• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education skip experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • James Freyr
  • Nicole Alderman
  • Anne Miller
  • r ranson
  • Mike Jay Haasl
  • Dave Burton
  • Pearl Sutton
stewards:
  • paul wheaton
  • Joylynn Hardesty
  • Joseph Lofthouse
garden masters:
  • Steve Thorn
gardeners:
  • Dan Boone
  • Carla Burke
  • Kate Downham

Need advice on starting a tropical food forest

 
master steward
Posts: 5373
Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
1495
hunting trees books food preservation solar woodworking
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm going to attempt to start a tropical food forest inside a greenhouse in Wisconsin.  I'm guessing there will be several challenges but one major one is that I don't know much about tropical plants.  And I can't just ask around to see what my neighbors are planting.  Luckily I have permies.com

Some background:
The planting area will be about 15' by 35' with an 18' cathedral ceiling.  I'll probably start out with most of the plants in pots until I can successfully get through next winter.  But I'd happily risk some in the ground, especially if they're fast (bananas?), cheap (pineapples) or establishment/nitrogen fixers.  My goal is to grow interesting, tasty things and have a place of amazement.  Calorie production isn't quite as important since I have plenty of regionally appropriate food plantings outside.

My hope is to keep the minimum temp at or above 50F in the winter and at or below 95 during the day.  Mid spring through mid fall we will have vents open and pollinator access.

I visited the Como Conservatory in Minneapolis this winter and it was great to see their tropical greenhouse and how closely packed together the plants were.  It was also good to see plants with fruit on them in my latitude.

Desired plants:
  • bananas
  • avocados
  • mangos
  • pineapples
  • cinnamon
  • dragonfruit
  • ginger/turmeric
  • loquat?
  • papaya?
  • miracleberry
  • vanilla orchid
  • yagrumo?
  • lemon
  • mandarin

  • Questions:
    1.  Yes I know I'm crazy.  But given that, are any of these plants particularly impossible for me to grow in my greenhouse?
    2.  Are any particularly impossible to get to fruit?
    3.  Which are the least cold hardy that I should probably wait another year on?
    4.  Are there any nitrogen fixers I should seek out (I think yagrumo is but I'm not sure I can get it)?
    5.  Are there any other awesome plants I should consider?
    6.  Do some of these need cross pollination?  Or male/female plants?
    7.  Which need to be in fuller sun and which can handle more shade?
    8.  Is my list of plants too long?

    Thanks!!!
    DSC04995s.jpg
    [Thumbnail for DSC04995s.jpg]
     
    pollinator
    Posts: 173
    Location: North Texas, Dallas area suburbs, US zone 8
    69
    hugelkultur kids purity cat forest garden fungi books cooking medical herbs homestead
    • Likes 2
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    I dream of doing this one day!   Congrats on your project, Mike.

    Have you seen Jerome Osentowski's book, "The Forest Garden Greenhouse"?  Several of the case studies there are about tropical greenhouses, and he addresses the plants he uses as nitrogen fixers, how to arrange, etc.
     
    Mike Haasl
    master steward
    Posts: 5373
    Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
    1495
    hunting trees books food preservation solar woodworking
    • Likes 2
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Thanks Kerry!  Everyone should build one of these  

    I have read Jerome's book, back when I was designing my greenhouse.  His jungle greenhouse was one of my inspirations.  I'll read through it again with a focus on the plants.  Thanks for the reminder to check it out again!
     
    Posts: 13
    1
    • Likes 2
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Congratulations on your project Mike!

    I think you may have too many plants for the space. The avocado, mango and loquat grow tall here in the tropics, higher than your ceiling. their crown radius may be bigger than your space too. The papaya would work pretty well given the short time from seed to fruit, around 9 months, and there are varieties that do not grow too tall.

    Other plants to consider that I can think of are cacao, coffee, tea, guava, cape gooseberry and mulberry. The cacao, coffee and tea can be grown in the shade as they are understory plants.

    Pineapples require full sun. Vanilla would need shade and support for its vines. Mangos, avocados, loquats, bananas and papaya seem to grow okay in full sun in my area. However, I have seen videos of bananas and papaya growing in some shade in India.
     
    Posts: 559
    Location: Australia, New South Wales. Köppen: Cfa (Humid Subtropical), USDA: 10/11
    154
    transportation hugelkultur cat forest garden fish trees urban chicken cooking woodworking homestead
    • Likes 2
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Howdy,

    Note: there’s wet tropics and dry tropics – very different, A greenhouse can mimic both.

    Some suggestions/comments/examples:

    Think 3D: vertical, horizontal and in-between – that’s how a jungle grows

    There’s lots of tropical food plants, the more interesting ones come from the places south of that wall you guys are building.

    Many varieties now have dwarf versions, so you may be able to have a broad variety in a comparatively small space. Similarly, doing a technique akin to bonsai where the canopy and roots are kept in check may be advantageous – potted plants could be layered to mimic forest conditions.

