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Using whole fruits to plant a food forest..

 
Andrea Wiley
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Hi Yall,
I was wondering if I can get some opinions or technical advice on the laziest way I can think of to plant a food forest. My Hubby and I are going to be planting 8 acres in a silvopasture type setup this winter/spring. We are digging the swales probably in Jan or Feb and planting will follow. Now, theres no way we could financially handle planting even a half acre in seedling trees, so we are wanting to plant just seeds. I figure if I plant a 1000 apple trees, I might get 100 that taste good and 900 that will be useful in some other function! Right now we are going to be running cattle and chickens through the pasture, but as the trees grow we want to switch over to mainly pigs, who I think would relish all this fruit. But I digress..
It is a windfall year for apples (in particular) around here, but they are very small. I think I have 4 bushels of apples so far, and none of them are larger than a typical lemon. My thoughts are that this particular haul will be a PITA processing them for pies or butter or cider, keeping the seeds, then stratifying, then planting. Could I just plant one apple per hole that I want an apple in? Chuck the whole dang thing in there, and then cull seedlings later in the fall? Im also thinking of doing this for plums, mimosa, peaches, apricots, really any tree fruit I can get my hands on. I think I can get a pretty good selection of low cost/free cull fruits from a PYO operation down the road a bit.
I guess my questions are; can I chuck this fruit in my freezer, whole, until we dig the swales and I can plant them? Do you think the general stratification needs for the seeds will be met? My gut says yes, and that the sugary bits from the fruit will only do wonders for the microbes, but I tend to try to stack to many functions. (Because, as I said, Im lazy.)
 
Dan Boone
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Any time I try to do any bulk planting "in the wild" that doesn't involve babying individual seedlings, I'm disappointed in the results; failure rates are astronomic. But if you plant enough fruits, I should think you'd have success. I think I would go for three apples per hole, myself, especially if the apples are small and perhaps immature.

I just finished dehydrating a batch of elderberries, with the notion of scattering them about on my land to try and get elderberry bushes. But I know I will need to scatter A LOT OF SEEDS to get even a few successful bushes.
 
Cj Sloane
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Andrea Wiley wrote:I guess my questions are; can I chuck this fruit in my freezer, whole, until we dig the swales and I can plant them? Do you think the general stratification needs for the seeds will be met?


I tried this with apples but it either didn't work or critters ate the resulting saplings. I don't think I did this in a fenced in area so that will be a critical factor. Productive N-fixing trees will help like Honey Locust or Siberian Pea Shrub.

Buy landscaping flags of different colors to mark your plantings.

Buying lots of small saplings isn't as expensive as you'd think. Check out http://www.coldstreamfarm.net
 
Michael Cox
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As Dan said, you are likely to be disappointed with wild sown seeds. I have to ask why you think 1000 seedlings will be cost prohibitive? You can buy bags of Apple seeds really cheaply online. I found a source for antonovka (? Spelling?) Apple seeds - Russian in origin I think and usually breeds true to from seed. I think it was 200 seeds for about £2.00

I'll be stratify in them this winter and planting a few out in the spring in pots. If you are concerned about the cost of pots/potting mix etc... You could setup a nursery bed that you can plant densely into and transplant the trees the following winter as barerooted trees. You can care for 1000 trees in a small nursery bed much more easily than you could care for 1000 individually planted seeds in the field. Total cost minimal, but you would have a much better success rate than wild planting.
 
Michael Qulek
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All the stuff I've planted whole just got dug up and eaten. Everything! I think a much better statege that has already worked for me is to plant freshly harvested apple seeds that are planted immediately, before they dry. Apple seeds DO NOT need to be cold-stratified. I then grafted named varieties onto the seedlings the next season. Those grafts are now sitting and growing alongside commercially purchased trees in my orchard.

It doesn't have to take up a lot of space. I transplanted my seedlings into sections of 3" plastic drain pipe. It encourages long vertical roots. I then transplant them a season after the grafting. I can keep a dozen+ grafts in a standard milk rack, which is designed to hold four 1 gallon containers of milk.
 
Andrea Wiley
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Thanks so much for the replies! I didn't expect a great survival rate, but you guys really confirmed it got me.
Dan- you'll have to let me like how the elderberry expire meant goes! That's another species I want.
Cj - I'm planning in mimosa, honey locust, and pea shrub for my n fixers, and having both sides of the swale lined with electric poultry netting. The website listed does have great pricing, but I'm talking thousands of linear feet turned into a giant food hedge. Just two acres would cost upwards of two k ( 2000 linear feet, avg one tree every five feet diagonally set in a row if two, at $2 a tree that's 1600 just for mainframe overstory). That's why I'm thinking seeds. And why buy seeds when you got em free!
Micheal c- love the flag idea, and I thought about the seed bed. I think ill def do a seedling bed, but I might do both, that way I don't potentially lose a year of growth either way.
Micheal q- interesting idea! When you say freshly harvested, you mean picking the apple off the tree, taking the seeds and planting ASAP right? Do the start growing right away? Do you basically overwinter them to graft that first spring? Just trying to picture the timeline.

