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One acorn, 12 years later.

The value of a large and healthy oak is inestimable. But Dick Wolf's 12-year-old, above, cost only the few hours spent collecting and planting some acorns. A dozen such trees grow around Mr. Wolf's Thousand Oaks, California, house-all planted at the same time in the same way.

Few trees are better adapted to the West or to drought than oaks. And they are also surprisingly fast-growing; Mr. Wolf's valley oaks (Quercus lobata) have averaged more than 2 feet of growth a year. November is the best month to collect and plant acorns. If you have a single oak or a grove of them nearby, collect there (those trees might be better adapted to your area than others growing farther away). Look under a healthy tree--and look for big acorns that are greenish brown and plump or sprouted. You'll need about five healthy acorns at every place you want a tree.

Remove the woody caps and drop acorns in a bucket of water. Those that sink immediately are the most viable. Throw away any still floating the next morning. Loosen soil in an area 1 foot square and 1 foot deep. Place a controlled-release fertilizer tablet about 10 inches down. Replace most soil, then plant the acorns. Cover with about an inch of soil; surround with chicken wire. Seedlings take about a month to reach the first true leaf stage. If you plant just before or after heavy rain, you needn't water until the dry season. Periodic watering through the first summer will increase the seedling survival rate and speed growth.
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Date:Nov 1, 1988
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