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Growing trees/bushes/vines that become self-sufficient and don't need watering

 
Posts: 2
Location: Saint Étienne d'Albagnan - southern France
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Hey there everyone,

My wife and I are the founders of a permaculture and agroforestery project in southern France, La Forêt Jardinée (a rough literal translation is The Gardened Forest). We are working on developing techniques to evolve a pioneer forest into a secondary food forest all the way through to a mature food forest. This means planting tons and tons of trees, bushes, vines and others herbaceous plants that produce food and other crops in a ecosystem-centered vision, not a human-centered vision. All these plants need to be self-sufficient as far as watering in the mid to long term. We have about 50 acres of property, mostly pioneer forest, with around 7 acres of degraded prairies and pasture. Nature is the only source of watering for all these plants in the forest. There are also a lot of untended fruit trees (fig trees, cherry trees, chestnut trees, apple trees, etc.) in the area which are never watered by humans and produce normal crops. We want to develop methods for making the planted trees/bushes/vines as self-sufficient as the rest of the forest and these other self-sufficient fruit trees. We also want to increase biodiversity, which means letting plants reproduce sexually to create genetically unique offspring. We encourage combining both growing existing varieties and creating new ones (as nature intends for seed dispersal species like us and our closest relatives, the chimpanzees and bonobos, among others).

In Paul's video entitled "apricot tree and other fruit trees from seed" on Youtube (  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3fedaHBJCc4)   he talks about planting fruit trees from seed. Like the self-sufficient trees in the forest, in the correct conditions, they can live and produce without being watered.

When planting trees/bushes/vines grown in a pot (or bare root plants which have been torn out of the ground), are they capable of becoming independent and no longer needing watering? Reading around online gives us the impression that people consider watering fruit trees/bushes/vines a given, and that though these plants need less and less watering as they become established, they never quite become independent (especially in droughts). Have any of you personally grown or seen a tree/bush/vine which was grown in a pot, transplanted into the ground, and after becoming established no longer needed watering to survive and produce fruit? If yes, what was the technique that was used to achieve that?

I'll wait to eventually discuss the current method we are testing to achieve this goal, so as not to distract from our main question.

Thanks for your time.
Daniel and Delphine
 
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Location: Officially Zone 7b, according to personal obsevations I live in 7a, SW Tennessee
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In my location, we get about 60 inches of rain per year. in July and August is when we have the least rain, sometimes getting an inch total per month. The best time to put in a tree in here is in the fall. When done then, I water it in when planted, then leave it alone. Done. No more watering, ever. When I have planted in the spring, early summer, I have a soaker hose that stays with the tree. I let it run overnight once a week when less than expected rain has fallen. By the time our seasonal drought arrives, they are doing fine. I have not needed to add any additional water.

Specific to your region, we would need to kow how much rain you get. How much of that amount falls during the growing season?
 
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agreed, a lot depends on where you are. i’ve planted plenty of both bare-root and potted trees with no thought to watering beyond the first summer (and not always then). my area does have droughts but is traditionally something of a temperate rainforest.
 
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I only know what is drought tolerant where I live.

Look for native varieties and drought-tolerant for your area.

Most plants need to be watered at least the first year.  If you are able to experiment to see what will live without being watered the first year then you will know what to plant the next year.

Rosemary is very drought tolerant.

Other plants that I have growing that might have been watered the first two or three years are blackberry, Turks cap (mallow), honeysuckle, blue sage and autumn sage.

I wish you the best with your efforts.
 
Daniel Stickney
Posts: 2
Location: Saint Étienne d'Albagnan - southern France
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Thanks everyone for your responses :)

We receive on average 35.4 inches of precipitation per year. We are in the Mediterranean climate with on average 2-3 months during the summer (June, July, August) with less than 1.6 inches of precipitation per month.

What I'm interpreting from your responses is that trees/bushes/vines can become independent of watering after getting established. The time it takes to achieve this independence depends on the annual precipitation and the frequency and duration of droughts. In a climate with 60 inches of precipitation per year it probably takes less time, and in dryer climates like where we are it may take longer but should be possible.

The technique that we are testing is to start the seedlings in tall pots (when planting from seed), and before their taproot reaches the bottom we plant them into their final position with the whole root ball intact (so their tap root doesn't notice it was ever in a pot) under the canopy of the pioneer forest which protects them from the harsh sun here, the violent winds and the winter frosts. Then as they grow we open up the canopy slowly to let in more light. In the end the pioneer trees yield their place to these secondary forest fruit trees. The pear and plum trees we planted this way are doing well so far, but we'll see what happens during this summer's drought. For other trees/plants that have been bought or otherwise received in pots, as well as bare-root trees, after planting we deep water them after planting and then 1 or 2 times a week during the period when there is insufficient rainfall. We plant secondary forest trees in partial shade (or even full shade if that is their biotope) where they are protected from the sun, which they are thriving in. Again as they reach the height of the pioneer forest trees that were there before, we open up the canopy (chop and drop) and let the organic matter of the pioneer trees feed the coming generations of vegetation.

Have any of you done this? If so, do you have any lessons to pass on to us?
Thanks! :)
Daniel and Delphine
 
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