Can you think of anyone who has planted at a large scale like this? Mark Shepard is the only one I can really think of, and his book didn't go into technique very much.
 
Cj Sloane
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Andrea Wiley wrote:That's why I'm thinking seeds. And why buy seeds when you got em free! ...

Can you think of anyone who has planted at a large scale like this?


Don't forget about cuttings!
I planted about 500 saplings this spring and spent about $500. Some were from seed (Black & Honey Locust) and most were from Cold Stream Farm. Next round will mostly be from seed, and cuttings.

It does make sense to buy seeds sometimes, especially when so inexpensive and you can guarantee what grows - like the Anatovka apple (I bought some of those too).
 
Dan Boone
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I'll certainly post if I get elderberry bushes from my seeds. Likewise re the winged sumac I picked today.

I had the impression (maybe from a podcast?) that Mark Shepard purchased a metric buttload of young trees to get his operation going. Could be wrong, though.

I don't see any harm in trying the whole fruit experiment, I just figure you shouldn't be dismayed if you plant 2,000 apples and only fourteen trees survive the voles, the mice, the rats, the squirrels, the rabbits, and the deer. Maybe I'm pessimistic because right now the rabbits are coming into my container garden, rearing up on their hind legs, and eating my young apple seedlings right out of their buckets.
 
Cj Sloane
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Yeah, quite a few of my Honey Locust got eaten after getting 5" tall. I replanted with plastic bottles over them to protect against small nibblers & they appear to have made it.
 
Andrea Wiley
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Cj - you're right on that! I'm lucky ks states forest service has several seedlings for less than a buck a piece, I will def be planting seedlings when I can get them for those prices!

Dan - yeah, one of the reasons I asked is because the cattle ate 50 oak seedlings I planted last year. Well, they ate half if them, the other half they decided the nice loose soil I created was too good not to sit and roll in. And rabbits ate my peach and persimmon tree right outside my front door!
 
Dan Boone
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Growing trees is not easy! It's amazing there are any trees on the planet.
 
Cj Sloane
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Dan Boone wrote:...I just figure you shouldn't be dismayed if you plant 2,000 apples and only fourteen trees survive...


That's probably why trees produce 2,000 apples. With a little extra protection you can increase your odds dramatically. I've read that planting apples in thorny areas (like brambles) can help. The thorns provide protection and the shelter promotes faster growth.
 
Jose Reymondez
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Where I live apricots, plums, chestnuts and walnuts do really well coming up on their own from nut/pit while I occasionally see self-sown pear and apple.
 
Michael Cox
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We end up with 50+ walnut trees seeding per year. The squirrels steal every nut and bury them all over the place. I've never seen a seedling apple, plum or pear in the same area.
 
Michael Qulek
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Cj Verde wrote: I've read that planting apples in thorny areas (like brambles) can help. The thorns provide protection and the shelter promotes faster growth.

Uh-ha, yeah sure. I gave that a try. Guess what happened? BTW, even the thorny trees got eaten!
 
Michael Cox
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Rabbits love brambles. Your delicate seedling in a bramble patch = tasty snack in total safety from predators.
 
Cj Sloane
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Perhaps the apple planted in brambles only work if you have dogs? Or as in the following story by Bill Mollison, pigs. BTW, I know pigs are supposed to destroy blackberry patches but mine used the patch in their pen as their restroom.

There is a man who had a 14 - year old sow. He fed it a lot of good things, including apples. He had pigs before her. About 17 years ago, in the corner of the pig pen there was a blackberry clump. An apple tree started there, and up it came. Then the apples started to fall, and the pigs got into the blackberries and moved them out, ripped them all out and left the apple tree. This fellow was a man of great sagacity. He went out and got a lot of apple trees, waded into the middle of his blackberries and planted trees in every blackberry clump he could find. He also planted peaches and quinces and figs and pears. He had a lot of blackberry on his farm; he was in fairly heavy rainfall foothill country. Blackberries there are not the weak undersized things you see around here. They are violently rampant blackberries. They will fill gullies and be level across the top of them with the hills. The water flows down below. So he waded in and put in a grafted sometimes, but often seedling trees.

