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Growing guilds from seed

 
Phil Hawkins
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So I have been reading Gaia's Garden, and also Jackie French's The Wilderness Garden, and I think that Jackie's concept of a 'grove' is the same Toby's "guild" (this is ahead of where I am in the book, but Paul kindly reviewed the chapter for me in his recent podcast).

Anyways, noting that I have 30 odd acres to work with, I think I am more interested in the "lots of seeds" approach.  Could you make a "guild seed mix" (eg: apple, rhubarb, comfrey, to use an example from the podcast today) and sow this all at once?
 
George Lee
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I'd start the trees in 10gal pots personally. all the vegetative matter will grow so much quicker than any one fruit tree...
 
Hugh Hawk
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Location: Adelaide, South Australia (Mediterranean climate)
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I think growing the trees from seed planted directly in the ground will give you hardier trees.  See the discussions on these forums about direct seed vs transplant, and how this may stop the tree from developing a taproot.

That said, I'd probably plant the tree seeds in autumn with an appropriate spacing, protection and watering.  Then you can use a broadcast approach for the other stuff.

I don't think rhubarb or comfrey grow particularly well from seed - it's not the normal way, at least.  You can make a lot of comfrey plants with a good sized piece of root by cutting it up into small pieces in winter/early spring.  Rhubarb is generally propagated by dividing the crowns as well, to maintain genetic characteristics.

Jackie has some really interesting ideas.  I see her groves relating to forest gardening as much as they do to guilds.  They incorporate large non-grafted seed grown trees as an overstory which in our harsh summers creates a protected environment for the small trees, shrubs and plants underneath.
 
George Lee
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Germination via seeds can be tough for comfrey.Cuttings being better for typical sure-fire propagation. Spreads like prairie fire...
The reason I said start in pods/pots for the youngling trees is germination is even tougher at times. You can oversee it and make necessary adjustments. My uncle is a forester and always had a variety of trees starting in big buckets, and jugs from seed pods he collected in the field...
 
Phil Hawkins
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Thanks guys - seems like (as with most things) anything will probably work; how well depends on lots of variables.  I was plucking rhubard and comfrey as examples mentioned - there are no doubt better companions for my climate/hemisphere.  I can't imagine wanting to plant more than a couple of hundred fruit/nut trees, so starting them in pots isn't so bad.

LivingWind, would it make much difference using 2" forestry tubes and transplant them younger, as opposed to using the larger pots you described (which I don't have many of)?

On the broader subject of seed sowing trees, I was wondering if there was a way to protect an area of young trees from rabbits.  The trees I have planted to date have had little plastic collars (which also protect them from wind, presumably?) with three bamboo stakes, but that doesn't seem scalable to an area of perhaps (in my case) 5 acres.  I don't think my family or employer would let me take 12 months off camping out there with a .22 ... 
 
Hugh Hawk
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Location: Adelaide, South Australia (Mediterranean climate)
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Phil, if you can afford to spend any money on this project you may wish to look at the Groasis system.  Reports seem good.  You'd be able to grow trees direct from seed in the field with this technology.  It might even keep the rabbits off?
 
Phil Hawkins
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That certainly is clever - although I guess I'm looking for ways that involve less work per tree, but allow one person to plant perhaps 100 times more as many potential trees as they might otherwise be able to.  I suppose following my own logic there, how many would rabbits actually eat (noting that there is plenty of other vegetation around in the general area)?
 
Hugh Hawk
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Location: Adelaide, South Australia (Mediterranean climate)
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There is a theory about planting extra for the wildlife, but in practice this seems to result in all of the wildlife converging on your place!

http://www.weedgunnel.com.au/tree-guard.html

How about using something like this around direct seeded wellsShould keep most bunnies out.  You could plant quite a lot in a day.
 
Hugh Hawk
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Location: Adelaide, South Australia (Mediterranean climate)
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http://www.permies.com/permaculture-forums/998_0/permaculture/growing-apples-from-seeds-vs-cloning

This thread might have some useful info for you in deciding how to start your trees Phil, apples or otherwise.
 
rose macaskie
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  My recent research into fruit trees has allowed me to know that you can get trees that fruit in different mounths of the summer. That is, an apple whose fruit ripens in July another in August another in September and another in October and another that ripens late and keeps till April when you can start eating your rhubarb. The same goes for pears some ripen late but are hard and uneatable till they have been stored for a while. You can have peaches and plums all fruit i sppose with fruit that ripen in each mounths of the summer one variety in one mounth and another in another if you chose the trees well, and figs that have a breva or breba crop, that is the figs of last year that never got very far, ripening the next year so you can look out for early ripening figs tree species as well as the ones that ripen as normal in September.
If you wanted to get this sort of usefull spread of fruit maturing times or want to have apples of your prefered flavour, you would have to plant an awfull lot of seed to find yourself with fruit that ripened in different mouths and had the flavour you liked because the trees don't come true to type from seed. That is an enormouse disadvantage to growing from seed.
   
