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Need advice on starting a tropical food forest

 
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Mike Jay wrote: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.



I'm not aware of different cultivars. I see online there are some white ones that look real pretty, but I assume the plant grows pretty much the same.
 
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I think it's fair to say that it's easier to get leaf than it is to get ripe fruit. So rather than trying to grow peppercorns, grow something with a peppery leaf. There are many leaves that are edible and there are probably many more that are just useful for something. Banana leaves are used in cooking, to wrap many other things in.

Moringa is all the rage because of ease of production and nutritional value. Many people have been successful growing it a long way from the tropics. Many things you are likely to grow, will only occasionally give you something. Moringa could give you a few branches every day. So you wouldn't have to be one of those guys who stuffs it into little capsules. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Moringa also produces more abundantly if you lop the top off. Most trees don't appreciate that treatment. So I think it's ideal for a place with height restriction.
 
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Thanks Dale!  Yes, moringa is in the plans.  I'm good skipping pepper if it isn't likely to flower.  The groundcover of it that they had in the Minneapolis conservatory hadn't ever flowered so I think that kind of tells me what my likelihood of success is with that particular crop.

Are there other ones on my list that are very likely not to produce fruit?
 
pollinator
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Mike Jay wrote: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.



Just recently learned that there are different daylenght varieties of pidgeon peas. I believe Amarillo is day neutral, and can be planted year round.
 
Mike Haasl
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Ok, I'm starting to plan my purchases for this year.  It's a bit tricky to find places to buy these plants that have a user friendly website (and ship across the country).  Logees seems like the winner so far.  If anyone has a tropical plant supplier that I should consider (in the US), I'd love to hear about them.

I realized I can just buy seeds for the pigeon peas and lablab.  Yay!

I'll give Logee's a call next week and see if they have further advice.  They specialize in container tropicals for northern US greenhouses and indoor applications.  I figure anything that can handle living in a pot in a Massachusetts greenhouse can manage in mine.  And after the first winter I can put some in the ground if they won't get too big.  Except bananas, papayas, ginger, turmeric and a few others that I'd want to get going sooner.  And the lablab, pigeon peas, sweet potatoes and other cheaper plants and nitrogen fixers.

Do mangoes need a pollinator?  Or mountain papayas?
 
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Mike, do you have Logee's book?  I love it.  I should have thought to recommend it to you a while ago!
 
Nathanael Szobody
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For Ginger and turmeric, just buy some fresh and you can plant it.
 
Mike Haasl
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Thanks Greg, our library system has it so I'll read it soon!

Thanks Nathanial, I should have mentioned those can grow from store bought tubers.  I've tried them both in a pot without much luck but they are definitely going out in the greenhouse soon.  Are there other tropicals that grow quickly enough from seed and true-to-type where I should consider growing from seed instead of buying potted plants?

For instance, I know I can grow an avocado from a pit.  But by the time it fruits and I determine if I like it, I'll be 10 years older.  If instead, I pay $30 for a Mexicola plant, I'll have a cold hardy one that fruits much sooner.
 
Nathanael Szobody
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Papaya and guava are easy to grow from seed, but they can both take a month to sprout. Sweet potato, obviously, can be grown from a sweet potato. I'm growing one now as a matter of fact.
 
Mike Haasl
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Thanks Nathanael, now I know how to multiply my papayas  Since I think I want the mountain papaya (cultivar Babaco) I might have to buy one plant first.  Otherwise one from the store could be less cold hardy.
 
Nathanael Szobody
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Mike Jay wrote:Thanks Nathanael, now I know how to multiply my papayas  Since I think I want the mountain papaya (cultivar Babaco) I might have to buy one plant first.  Otherwise one from the store could be less cold hardy.



I would advise buying more than one because you don't know if it is male or female until it starts blossoming! Unless the experts have a way of telling earlier...

Last year i planted three to replace the three aging females that i have. They're all male
 
Mike Haasl
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Oh, there's a gender thing with papayas?  Do you need a male and female to get fruit?  
 
Dale Hodgins
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The ice cream bean is cultivated in many different places and apparently it's not picky about soil or altitude. I watched a video where it was being grown outdoors in Florida, so it survives outside the tropics.
 
Nathanael Szobody
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Mike Jay wrote:Oh, there's a gender thing with papayas?  Do you need a male and female to get fruit?  



Yup.
 
