SAWTOOTH OAK CHARACTERISTICS
If you could design the ideal oak to create mast orchards for attracting wildlife, especially deer, what characteristics would you give it? People are inherently impatient so you’d want something that grows quickly and produces mast at an early age. That impatience might apply to the seasons as well, so you’d want something that will drop those nuts early in the fall. Naturally, you’d want an abundant crop of nutritious nuts. It should have a wide tolerance range for different temperatures and soil conditions.
You could spend decades, even centuries, crossbreeding selected species and individuals that possess some of these characteristics to build your super oak. Fortunately, Mother Nature has already done that for you in creating the sawtooth oak. It possesses all the above characteristics and more, making it an ideal choice for mast orchards.
SAWTOOTH OAK MAST PRODUCTION
Sawtooths begin producing at an early age so you won’t have to wait long to see the fruits of your labor. Given the right sun, soil and climate they may start bearing nuts in 4-6 years. It may take a little longer in less favorable climates, but not much. Sawtooths are suited for USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5-9, which includes most of the continental U.S. except for Montana, North Dakota, northern Minnesota, Michigan and Maine and extreme southern Florida and Texas. That means they can tolerate average annual lows from 40 to – 40F. They can also tolerate a wide range of soil types, from sandy to clay loam, and soil pH, from 5.5-7. Once they start producing you won’t have to wait long into the fall as sawtooths begin dropping nuts in September and October, just about the same time most bow seasons are coming in.
Once growth and production begin, they only get better. Unlike other oak species, sawtooths can grow 3-4′ per year, eventually reaching 40-60′ in height. Mature trees are pest and disease resistant and produce bountiful crops; some that are 15 years of age and older have been reported to produce 1,000 to 1,300 pounds of acorns in a single year.
SAWTOOTH OAK PLANTING TIPS
While they require little maintenance, much of an individual plant’s success will depend on proper planting procedure. Planting dates will vary depending on zone and micro-climate. Newly planted trees should be watered regularly, and not fertilized until trees are established and growth begins, and then in the spring, not the fall. They need plenty of sunlight and 20- 25 foot spacing is recommend.
Clearly the sawtooth oak is a great choice if you want to get your mast orchards up and attracting sooner, and attracting deer, turkeys and other wildlife earlier in the fall. However, that early drop may peter out too soon for some, especially late-season gun hunters. That’s why it’s always a good idea to plant a variety of species, to widen the window of attractiveness of your mast orchards.