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1000's of Trees from Seeds

 
jesse tack
Posts: 56
Location: SE Michigan, Zone 5
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Hi Grant and All,

Two main questions on starting thousands of trees from seed.

(1) how do you do it at Versaland? I've only ever seen the picture of the plywood box with Chestnuts sticking out the top.

(2) would you ever use the Jang seeder to walk a row of tree seeds in parallel with one of your existing tree rows?

I imagine tilling shallowly that small area, laying out several rows in tight succession, sowing an appropriate ground cover, and planning to sell them as nursery stock over the next 2-5 years.

If not, why not.

If maybe or yes, do you have any cover crop recommendations that would aid the tree seeds along without stunting their growth?

Thanks for all you do. Inspired and moving along in Michigan. Jesse
 
Andrew Mateskon
Posts: 84
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Hi Jesse,


I undertook a similar project this year. I saw you're in Michigan, you can come see it in Sand Lake sometime this fall if you'd like.

I planted many thousands of chinese chestnut seeds in a raised bed. This is how I did it. I obtained a very carbon-rich growing medium on the cheap, laid down some weed fabric, and installed a silt fence next to the fabric. I pushed the soil-ish stuff onto the fabric (with some amendments) in a long mound. I installed the other side of the silt fence, and raked the soil flat. I had no chance to do all this last fall, so I ended up doing it in the spring.

Meanwhile, I had some local seeds I harvested or bought last fall in proper storage conditions sleeping over the winter. I was forced to take them out of storage a month earlier than I wanted to, and they started popping out little radicals. Almost every single seed was viable! What a relief, and a headache, because I had to figure out how to delay them from sprouting out another month so I could plant after last frost. I was not very successful to that end, but it turned out that it did not really matter. Chinese chestnuts are very hardy, whether the few that I planted before last frost that were covered and survived, or hanging out in bins inside getting a nice start on life with just a little peat moss to keep mold down.

I had a few good Permie friends over, and my kids and my wife and I all planted over the course of many days. We just dug rows with our hands and laid the nuts and radicals (radical down, sprout (if any) up) in the rows. We covered them back up and marched down the row. Ideal planting for our purposes was 6 inches, but some of my planters got overzealous and crowded them.

The row is 7-8 ft wide and 90 ft long. I installed soaker hose irrigation, 4 long zones. They get 1" of water per week from either irrigation or rainfall. Every week I give them some beautiful golden vermicompost tea we make right here; the better half of a 55 gal barrel.

When it is time to bring these trees to market, I will take down the silt fence on one side, a section at a time, as needed or to replant in pots for later sale.

If you've made it this far, allow me my shameless sales pitch. These will be for sale in spring and fall next year online, or on-farm sales right now to good homes nearby. The "parents" of these trees are local to zone 5, cold hardy for the last 20 years of MI winter, and show excellent blight resistance. The nuts are typical Chinese nuts, nice sweet nuts a little larger than the size of a quarter. They aren't Colossal, but have you ever been able to eat a big nut right off the tree? The smaller the better, for fresh flavor. I have planted hundreds on my own property. These seedlings will be good as-is, for identification of new varieties, or for grafting if you so desire. I encourage grafting to Chinese varieties, or to a few other favorite hybrids with at least some Chinese in their genetics. Purple mooseage me for more information. End shameless sales pitch.

I'll answer more questions if you're ready to ask em!

Andrew Mateskon
 
R Scott
Posts: 3306
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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A bit of a follow on question:

How do you optimize labor? Does transplanting reduce labor in the end, because the seedlings are in a zone 1 nursery during the high maintenance phase or would direct seeding be more time efficient even with high losses?
 
Grant Schultz
Posts: 219
Location: Iowa City, Iowa Zone 5
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Here's a tip for setting up the Jang JP-1 to seed alongside an existing row (or fence!) GET THE DOUBLE-DISC OPENER ATTACHMENT

I think species like black locust and redbud are great for use in vegetable seeders like this (the Jang is the best). The seed is small, hard, consistently shaped, and able to flow through a hopper into the rollers very easily.

Tree seeds come in all sorts of sizes and shapes, smaller harder seed is fine in a vegetable seeder (apple, black locust, redbud, etc) Larger ones - walnut, oak, hickory, chestnut, pawpaw are best hand-planted in a raised bed.



.
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Below are some awesome photos from Trevor Newman (of Roots to Fruits in Michigan) - he'll be one of many experienced instructors at the Farmscale Permaculture course

this is how Oikos does their oak propagation in sandy-ish soil.





 
Grant Schultz
Posts: 219
Location: Iowa City, Iowa Zone 5
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Of course, it's always advantageous to buy bareroot trees when you can get them...like [shameless plug]



P.18 Apple trees (an Antonovka x M.4 cross) bred in Poland. Full-size, cold hardy, and tough.
 
Tyler Stowers
Posts: 13
Location: Southern Oregon
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Do you have a recommended online resource to obtain tree seeds?
 
Grant Schultz
Posts: 219
Location: Iowa City, Iowa Zone 5
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Tyler Stowers wrote:Do you have a recommended online resource to obtain tree seeds?


I think the best source is to collect your own from known genetics, but FW Schumacher is well known as a source of a wide variety of species (unselected genetics)
 
Andrew Mateskon
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R Scott,

The bed is in a zone 1 nursery, as you suggest. We did spend a lot of labor getting everything together and planting. This raised bed is for nursery sales of bareroot trees, not for our own purposes. We have alternate growing methods for our own plantings. We tried direct seeding the sprouts on the windbreak, and they were ravaged by marauding squirrels and other critters. So, we let the sprouts hang out all summer in zone 1 in bins, until the nut was no longer palatable. We just planted a bunch, and so far we have had no problem with critters. The rains came just a week or so ago, here. As soon as they came we started planting. In my opinion, now is a good time to start planting.

