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Reforestation - Growing trees in arid, barren lands - Almond trees - Apricot trees  RSS feed

Doug Hack
Posts: 15
Location: Sacramento, CA Zone 9
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Doug Hack wrote:Today I collected 400 wild bitter almond seeds in a bucket and planted them about every two feet along about 800 feet of perimeter fencing.  If even 5 percent of them survive I will have 20 new trees to start my hedgerow/shelter fence.  This took about four hours.

Update from this "planting" of four years ago.  There are two surviving trees - about three feet high.  They have been totally neglected for four years.  The very low survival rate I attribute to two things - 1) I did not actually put the seed into the ground, but just put it against the ground or slightly into the surface under a layer of duff. 2) The following Winter was one of the driest on record - less than 10 inches of rain total.  I feel like I 'wasted' 400 almond seeds.

If I had repeated this experiment with putting the seeds 2-3 inches into the ground I am sure the survival rate would have been much higher.  This would protected the seeds from drying before and in between rains, and also given the seeds some protection from mice.  If I had repeated the experiment each year I am sure the results would have been dramatically higher as this past Winter was one of the wettest on record.  There is no predicting the rains, but consistency will eventually pay off.

In the meantime I have had excellent germination rates planting in 1 gallon pots and have planted out several almond trees (some now grafted, some yet to be).  This is far more time consuming than just planting seeds.  An in-between level of inputs with a high probability of sucess might be planting three seeds in a selected spot and then watering that spot until the rains actually start to keep the ground moist. 

Here are some observations and thoughts about nitrogen-fixing plants:  I have tried planting from seed a variety of clovers, trefoil, vetch and alfalfa.  While all sprouted and grew for a while, only purple vetch has persisted and reseeded itself to a reasonable degree over years without attention.  It likes to grow on my woven-wire fences, and persists in patches even in areas mostly dominated by tall annual grasses.  All of the others needed management (mowing or grazing) and irrigation to persist more than one season. 

I have decades of experience with black locust trees and I feel they are very valuable as a pioneer soil-improvement tree.  Their roots fill the soil over a wide area (up to three or four times the drip line diameter) and they provide plenty of extra nitrogen for other plants.  When water stressed in Summer they drop leaves which increases the amount of light for plants under the shade canopy.  With regular irrigation a lush lawn will grow under them with no other fertilizer.  In my climate most plants grow better under them than in full sun.  They are tough and will survive with no irrigation once established a year or two, but growth will be very slow and they will drop nearly all leaves in the summer.  If they are grown large with irrigation, and irrigation is stopped, they will die back substantially, looking very bad, but surviving.  They have lots of root sprouts and will create thick colonies if allowed to.  In my soil (which is shallow and light over thick hardpan) they are unable to sink roots and usually blow over after a few decades.  This probably wouldn't be a problem in deeper soils or where allowed to grow very thickly.

I have limited experience with albizia julibrissin (Mimosa or Silk Tree), but I like it very much and it has some advantages over Black Locust.  For starters it does not have sharp thorns.  It provides an even lighter shade than Black Locust and it will fold it's leaves to save water.  It seems to be almost un-killable, fixes substantial nitrogen and (once well established) drops a thick litter of flowers, leaves and seedpods which is an advantage for soil development and a serious disadvantage for manicured yards and patios.  The wood decomposes much faster than Black Locust which makes it more useful for chop and drop or any use for decomposing biomass such as hugelkultur.  It is a smaller tree at maturity but grows reasonably fast.  I haven't noticed colonies of root sprouts (although it resprouts when coppiced).  In my climate neither tree is likely to self seed.  Both create relatively small seeds with hard seed coats that need scarification and a moist environment to survive and establish.  I've had great success by pouring boiling water over the seed and planting those that have swollen up 24 hours later.  I am planting Silk Trees in between my fruit and nut trees as nitrogen sources and soil improvers.  If they ever get too competitive I will cut them back and use the cuttings as mulch

I have tried Siberian Pea Tree (or shrub) but it doesn't seem to like the climate here (USDA Zone 9B).  It may be too hot for it.