    Your list is perhaps too short and lacks a bit of depth for food production – needs infilling with other things to create that layered effect which keeps humidity, moisture, and light levels correct.

    Some plants need male and female, but there are some varieties that don’t.

    Here’s a website that explains the preferred conditions for many tropical plants:

    Tropical Fruit Web Link



    Canopy: you have pretty much sorted that out given the constraints – most tropical trees are BIG. As noted above, try to search out dwarf varieties

    Mid-Storey: sugar bananas, citrus, fig, guava (These plants could also be used as the ‘Canopy’ if all else fails.)

    Shrubbery: chilli, coffee, the REAL cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum), ginger, kafir lime, chilli

    Vines: passionfruit, choko, climbing bean, luffa, pumpkin, watermelon

    Herbs/Groundcovers: Vietnamese mint, Thai basil, Sawtooth Coriander (Eryngium foetidum), comfrey, lemon grass, strawberry, galangal, ginger, peanut, yam/sweet potato

    Rhizosphere: mulch, leaf litter, compost

    Aquatic: Kang Kong (Ipomoea aquatic), water chestnuts, lotus


    Potential Challenges:

    Maintaining optimum soil temperature

    Ambient temperature ranges not so simple. 50F (10C) to 95F (35C) I assume that’s the winter range you intend to maintain? As a result, humidity will also need to be checked so it translates to the ‘dry season’. Likewise, summer (‘wet season’) range would be about 28C to 38C but high humidity e.g. +85%

    Daylight length and the correct spectrum could be challenging.

    Humidity and ventilation – humidity needs to be balanced with ventilation to avoid diseases. Disease detection/prevention will be a major aspect in an enclosed environment. A regular breeze on a hot day may help balance things.



    It’ll require a lot of tweaking to get right, but it’s doable and something to really gloat about to friends and family if successful – not simply a ‘greenhouse’, it’ll be ‘MJ’s Tropical Permaculture Conservatorium’!


     
    Posts: 280
    Location: Philippines
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Since this is start up I presume that there are existing wild plants in the area. Are you going to kill the plants. How about the friends that's living in the soil. I've been reading Doctor Redhawk threads. I've learned that they survive on plant roots if plants die they also die.
     
    master pollinator
    Posts: 8826
    Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
    734
    • Likes 1
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    There are many highland areas in the tropics where smaller and more cold tolerant versions of lowland plants are grown. But many of these plants are still big by greenhouse standards. Many of the trees named can get quite large. I think it's possible to have a herbaceous semi-tropical garden that focuses on dwarf bananas and oranges and spices and many other things that will have a unique look and smell. The beauty of these are that most are quick to reach some semblance of maturity.

    I was investigating the possibility of creating my own tropical Food Forest, 8 degrees from the equator in the Philippines. Temperature and humidity maintenance are not an issue. Still, there are some things that I probably won't grow because of how long it takes them to reach any degree of maturity, even in an ideal climate. Lansonis, rambutan and jackfruit are a few of the things that will make me wait more than a decade to get anyting back, and I will never see the mature trees.

    People occupy the jungle floor, where the herbs and spices grow. Your height restriction doesn't allow for any sort of natural canopy.

    On a positive note, The monkeys and flying foxes won't take a bite out of everything while you're sleeping.
     
    Mike Haasl
    master steward
    Posts: 5373
    Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
    1495
    hunting trees books food preservation solar woodworking
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Thanks Maureen,

    Yes, the mango and avocado do get a bit big.  I can leave out the loquat since I've never actually eaten one.  Unless they're really good and I'm missing out?  I've found a wide variety of tropicals and citrus available from Logees Greenhouse in Massachusetts (fairly far north in the eastern US).  They specialize in container tropicals so I figure if I chose varieties from them, I may be able to keep them small.  Some mangos that seem containable are Nam Doc Mai, Glenn, Lancetilla and Pickering.  

    For avocado I've found Holiday, Day, Brogdon, Little cado/Wurtz and Reed.  I might need pots the size of whiskey barrels but I'm ok with that if needed.  By limiting them to a big pot, maybe that would simulate the bonzai that F is describing?

    Papaya also seem like a good fit.  They don't cast too much shade or take up too much space.  Thanks for the sun/shade advice, that's really helpful!  I did see a video of a Texas greenhouse where there was a papaya growing in a banana circle and fruiting.  

    I'm guessing I won't use all the elevation in the greenhouse so I can put smaller potted full sun plants up on that catwalk.  I'm thinking pineapples or dwarf citrus...
     
    Mike Haasl
    master steward
    Posts: 5373
    Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
    1495
    hunting trees books food preservation solar woodworking
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    F, thanks for all the info!

    I'll definitely prune the larger trees if needed.  Based on this tour of Foxxotron's Texas Greenhouse, (Youtube link) it looks like some of these "overstory" trees may not cast as much shade as I'm used to in a real jungle.

