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Why do they all think I'm crazy?

 
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So we have some property in northern Nevada (high desert) and it is nearly flat and treeless. I've dug up some donor evergreens, and I've been planting pear and apple seeds- too early for peaches or plums yet- with the intention of transplanting the seedlings in a year or two.

I'm well aware, and have told friends I know and other askers that fruit trees don't grow true to type from seed. Simply put: *I don't care.* I have like 20 to 30 years to tree the third of my property I intend to tree, and starting before I move there full time seems reasonable to me, even though I won't be there to water regularly. Furthermore, it's costing me nearly nothing- free reused nursery pots, free seeds, and some potting soil that I do buy cheaply from the city who produces an award winning blend. I'm using a dartboard approach- with as many as I'll plant, some will grow.

If nothing grows, I'm out a couple bags of potting soil. If they grow, but don't bear fruit, I can graft better fruiting branches to them later, or cut them for wood. If they produce fruit that isn't good for eating, I can still (in the case of apples) potentially get hog food, cider, or pectin from them. I guess it is my own sorta tree landrace-ish. If they bear tasty fruit, then I hit the jackpot.

So why in the fudge are they being so damn negative about this? Is this really that stupid of a plan...If it is please tell me why? Or are they just too caught up in the yard landscaping city mindset to even conceive of this?
 
pollinator
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They are just salty that you are ruining their view of the great "nothing" for miles and miles.
 
pollinator
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Whether you succeed or fail, it's a damn fine experiment. Good for you. Keep going.

But if I understand, it's dry, dry country. A fruit tree will be happier as part of a broader microclimate that holds moisture and provides some shade.

Are there pockets of natural vegetation that you can learn from?
 
Cat Knight
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Douglas Alpenstock wrote:But if I understand, it's dry, dry country. A fruit tree will be happier as part of a broader microclimate that holds moisture and provides some shade.

Are there pockets of natural vegetation that you can learn from?



It's in a valley not much different from Yakima WA, where most of the western WA commercial orchards are. Now, clearly the commercial orchards are irrigating them, but I'm hoping with a lot of luck and a little genetic diversity we might get something worthwhile. What I have seen there is that the mountains around the valley are treed, probably because 1)they've already established the microclimate, 2) cows don't graze on the slopes, 3) sometime in the distant past they were harder to get to to cut for building a cabin, and 4)there is adequate snowmelt runoff (and a big tree will root down to the water table). Our old place in Colorado was the same elevation and zone but peaches could do very well there some years even when not watered.

I strongly suspect the valley was treed at one time, to some extent, but like I said- livestock + settlers= plains. *shrug*

The hope they establish their own microclimate is the primary reason for including smaller numbers of conifers (cedar, pine, fir) at this point. I asked for some of the maple seeds in the other thread too. Anyone want to send me walnuts and/or acorns?  

Thanks for the encouragement

 
Douglas Alpenstock
pollinator
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Qapla!
 
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The "they don't grow true" thing is not always true, my father in law has grown hundreds of peach and apple trees from seed, and they bear tons of good edible sweet fruit. He makes pies every year, and picks the seedlings out from under the orchards and plants them or gives them away.

The real question is this: are people so arrogant as to think they invented the only edible fruit, and that only by grafting and making clones are good fruit made?

No worries, plant what you want!
 
pollinator
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Your vision is legit but the thing is that fruit trees are usually not what one would consider a pioneer species - the sort of trees that set out to colonize previously empty places, especially in a super harsh environment.

What grows naturally at the borders of your whole-lot-of-nothing area? Could those plants be persuaded to move in and make the outer protective ring inside which you would then continue planting stuff that is less robust?
 
gardener
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This is awesome!  But I share the concern that you may be hoping for harsh-climate pioneering from species that aren't best suited for that. If you're using free seed and minimal materials, that's no reason not to go for it; you get lucky and the resulting trees will be bioregional treasures.  But I would also think about sourcing some tree seeds from species that are already known for pulling off that trick.  I'd put one in the same hole (more or less) as every one of my fruit tree seeds.  At least that way the planting effort is rewarded even where the hail-mary apple seedling doesn't make it.  You can always remove the unwanted tree if it's bothering your surprise fruit tree, but you may find that they do better together anyway.

I would also consider an excursion up the mountainsides to get seed from the precise species that are thriving in your very particular bioregion.

