There are very few plants that have the visual impact of a well-chosen tree in a yard. Whether it's planted for fruit or for shade, a tree makes a statement in your landscaping plan. Frugal homeowners are discovering the fun of growing a tree completely free, trading in time and patience for the instant gratification of buying a nursery-grown small tree. Create a copy of a tree that you've always admired or desired, and you'll have the satisfaction of knowing that it's totally yours, with no outrageous costs attached.
Find a tree that you admire and collect seeds in the correct season. With some plants, like the maple, this will be in the spring. With many other plants, including fruiting trees, seed collecting time will be in the fall when the fruit is ripe. Place all the collected seeds in a glass of water and discard the ones that float, advises the National Gardening Association.
Find out if your seeds need a period of dormancy. Many trees that are native to northern climates give seeds that require a period of time in cold weather before they will sprout. If your tree is one of these, place the seeds in a plastic zipper-top bag along with moistened peat moss. Close the bag and place it in the bottom of your refrigerator for eight to ten weeks.
Scarify your seeds if they have a hard outer coating like acorns. This is the process of cracking or breaking the coating so that the seed can sprout more easily. Soak the seeds in hot water for 24 hours, or rub them with sandpaper or a nail file.
Fill a planter with potting soil so that the level of the soil is about 1/2 inch below the edge of the pot. Plant your tree seeds about one seed's width deep. Moisten the soil thoroughly and cover the pot loosely with plastic wrap. Place the planter in a warm place with dim light.
Watch for your seed to sprout and remove the plastic when the shoots come out of the ground. Depending on the tree variety, this could be in as little as two days or as long as a couple of months. Keep the planter soil moist while the seeds are germinating.
Move the planter to a sunny windowsill when the seeds have sprouted. Water the seedlings regularly, never letting the soil dry out completely. Turn the planter each time that you water it, to make sure that all parts of the plant get equal amounts of sunlight.
Transplant your tree sapling outside in the spring, when the soil is warm and your tree is about 1 foot tall.