Grant,

Those apple trees look really great! Are the seeds from the Antonovka hybrid pretty true if critters spread seeds or humans throw their apple cores? I heard Antonovka was the most "true to seed", so great for seedling tree growing. Also, what kinds of uses are you getting out of the apples (Cider, dessert, fresh eating, etc)?

Andrew
 
Adrien Lapointe
steward
Posts: 3326
Location: Kingston, Canada (USDA zone 5a)
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What do you do for weed control in the nursery?

Some of this Spring's planting in our nursery got overrun pretty quickly with weeds. It seems like mulching early and often works best for us.
 
Grant Schultz
Posts: 219
Location: Iowa City, Iowa Zone 5
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Adrien Lapointe wrote:What do you do for weed control in the nursery?

Some of this Spring's planting in our nursery got overrun pretty quickly with weeds. It seems like mulching early and often works best for us.


Heavy mulching right away works best. I wish I always practiced what I preach. It's too easy to let mowing get away from you in the heat of the season, even our apple nursery is half-mulched this year.

 
Andrew Mateskon
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Jesse,

In our operation, we haven't had too many issues with weeds because we used a weed block under the growing bed. This serves the dual purpose of blocking weeds and blocking the taproot of the tree from going deep. When the taproot is blocked naturally (by air pruning or by weed block fabric, in this case) and not cut, the tree will send out lateral roots, and be much stronger when planted in the field as a result. Most nurseries mechanically cut the taproot when the trees are ready for sale. To us, this is a sub-optimal situation that weakens the tree roots, exposes them to possible pathogens, and results in slower growth when the bareroot trees are planted.

We hand pull the few weeds that pop up. This year the weed volunteers were raspberry, blackberry, and Canadian Goldenrod - all of which are thriving on our property under other circumstances. the Goldenrod is the deepest-rooting of these, and the most difficult to get rid of, but hand-pulling once in awhile is all we had to do. The thick growth of the chestnuts themselves discourage any weed seeds from getting a foothold. We will see how this fares next spring when the chestnuts are budding out, and before they have leaves to shade the ground.

Andrew
 
Adrien Lapointe
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In the nursery, mulching is fairly easy to do. For large scale planting, mulching trees individually is really time consuming. We only did a 2 ft diameter much around each bare root tree, and by July we could not find the trees anymore. I have been thinking that unrolling spent hay or straw on the swale prior to planting would be the fastest way. Have you tried this?



That could also work with large seeded trees. Seed predation could be a problem, although Bill McKentley from St. Lawrence Nursery was saying that planting just before the soil freezes for the winter greatly reduces predation.
 
Grant Schultz
Posts: 219
Location: Iowa City, Iowa Zone 5
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Adrien Lapointe wrote:In the nursery, mulching is fairly easy to do. For large scale planting, mulching trees individually is really time consuming. We only did a 2 ft diameter much around each bare root tree, and by July we could not find the trees anymore. I have been thinking that unrolling spent hay or straw on the swale prior to planting would be the fastest way. Have you tried this?

That could also work with large seeded trees. Seed predation could be a problem, although Bill McKentley from St. Lawrence Nursery was saying that planting just before the soil freezes for the winter greatly reduces predation.


We've looked at bale processors, but opted for a mulcher instead. The steam is from a biologically active pile of mulch being spread.

 
Adrien Lapointe
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ah! never heard of those. Looks like a sideways manure spreader.

Does it cause any damage to the small trees?
 
Grant Schultz
Posts: 219
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Adrien Lapointe wrote:ah! never heard of those. Looks like a sideways manure spreader.

Does it cause any damage to the small trees?


It's gentle enough, can be adjusted for pattern and velocity.
 
Adrien Lapointe
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What is the brand?
 
Grant Schultz
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We will also sometimes mulch with alleyway alfalfa/clover as in situ mulch

 
R Scott
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I have seen silage feed wagons used to spread mulch, but never a dedicated machine for it. That is slick.

I have used old round bales unrolled. I didn't have a fancy unrolle so I just pushed it by hand, but it was level ground.

The hard part for me is finding affordable sources of mulch. Darren Doherty has a video where he explains his method of mixing high quality compost and cheap junk hay to get affordable mulch and fertilizer for high value tree planting.
 
Adrien Lapointe
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Grant Schultz wrote:
I think species like black locust and redbud are great for use in vegetable seeders like this (the Jang is the best). The seed is small, hard, consistently shaped, and able to flow through a hopper into the rollers very easily.


Not very familiar with the propagation of redbud, but I have propagated thousands of black locust from seeds. It usually involves pouring boiling water on top of the seeds and letting them soak for 24 hrs. I have found that dealing with wet seeds by hand is a pain.

Would the Jang handle wet seeds or would it clump and clog it?
 
Steve Farmer
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As well as germinating seeds I collect and buy, another resource for me is seedlings that have germinated naturally around the base of the mother tree. This summer I spent hours collecting, scarifying and nurturing seeds from one tree in my garden, only to find out several weeks later that many of the dropped seeds germinated and grew all by themselves. Nature eh!

I ended up with just as many from that method with far less effort. So now I make a conscious effort to visit other trees I know and harvest from their base, got a couple of tiny fig trees that way yesterday.
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