There is a very long running thread here on Permies by a fellow in Greece who has spent decades trying different pioneer tree seeds in a variety of hot arid conditions in Greece.  I think the thread would be worth your time to read, although it will take quite some time as it is very long.  I believe he has had very good luck with apricots and almonds -- not necessarily at getting them to producing fruit tree size, but in creating trees where there were none before by fire-and-forget planting.  But over the years he has tried a TON of different kinds of seeds and you may find some new ideas there.

Good luck!  
 
gardener
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You're either crazy or three levels above them on the wheaton eco scale!  Well done.
 
pollinator
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They are probably thinking that you are investing a CRAZY amount of effort, when you could have just paid a few dollars to buy some fruits from the supermarket or at least just BUY some drought tolerant rootstock, and transplant it to the high desert. If you told these same people that you were going to grow some plants to burn and collect the ash to make your own lye to then turn into your own soap. They would say you are investing CRAZY amount of effort that they just cant wrap their head around just o buy a $1 bar of soap.

But enough about them, I think that your idea of planting fruit trees in the high desert is wonderful. In fact I think that you are TOO NORMAL and I would be even CRAZIER, what I mean by that is that I wouldn't have transplanted the seedling. I would planted the seeds directly in the high desert. Due to the fact that transplanting destroys tap roots, and stress the tree, thus requiring that they will need to be babied a bit more than normal initially until they adjust and maybe forever if they dont have a tap root.

So here are a few of my crazy idea, that might land me in the loney bin:
1) Species Selection (mostly plant fruits trees that are native to ry area vs ones are native to wet/swampy area)
2) Cultivar/Parent Selection (acquire seeds from plants that are going in harsh conditions)
3) Don't transplant because it disturbed the root system
4) Direct 1,000 seeds knowing that only 1 will make it
5) Date Selection, maybe check the weather to see when it is going to rain, then drive like a mad man to the site to plant in time to catch the rain even
6) Site selection, plant in/by depression, dry creek beds, swales, right where the mountain/cliff means the valley floor. that way you get concentrated rainwater and time to infiltrate it.
7) Plant Support species, (Lavender/mint family, Legume family, etc)
8) Maybe trade in the current property for another property in the same valley/high desert that have more natural water concentration  landform (creekbed, swales, etc)  
 
pollinator
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I'm a plant breeder. You would not believe how often I get scolded by beginning gardeners because I'm saving seeds that might not be "true". People really do freak out over that kind of thing!

I think what you're doing sounds fine. The oldest and best-tasting apple tree on my farm is one that grew wild from seed, 30+ years before I bought the place.

Given the region you're planting in, I think you might get a better survival rate if you add a large scoop of biochar with the seeds, and inoculate that char with mycorrhizae that are known to benefit trees. That will make it easier for the trees to handle dry periods, especially when young.

But, even without that, you'll eventually find some that do well. Next time someone starts in on their "it won't grow true to type" lecture, give a big grin and say "I know, isn't that awesome?"
 
Posts: 408
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I commend you for your effort and for you dreams. I would suggest you plant some fruit tree seeds directly into the ground. You stated that you wanted deeply rooted trees; but if you transplant your seedlings they won't have a tap root. I realize the rewards will be slimmer but a seed that does grow and survive a year or two will be much healthier than one you transplanted in your climate.

I tried direct seeding the past two winters. Last season I tried keeping some of my purchased Antonovka apple rootstock seed in the refrigerator and some out in the weather in a jar. Only one germinated in my potato patch instead of where I planted them. So I came to the conclusion that that critters ate my seeds and gave themselves away my loosing one seed. The second year I saved seeds from apples and in early winter planted a double row under screening. I have lots of tiny seedlings right now.
So if you can find someone who presses cider they may give you the pomace, or pulp, that's left after apples are pressed. Hopefully where you currently live will have an orchard that also presses apples..... or pears. I can't think of a source of cheap screening other than what someone may leave out for the trash.
Seeds from apples would be better from an orchard that grows dessert apples than one that grows cider apples. But today almost all the cider pressed is from dessert apples. I say that as you can be sure that seeds from dessert apples have at least one parent with an edible apple. However using the same genetic rule, if you grow out seeds from a dry climate the seeds will be closer to a match to what your climate is. So southern California apples may be better than Washington State apples. There also varieties of apples which originated from California, Israel, and perhaps Australia that would provide a closer match.
I wish you luck!
 
