Gather ye seeds

21st September 2001 at 01:00
October 14 has been nominated Seed Gathering Sunday by the Tree Council. All over the country, tree seeds will be collected for planting, helping to raise Britain from its position as one of the least wooded countries in Europe.

The Tree Council is collaborating with the Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment, which makes drink cartons that disintegrate when planted in the ground, making them ideal seed containers. The alliance is offering free cartons, printed with helpful advice on giving your tree a start in life.

Seeds and nuts can be collected from any trees - acorns, beech nuts or horse chestnuts, ripe cones from birch or alder, and the fleshy fruits of apple, rowan or whitebeam. Drop seeds in water to separate dead "floaters" from live "sinkers".

Use the free cartons, or rinse out empty milk or juice cartons, and punch small holes in the base. Fill the cartons with moist compost - try to use peat-free compost (coconut coir is an acceptable substitute) - as many peat marshes, formed over thousands of years, are being destroyed because of commercial peat-cutting.

Push each seed in to a depth of about 1cm and cover with compost. Keep just moist and, in spring, plant the carton outside. As the tree grows, the carton will disintegrate.

It may be two to three months before seedlings appear, and 18 months to two years before they become small trees. Not all of the seeds will germinate.

Trees need space, below as well as above the ground. The roots spread as much as the crown does in the air.

For details contact Seed Gathering Sunday hotline: 0207828 9928. Websites: www.treecouncil.org.uk; www.drinkscartons.com.

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