    Thanks for the link, I'll dig through it extensively.  Then I'll know if I'm mixing my wet and dry tropical plants too much.  I doubt I'll be able to maintain a wet and dry part.  More likely a warmer and colder side with citrus and other cold tolerant things on the cold side.

    What's a sugar banana?  Is that different from a normal banana?  The ones on my potential list are Dwarf Cavendish, Gran Nain, Manzano, Blue Java and Mona Lisa.

    By "chilli" do you mean any variety of hot pepper (cayenne, jalapeno, etc)?  I had planned on a few peppers tucked away in there.

    I'll have to look into those vines.  I think I was afraid of passionfruit taking over.  Are my fears overblown?

    Thanks for the Potential Challenges!  I don't know enough about what these plants want so it will be a struggle at times.  Both with giving them what they want and also figuring out what they're saying when I don't speak the language.

    I'm hoping the soil temp will rise as I do a poor man's climate battery.  I'll pump hot air off the ceiling through pipes in the ground (18" deep).  That should help keep the temps manageable on sunny winter days and warm the ground.  So summer should be 82-100F...  Very good to know.  That should be doable but I'll be sweating a lot.

    Daylight in the winter is a limiter.  The greenhouse gets full sun for about 4 hours and indirect sunlight for another 4 hours.  I could add lights if it's really needed but I'd rather avoid it.  In the summer it should be closer to 14 hours of overall light with 6-8 direct (depends greatly upon where in the greenhouse you're standing)

    I think I'll leave the south vents open all summer and have the upper vents on automatic cylinders so that they can let heat out as needed.  I'm guessing that would be happening most days in the summer and generating plenty of ventilation.

    Thanks again for all the info!!!
     
    Mike Haasl
    master steward
    Posts: 5373
    Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
    1495
    hunting trees books food preservation solar woodworking
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator

    julian Gerona wrote:Since this is start up I presume that there are existing wild plants in the area. Are you going to kill the plants. How about the friends that's living in the soil. I've been reading Doctor Redhawk threads. I've learned that they survive on plant roots if plants die they also die.


    This greenhouse is situated on an area of grass. The grass was dormant all winter and is just now coming back to life in the greenhouse.  So some portion of the soil life should still be living.  As I'm re-reading Jerome Osentowski's book I see that he sheet mulched his greenhouse with a lot of organic matter before planting.  I'll have to consider doing that as well.  I also have a friend who has compost worms and I can get all the worms I need from her so I may start some compost worm farms as well.
     
    Mike Haasl
    master steward
    Posts: 5373
    Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
    1495
    hunting trees books food preservation solar woodworking
    • Likes 1
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Thanks Dale, no monkeys here  Unless a squirrel gets in...   I know I won't have a true jungle canopy but I figure it will still look pretty cool if I have 16' bananas and a few other 15' "canopy" trees with tons of smaller things filling up the rest of the space.  

    I agree on the trees that take a long time to reach maturity.  I'd rather not plant something that takes 15 years to fruit.  Maybe 10 would be ok.  But 2-7 would be better!  
     
    pollinator
    Posts: 203
    78
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    I love your plan. I would like to do the same in Michigan., But thankfully I made it to Florida this year and have been blessed with the opportunity to plant tropicals in ground. But when and if I ever try it at my summer farm in Michigan, I would consider intermingling warm temperate crops that are often thought of as tropical and exotic like kiwis, pomegranates, figs, che. As well as some arid crops like prickly pear and dragon fruit. That way if you have a rough winter the temperate exotics would thrive, and in a mild one the tropicals would thrive, and they'd all be quite exotic. Morninga would be an excellent addition as well.  Love the green house design. There's a guy growing bananas and papayas at market scale in Canada in hoophouses heated by outdoor boilers. If he can do it like that yours should be bullet proof.
     
    Mike Haasl
    master steward
    Posts: 5373
    Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
    1495
    hunting trees books food preservation solar woodworking
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Thanks Dan!  I forgot about moringa, it's on the list now.  

    I don't know which of the ones I listed are more tropical and which like it drier and a bit colder.  Once I've gone through F Agricola's web site link I'll hopefully know what each plant likes and be able to temper my hopes accordingly.

    That's great to know that bananas and papayas can at least make it with Canadian winter sunlight.  
     
    Posts: 45
    7
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator

    Maureen Njeri wrote:
    Other plants to consider that I can think of are cacao, coffee, tea, guava, cape gooseberry and mulberry.



    He probably can grow mulberry outside his greenhouse (it tolerates zones 5-9), depending on whereabouts in Wisconsin he is (and assuming we're talking about the same kind of tree).
    It's native to my area, in Zone 6B, so I'd personally save tropical greenhouse space for things more exotic.

