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Reforestation - Growing trees in arid, barren lands - by Seeds and Clay cubes (no watering)  RSS feed

 
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.
 
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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. 
 
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)


 
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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...

Kostas



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carobs trees, using a goat's stomach to scar the seeds
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Hello Everyone...

I would like to share an interesting article on the forests of Iceland

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/10/20/climate/iceland-trees-reforestation.html

1000 years ago all the trees were cut down...the land has become a desert, even though they get plenty of rain...the article explains the difficulties they have establishing new forests.

A lesson for all of us, on how important it is to protect what we have.

Kostas
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Hello Everyone...

Hope all is well...

Here is an update on this on going effort to plant trees...

In October and November 15,000 plus seeds were placed in the ground, at different locations, and now I am patiently waiting for the results and hoping for the best...

In this effort, there are so many variables, and so many obstacles to overcome, that it amazes me that any seeds survive at all !!! 

Here is a picture of a young almond tree...they are the 1st ones out of the ground, and its a delight to see them...
The almonds are great...very reliable, very strong...problem is many of them are eaten by a critters when placed in the ground  (foxes, dogs, mice...who knows)

The 2nd tree off the ground is the plum...don't know yet survival rates for the different areas...its a feisty tree, that  produces large quantities of fruit in areas that are suited for it (where it likes to grow !!!  ......no sh....t)

The 3rd picture is of the honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) .... this is the 1st time I try them...In the picture at the front....a frost killed the four that emerged early...
The seeds of gleditsia were scarified using hot water...water was heated close to boiling point, taken of the heat for 5 seconds then the seeds were thrown in...the seeds were left in the water overnight...the ones that became soft and increased in size were put aside (they were ready)...the ones that did not become soft were placed in hot water again...the process was repeated until most of the seeds were scarred...

It looks like it worked...will see if it survives the summer heat...Gleditsia triacanthos is a powerful tree, that can aid in restoring the land...and wildlife (including human)

I will keep you posted, when I can...

Thank You

Kostas



2018-03-almond-soo.jpg
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Young Almond Tree
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Twin plums emerging form the ground
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Gleditsia ...thriving and dying...
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Hello Everyone,

A second update for this important time of the year !!!

When undertaking a seeding project, even for a small piece of land, its important to keep track of what seeds will do well and what seeds will not in do well in that area...there is no point placing seeds in the ground or in clay cubes, if the land does not accept them.

Digging small trenches and placing 10 seeds of each type seed, in each trench..... making notes, and putting the notes in a glass jar nearby, helps to keep track of the project.  Knowing what trees do well in an area (or not do well), is very valuable info...for many years I was putting seeds down that were not appropriate for the land...seeds would either not sprout, or not survive the summer. 

See photos 1 and 2...the clay cubes were laid down in fives's... The seeds in the cubes were noted and the notes placed in a glass jar (at the upper right side of the photo).  In photo 2, the glass jar is in near the middle of the photo...the large stones, locate each trench...there are 28 small trenches there (I think)...having the notes is VITAL !!!

Photo 3 shows a clay cube, with alfalfa that sprouted...while making the cubes, alfalfa seeds were accidentally included in the mix...I used the dry alfalfa twigs, for reinforcement for the clay cubes (simply because they were available nearby)...the seeds were on the dried plants...it will be interesting to see how the alfalfa plant will interact with the young trees that hopefully will grow in the cubes....they maybe helpful and shade the young trees, and open up the soil for the trees, and provide nitrogen, or they may hinder the effort by braking the clay cubes apart....we will have to wait and see, what this accident has done for us...it may be the way to make clay cubes...will see...

Photo 4 show the plum trees emerging...

I no longer place almonds in test trenches around here...I know they do well...If the plums do well, I will also stop putting them in the test trenches...I have also observed the same reliability from the wild pear tree...this tree is often overlooked as a tree to reforest an area....its fruits feed birds and other animals, it will survive a fire, it can be grafted to produce pears, it is very hardy-it can survive severe droughts...and yet overlooked, in favor of pine trees ??

Photo 5, shows the Koelreuteria trees emerging...these were pretreated as noted in the last post (like the gleditsia seeds)...this is the 1st time that Koelreuteria was included in the seeding projects...I hope they do well in the summer heat...

Photo 6 shows the medick tree emerging...this is also a tree/shrub that is included for the 1st time...I saw this tree growing on the island of Ikaria...its drought tolerant, it grows even on rocks !!! it maybe of great help in building top soil in stony/bare hills.

On the island of Ikaria, I also learned about a variety of oak tree that grows there...it likes growing on rocky slopes...its called Quercus ilex...I collected some from a nearby mountain here, and I am awaiting to see how the do.  The people there described to me, how many of the oaks were cut down 70 - 80 years ago to make charcoal for heating...whole hill sides were destroyed...unfortunately, many of the areas there, continue to be grazed by goats !!!

