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Published on Feb 11, 2011
Four rows of saplings: on the left each is planted on flat ground, the next row each is planted next to a single block, next to the right two blocks, and the rightmost each is planted next to a column three blocks high.
I also tried (not shown here) putting just one block, two, and three on the ground in a circle around each sapling (i.e., not stacked up, just one block north, east, and south) - this didn't have any effect.
Note: from what I can tell, if you put a column of dirt next to a sapling and apply bone meal to the sapling, the sapling won't always instantly grow (on flat ground, it always does grow instantly). I think the code "rolls dice" and if the tree is deemed tall enough, it will then grow, else the bone meal is wasted.