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School Seedling Program

Planting for Knowledge School Seedling Program

Planting and caring for a tree seedling 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 give off oxygen and help improve air quality by absorbing some airborne compounds that could be harmful to us. Spending time around trees and in nature also reduces stress and makes us healthier.

When students plant tree seedlings, they can see for themselves the structure of trees, learn what trees need, and how they grow. Teachers can use the planting process to discuss the benefits trees provide, while incorporating other 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 class 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 students can be responsible for the care and protection of the seedlings.

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) (90 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. Scotch Pine (Pinus sylvestris): European long-needled evergreen. Grows best in well-drained soils and reaches 60 feet at maturity. Scotch Pine cannot be planted in the following towns in Lewis County (New Bremen, Watson, Wilna, and Worth), in Oneida County (Boonville and Forestport) due to Scleroderris.
    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. 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.
    4. Packet #2: A mix of 30 wildlife habitat shrubs. Will grow in clay or loamy soils. Plant varieties of the same kind together to promote pollination and fruiting. Can be planted statewide.

The seedlings are 2 to 3 years old, about 4"-12" tall, and bare root. They are light enough for young children to carry and plant. Shipment is by UPS, beginning after April 14 and running through the third week in May. Select a shipping date at least 3 days prior to the planting date. Shipping takes place on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday only.

Planting Instructions

Seedlings are perishable. Keep in a cool, shaded place until planting. Do not let the roots dry out.

TOOLS REQUIRED: Shovel and bucket

  1. Place seedlings in a bucket and fill with water until all roots are covered.
  2. Remove all vegetation for at least one foot around the planting spot for each seedling to reduce competition with other plants.
  3. Dig a hole deep and wide 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 the ground's surface. The seedling should stand straight.
  5. Fill the hole with soil and gently compact to remove air pockets that could dry out the roots and kill the seedling. Reposition the seedling as necessary to keep it straight and to prevent the root collar from being buried.
  6. Water the seedling slowly and thoroughly after planting to settle the soil. If rainfall is not adequate, water weekly for the first year after planting.
  7. Mark the seedlings with a stake or flagging so they won't be cut off by a mower or stepped on.
  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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