On a side note, I was delighted and impressed by the kindness and goodness of the people of Ikaria...their way of life is a good example for ALL to follow...


Kostas
1-Clay-Cubes.jpg
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Clay Cubes
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Trenches with seeds
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Alfalfa Growing on a clay cube
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Plum trees emerging
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Koelreuteria emerging
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The first Medick Tree
 
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You are such an inspiration. 
 
Posts: 1424
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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Following your journey fills my heart with joy! You are amazing!!
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Thank you both for the kind words, but.....miles and miles to go !!!
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Hello Everyone,

Another update, with some important conclusions, that in retrospect, are obvious.

In the past we talked about being aware of grazing animals around an area, you plan to reforest...there is no point wasting energy, time and money, if the area is visited by GOATS, sheep, cows etc...goats are very efficient at eliminating anything that sprouts...

We also need to avoid areas that have WILD PIGS active in an area. For some reason, if they like an area, they dig it up completely...see photo below....young trees cannot survive under this activity...so if you see the soil all dug up, in an area, you plan to reforest....don't waste time....or if you start reforesting area, and 2 years down the road, its visited by pigs, abandon the project. I am speaking from experience !!!

The second photo below, shows the young oak trees emerging....we will see how they do in the summer heat....hoping for the best...Quercus ilex would be a great addition to our group of trees that we plant...I am sure we will find areas, where these oak trees will thrive...I am just hoping they will be like the almonds...apricots..plums...wild pears etc.
The more variety we have, the better will be for the areas we reforest.

I am keeping an eye daily for the other trees in the trenches to emerge, and hoping for the best.

Soon I hope to visit  Athens and Sparta, and see how the seeds we placed in the ground there did.

I also send clay cubes to a friend in Crete, and soon I will get those results....none of my clay cubes here sprouted yet...hopefully this month.




Kostas
Wild-pig-activity-.jpg
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Soil Dug up by wild pigs
Quercus-ilex-emerging.jpg
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Young Oak Trees
 
Posts: 9
Location: Fajã d'Agua, Brava, Cabo Verde
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Very interesting, this topic, especially because it's running over 6 years now.

I live on a bare rocky hot Capeverdean island, and for what I read, I guess we have the Arizona, Mexico type of climate. 
A few weeks ago our village 'got' a reforesting program from the government: A few months of work for the local population, and in the end we would like to save the world by planting ...
I am a bit afraid we won't get enough (container) planting stuff from the government, so I am looking and reading and studying to arrange alternatives.

People are now repairing and building terraces, to hold the soil when rain (hopefully!) arrives end of July (until November, when we are lucky) . Next stage will be the making of planting holes. And as soon as the first rains come, the planting.

There will be know mulching and no watering, so the plants have to do it on there own (that's why the topic is interesting)

Local species are: tamarinde (tamarindus indica), tropical almond (terminalia catappa), mimosa (I don't know which type, it grows everywhere and we use it as goat -, pig -, and cow food), baobab, flamboyant, mango tree, and shrubs like purgeria and guave.
I wonder if the moringa olifeira could do something here, for it seems a usefull plant. But there are none on the island.

I would be happy with any information, suggestion. Main question: How to get seeds / plants within three months time...

thanks in advance,
Marijke
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Thank You for writing Marijke,

Sorry to hear that your land/country is so bare...good luck with the reforestation efforts...

For us here, there is a 100 to 1 cost advantage in using seeds to reforest, as opposed to planting trees; in addition, the resulting forest is a higher quality forest.

Its not easy, and we need to be patient...the idea is to cover the earth with trees, shrubs or grasses year round...this will lower the ground temperatures and bring in more rains etc etc.

There is going to be a trial and failure period, where you try different seeds...I have listed here what has worked for me...some of these seeds may also work for your area (or maybe not)....what grows at the side of the roads, may help you.

I will be glad to send you a small bag of seeds for you to try, provided its allowed by your laws...mostly I collect seeds from the fruits we eat, I purchase seeds from locals, or from a seed supplier in Italy.

Kostas
 
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Marijke Katsburg wrote:

People are now repairing and building terraces, to hold the soil when rain (hopefully!) arrives end of July (until November, when we are lucky) . Next stage will be the making of planting holes. And as soon as the first rains come, the planting.

There will be know mulching and no watering, so the plants have to do it on there own (that's why the topic is interesting)

Local species are: tamarinde (tamarindus indica), tropical almond (terminalia catappa), mimosa (I don't know which type, it grows everywhere and we use it as goat -, pig -, and cow food), baobab, flamboyant, mango tree, and shrubs like purgeria and guave.
I wonder if the moringa olifeira could do something here, for it seems a usefull plant. But there are none on the island.

I would be happy with any information, suggestion. Main question: How to get seeds / plants within three months time...

thanks in advance,
Marijke



You probably have Mimosa lebbeck, they're very common for shade and produce prolific pods. No thorns, right?

