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School Seedling Program

Planting for Knowledge School Seedling Program

Planting and caring for a seedling tree can help young people learn about the natural world and the value of trees in it. DEC's School Seedling Program provides New York State students with this experience.

Why Participate?

Most of us recognize the beauty of trees and their many other values. Trees provide food and shelter for wildlife and prevent loss of soil (erosion).

They help protect our streams and lakes by stabilizing soil and using nutrients that would otherwise wash into waterways. Trees help moderate temperature and muffle noise. They even help improve air quality by absorbing some airborne compounds that could be harmful to us, and by giving off oxygen. Spending time around trees and in nature also makes us healthier.

When students plant tree seedlings, they can see for themselves the structure of trees, learn what they need and how they grow. Teachers can use the planting process to discuss the benefits trees provide, while including many subjects that their classes are studying. As seedlings mature, the young trees can be a continuing, personalized way of relating what they've learned in books to visible, living examples.

Students become aware that they can play a role in protecting the environment through personal involvement in establishing a grove of trees. Ultimately, it is hoped that the experience will help them make intelligent decisions about conservation and use of natural resources.

Who is Eligible?

All schools may participate - public, private or parochial; nursery, elementary, secondary, vocational, college or university. Any school-sponsored organization is also eligible. Planting can be related to a wide variety of scholastic programs - it is not confined to any given subject, purpose or age level.

DEC encourages planting on school property so that students can be responsible for the care and protection of the seedlings. Other possible locations are parks, roadsides, public buildings and nursing homes.

What's Available?

DEC's Saratoga Tree Nursery will have several different species available for participants in this program, School Seedling Brochure and Order Form (PDF) (95 KB) is available for downloading. Only one of the offered species may be ordered. Fifty (50) seedlings of that species will be given to each participating school. You will need 1,800 square feet of open space for 50 seedlings. Each needs a growing space about 6 feet in diameter.

For schools where planting space is limited, an Urban Wildlife Packet is available. This contains 30 seedlings of shrubs that are attractive to songbirds, as well as a variety of other wildlife. These should be planted 6 feet apart and require only 900 square feet of open space.

  • Getting Started:
    Contact your local Regional DEC Forestry Office for specific information about this program in your area. A forester will be available to advise you on the appropriate species of trees to choose and proper planting technique.
  • Species available:
    1. Norway Spruce (Picea abies): European short-needled evergreen. Will grow in clay and/or loamy soils and reaches heights in excess of 100 feet. Can be planted in most parts of New York except northern areas.
    2. 2. White Spruce (Picea glauca): Native, short-needled evergreen. Grows in clay and/or loamy soils and reaches 70 feet at maturity. Can be planted statewide.
    3. 3. Packet #2: Urban wildlife packet contains a mix of 30 wildlife shrub seedlings. Contains 10 each of Highbush Cranberry, Silky Dogwood, & Toringo Crabapple. Shrubs will grow in clay and loamy soils. Plant varieties of the same kind together to promote pollination and fruiting. Can be planted statewide.

The seedlings you receive will be two or three years old and approximately 6"-12" tall. Shipment will be by UPS, beginning in the second week of April through the third week in May. Select a shipping date at least three days prior to the planting date. Shipping is on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday only to avoid weekend warehouse storage.

Planting Instructions

Seedlings are perishable. Follow handling instructions printed on bags to ensure survival.

TOOLS REQUIRED: Shovel and bucket

  1. Place the seedlings in a bucket and fill with water until all the roots are covered.
  2. Remove all vegetation down to the soil layer for at least one foot around the planting site to reduce nutrient competition.
  3. Dig a hole large enough to contain the roots.
  4. Place the roots of the seedling in the hole and carefully spread them out. The root collar (where roots join the stem) should be at or just below the ground's surface. The seedling should stand straight.
  5. Fill the hole with soil and gently compact the soil to remove air pockets that could dry out the roots and kill the seedling.
  6. Water the seedling slowly and thoroughly after planting to settle the soil. If rainfall is not adequate, water weekly after planting for the first year.
  7. Mark the seedlings with a stake or flagging so they won't be cut off with a lawn mower.
  8. Fertilizer is not recommended at planting time. It can be applied two or three years after planting when the root system has developed.

NYS DEC
Saratoga Tree Nursery
2369 Route 50 South
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866-4711
Telephone: (518) 581-1439


  • Contact for this Page
  • Saratoga Tree Nursery
    2369 Route 50
    Saratoga Springs, NY 12866-4738
    518-581-1439
    Send us an email
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