I have also tried Arizona Mesquite.  Hand sowing seed into annual grass land did not sprout/survive.  Scarification and growing in pots was very successful, but the trees do not seem to thrive once planted out.  Maybe my winters are too wet for them?  The growth is extremely slow compared with either Black Locust or Silk Tree.  I'm not impressed but they may have potential for even hotter and drier climates than mine. 

As a shrub I have had good success growing a variety of Ceanothus Arboreous (Owlswood Blue) which is considered to be a nitrogen-fixing plant.  I have propagated it from semi-hardwood cuttings (somewhat difficult).  It has grown and survived well and seems to get by with a minimum of summer water.  I haven't let any go unwatered and I have doubts that it would do well here without some help in the Summer.  It has large green leaves that deer, goats and sheep like to eat.  It also has beautiful blue flowers in Spring that the bees love.  I'm not sure how much nitrogen it actually fixes (it stays very green and grows reasonably fast in poor soil) or shares with other plants. 

Not on any list of nitrogen fixing plants is Mulberry.  However I have observed it growing amazingly fast and green with very high protein leaves on poor soil.  I cannot believe it could possibly do that without fixing nitrogen somehow.  I have collected several varieties and I highly recommend them as a pioneer tree.  The branches and leaves can be chop and dropped.  The fruit is variable but many varieties are very good to eat - and birds love all types!  My mulberries keep the birds so well fed that they mostly leave my cherries alone.  You can feed the leaves to ruminants (sheep love it!) and chickens.  I have propagated it from cuttings, transplanted bird dropped seedlings and grafted it.  My observations are that in a hot climate it should be left un-pruned to grow low and wide - shading as much of it's own root zone to the ground as possible.  This also makes the fruit easier to reach.   The roots are very vigorous and spreading and develop sinkers that I suspect are getting through my hardpan after a few years.

The figs I have propagated from cuttings seem to need a lot of water and haven't produced much fruit yet.  I suspect they are not the best adapted to getting by on their own in a hot climate. 

I've planted a lot of different varieties of pomegranates (easy from cuttings) and they seem to do very well here.  Mine are still very young and I don't know how much water they will need to fruit, but they seem very promising. 

I have also planted a lot of varieties of table grapes from cuttings and I am very pleased with the quantity and quality of fruit they produce.  They do need to be watered to produce, but they grow very fast, producing lots of leaves (Thompson Seedless leaves are edible), and biomass every year. 

My more traditional orchard is doing okay, but it is water-intensive and so far not impressive.  This Fall I will collect as many Silk Tree seeds as I can find and start trees to interplant thickly with the fruit trees.  I think the extra ground shade and nitrogen will help in three or four years.
Adrian Cauchi
Posts: 10
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An Update on my project:

Although we had a good winter by our standards 450mm rain, we had an early start to summer from April this year. 

My veg garden was great this year, decent amount of potatoes, massive amounts of garlic and onions, great for peas and broadbeans, carrots and marrows great too, tried broccoli and was pleased. 

Seeds polanted in January and later failed completely,  I bet that its November or December from now onwards for seeds.  Its a different story for my transplants that I made in January they are doing fine with the help of 1/2 bucket of water every 2 or 3 weeks.  Almonts, apples, olives, and fig trees.

I have left 2 almonds 4 years old with around 45 cm of mulch and amother 30 cm of rocks on top - this is a method they used here in the past and the growth is better than without and at least they seem stronger than they were last year, but the once's I watered are definately better but it works to some extent. 

Next year I plan to add an other row of almonds from transplants and seeds to create a bigger area with shade.  I also plan to plant Alpha Alpha to have plenty of cover crop. 

Again this year it just proves that without watering my climate is really really hard.  