Mike Haasl
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Good one Dale!  I saw that in a video and forgot about it. Maybe it was in Greg's video...  Looks like it can grow in pots and can handle some shade.  Plus it's a nitrogen fixer so I can keep it small and fertilize at the same time!  Now to find a source of plants or seeds.....    
 
Mike Haasl
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Nathanael Szobody wrote:

Mike Jay wrote:Oh, there's a gender thing with papayas?  Do you need a male and female to get fruit?  



Yup.


Crap  If you have two females of different cultivars, can you get by with a male of a different cultivar to pollinate both of them?  
 
Nathanael Szobody
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Mike Jay wrote:

Nathanael Szobody wrote:

Mike Jay wrote:Oh, there's a gender thing with papayas?  Do you need a male and female to get fruit?  



Yup.


Crap  If you have two females of different cultivars, can you get by with a male of a different cultivar to pollinate both of them?  



No problem at all.
 
Greg Martin
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Mike, looks like you'll need to do a bit of homework.

According to this site  "Papaya fruit is produced as either red fleshed fruit from hermaphrodite trees, which the industry label as papaya or larger yellow fleshed fruit from dioecious trees which the industry label as pawpaw. Papaya trees have multiple sources of pollination (eg bees, hawkmoths etc) and some cultivars are self-pollinating."

Maybe if the variety you want has separate sexes you could just graft in a male branch to save space.  Hopefully the one you want is one of the self-pollinating varieties.
 
Mike Haasl
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Ok, I did some quick research.  Thanks to Daleys fruits it looks like the Babaco mountain papaya is self fertile.  Yay!
 
Nathanael Szobody
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Mike Jay wrote:Ok, I did some quick research.  Thanks to Daleys fruits it looks like the Babaco mountain papaya is self fertile.  Yay!



Well that's cool. I need some of those.
 
Dale Hodgins
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This guy has quite a few unique things growing.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=6KCOY-LVXmk
 
Mike Haasl
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Yeah, that's Jerome Osentoski, the guy in the book Kerry recommended.  I've seen a few of his videos and they were the inspiration for my greenhouse.  So much greenery.  I'm mostly through the book and it is exactly what I need.  How to build the soil, then plant annuals, then transition to perennials.  All in the space of a year or two.  I'll watch a few more of his videos to see what other tidbits I can steal.  Thanks!
 
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Hi Mike
I got all inspired by your interest in plants that I can grow, and took some photos for you. This photo is of a finger lime growing in my orchard. It must be about 9 years old, but because my place is miserably dry, and more so each year, it has only grown very slowly.

Of course, looking at the photo, you will not believe my place is dry. In fact, 3 weeks ago we have a violent storm, and 96mm (3.7 inches) of rain fell in an hour. We had had 20mm of rain the day before - yeehah - so the soil was starting to moisten. It created a huge sheet of moving water that filled our empty back dam. Anyway, we only have a few storms a year, but every March there is a big rain event that fills people's dams. However, it has been a-2 day event previously, when a tropical cyclone is formed up north, and then travels down the coast over a few days and turns into a tropical low.

Anyway, that is enough of that. Here is the lime.

finger-lime.jpg
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Nicola Stachurski
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I just inherited 2 pot plants from a friend. One was a pot of ginger. I unspotted them and took them to put in my new wicking beds that are yet to be planted out. I had covered them with cardboard, to protect the soil/horse poo/lumps of clay/mulch that I had thrown in for soil. I want them to start breaking down to make proper soil. When I ripped off the cardboard, I found a nest of large ants had taken up residence. Luckily they are not stinging ones, so I chucked the cardboard on the ground and I trust the invertebrate community will relocate over the next 24 hours.

So you might see some ants if you look closely.

I will also plant mint and other hot weather herbs in this bed.
ginger-2.jpg
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ginger-1.jpg
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Nicola Stachurski
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Lastly, here is a pineapple (or 2).My friend is a real green thumb, Maltese immigrant background, learnt all gardening skills for his family and their traditions. He grows heaps of rosemary and chilli. I assume he just got a pineapple top and stuck it in a pot. It was sitting under a tree for a couple of years, and was very happy. My friend moved house, and the pineapple pot came to us. It's been sitting outside with me too busy to attend to it. Already ti looks miserable and sunburnt. Tomorrow I will move it and put it in the shade.