What happens in this situation is that the tree grows straight up to the light. It doesn't make any low branches. It grows very fast. It is the fastest growing situation you can find for fruit trees. The tree doesn't have any branches for maybe nine feet, and then it crowns out. When the apples start to fall, there will not be enough of them to attract anything except three or four rabbits, and they eat them. Then, in a couple of seasons, maybe, a lot of apples start to fall, and they start smelling good and getting lost in the blackberries and fermenting. At that point the cattle can't stand it. They wade into the blackberries up to their chest, picking out apples, and they tread heavy on the blackberries. Then the tree gets bigger, and it drops 30 bushels of apples. It is now partially shading the blackberries out. It also becomes absolutely impossible for the cattle to stay out. They smash the blackberries flat, and you have this gigantic apple tree with the big thick trunk, eight feet clear of branches. One of those trees is 70 feet across, and 60 feet high, yielding 70 bushels of apples. The cattle get about 40 bushels, and you can pick 30. At just 17 years old, it's a phenomenal tree.

I don't know whether you can imagine this farm; but you should see it. It has patches of eucalyptus and wattles, and here and there a gigantic fig tree, a gigantic apple tree, and an enormous pear tree. Twelve pear trees growing under similar conditions yield almost seven tons of fruit per tree. They are big. They are approaching 160 feet high. There is a flood plain with blackberries there, and these pear trees haven't any brambles at all under them. You can get on your ladder and pick the first 20 feet. The rest, from there on up, drop to the sheep and cattle.

I keep seeing this happening all the time. I thought, Of course! Here is the old European forest, in which lived the white ox, the old European white ox. On the edge of that forest, sneaking out into the plains, step after step, is the bramble. On the edge of this forest, the only place where it is doing any good, is the apple. Its fruit falls into the brambles. The seedlings come up and begin fruiting. Then comes the white ox. He comes and rescues the forest. That is how the forest advanced. Here comes your little boar out of the forest, rooting around in the blackberries for apples, and they will change the soil condition. They will make a high manurial situation, and will stimulate this edge growth of plants. Then on the forest will go, with apples out in front of it. You will find this happening like that all over the place. Geoff Wallace is doing this deliberately. He has run completely out of blackberries, wiped blackberries right off his property.

The main value of blackberry to tree is that it prevents grass competition at the roots. Grasses produce chemicals hostile to trees. There is a fight on between grassland and trees. Fire helps the grasses; brambles help the trees. Hence there is a whole conflict of pioneer species in grasslands. The bramble is really continually mulching the tree, keeping its root system free of grass. The tree grows much better there than in an open situation. A secondary effect is that the bramble growth pre-prunes the tree to a standard, prevents low branching, and the tree crowns out into a really classical old British type crown--round, with a strong trunk. By the time the bramble is smashed, the bark is coming up from the root of the tree. It has all been timed. We couldn't have designed it better.

Somebody designed that for us. I just keep on this way, discovering something; then I go and have a look. It was there anyhow. After the forest is gone, when we are trying to grow the apple tree away from the forest, without the cattle, without the pigs, without the blackberries, we are going to have a lot of apple trees that are very unhealthy. In California, a lot of iris and fennel grow under apple trees. What you are looking for now is the tree's garden, the situation in which the tree can stand against the grass and still be very healthy. Now these are an interesting group of plants. Their main characteristic is that they are not surface fibrous rooted plants. They do not set up that mat that intercepts light, rain, and prevents the percolation of water.
The nasturtium and any of the root thistles are very good plants. They are tap-rooted, large-leafed. They are clumped or have feathery fronds. Those are the sort of plants that do well under trees. You can design the apple garden, in which the apple will thrive according to its shade and sun requirements. If you start planting this garden with your apples, you get healthy, fast growing, non-cultivated trees.

We are building up a set of plants from which we can derive characteristics that will enable us to add plants with specific traits. These are very good grass barrier plants with a very fast rotting leaf crop, quick turnover plants. You can start to garden your orchard over with these species. At home, daffodils often grow under apple trees. You may want to sell daffodils and apples; or you may want to sell fennel and apples.

Go and take a look at where the mulberry, the fig, the pear, the apple and the quince have survived the ebb and flow of human settlement. Work out the characteristics of the understory. You are seeking a tree with about a nine to 12 inch incremental growth annually, continuously self-pruning at the crown, so that branches are not overlaying and smashing, and the fruit will not be small and crowded. In the blackberry patch, the tree is protected until it starts to bear. When the blackberries are removed, growth slows.
 
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