    Love the suggestion of guava!
     
    pollinator
    Posts: 376
    Location: Boudamasa, Chad
    77
    • Likes 2
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Here are a few tips on fertility:

    1. Biomass production can be accomplished quite fast with:
    - Sweet potato vines as ground cover mixed with
    - lablab for nitrogen.
    -Chaya grows faster than any other bush i know and makes a great spinach like green. They'll reach about 12 get tall, real bushy and soft stems for mulching with.
    -Bananas are my biggest mulcher though, as each plant only produces once and then is chopped down.
    -cassava are real pretty and fill in between other stuff nicely.

    2. For nitrogen i already mentioned lablab as ground cover, but also:
    -pigeon peas are a beautiful little bush that produces loads of protein (if you have pollinators--what are you going to do about that?).
    -albizia are lovely leguminous trees that are easy to keep small with an annual chop and drop. I'll let you figure out if you have the right bacteria to actually good noticed with them.

    I should mention that sweet potatoes, chaya, and cassava are multiplied by just sticking a branch in the ground so they are pretty handy.

    3. Might i suggest you add a few domestic pigeons? They're quiet, beautiful, not-destructive, and are really good at converting tiny seeds and bugs into fertilizer.

    Add Cherimoya to your list for fruit; they're delicious!
     
    F Agricola
    Posts: 559
    Location: Australia, New South Wales. Köppen: Cfa (Humid Subtropical), USDA: 10/11
    154
    transportation hugelkultur cat forest garden fish trees urban chicken cooking woodworking homestead
    • Likes 2
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator

    Mike Jay wrote:What's a sugar banana?


    Different names in different regions for the same thing. Looks like you have it covered: similar to the Manzano e.g. small and sweet banana.

    Mike Jay wrote:By "chilli" do you mean any variety of hot pepper (cayenne, jalapeno, etc)?  I had planned on a few peppers tucked away in there.


    Yes, the hot and tasty ones used in Thai, Vietnamese and Indian cooking.

    Mike Jay wrote:I'll have to look into those vines.  I think I was afraid of passionfruit taking over.  Are my fears overblown?


    Yes, they can go rampant but can be kept in check by selective trimming. Coming from a warm climate, I don’t like planting them near or on buildings because they can engulf it and act as a pathway for vermin. We preferably plant them on a standalone trellis or along a fence. Note: don’t pick passionfruit, when they’re ripe they should fall to the ground.

    Choko = Chayote = some people love them, some people hate them. But, every part of the plant is edible – the young leaves and tendrils are very tasty when steamed. The vines aren’t nearly as rampant as passionfruit, so may be a better choice.

    Mike Jay wrote:I'm hoping the soil temp will rise as I do a poor man's climate battery.  I'll pump hot air off the ceiling through pipes in the ground (18" deep).  That should help keep the temps manageable on sunny winter days and warm the ground.  So summer should be 82-100F...  Very good to know.  That should be doable but I'll be sweating a lot.
    Daylight in the winter is a limiter.  The greenhouse gets full sun for about 4 hours and indirect sunlight for another 4 hours.  I could add lights if it's really needed but I'd rather avoid it.  In the summer it should be closer to 14 hours of overall light with 6-8 direct (depends greatly upon where in the greenhouse you're standing)



    Those temperature ranges are not solid, there’s a lot of leeway. Some plants can cope with cooler/less humid conditions, some won’t. But most will cope with higher ones. It will be hit and miss for a while as you play around with the climate and see how the plants respond. To save money and disappointment, perhaps start small and slowly build up the plant collection as they adapt and you gauge their health and other issues.

    Yep, winter will be the major hurdle – besides the cold creeping in, the low levels of light may be an issue for larger plants.

    Good luck with it and have fun.
     
    julian Gerona
    Posts: 280
    Location: Philippines
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator

    Mike Jay wrote:

    julian Gerona wrote:Since this is start up I presume that there are existing wild plants in the area. Are you going to kill the plants. How about the friends that's living in the soil. I've been reading Doctor Redhawk threads. I've learned that they survive on plant roots if plants die they also die.


    This greenhouse is situated on an area of grass. The grass was dormant all winter and is just now coming back to life in the greenhouse.  So some portion of the soil life should still be living.  As I'm re-reading Jerome Osentowski's book I see that he sheet mulched his greenhouse with a lot of organic matter before planting.  I'll have to consider doing that as well.  I also have a friend who has compost worms and I can get all the worms I need from her so I may start some compost worm farms as well.



    I wonder how you gonna take care of our soil friends when you go about removing all those grass to replace with edibles.
     
    Mike Haasl
    master steward
    Posts: 5373
    Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
    1495
    hunting trees books food preservation solar woodworking
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator

    Jamin Grey wrote:He probably can grow mulberry outside his greenhouse (it tolerates zones 5-9), depending on whereabouts in Wisconsin he is (and assuming we're talking about the same kind of tree).


    Very true Jamin, I do have it outside already.  I'm in zone 4a but a good friend has them growing in nearly the same conditions 100 miles south of me so I'm hopeful.  
     