I read a better idea for having a fruit tree growing on its own roots than growing it from seed that is to grow it from a cutting. I don't know how difficult that is but i came across one nursery that does this while I was looking up fruit trees, the Orange Pippin nursery. Having trees growing on their own root being one reason for growing trees from seed.
I read one scientific paper on roots that said that fruit trees have deep roots, it did not expand on this though. I wonder if the reason some examples have shallow ones is that we feed them and water them so well that growing deep roots is a bit beside the point for them. Darrel Doherty says that the grass of one farmers land was not making top soil to any great depth because it received too much good cow manure to grow roots to any great depth.
  Trees do grow sinker roots, that grow right down like tap roots they don't usually have many sinker roots but can have a few, so though you have cut through their tap root to sell them, bought ones  are capable of growing new deep roots.
  Another reason to have trees grown from seed would be to have a bigger genetic bank of fruit trees. If each apple tree is grown from injerto of an apple tree of the sort you like or from trees that have been njerted with that tree, then all those trees have the same genes which makes them more liable to being carried off by something like the graffiosis of elm trees. I read once that elm trees were usually grown from sucker of one tree and all elms in one county would originate from the same parent tree which would mean that elms had very few genetic differences and be less likely to find a way to survive disease.
If you buy lots of types of apple trees and crab apples to polinate them the you will have an enormouse gene banks and the seeds of your apples will be more likely to produce interesting new varieties. Ditto other types of fruit tree. agri rose macaskie.
 
rose macaskie
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    I agree with Hugh H growing comfrey from seed is not yet working for me but other permaculture plants from seed are working, the purslane is doing very well as are other lettuce plants miners lettuce and  sorrel. Yarrow is doing very well from seed and so is rhubarb, marigolds and calendula.  Buying a packet of seed for 1,50 and getting lots of plants from the packet is a lot cheaper than buying small plants at I.50 maybe more each. agri rose macaskie
 
George Lee
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Phil H wrote:

LivingWind, would it make much difference using 2" forestry tubes and transplant them younger, as opposed to using the larger pots you described (which I don't have many of)?
Yeah, those forestry tubes are fine bro. I was just giving an example. Truth is, he had a great variety of different growing vessels. Let us know how it go... 
 
Cory Allan
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Location: Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
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What is it you hope to get out of these fruit trees?
My understanding is that most varieties of fruit trees are clones from a single source (per variety, I mean) - the result of many, many, many trials at cross breeding varieties to get something better than the originals. Decendants are unlikely to reproduce true from seed. I have no idea what percentage of the results would end up with comparable or even acceptable rootstock or fruit.

Didn't Masanobu Fukuoka grow fruit trees without pruning them? Did he also grow them from seed? I'm sure some fruiting species are more reliable reproducers than others, but is this a practical approach to growing fruit?

I read just yesterday that the concord grape was the result of over 22,000 seedling trials. I don't know how the other 19,999 turned out, but even with 30 acres, it seems like quite a crap shoot. Who knows, you may end up with better diversity and maybe even a few "improvements" along the way. Perhaps someone with some knowledge in this area can shed some light.
 
Hugh Hawk
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Location: Adelaide, South Australia (Mediterranean climate)
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There's lots of posts on this forum about this Cory.  Planting from seed has many benefits, and the drawbacks tend to be overstated.

It's my belief that planting fruit trees from seed will generally give you agreeable characteristics.  Particularly if you start with seed from a variety you are happy with.
 
Case Smithey
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I planted some fennel from seed and it did quite well.  I left a few bulbs in the ground on accident and they made it through a harsh winter and came back very vigorously.  I am planning on doing a guild around apple trees and adding these for sure!  Two  plant varieties in my garden attracted lots of beneficial insects this year.  The fennel was crawling in wasps, the artichokes were the another wasps hangout, ladybugs liked it there too.
 
Jack Shawburn
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Going the "lots of seed" route to creating a Food Forest could work.
Consider the areas you want the larger trees and sow a couple of seeds there eg Apple.
place the understory and shrubs in bands on the sides combined with N fixers.

You will have to cull many of these later in order to have all well spaced.

This route would be ok if your soil fertility is good.

If not, sow the tree seeds in containers until they are ready for planting out.
In the meantime do lots of groundcovers and N fixing plants to increase soil fertility.
Slash and Drop in order to get plants growing as much mulch/biomass
as possible in as short a period as possible.
Some will grow back with a vengeance after cutting others may die.
it may take a year or two, ~ then do your PC design
This will give you time for reflecting on ,
where you want trees and what you feel will be the best locations for them
and if you will create paddocks or other habitat.
Concentrate on a smaller area and expand it as time passes.
Temperate climates tend to be more fertile..
 
Guy De Pompignac
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Location: SW of France
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What means "seed guilds" ? You buy or find seed, grow them and plant seedlings, or you sow seeds or seed-balls ?

It as easier to grow food forest for animals from seeds

and maybe include some seed for future rootsotck for human use
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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