Cat Knight
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yes, going to do seeds too or in addition to seedlings (for the person who said that first)

Ben House wrote: The "they don't grow true" thing is not always true, my father in law has grown hundreds of peach and apple trees from seed, and they bear tons of good edible sweet fruit... The real question is this: are people so arrogant as to think they invented the only edible fruit, and that only by grafting and making clones are good fruit made?


I honestly think this may partially be a case of food comes from the grocery store, too.

Crt Jakhel wrote:Your vision is legit but the thing is that fruit trees are usually not what one would consider a pioneer species - the sort of trees that set out to colonize previously empty places, especially in a super harsh environment.

What grows naturally at the borders of your whole-lot-of-nothing area? Could those plants be persuaded to move in and make the outer protective ring inside which you would then continue planting stuff that is less robust?



See, this is starting to be helpful... I was aware that they weren't exactly a pioneer species, part of why I was including maples and some pines, but yeah, wasn't sure how to "fix" it... the whole pioneer species thing was new to me in some foraging research last year

Dan Boone wrote:  But I would also think about sourcing some tree seeds from species that are already known for pulling off that trick...I would also consider an excursion up the mountainsides to get seed from the precise species that are thriving in your very particular bioregion...here is a very long running thread here on Permies by a fellow in Greece who has spent decades trying different pioneer tree seeds in a variety of hot arid conditions in Greece.



That seems practical to me, and probably worth the effort. I Just found that very thread yesterday before you weighed in and was starting in on it. Excellent suggestions.

Nancy, thanks for introducing me to the Wheaton Eco Scale

S. Bengi wrote: In fact I think that you are TOO NORMAL and I would be even CRAZIER, what I mean by that is that I wouldn't have transplanted the seedling. I would planted the seeds directly in the high desert.



I'm taking # 1, 2, and 4, gonna look into 7, and I was planning on 5, but there is no driving 13 hrs to make the rain gonna happen lol

John Indaburgh wrote:  if you grow out seeds from a dry climate the seeds will be closer to a match to what your climate is.



Yep. worth a shot

Ellendra Nauriel wrote: Given the region you're planting in, I think you might get a better survival rate if you add a large scoop of biochar with the seeds, and inoculate that char with mycorrhizae that are known to benefit trees. That will make it easier for the trees to handle dry periods, especially when young.

But, even without that, you'll eventually find some that do well. Next time someone starts in on their "it won't grow true to type" lecture, give a big grin and say "I know, isn't that awesome?"



See, now this is some highspeed, low drag science flavored "gardening" to try. I'm just starting to get into the mycorrhizal aspects of the forest ecosystem in my mushroom farming research, part of the long term plan for the property when we move there  I likes it. Keep this stuff coming, and I'm totally gonna use that response.

I told hubby this morning I have found my tribe! TY ALL! Jeep it coming if you feel so inclined


 
pollinator
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In this video Geoff gives a tour of his greening the desert site and specifies the tree species, which you may also find on the vid’s description, that he’s using to establish in one of the harshest environments on earth:  
 and maybe some of them can be useful in your case too.

In my experience support and pioneers make everything so much easier in the long run, and as suggested before, finding what’s the hardiest natively in your region or in zones similar to your climatic conditions as companions for the fruit trees gives them a much better chance to thrive. You can then, in time, choose what to sacrifice to create mulch and improve soil conditions while having a tough nursery for the guys that will remain.

In any case, I too salute your efforts and if crazy is creating hope from desolation, well then, show them how nuts you can be!
 
pollinator
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Welcome to our crazy world!  

I currently have eight peach trees that had sprouted from discarded seeds last spring and are about to leave the sanctity of their containers and be planted.  I also have goji berries and horseradish I grew from cuttings and rhubarb and asparagus grown from seed to plant as well.  Yes it takes a little longer for seed-grown plants to produce, but the cost is minimal compared to buying the same amount of plants.  

 
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Cat Knight wrote:
So why in the fudge are they being so damn negative about this? Is this really that stupid of a plan...If it is please tell me why? Or are they just too caught up in the yard landscaping city mindset to even conceive of this?