    Mike Haasl
    master steward
    Posts: 5373
    Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
    1495
    hunting trees books food preservation solar woodworking
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Thanks Nathanael, that's great information!  I don't know why I thought lablab was a tree?  Silly temperate climate gardeners  I think I would have remembered to plant sweet potatoes as a ground cover.  I already planned on black pepper, casava, ginger, turmeric and herbs for the ground layer.  At the Como Conservatory they had black pepper everywhere but hadn't gotten it to flower ever.  Maybe I shouldn't bother with it.

    I'll definitely look into the pigeon peas.  They sound terrific.  I think I'll pass on actual pigeons.  I have chickens already but they won't be in the greenhouse.  But they will reap the reward of greenhouse fodder and worms in the winter.

    Cherimoya you say...  I'll have to look into that as well.  Thanks!
     
    Mike Haasl
    master steward
    Posts: 5373
    Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
    1495
    hunting trees books food preservation solar woodworking
    • Likes 1
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator

    julian Gerona wrote:I wonder how you gonna take care of our soil friends when you go about removing all those grass to replace with edibles.

    My soil friends will stay right where they are.  I'm not removing the grass, just mulching over top of it and planting into it.  There's probably 100x more life in the soil now than there is outside the greenhouse due to the ground not freezing.  These strange tropical plants may need different friends but I'm not sure I can do much about that.
     
    Posts: 97
    Location: Frederick, MD zone7b
    23
    kids duck bee homestead
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    I wish that was something I could do!

    Im not sure what kind of cuisine you like, but tumeric and ginger are both tropicals. I would grow them in a heartbeat. Both are shrub sized as far as I know and get planted just by planting the rhizomes you can get from the grocery store.
     
    Mike Haasl
    master steward
    Posts: 5373
    Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
    1495
    hunting trees books food preservation solar woodworking
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Hey Brian, you can do it too!  We do eat a fair amount of ginger and a small amount of turmeric.  I'll grow both for sure.  From what I can tell, they are kinda sparse grassy/leafy stems that get a few feet tall.
     
    Posts: 48
    Location: outside Brisbane, Australia
    7
    chicken cooking greening the desert
    • Likes 1
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Hi Mike
    This all sounds super exciting. What a great project to have.

    I grew up in a temperate zone, but moved to a subtropical one 15 years ago. Basically, my original city was 24 hours drive to the south of where I am now. I came to live near my husband's family. The area was wet subtropical when he was growing up, but has moved to dry subtropical in the last 2 decades.

    When looking at your most excellent creation, the thing that springs to mind for me is "light". The light up here is incredibly bright. I believe it is unimaginably strong for someone who has not spent time here. In fact, this state has the world's highest rates of melanoma/skin cancer, as there are a lot of fair Anglo-Saxon types living in such an intensely sunny place. During summer, it is actually too hot - by which I also mean sunny - by 8:30am, to do exercise outdoors. I always garden during the last hour of daylight, which makes dinner a bit late. But otherwise it is really unpleasant.

    Subtropical sun doesn't shine, it glares. At times it can feel like it is boring holes in you. It can be like that leaf you had under a magnifying glass as a child, where you hold it so the sun's rays concentrate, and burn a hole. It is fierce, it is biting. It is full-on.

    My concern would be that some of these species would not get enough sun. Now, plenty are understory plants, which would be fine, but the ones that are not may suffer. Maybe some will just keep growing at a slower rate, and be fine, but I would wonder about the ability of some to ripen fruit or to develop properly.

    The thing though with gardening is that I have found you can't really predict with certainty for a lot of things. As long as you get it vaguely appropriate, you just have to try and see how plants like your greenhouse, and my guess is there will be surprising successes, and surprising failures. Maybe you can start with small seedlings, rather than invest in expensive, more mature plants? At least that way you will minimise losses. And perhaps one of each species to start, just to test them out.

    I find fresh herbs make an enormous difference to a dish. Just adding those can make a meal very exotic, and in the end, it's all about what you get to put in your mouth :  )
     
    Mike Haasl
    master steward
    Posts: 5373
    Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
    1495
    hunting trees books food preservation solar woodworking
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Thanks Nicola, I'm excited too!  I do know what you mean about sun boring into you.  I used to live in Utah which is high desert (4000 ft elevation).  The sun would be cooking your arm with the window down on the highway.  

    I'm slowly researching all these plants and getting a feel for the conditions they like.  The web sites often say the soil they need, the sun conditions and other care.  They don't tend to say if they're wet or dry tropical.  I can guess from how much water they like.

    The research I did last night led me to the following.  Anyone can happily correct me if I'm inaccurate on this:

    Bananas:  Need tons of fertility, mulch and organic matter.  Need lots of N (chicken poop) and Potassium (wood ash).  They do better with banana friends close by.  Lady Finger style are taller/thinner plants.  Bananas love humidity (some places mist 2-3x per day commercially).  Tall bananas may fall and crush nearby trees/plants so 8-10 footers are a good thing, some shade is good, “reds” are more cold sensitive.  Like it 60-95F (15-35C) but can live down to 50F (10C) and some (Manzana for instance) can survive down to 20F (-6C), probably only once.  Clearly a wet tropical plant.

