Everyday Gardeners

An Oak for Alkaline Soils

If you’ve got alkaline soil, you can forget about growing oak trees. Common wisdom, but not necessarily true. Take the chinkapin oak (Quercus muhlenbergii) growing in the BHG Test Garden. It actually likes alkaline soil, so you won’t end up with chlorotic, lime-green leaves like you see on some pin oaks.

Chinkapin oak growing in Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden.

Chinkapin oak growing in Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden.

As a member of the White Oak Group, chinkapin oak acorns sprout immediately (those in the Red Oak Group need 3-5 months’ cold treatment before acorns will germinate).

Trouble is, squirrels and chipmunks pounce on these acorns right away because they’re less bitter than others. That means folks have to snatch acorns before they hit the ground. I harvested mine in September, when acorns were mature but still green. As long as the acorn doesn’t tear from the cup, it should still sprout.

Mature chinkapin oak acorns are prized by squirrels and garden editors alike.

Mature chinkapin oak acorns are prized by squirrels and garden editors alike.

Note the selection of acorns shown to the left. Then scroll down to see what’s growing in my office now, little more than a month later. Maybe you’d like to sprout an acorn! It’s a great activity to do with kids. Or you could just buy a seedling from the National Arbor Day Foundation by clicking here.

If you do grow an oak from seed, you will need to protect it from varmints the first growing season, as they like to dig up seedlings and eat the acorn leftovers. Chicken wire or hardware cloth are the best solutions, from my experience. Good luck!

Chinkapin oak seedlings sprouting in my office. So vibrant and strong, yet only a month old!

Chinkapin oak seedlings sprouting in my office. So vibrant and strong, yet only a month old!

Categories: Plants | Tags:
No Comments