You are questioning their very life with what you are doing, so they run into cognitive dissonance.
 
gardener
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Most people are stuck in a loop. Food forests can’t work because otherwise everybody would be making them and the government would be promoting them my stephfather said.
Luckily real life examples on youtube have turned them around and my mom donated to Willie Smits awesome 11 on the Wheaton eco scale Uran Utan and people project.
But that’s my family. Friends would rather see you fail miserably than admit they’re wrong.
It’s a sad fad humans have. Walk in line or else!
Willie Smits has restored a whole rainforest providing whole tribes and sheltering the largest numbers of endangered Uran-Utans inthis world.
One might think this man would be hailed praised and adored. Nopes, 1100 deaththreats and survived attempts on his life. He has won a price recently and has some youtube films with him explaining. How must he feel?
We live in a culture were Kim Kardasian just got a billionaire sporting a plastic bum. We’re all infected by that sick culture, even if we don’t like to admit it.
And that is why they all think you are crazy.

 
Cat Knight
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Andrés Bernal wrote:In this video Geoff gives a tour of his greening the desert site and specifies the tree species, which you may also find on the vid’s description, that he’s using to establish in one of the harshest environments on earth: https://youtu.be/Nv1evsqHkaU and maybe some of them can be useful in your case too.



So In Addition to that one, I watched the Ted Talk on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjUsobGWhs8][/youtube]   greening the desert , The man who Planted trees,      [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIB_MLJZL0T_s5OUuqhmbVA][/youtube]   How one man created a food forest in the cold desert of Himachal Pradesh [/url] , Regreening the desert with John Liu, and  Man spends 30 years turning degraded land into massive forest

Looks like I%27m in good company :)
 
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So why in the fudge are they being so damn negative about this? Is this really that stupid of a plan...If it is please tell me why? Or are they just too caught up in the yard landscaping city mindset to even conceive of this?


These are very different questions.
The first one is something worth of a meditation. "Why people is negative about your efforts?" Some people might care about you, wasting your time and making yourself angry, but this is the less likely. Some other people might just want to show how knowledgeful they are, to compete in this game of domestic politics where everyone must show some value to be a worthy member of this society. Then, other people might just be scared of you, since you are proving to think very differently than them, and these people can't stand diversity (these are the same who will burn anyone not sharing their religion a few centuries ago). There could be other reasons, but these are the most probable, in my opinion.


About your other questions, you've been offered good advice, I think. Many of us love to give advice, and here goes mine:
Every land is unique. You have to observe it carefully to learn about what can be done and what not. If you want to plant pear sapplings, look at what pear sapplings need to thrive, look at what your land is offering to the sapplings, and then think what you can do to make a difference. Of course, pears are not desert fruit trees. But pears can endure mediterranean climate. Maybe you can develop a desert variety from a variety that is adapted to extremely dry mediterranean climate. Still, you will need to work on your microclimates to achieve that extreme mediterranean climate, closing the gap. Irrigation, shades, heat storages and wind breaks are tools for building microclimates. If you don't want to work like a mule in the future, try to create your microclimates in a way that are self-sustainable. For example, using water retention structures you will make better use of the little water you might receive, and it's much better if your plants get the water directly from your water retention structure rather than depending on you for watering.
You will be introducing a species from a very different ecosystem, so your desert ecosystem might reject it in the first attempts. If you want your pears to thrive, they need something more than a proper microclimate, they need a supporting ecosystem. Without a proper diversity of thorny, poisonous, smelly and other ugly plants, and also dangerous animals your lovely pears might not have a chance.
 
pollinator
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Don't worry what they call you. Just go on with your experiments. You are not the only one, many 'crazy' people here on Permies (or 'goofballs' as Paul says)
 
gardener & hugelmaster
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Crazy is a matter of perspective. I suspect people thought Groko the cave man was crazy for rubbing sticks together to try to start fires. Marco Polo. Thomas Edison. The Wright brothers. Madam Curie. Ernst Ruska. Robert Noyce. Chester Carlson. Even Paul Wheaton. Etc etc etc. How did all that work out?

I've spent plenty of time in deserts. Can't even begin to describe how many times I would have been absolutely thrilled to have a tree around. Deserts have their place but so do trees. In my opinion the world is becoming deforested & turned into desert far more rapidly than Mother Nature's way. By crazy people. I don't think she would mind you trying to establish a few trees there. Go Cat go!!!
 
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Cat Knight wrote:So we have some property in northern Nevada (high desert) and it is nearly flat and treeless. g me nearly nothing- free reused nursery pots, free seeds, and some potting soil that I do buy cheaply from the city who produces an award winning blend. I'm using a dartboard approach- with as many as I'll plant, some will grow.