I am afraid that as the years pass the world I live in is becoming a concrete and soil desert, even the carob trees are finding it hard.

Note to Kostas :  As always the carob seedlings in the middle of the fields have germinated and grown 1.5 cm in the middle of the scourching heat.  without cover etc.  go figure out nature. 
Phil Folgers
Posts: 4
Location: Sacramento, CA
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Doug Hack wrote:One possible advantage of a seed grown tree over a container grown tree (grafted or not) is the possibility of a stronger, more site-adapted root system developing.  I'm not talking about disease resistance - carefully selected root stocks will usually have the advantage there - but if the tree is capable of developing a tap root from seed it may be able to grow deeper into the soil to find soil moisture and nutrients.  My understanding from reading is that grafted, bareroot and container trees almost never re-develop a strong tap root.

In my opinion trees from seeds are much better than containers.
One way we can cheat here in Sacramento is to get your fruit from the farmers market, enjoy the fruit, and plant the seeds / pits.  =)

I posted this before, just jump to 7:00 minutes in (near the end)

Konstantinos Karoubas
Posts: 310
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Hello everyone,

I apologize for the delay in responding...been away from my home base for a while...

Phil, no question about...trees grown from seed, are the best !!! in any case, we have no choice...if we are to plant billions of trees...we got to use seeds...Oaks are magnificent trees, adapted to many environments...one variety, Quercus ilex, I found it growing on the island of Ikaria, is adapted to dry conditions and rocky slopes...an amazing tree...its going to help us restore even areas that have no soil on them...bare rock!!!

Hello Adrian...the carob trees growing in the middle of your fields...were they buried because the fields were plowed, or did they just fall on the ground and covered by weeds ?
my experiment with carob seeds and the goat, produced 2 trees....I fed a goat that a friend owns, a bunch of carobs (maybe it had 250 seeds---just guessing) - we collected the manure for a few days...I shifted through the manure, and found 8 seeds that went through the goats stomach and were not digested...the seeds had tripled in size and were soft...I buried them in trench, I think in January...they all sprouted in the spring and at the end of the summer, 2 survived---someone may say...2 out 250 is very poor....but each carob tree is a victory for me, grown this way, it will become a very strong  and long lasting tree (see photo below)...we have a long way to go with carob seeds...we need to find a way to scar them, them place them in clay cubes for planting.

The weather was also difficult this year--hot summer like conditions in early spring, then rains in early summer, then very hot in the summer...most of the seeds I placed in October and November did not survive...failure is part of the process...

Doug, thanks for the update....good points on the nitrogen fixers...the mulberry trees are amazing...yes...you must bury the almonds apricots etc...try also planting apple seeds without watering...you may be surprised....plums seeds should also do very well...just buried in the ground around October or November (see our discussions here for other seeds also...they all should do well in Sacramento...keep us posted

Since I have been back, I made some clay cubes...for this year's seeding project...I am hoping the the size and mix will work out well this year and produce trees...If they work well, next year, I may use a drone to drop some clay cubes, on bare mountain tops in the hope of planting trees there, so they can disperse their seeds all around them in the years to come.

I am also very pleased that essentially we have an area that is reforested...an edible food forest has been created near the village of Petralona, Halkidiki...its about 3,000 square meters (3/4 of an acre) see

In the comments section of the video, there is a small discussion, about how the project was handled, with regards to the local elected officials, and the grazing herds that move nearby...this part has also been successful...I am grateful to the people that own the 550 goats and sheep that go by every day...not a single animal has gone on the land...the neighbors, have also adopted the trees...they understand that their children and grandchildren will enjoy the trees and fruits in the near future. After many years of failures, this victory is sweet !!!

I am hoping that the other pieces of land, I am reforesting, will also do well...given time, effort, and ab bit of cooperation from the weather...


[Thumbnail for 2017-08-08-goat-carobs.jpg]
carobs trees, using a goat's stomach to scar the seeds
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