onto the seed. The reason for pushing it into the soil is to try to deter small rodents from digging the seed out and eating it.
4. I then mark the top of the cane with a small spray of orange paint so that I can distinguish Beech from Hazel which I will be planting later in the year.
5. Repeat the process many many times, wait 100 years and you might have a Beech wood.
Whist I was planting the seeds this afternoon it started to snow, It snowed quite a lot and when I finished I took this photo.