If nothing grows, I'm out a couple bags of potting soil. If they grow, but don't bear fruit, I can graft better fruiting branches to them later, or cut them for wood. If they produce fruit that isn't good for eating, I can still (in the case of apples) potentially get hog food, cider, or pectin from them. I guess it is my own sorta tree landrace-ish. If they bear tasty fruit, then I hit the jackpot.

So why in the fudge are they being so damn negative about this? Is this really that stupid of a plan...If it is please tell me why? Or are they just too caught up in the yard landscaping city mindset to even conceive of this?





Not Crazy at all.
I have property in northeastern Nevada I purchased some years ago. I just retired and will be moving to the property. I pretty much have a same plan, so the Good Lord willing, I'll have some luck. I'm at 5600' The mountain slopes well enough for run off and a few flat areas and plenty of depressions for harvesting water. Happy harvesting.
 
pollinator
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Its a great plan.  You're communicating with the land, asking it what it wants to grow.  Your neighbors?  Yes they are def sad and weird. I have met a few similar types. They live out of big box stores and think its the greatest thing of all time. Your innovation, hard work and success is a little threatening to them.  Of course it's irrelevant if a tree doesnt make fruit "true to type". Thats what grafting is for. Your tree is also valuable as a source of rootstocks, shade, feeds the pigs and birds, can be made into alcohol, dried for an emergency winter food (dried apples with cinnamon is awesome) improves the soil with humus (and you know all this) fruit tree wood is a commodity all of its own, great for musical instruments. Bees will find you. Apple jack is a rare treat. Fruit tree wood trimmings, particularly apple are sold by the bag all around the country for fragrant barbecue wood.  Or just let it be a magnificent tree for its own sake.  Imagine living your entire life in a region where you could have done great things on your property, only to see a person with more energy and creativity transform a neighboring property into a beautiful and productive orchard or forest in a handful of years. Its a reminder of their own limited thinking and lack of initiative. Its nothing. Its just grumbling...

When the trees start to fruit, gift them some cider for a holidays. But just once. Lol.
 
Michael Littlejohn
pollinator
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Afterthought--Im sure you know but dont forget to mulch the heck out of those little trees, and also remember that stones heat up during day and chill at night...condensation drip occurs on the underside. A little mulching with bigger stones and flat pieces wouldnt hurt. When you have mushrooms popping up, you know  you're doing well. And BTW earthworms go crazy for decomposing apples.  Yellowjackets arrive to get drunk on the fermentation and in the high desert, a wormy apple pile could start a real lizard buffet.  
 
pollinator
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I feel for you. I’ve driven a bunch of neighbors insane with my permaculture. I keep remembering the Wheaton eco scale and how people a lot further up look nuts. Just this weekend I had a neighbor screaming at me that he hates how my yard looks. Meh… I play by different rules. I do wish that some permie would move next door though. That would be amazing
 
Cat Knight
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THE DARWIN BUCKET

UPDATE: So hubs and I have started what we call the "Darwin bucket." It is so aptly named because it is a 5 gallon bucket that we've been filling with seeds. We're like 1/3 there. It now has apple, pear, cedar, pine, Douglas fir, several types of grasses, ash, 3 types of maple, peach, cherries, snap peas, and diy seed potatoes from sprouting ones. We have a week-long trip scheduled- plenty of time to plant them. We want them to get plenty of STUN :)

Mwahhahaha! (That was my mad scientist laugh)

Looking to add hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, oaks, and chestnut, which we think we can get. Want to add almond, but don't have a line on a supply for those. Pondering moving some of the (invasive in Tacoma) German blackberries, desperately trying not to inadvertently transplant any bindweed. Considering squash guts, strawberry tops, and marigold.

I guess we'll see what crops up...lol

***Should I try to make seed bombs? Rake this in? Small holes? Some combination with smaller and larger seeds? Or maybe visit the nearby horse ranch, beg for soiled bedding & manure and just mix and spread? (Or the neighbor's rabbit pellets?...we won't be eating anything from this anytime soon as there is a long wait to get a well dug and we don't have much "vacation" time) Thoughts? ***
 
Michael Littlejohn
pollinator
Posts: 242
Location: Summers County, West Virginia
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Sounds great, Id go with the rabbit pellets, its a little closer, even with mixed in urine to ph neutral than horse manure.  
 
I love a woman who dresses in stainless steel ... and carries tiny ads:
"Permaculture Now! - Desert or Paradise?" movie by Sepp Holzer
https://permies.com/wiki/137395/Permaculture-Desert-Paradise-movie-Sepp
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