    Avocado:  Need two for best pollination, type A and type B, not two of the same.  Mexican is most cold hardy, down to 20F (-6C).  Needs/likes some sun protection for first few years until it has enough leaves.  Like mulch and are heavy feeders.  Prune at or just after ripe fruit stage.  Probably a canopy tree for me.  These seem like a dry tropical plant to me?  It seems like they fruit at different times, I wonder how I'll get two to flower at the same time?

    Mango:  Fruit in 3 years, like well drained soil, full sun.  Indian varieites like it drier, other varieties won't have as many fungal issues in humidity.  Mature trees can handle a temp down to 25ish.  Weekly water at first, 1-2x per month in fall/winter, prune after fruiting.  Would clearly be a canopy tree for me requiring pruning.  Is this a wet or dry tropical plant?

    Dragonfruit:  Awesome climbing cactus with cool flowers and gnarly fruit.  Some say it bears throughout the year, but fruits in Sept in a Texas tropical greenhouse video I watched.  Needs hand pollination, uses aerial roots to harvest nutrients/water from air, not ground.  I'm thinking this is a dry tropical...

    Yagrumo:  Fruit tastes like a cross between gummy worm and fig newton.  Builds soil, N fixer.  Can handle 30F (-1C) occasionally.  Canopy tree?  As a N fixer I could chop it regularly.  Not sure if dry or wet tropical.

    Cherimoya:
    Also called custard apple. Must be hand pollinated, full sun, likes a healthy pile of mulch, seeds are poisonous.  This would be another canopy tree.  Never had one so I'm not sure if I should dedicate space to one or not.  Not sure if dry or wet tropical.

    Pigeon pea:  Sounds like a cool shrub.  Would need to find a variety that stays under 6' high (2m).  Grows peas that you can harvest year round.

    So that's the research I stumbled through last night.  If anyone has anything to add or cultivars to recommend (especially given my size limitations and possible chilliness in the winter), I'd love to hear them.
     
    Dan Allen
    pollinator
    Posts: 203
    78
    • Likes 1
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    From what I understand avocadoes only require an a and b type in the tropics. Outside of the tropics they can self pollinate. All the cultivars sold in Florida are described as self pollinating.
     
    Mike Haasl
    master steward
    Posts: 5373
    Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
    1495
    hunting trees books food preservation solar woodworking
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Ohhh, that would be very cool.  Thanks Dan!  I had seen many described as self pollinating but due to the A/B talk I assumed they were minimally self pollinating.  Didn't realize it could be a geography/climate thing.  Woo Hoo!  Then I can focus on ones that fruit at different times of the year and get a harvest from two trees that is spread around the year better.  Yay!
     
    Dan Allen
    pollinator
    Posts: 203
    78
    • Likes 1
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Now I'm inspired to research the mechanics of avocado pollination a bit deeper. I really don't know the mechanics of it, but I suspect it has to do with daylength, because I understand that they open female flowers in the morning and male flowers in the evening and vice versa, hence the need for both varieties, however outside the tropics there must be significant overlap of flower blossoming, due to some factor, perhaps longer days, allowing them to more readily self pollinate. Or perhaps it's a commercial practice to plant both types for Max production, but on the home scale isn't necessary. I'm thinking of the lonely avaraipa canyon avocado as a prime example of self pollination.
     
    Nathanael Szobody
    pollinator
    Posts: 376
    Location: Boudamasa, Chad
    77
    • Likes 1
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Cherimoya are real versatile; they originate in more wet tropics, but do fairly well in the dry.

    Also: bamboo, but the clumping varieties so it doesn't spread. later it will make really nice trellises and arbors to enhance the feel of the place.
     
    Mike Haasl
    master steward
    Posts: 5373
    Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
    1495
    hunting trees books food preservation solar woodworking
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Thanks Nathanial, that gives me some leeway.  One challenge I have is that I don't know which tropical fruits I'll like.  I mean I know I like avocados, mangos and pineapples.  But I don't know if the dragon fruit I bought at the store the other day is a good representation of a ripe/fresh dragon fruit.  Same goes for Cherimoya.  I've never had one and I'm not sure that if I find one in a store it will be an accurate representation.  I guess I need to take a trip to the tropics and do a taste test

    Thanks for the bamboo idea (clumping, of course ).  They were not on my list but it makes perfect sense.
     
    Dale Hodgins
    master pollinator
    Posts: 8826
    Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
    734
    • Likes 1
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    I don't think you need to make a trip to the tropics. Probably better to go to a good Conservatory, at a zoo or other place where they've been growing things well outside of their zone for a long time. They will already know the dwarf varieties and those that are able to survive on the light you are able to provide and other things in an artificial environment. The Earthship crowd may also have some experience.