Behind it is some starting aloe vera. I'm going to toss it, because I already have heaps.
pineapple.jpg
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Mike Haasl
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Thanks Nicola, that's cool to see them in action!  What size pots are those pineapples in?  I've heard they need anywhere from a 20 gallon pot (80L?) to one the size of a soccer ball.  That lime looks very healthy!

In a way, it's silly that I'm trying to grow all these things that grow naturally in other areas.  But then again, I live here and don't plan to move.  If I can show that I can grow tropicals, maybe people will stop building energy intensive greenhouses and go with passive solar since it (hopefully) clearly works
 
Dale Hodgins
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The chocolate pudding fruit is a type of Persimmon. It is said that there's huge genetic diversity. They grow in places where there's minor frost and they can grow at the equator. So you would probably want to go with the Florida cultivars or something from a Highland area.

I must try this in combination with the ice cream bean. I admit to having a sweet tooth. So it's either this or I'm going to be chewing on jaggery constantly.

https://www.google.ca/search?source=hp&ei=-uO7XKHBFYnZ8APL77uIBw&q=chocolate+pudding+fruit&oq=chocolate+pudding+fruit&gs_l=mobile-gws-wiz-hp.12..46i275j0l7.6666.7614..9214...2.0..1.279.604.1j2j1......0....1.......8..35i39j46i39j46i39i275j0i131j0i10j46.dCguClUVZUI
Screenshot_2019-04-20-20-35-00.png
[Thumbnail for Screenshot_2019-04-20-20-35-00.png]
 
Mike Haasl
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Thanks for another good one Dale!  I have a sweet tooth too.  I'd seen Black Sapote before but hadn't realized it had a cool alternative name.  Now I gotta get one.  If anyone has a cultivar recommendation for ones that can handle a nip of frost and could handle being in a 5-10 gallon pot, I'm all ears!
 
Dale Hodgins
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There's a good series on YouTube called 10 fruits you've never heard of. But I think there's about 20 installments now. Most of them are tropicals. A few grow on small enough plants to be considered. But either way, it's a fun exercise learning about all these different edibles that we never see in the North. I'm finding a few that I might want to try in the Philippines. But even for tropical growing, many of them are totally impractical because it takes forever for them to bear, or some other factor.

I learned through one of those videos, that the coffee cherry or husk is probably the most nutritious thing that is regularly thrown away. I can see a business there , for someone who wants to make a deal with  individual farmers, to turn it into fruit leather . After watching one of the videos, I questioned my fiance on her family's use of moringa. When they had nothing to eat, they often harvested moringa pods and leaves, to make soup.

I will probably make more submissions here, since I'm determined to learn about every possible candidate for my plantation there.

Being from Canada, I tend to think of oranges, figs, and dates as tropical. But there aren't any oranges that can live near sea level in the Philippines, because they need a cold season. Figs and dates have been cultivated to some degree after many years of breeding them to withstand perpetual summer. But overall I can't complain. For everything I find out I can't grow, I've learned about 10 more that I've never heard of before.

Seasons are very important where I live. Many tropical plants don't act according to any season, or they are attuned to a wet and dry season.  We've all seen corn growing. In Kenya I saw a small farm that had corn one foot tall, 2 feet tall, 4 ft tall and about 7 feet tall in different blocks. There's no specific season to plant corn. You plant according to when you want the finished product. This family had a business selling corn on the cob along the roadside, so they needed a steady supply all year, thus the different age blocks.
 
Mike Haasl
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Hi Dale, some of the weirder plants on my list for your consideration are:
Cinnamon
Miracle berry - Makes sour food sweet
Snakefruit - Shade loving palm but it's thorny
Yagrumo - N fixing tree with gummy worm fruit
 
Dale Hodgins
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I saw the snake plants on a video and I have checked out the production of cinnamon a little more thoroughly. It's a good one because it is mostly labor. Coppice an inch or two around are cut then beaten with a mallet to remove the cinnamon bark. The remaining wood is good for burning.

I really like the various spice plants because many of them are reputed to ward off insects. Black pepper is promising and I'd like to grow everything that goes into chai tea. But most of these won't be grown on any sort of commercial basis. They will be Zone 1 items because of the bug thing.

There are some types of tea that grow in tropical highlands. These might be good for you because of  reliance on leaf instead of flower and seed.

Here's a link to one of those top 10 lists
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=2iv40GA-rlA
 
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Cool project.  Couple of comments as I just read through the thread:

I'd suggest adding loquat back to your list.  They are small trees, easy to maintain, and have a range up into the temperate regions.  I'm sure they'd do fine in this greenhouse situation.  Plus the fruit is awesome, especially if you can get a good cultivar.  

