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Written By Karl VonBerg.

Posted on November 3rd, 2020.

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Do you have small oak trees (< 6’) that you would like to see grow into large oaks that produce many acorns?  Does it seem like they never really grow taller?  Find out how to solve that problem.  

You have found your small oak trees (< 6’) and flagged them so you can find them again (check out the Finding Oaks blog if you haven’t done this). Now you need to keep them healthy and growing. Let’s look at:

  • How to get those seedlings protected from the deer.
  • Getting enough light so someday they can be large acorn producers.


Here is a small purple-leaved Red Oak seedling. Flag it so you don’t lose it!

Protecting your small oaks from deer

Deer are one of the main reasons that a lot of small trees (<6’) don’t ever make it to be large trees.  So, if you can keep the deer from browsing them, they have a much better chance of becoming a large acorn producer. 

If you have many oaks in a small area then you will want to select the tallest, largest-diameter ones spaced at least 20’ apart for tree tubes or cages.  Cut down the other ones or they can be left as browse for the deer. 

Putting your small oaks in tree tubes or tree cages is highly recommended if you want to help them become large trees. has some helpful slide shows for protecting your small oak trees from browsing deer. Check out the tree tube and tree cage ones.  Here is a link to check out several tree tubes (Miracle Tube and Tubex Combitube) that the MyWoodlot team recommends. 

Depending on the size of your oaks, it may take them a few years to grow out of the tree tubes.  Maintenance is important during this time.  Every fall or early spring are good times to do tree tube maintenance. Check out this Power Point to see how to clean out and maintain your tree tubes.  As the Power Point shares, when your trees graduate out of the tree tubes (you can slit down the tree tubes with a knife and remove them).  If buck rubs are a problem in your area, then a bark protector is important to install.

Freeing your small oaks to get enough light to thrive

You will need to make sure the little seedlings have plenty of light.  This means creating an opening in the overstory that is at least 50’ wide.  Refer to the Freeing or Lighting Oaks blog to get more information about doing this.  This will allow the trees the light they need to start their journey towards maturity and grow into the overstory.  

You will need to continue to keep an opening in the overstory for them as they grow.  Patience is important, as it could be 20+ years before you see these little seedlings really start moving into the overstory.


Here is a Red Oak that has made it up into the overstory with a large crown to produce many acorns.

Remember, sometimes the work we do in the woods is for the next generation. Your kids or someone new that is maintaining the property may reap the reward of your diligence in saving these oaks and helping them grow up into the overstory to drop an abundance of acorns for wildlife or new oak trees.

Do you want more input into your woods? Check out

For more information/blogs on oaks, check out the following:


Finding Oaks


Freeing or Lighting Oaks



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