    Green houses containing plants from other environments , can be useful, when something goes really wrong  in the home environment . The Cavendish banana was developed in Kent England and became the number one produced fruit in the world, when a disease wiped out other commercial bananas in the 1950s. American chestnut were largely killed off within their home range, by disease but there are many of them growing outside of that range now.
     
    Mike Haasl
    master steward
    Posts: 5373
    Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
    1495
    hunting trees books food preservation solar woodworking
    • Likes 1
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Good point Dale!  I did get a lot of good information when I visited the Como Conservancy in Minneapolis.  And I got the contact info of their main gardener so I can bend her ear if needed.  They had lots of citrus, ginger, pepper, casava, starfruit, jackfruit, figs, papaya, pineapple, banana and about eight dozen other things that I can't remember.  I was surprised to find a grapefruit growing in the understory on the north side of the greenhouse.  I thought they needed more sun than that.  So that alone is a good sign that it can be done.  They have glass, steam heat and volunteers but I have permaculture
     
    gardener
    Posts: 1295
    Location: Maine, zone 5
    405
    forest garden trees food preservation solar wood heat homestead
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Mike, make it extra big and grow everything in this video!
    Trekking Paul Zink's 7-Year Old Food Forest

    Sorry, couldn't help that.  But I wanted to post it because he has a dwarf coconut that makes extra coconut water volume....I think it was 450mL/coconut.  Between that and dwarfness it sounds pretty great.
     
    Mike Haasl
    master steward
    Posts: 5373
    Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
    1495
    hunting trees books food preservation solar woodworking
    • Likes 1
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Thanks for the video Greg!  I'd make it bigger but I'm limited by forest and access around my property.  Maybe the next one will be bigger if it's on another property....

    I liked the caviar lime they showed.  I think they also called it an Australian finger lime.  I'll be looking into that one more.
     
    Maureen Njeri
    Posts: 13
    1
    • Likes 1
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Hi Mike,

    I am not familiar with the varieties you indicated. However, a little googling indicated that you have likelihood of success with the smaller trees of some varieties and judicious pruning.

    I have seen banana circles, papaya circles and a combined banana and papaya circle where the bananas are the inner circle and papayas form the outer circle. I've always thought that the reason papaya are in the outer ring in a combined circle was because the pit was wet enough for bananas but too wet for papayas. I am curious how this was overcome or was not an issue in the papaya in a banana circles you observed. Do you have more information?
     
    Nicola Stachurski
    Posts: 48
    Location: outside Brisbane, Australia
    7
    chicken cooking greening the desert
    • Likes 2
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Mike, I can tell you a bit about some of your chosen plants.

    Mangos grow around here. Old ones are absolutely enormous though. I have not had much success, as frost has killed my 2 expensive attempts. We get to -5 C at times, and it is those occasions that just burn up the small plants.

    I did plant one about 13 years ago, at another place, and saw it the other day. It is growing fine, because it is in a suburban area 30 minutes from here, which does not get frosts (my place now is more inland, and has not roads, houses etc to mitigate cold air). It is about 2 metres, and has produced one or 2 mangoes I believe. They are slow-growing though.

    Avocados won't grow where I am, as I have heavy clay soil. They need well-drained soil, and apparently even 24 hours of water logging will kill them. They grow on a nearby small mountain, which is well know for having many avocado orchards. It has volcanic soil (one of the few places in Australia that does) and has lots of subtropical rainforest. I guess it doesn't get frost much. It certainly gets rain, as the clouds come off the coast, hit this series of mountains, and dump all their rain before they get further out to where I live :  (

    They seem to be a little faster growing than mangoes. Also, you can buy dwarf ones that only get to about 3 metres, which is much better than the 20 metres that mangoes get to. I want to try growing 2 in containers. I am going to try with those plastic containers that transport liquids (can't remember the name of them). They are large and have a metal frame around them. I have cut 2 in half to make wicking beds, and I figure I can cut the top off and turn them into large plant pots. I have a sheltered spot where quite a few trees grow around the sullage (grey water) outlet, where they would be protected.

    The best thing about it would be that I could pick avocados as I needed them, as you can leave them on the tree for months, and just pick them when you need them. Way to go for storage.

    I was thinking about citrus for you, but I thought that your greenhouse would not be sunny enough. My citrus are one of the few things that grow well and without pests, and produce something for me to eat. I have a lemon, mandarins and a lemonade tree, which is a sweet lemon and absolutely delicious. But then I read your  comment and remembered my grapefruit is in almost full shade and is still producing. I also have a lime tree, in semi-shade. It produces well and is fabulous with avocado!

    Pigeon pea grows in extremely dry environments. It is grown in India in hot arid areas. I grew some. It was supposed to be a favourite of chickens,  but mine never seemed to discover its seed pods. I don't know if it would like the humidity of a greenhouse, but then again you grow it from seed (it's an annual), so you wouldn't lose much by trying.

