Working in the Landscape: Sawtooth Oaks in 3 Gallon Containers

87_fig_1_Sawtooth-Oak-Tree-Bareroot-Seedlings-12-18-Lot-OfjpgSam is a manager of a forest management company, and sent this email, “[Sam’s company] placed 100 Sawtooth Oak seedlings in 3-gallon containers at the end of February 2020. They grew well in the spring. I have watered them all summer. They have much better growth than pine seedlings in the first year.

They are now looking yellow. We just put some bagged topsoil on top of the potting soil that they were planted in. If they survive, I plan to plant them in the forest in November or December.

Can you give me some pointers on what to do to keep them healthy? The roots maybe limited in these 3-gallon containers. I did put small amount of fertilizer in the pots in the spring.

Thanks for any help you may extend.”

AHA consulted Dr. Jeb Fields, an AgCenter horticultural specialist, who is knowledgeable about nursery plants in containers.

Dr. Fields sent this narrative about the care of these seedlings, “I do not see anything he is having an issue with. The trees should not overgrow a 3-gallon container in the first year. I am not the biggest fan of topsoil on the top of the container, [because] this will hold a bit more water and encourage root growth upwards into the newly applied topsoil. The yellowing could be a lack of fertilizer, pest damage, or possibly too much water. I would seriously doubt that some light yellowing this late in the summer would severely harm the trees before planting this winter.

I would Not recommend fertilizing now, as that will encourage new growth and if we have a hard freeze in early November (like we did in Hammond last year, and I imagine [a hard freeze] is more regular in [central Louisiana]), [then] that new growth would be damaged. The oaks will start to naturally go dormant [approximately around] October to prepare for the winter. If severe freezes are forecasted and [if] there is tender growth on the trees this fall, then I would bring the containers as close together as possible without damaging them, but other than that, he should be fine.”

If you want to contact Working in the Landscape, please send your questions and pictures to Keith Hawkins, Area Horticulture Agent (AHA), 337-463-7006 or Also, you can be on the “commercial horticulture” email list by emailing your request to the address above.

“This work has been supported, in part, by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Renewable Resources Extension Act Award, Accession Number 1011417.”

8/10/2020 2:47:00 PM
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