Getting productive and beneficial trees can be an extremely expensive task. We are finding that out on our homestead as we look at various tree seedling prices that we are considering. I personally believe that its always going to be more expensive in the beginning and eventually possibly free (with plenty of labor of course).
Right now on our property there are numerous edible species, but not necessarily great fruit producers. We do have a Meyer Lemon Tree that is out of this world productive.
We attended a Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course offered Ben Falk in Vermont at Whole Systems Design this year in the beginning of September (2013). One of the biggest things that we learned there was all of the different techniques to propagating species of plants. I knew a little bit about grafting before going, but I didn’t quite understand why you would want to do that (over other methods), and I didn’t know ANYTHING about rooting “cuttings”. I always wondered “what do they keep meaning by cutting…? Just cut it and… put it in the ground or s omething?” Yup. Apparently that is it (for softwood cuttings). Once I found out about this a Tree Propagation Strategy started filling my mind. What did we need to do, to get the best bang for our buck, while having incredible species to work with (is the question I asked).
This is the most obvious option, and we’ll be taking it. What we are planning on doing is selected the most VARIETIES of plants. Our reasoning behind this is to start bringing in the bio diversity on site, and begin to build up stock that we can propagate from. Being in a zone 8b certainly gives us a lot of options. We still have to “worry” about frost, but not like other people, but with that in mind, to create a resilient system, we will be planting Northern Hardy varieties that I believe are going to do OK, but certainly not great here. This year saw a frost (in some places around here) just after Easter which obliterated big blue berry production. Moral of that story is, diversity.
I am also highly considering purchasing bulk trees like Black Locust. I have seen online that you can buy 1 foot tall trees, at about 0.79 cents a tree if you buy 100. That is a friggin’ dag’ on steal. So I’m seeing that in our future. Although, I am trying those by seed right now (written about below).
This wasn’t even a real consideration before the PDC that we attended. But now, this is our main strategy for filling our homestead with delicious edibles. Once we get our purchased stock of plants, obviously we will be rooting, and grafting our butts off. If anything you could consider the plants that we will purchase as the pioneer edible species, that are likely just going to turn into farmed species to get what we’re going to need. (Hence why variety diversity is the biggest issue). As you can see on the right, we have already started on the Lemon Tree. We’re REALLY hoping these little guys make it, at least one or two that way we can get more lemons!
The other thing we will be doing is a lot of “guerrilla” pruning, and/or helping neighbors prune back their plants in the spring time when they get a little too “weedy”. There are a ton of wild edibles in South Eastern Louisiana and there is no reason that the extended family and myself can’t go snoopin’ around in the woods to get some of the best plants. I really want to try to graft some of the extremely productive Mayhaws (Crataegus aestivalis) we see while fishing onto some Hawthorn root stocks… We’ve also seen people who have extremely productive fruit trees that we’ll have to be real neighborly like with so we might be able to get some diverse plants. A lady down the road has an amazingly HUGE grapefruit tree. Good lord, what I would give for one of those.
I did not understand this technique very well until the PDC. Now… wow, I see it as a way to possibly salvage some of the wild edibles we have in the area. Without a doubt we will be clearing a lot of the 15 year regrowth on our property, of which contains some good wild edibles. We have a persimmons tree that is quite tall just south of where are garden is. Come winter that persimmons will be cut all the way to the ground and be allowed to grow back up in the spring. We will cut out the shoots that aren’t as good as the others, and regrow out this persimmons. I see this as saving many of the local food varieties by just cutting them when they are dormant (or more likely to be more dormant).
Now this is the fun one. I think there is a lot of people avoiding this one, but I am really thinking about giving it a go, particularly with a few species. Flat out, the best way to get genetic diversity is to create it… so I’ll pick a few species and give it a shot. I didn’t QUITE understand the whole propagation thing until after the PDC, but before that I bought a bunch of different tree varieties that I’ll attempt to grow from seed. I now realize some of that folly that they just may not grow and produce much fruits. But you know we’ll see!
We purchased Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia), Mulberry (Morus rubra), Sea Berry/Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) , Filbert (Corylus maxima), Pawpaw (Asimina triloba). Right now all but the Black Locust are chilling in the fridge after I gave them a semi-boiling water bath after getting them. So… we’ll see here in a about two months how well the germinate.
As for the Black Locust… let me just say, WOW. After soaking them in boiling water, I left them in a paper towel on the kitchen counter for 2 months. I basically forgot about them, and just got busier than I would have wanted. I had no idea what the rates of germination were going to be or how long it would take for me to find out. Turns out, they’re very fertile. So fertile in fact, I have never heard of something germinating so fast in my life. In 3 days of putting them in seed starting mixture, they sent up shoots. The fourth day (today) every single square has a nice little green guy coming out.
I will definitely be buying more seeds, and getting them started ASAP so I can have an army of support species to plant.
Well that’s our current strategy taking us into next spring as far as trees go. Obviously nearly all of this applies as well to bushes and other non-tree perennials, even though I didn’t mention them specifically.