Papaya actually don't need a male and female to produce fruit.  The female trees will produce regardless, but if not pollinated the fruit won't have seeds in it.  It'll still be the exact same fruit.  Either way, papaya are something you plant several of, so you're likely to end up with some male and female.

Also, I would suggest adding more root crops to the list, for a few reasons.  They're a lot more reliable/adaptable to conditions.  All of the varying factors like light and temperature, emulating the tropics in your greenhouse, are not going to affect so much whether or not you'll get a yield from root crops.  You'll almost always get a yield- it might be smaller or larger, but not as strictly dependent on conditions as a fruiting tree that doesn't get enough light to produce properly at all.  
My suggestions for root crops are turmeric, ginger, sweet potatoes, yams, cassava, malanga, taro.

Lastly, you should talk to David the good about this.  I'm surprised he hasn't hit this thread yet.  His book Push the Zone: The Good Guide to Growing Tropical Plants Beyond the Tropics (which I actually haven't read btw, because... I'm in the tropics) has lots of ideas you'd be able to implement.
 
Mike Haasl
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Thanks Connor, welcome to the conversation!  Loquat sounds better than I remembered.  I've never had one, maybe that's why it's not on my list.  I'll see if I can squeeze one in.  I like the cold hardiness of them.

Other than bananas, I think most of my larger plants are hardy down to about freezing (or lower).  This winter the greenhouse didn't have heat working yet and the coldest it got was 20F.  So I think I should be able to keep it above freezing and hopefullly closer to 50 for the low (if the stars align).

For papayas, I'm planning on Babacos because they're a mountain papaya and more cold hardy.  They're $30 ea so I was actually thinking of just getting one and maybe multiplying it with cuttings after a year or two.  I'm assuming for that price it would be a female.  If I propagate it and end up with several female clones, is that a good thing?

I've been underfocusing on root and ground cover plants.  I will have a good layer of that stuff.  Ginger, turmeric, sweet potatoes, pepper and casava are on the list.  I added pepper back onto my list after learning that there are non-flowering versions out there and that's probably what the Como conservancy has.  Logees makes it seem like they are easy to get spice from.

I'd love to talk to David the Good about this.  Hadn't thought about bothering him about it since he's famous and all that.  But if he stopped in I'd love to get his input.

One struggle I have is actually getting plants.  I can't just run down to the nursery to pick some up.  My main option is mail order from Logees (Massachusetts) where they sell container tropicals that can live in northern climate greenhouses.  Which is right up my alley.  But if there are cheaper ways to get the same cultivars, I'm all ears.
 
Conner Murphy
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Mike Jay wrote:
For papayas, I'm planning on Babacos because they're a mountain papaya and more cold hardy.  They're $30 ea so I was actually thinking of just getting one and maybe multiplying it with cuttings after a year or two.  I'm assuming for that price it would be a female.  If I propagate it and end up with several female clones, is that a good thing?.



I'm not sure if there's a way to tell the sex of a papaya before it actually blooms, probably.  If they're that price I'd hope so...

I know it is possible, under specific conditions, to propagate papaya from cuttings, but they're extremely sensitive.  Your best bet would be to get one growing strong and produce some fruit, then save the seeds and scatter them around the greenhouse for next year.  You want to treat them a bit more like an annual, if that makes any sense.  Of course to get seed inside the fruit you'd need a male for pollination.
 
Mike Haasl
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I'm guessing they're propagating them by cuttings from known females.  Are they very short lived trees?  I hear they can fruit within a year but I haven't heard about how long they live.  I'll probably start with one and see how it goes from there...
 
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They normally don't branch either, so it makes cuttings impractical.  I think they are propagated by tissue culture sometimes.  They'll live for 4-5 years but best production and vigor is in the first two years.

You might want to just order seeds and throw them around the greenhouse.  They seem to be happiest when they volunteer and aren't transplanted.
 
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Oh, can papaya seeds ship?  I thought most tropical seeds needed to stay wet and fresh (they die if they dry out).
 
Nathanael Szobody
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Mike Jay wrote:Oh, can papaya seeds ship?  I thought most tropical seeds needed to stay wet and fresh (they die if they dry out).



Papaya seeds are usually dried before planting. They'll ship fine. But they take about a month to sprout.
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