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close this bookSeeds and Plant Propagation. Agroforestry Technology Information Kit (IIRR, 1992, 105 p.)
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View the documentWorkshop to revise the agroforestry technology information kit (ATIK)
View the documentWorkshop to revise the agroforestry technology information kit (ATIK) - November 16-21, 1992 IIRR, Silang, Cavite
View the documentCurrent program thrusts in upland development
View the documentSeeds and plant propagation: An overview
View the documentTiming of seed collection
View the documentSeed processing
View the documentSeed quality testing
View the documentHastening seed germination
View the documentSeed treatement for better and faster germination
View the documentSeed storage and longevity
View the documentAgroforestry seed storage
View the documentTree nursery: Establishment and management
View the documentVegetative propagation
View the documentAsexual propagation methods for commonly used agroforestry species: Fruit crops
View the documentRooting of cuttings in homemade mist chambers

Tree nursery: Establishment and management

The difficulty of procuring tree seeds and their rising cost makes it necessary to find means to increase seedling survival and growth. Nurseries provide the necessary control of moisture, light, soil and predators and allow production of healthy and hardy seedlings. Here are some steps to make construction of a nursery and seedling culture more successful.

1. Select a good site.

An ideal location would be a place near the house (so that the nursery is often and well taken cared of), with good soil, near a reliable source of water and where water does not stagnate. Avoid placing the nursery or raising species in an area where existing species of the same family have pest and disease problems.

Picture 15

2. Clear the site.

Remove stumps, roots, rhizomes and stones in the area. Leaves and other non-wood debris can be separated and made into compost.

3. Layout the beds

Picture 16

4. Bulid the nursery structure.

Some vegetation surrounding the nursery can provide shade but the following shade structures can also be constructed:

· Hish-shade construction for community nursery.

Picture 17

· Fully enclosed structure of one bed for individual farmer.

Picture 18

· Low shade. Roof easily lifted off or rolled back when working on bed.

Picture 19

Construct a shade roof to provide partial shade. It should be loosely woven and easily removed when the seedlings need to be hardened off.


Picture 20

Banana leaves or cogon grass can be added to any of these to provide more shade if needed.

5. Prepare the germination beds.

If many seedlings are to be raised as in for fuelwood or timber plantation, it is generally easier and cheaper to raise them in a seedbed and transplant the bare-root seedlings (uprooted seedlings without soil). This technique works best for hardy species with a strong taproot, such as mahogany or yemane. Bare-root seedlings are easier to transport and plant than potted seedlings. However, survival is lower.

Small or delicate seeds are those with low or unknown

germination percentage, are best sown in a seedbed or seedbox and then transplanted to pots, if desired.


Dig the soil, break lumps of earth and remove remaining roots and rhizomes.

Loosen the soil and make a raised bed, narrow enough to allow for weeding without stepping on it.

Add compost and river sand. Mix well. Sand loosens the soil for better drainage and easy uprooting of the seedlings.

Level the bed. Using a bolo or a stick, make shallow furrows.

Picture 21

Sow the seeds (treated with protectants necessary) in the furrows. Allow sufficient room for the seedlings to grow if they are to be directly outplanted. If the seedlings will be transplanted to pots when they are still small, the seed may be sown more densely.

Cover the furrows thinly with soil no more than 2-3 times the thickness of the seeds.

Picture 22

Scatter wood ash all over the seedbed if ants and snails are a problem.

Water the seedbed carefully.

Use mulch (or plastic) like rice straw, grass, compost and partly decomposed forest litter to protect the seed and soil from heavy rains and weeds and to keep the soil constantly moist.

Make sure to allow enough time for the seeds to germinate. Some tree seeds, such as mahogany, may take a full month to germinate.


Use a seedbox for very small seeds like eucalyptus and agoho, Benguet and Mindoro pine and Kaatoan bangkal.

Build a wooden seedbox with 10 cm deep sidings and with holes in the bottom for drainage. An old washbasin can also be used if holes are punched in the bottom. Elevate the seedbox to allow drainage.

Picture 23

Place the seedbox in a shelter or under a protective roof. Also, set the legs of the seedbox in cans with water to prevent the seeds or seedlings from being attacked by ants.

Prepare the medium of equal parts soil, sand and compost. If possible, screen the soil through fine wire mesh to break up any clods or lumps.

Cover the bottom with 3 cm layer of pebbles or gravel, then fill the seedbox with the medium.

Picture 24

Pour boiling water over the seedbox to sterilize it and to prevent damping off.

Broadcast the seeds, then cover them with fine sand or soil. Another method is by mixing the seeds with the medium before broadcasting.

Watering should be done in the morning and in the afternoon with the use of a sprinkler with a fine mist.

6. Transplant seedlings into individual pots.

If only a few large seedlings are to be raised, it is better to pot them. Fruit tree seedlings are almost always potted, as rootstocks for budding and grafting.

Picture 25

Large seeds of good viability may be sown directly into pots. The point on the seed where it is attached to the fruit is called the hilum. This is where the root will emerge, so plant the seed with this point downwards.

Prepare the seedling pots as the seeds start to germinate.

Mix equal parts of sand, soil and compost. Pulverize soil to break up clods and lumps

If seedling bags are to be used, perforate the bags and fill them with the medium up to the brim, firm enough to stand. Push inwards the two pointed ends of the bags to flatten the bottoms. Arrange neatly in the nursery

Picture 26

Use small (4"x6") plastic bags for forest and fuelwood trees and others which will be outplanted in 4 to 6 months. Use large (6"x8" or larger), sturdy bags for large seeds, for rootstocks and other trees kept in the nursery more than 6 months.

Bamboo pots can be made by sawing sections to length and cutting a hole in the node for drainage. These should be presplit and tied back together again to make removal easier at planting time. Tamp soil in the base to form a bottom. Tin cans can likewise be used by removing both ends and filling with soil. Folded banana leaf sheaths may also be filled with soil and used to pot seedlings, but these must be replaced while the seedling is in the nursery as they quickly rot.

Picture 27

Seedlings are ready to be transferred to individual pots when they have developed at least two true leaves and when the stem is already sturdy.

Picture 28

Water the seedlings and the seedling pots. After about two hours, start transferring the seedlings.

Thrust a pointed stick in a seedling pot to make a hole. Plant one seedling per pot taking extra care not to break the roots or bend the tap root. Press the seedling base firmly but gently with the fingers to make sure seedling is stable.

Picture 29

Water the seedlings daily. Weed as needed.

7. Prune tap root to develop a stronger and more compact root system.

If the tap roots have penetrated the bottoms the plastic bags or other pots, lift the seedlings off the ground or slide a bolo under the pots to prune the tap roots.

Picture 30

Prune bare-root seedlings with a bolo or a sharp spade thrust in the bed diagonally. Cut the roots at about 20 cm length.

Picture 31

8. Harden off the seedlings a month before field planting.

Gradually remove the roof over the seedlings until they grow in full sun.

Reduce frequency of watering to every other day.

If seedlings are overgrown, the shoots and leaves need to be trimmed back.

9. Sort or grade the seedlings according to quality.

Separate vigorous, healthy seedlings and utilize them for field planting.

Remove or cull out sickly or very poor seedlings.

10. Information on nursery growing period and plantable size of some forest species is shown in Table 3.

Reference: Agpaoa, et. al. 1976. Manual of Reforestation and Erosion Control for the Philippines. GTZ. Eschboin, W. Germany.





In germination bed (weeks)

In pots/transplant bed (months)
















Diptero- carps




Giant Ipil-ipil