    Pineapples can be grown by chopping off the top and planting it. It grows happily in a pot in the shade. It's very spiky.

    If you are growing limes and ginger, I recommend growing lemongrass. Garlic, ginger, lemongrass and fish sauce combined give you a great Vietnamese marinade. Yum yum. Chills too.

    I have a custard apple, which is a relative of the cherimoya. They taste very nice. The dry weather meant though that the few fruit it produced this year just shrivelled and fell off, so nothing from it yet.

    Passionfruit likes rich soil, and will grow rampantly. It doesn't mind pruning though. In fact, you are supposed to prune off old growth every year. My mother grew one in the cool temperate city I grew up in, and it produced fruit. It was planted on a wall that faced the sun (north for us), so that created a warm microclimate when the bricks heated up.

    I have subtropical apples, nectarines, plums and peaches planted. Unfortunately, the changing weather patterns combined with fruit fly mean I don't get to harvest anything edible from them (I have been questioning myself why I live here recently).

    When I moved up here I bought "Tropical Food Gardens" by Leonie Norrington. She has gardened in the true tropics of Australia. If you want to ask about a plant, I can look up what she says.

    Here is a link to a (fairly) local seed company. They have a fabulous list of information sheets about growing different food plants. It should help you with some of your questions - though I think it will introduce you to so many more plants that you will just end up with a lot of  new questions!

    http://greenharvest.com.au/GreenGardenNotes/GreenNotesIndex.html

     
    Mike Haasl
    master steward
    Posts: 5373
    Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
    1495
    hunting trees books food preservation solar woodworking
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Hi Maureen, here's a cool youtube video of a tropical greenhouse in Texas (much much warmer than my location).  At the 30:50 mark he pulls a papaya out of the clutches of a banana circle.  From the shadows I think it's on the shady side of the bananas.  Maybe it's only 1/5th as healthy as it would be in full sun?

    This whole video is neat and gave me some more plants for the list.
     
    Mike Haasl
    master steward
    Posts: 5373
    Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
    1495
    hunting trees books food preservation solar woodworking
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Thanks Nicola for the wealth of information!  I'm thinking I should do a mango but not give it the prime real estate since it may not work out in the end.  My soil is quite sandy so that should be good for the avocados I'd think.  I didn't realize the fruit hangs on them so long, that's very helpful.  I wish all trees did that

    Those liquid holding totes are called IBC totes around here.  I should think those would be plenty big enough.

    I've seen several youtube videos of the Citrus in the Snow greenhouse Russ Finch has and he grows plenty of citrus in Nebraska.  South of me a ways but not dramatically south.  And they have it growing in the Conservatory in Minneapolis which is due West of me.  So I think they'll be more of a sure thing than the tropicals.  I think...

    For Pigeon pea, are there different cultivars?  I thought it was a perennial?  

    I have about 20 pineapples in pots right now in the house.  They'll be the first tropical stuff in the greenhouse.  I've read that the fruit is sweetest in full sun but they can handle some shade.  Full shade would be a nice option but I think I can give them some light.  I'm wondering how small a pot they can be happy in.  Since they're kind of like bromiliads, I think they get most of their nutrition through their leaves.  If they could handle small pots (1 gallon?) I could hang them up high somewhere.

    My library doesn't have that book.  Must not be much demand around here for that sort of info  Thanks for the offer!  And thanks for the link, those are good information sheets!
     
    Nathanael Szobody
    pollinator
    Posts: 376
    Location: Boudamasa, Chad
    77
    • Likes 1
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Pigeon peas are semi-perennial. I hear they live six years it so, but mine usually succumb to termites at three. But they thrive in humidity as well as dry.
     
    Mike Haasl
    master steward
    Posts: 5373
    Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
    1495
    hunting trees books food preservation solar woodworking
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Thank Nathanial!  One nice thing about northern Wisconsin is that we don't have termites, venomous snakes or many other warmer climate nuisances.  Hopefully the pests of the tropics will leave these plants alone and they'll thrive

    Any suggestions for a cultivar for pigeon peas?  Or is there just one type.  I'm guessing I can't easily import them from abroad.
     
    Greg Martin
    gardener
    Posts: 1295
    Location: Maine, zone 5
    405
    forest garden trees food preservation solar wood heat homestead
    • Likes 1
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator

    Mike Jay wrote:Thanks for the video Greg!  I'd make it bigger but I'm limited by forest and access around my property.  Maybe the next one will be bigger if it's on another property....

    I liked the caviar lime they showed.  I think they also called it an Australian finger lime.  I'll be looking into that one more.



    I just posted part 2 to that thread Mike.  I think you'll like it!
     
    Can you shoot lasers out of your eyes? Don't look at this tiny ad:
    holiday shopping for 2019
    https://permies.com/t/128446/holiday-shopping
    • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
    • New Topic
    Boost this thread!