Starting Black Locust from Seed

I planted a dozen or so Black Locust seedling trees around our property last year.. and the deer found them delicious! They didn’t even get a chance to settle in before getting completely chomped. The trees were not big enough to resprout, so it’s time to start some new ones.

There is a copse of Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia – ) not too far from our property, so we collected some nice dry seed pods that had dropped. A few minutes opening pods resulted in a couple hundred seeds.

The seeds are pretty small, just a few mm across. A couple days ago, I put the seeds in a bowl and then poured a couple cups of boiling water over them. After about a minute, I poured off most of the boiling water and added warm water back to the bowl with teh seeds. The seeds were then allowed to soak overnight.

The next morning, about half of the seeds had swollen up to about twice their original size. The swollen seeds were gently transferred to a wet paper towel that was put into a loosely sealed container. The remaining seeds got an extra day of soaking.

This morning, I opened up container with the swollen seeds and found that about half a dozen seeds had small roots starting to break out of the sead coats. They were planted out in the orchard this morning (safely fenced away from the deer!).

I’ll keep checking each morning and planting out the ones that sprout.

Black locust is a classic permaculture tree with many uses (fuel, timber, posts, forage for livestock, pollen and nectar for bees, light shade for nursing other trees, nitrogen fixation underground and a source of nitrogen rich leaves). These trees will be planted this fall in the hopes that they can spend the winter getting their root systems established. By next year they should start growing quickly and by the end of summer, I’d like to start using them for “chop and drop” mulch around other plants. It may take a year or two for them to settle in to allow for rapid resprouting, but trees planted from seed should allow for fast growth. If nothing else, they should be a good bait for all the lousy grasshoppers that are currently enjoying my other chop and drop crops, such as the comfrey…


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