"Hopefully the seeds will grow”

Today, 21st of March , is the International Day of Forests. In Finland thousands of kids sow pine seeds every spring and, this year, also to recall the Forest Day.

The fourth graders at Pihlajamäki elementary school started their week with sowing pine seeds. “Does everyone have a pot,” asks teacher Susanna Siikala. There is a pot for each of the 20 schoolchildren, and some have even decorated them with glitter or colourful stickers.

A sack of soil is put in the middle of the classroom and the sowing business can begin. The first to fill his pot is Daniel. “We sowed ryegrass at school last year,” Daniel says.

Sowing seeds of forest trees is new to Daniel and most of the class. Except for Max.

”I planted a mandarin seed and it started to grow, but then it died,” Max explains.

The sowing is supervised by the teacher and Forester Jussi Akkanen.

Seeds need soil, water and light
The pots are half filled with soil, which is then lightly tamped. Each kid gets five seeds per pot.

Warda uses a pencil to press a shallow hole for each seed. Seed into hole, some soil on top and some water from a spray bottle. Warda is so handy with the task that others gather around her to get advice.

Warda has no prior experience in sowing, but her mother has a lot of houseplants. ”I have helped to tend them,” she explains her skills.

Verna, too, has experience in growing plants other than ryegrass. ”I have helped grandma to sow carrots and to take care of strawberry plants,” she says.

The kids make short work of the sowing but there are questions, too. How deep must you press the pencil into the soil? How much water is enough water? In nature, pine seeds fall down on the ground, so even a small amount of soil is a help. The instruction about water is five squeezes of the spray bottle. In nature, rain and chance determine the fate of the seeds.

Each cone contains tens of seeds
“There are about 20-30 seeds in a cone like this, and every pine has hundreds of cones. If all seeds grew into trees, there would be no room in Finland for anything except pines,” Jussi Akkanen explains.

The sowing is done, and the kids place their pots on the windowsill for sunlight. ” I hope that at least some of them will grow,” Salla hopes. The class has not discussed where the seedlings will be planted, she says.

It takes a lot of time for a tiny seed to grow into a great pine. It takes at least two weeks to the seeds to germinate, and during the first year the seedling grows only a few centimetres. Yet, pines sown this spring can be planted the same summer though still at the cotyledon stage.

Seeds sent to schools since 1993
20 kids sowed pines in the Pihlajamäki School, but all in all, over 10,000 kids between the ages of 3 and 12 will sow pine seeds this spring all over Finland. And not as a one-off event, but thanks to a long-term project.

The Finnish Forest Association has delivered pine seeds to schools and day care centres since 1993. The Forestry Development Centre Tapio, the Outdoor Association of Finland, Forest Mulle instructors and the Finlands Svenska Idrott Association have delivered them to Forest Mulle groups since 1999.

A ’sowing day’ is one way of teaching kids to understand natural phenomena.

During these years, about 240,000 children have sown five seeds each. If all these 1.2 million pine seeds had germinated and had been planted, the trees grown by the kids would make a pine forest of 600 hectares.

The oldest pines should have reached the height of about 5-6 metres. There is, however, no follow-up data on the success of the sowing days.

“This year we’ll be delivering seeds until the end of April or until we run out,” says Planner Anne Turunen from the Finnish Forest Association. For several years, the seeds have been donated by Siemen Forelia. The Finnish Forest Foundation also supports the project.

Forest Day is a good day for sowing
All seeds sent to kids are pine, thanks to its availability. The production of spruce seeds tends to vary more than pine does in Finland.

The schools and day care centres that have already received their seed bags have been told that 21 March is the International Day of Forests, and that it is a good day to sow the seeds. The UN instituted the theme day only last year, and it is not well known in Finland. The theme day reminds people about the importance of forests to humans.

In Southern Europe the International Day of Forests can be celebrated by planting trees. In the Finnish climate this will usually not be possible until May and even later in Lapland. Thus, sowing seeds is a good way to commemorate the day.

”Every once in a while I meet teachers who can tell me where the trees planted by the kids are growing,” says Anne Turunen.

Krista Kimmo, text and photos

Taittoelementti, vihreä vaaka pisteviiva

Link to another page in FOREST.FI service A seed’s route from cone to point of sale is precisely known
Link to another page in FOREST.FI service 3–4 seedlings are planted to every felled tree
Link to another page in FOREST.FI service Proteins in pollen wreak havoc with immune system
WWW-sivusto Scots pine – Excellence and image (An information package made by the Finnish Forest Research Institute)

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Seeds need
soil, water and light

Each cone
contains tens of seeds

Seeds sent to
schools since 1993

Forest Day is
a good day for sowing




Pine seeds. Photo: Krista Kimmo
 Over 50,000 pine seeds are delivered to schools and day care centres this spring in Finland.



Kids sowing pine seeds. Photo: Krista Kimmo
The fourth graders at Pihlajamäki elementary school sowed their pines seeds already on Monday. Daniel estimates the right amount of soil.

Kids sowing pine seeds. Photo: Krista Kimmo
Warda looks as Salla uses a pencil to press a shallow hole for each seed.

Kids sowing pine seeds. Photo: Krista Kimmo
Each kid had five seeds to sow. Here Asma (l) andLotta (r) are sowing theirs.

Kids sowing pine seeds. Photo: Krista Kimmo
The seeds are covered with a bit of soil and given water. Aleksi shows how.

Coniferous forest. Photo: Krista Kimmo
Since 1993, 240,000 kids have sown about 1.2 million pine seeds. If they had all grown to be trees, the kids would have created a 600-hectare pine forest.
Publisher: Finnish Forest Association, 03/21/2014

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