Sounds like you live in a climate similar to mine with a little more rain. I would strongly suggest moringa. I plant it everywhere: in my garden beds, by the road, in a food forest. They grow so fast, make quite a tasty African sauce, and are incredibly nutritious. I give away the leaves constantly, for medicine, food and tea. They're also great mulch. I read that they contain a growth hormone for other plants as well. For seeds, of, course you will have to order them or go looking on the mainland. As a last resort, Echonet.org would send you some for free from Florida. For that matter, they would also send you chaya, which grows from a cutting just like cassava. Definitely an easy tree to plant in your climate!

All the species you listed are fantastic trees, as most of them produce food. Just collect those seeds and get planting! Baobab seeds have to be soaked in boiling water in order for them to sprout. Bring water to a boil,  or it over the seeds,  and let them soak until they cool. Other trees that are guaranteed to grow from seed in your climate are Doum palm and Balanites aegyptiaca. Just plant them and they'll grow whether you like it or not!  Plus they're both food trees.

Have fun!

 
Marijke Katsburg
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Location: Fajã d'Agua, Brava, Cabo Verde
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Thank you, Nathanael, for reminding me of my subscription at Echonet a few months ago... I found them, back then, in my search for these very moringa seeds! So now I immediately ordered the seeds. Thanks again. And for the other advice as well.
 
Nathanael Szobody
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Marijke Katsburg wrote:Thank you, Nathanael, for reminding me of my subscription at Echonet a few months ago... I found them, back then, in my search for these very moringa seeds! So now I immediately ordered the seeds. Thanks again. And for the other advice as well.



You're welcome Marijke!

And please keep us updated on this project! Perhaps you could start your own thread, either in "projects" or "Africa" so we can follow along. I'd love to keep talking. ..
 
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Location: Mohave Desert, AZ
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Marijke, hello from AZ.

Have you considered planting a couple of groundcover seeds to shade the ground and the tree seedlings when they emerge? 
I use drought tolerant beans usually cowpeas, because they are handy for me.  They become mulch.

Consider contacting Native Seed Search located in AZ.  They specialize in seeds for dry climates.  They are also a good educational resource for dry climate gardens and crops.  In fact, their next class in centered on "planting with the monsoons".  They donate seed to various projects here in AZ.  I don't know if their seed bank extends to your country, but I think it will be worth your time contacting them.
https://www.nativeseeds.org/

Another AZ organization to try would be the Desert Legume Program (DELEP).  (a joint project of the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and the Boyce Thompson Arboretum)  DELEP distributes samples of seeds, subject to availability, to individuals and organizations in the U.S. and overseas.  The link to this program is:
https://cals.arizona.edu/desertlegumeprogram/storage.html

It is a great idea to plant with the monsoons.  I am preparing right now for this event as well.  I like to have all my seeds ready and in 1 place ahead of time.  I start planting as soon as the rain begins.

Best of luck!
 
Marijke Katsburg
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Yes Juanita, I already have a stock of dry beans to add, too. The same system as we use here annually in June, July when sowing corn, pumpkin and beans on non-irregated lands, just before the (hopefully) wet season. Thanks for your input and the links. I will look into them first thing tomorrow (as our day is over right now Ain't life an adventure...! I get so much energy out of this reactions!
 
Marijke Katsburg
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Konstantinos Karoubas wrote:Thank You for writing Marijke,

Sorry to hear that your land/country is so bare...good luck with the reforestation efforts...

For us here, there is a 100 to 1 cost advantage in using seeds to reforest, as opposed to planting trees; in addition, the resulting forest is a higher quality forest.

Its not easy, and we need to be patient...the idea is to cover the earth with trees, shrubs or grasses year round...this will lower the ground temperatures and bring in more rains etc etc.

There is going to be a trial and failure period, where you try different seeds...I have listed here what has worked for me...some of these seeds may also work for your area (or maybe not)....what grows at the side of the roads, may help you.

I will be glad to send you a small bag of seeds for you to try, provided its allowed by your laws...mostly I collect seeds from the fruits we eat, I purchase seeds from locals, or from a seed supplier in Italy.

Kostas



I cannot agree more: let's safe the world, at least not stop trying!
Thanks for your offer to send some seeds. I would love to have the European almond (and others) here. I will ask the local 'delegado' of Agriculture and Environment if it's possible to receive foreign seeds. For him, I think, it must be possible anyway, because he is governmental. So if I can not receive, as private person, I will ask him to receive (he is our partner in the project).
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Hello Marijke and Nathanael,

Sometimes, the main objective of this effort here, gets lost in the noise/words at large...

The idea and effort here is to find and plant seeds of grasses, shrubs, and preferably trees that can survive and thrive without any assistance....this includes watering mulching or any other human activity...

That's how the 100 to 1 advantage is achieved....

Very few trees have the ability to survive the long hot summers, especially on bare land...its even more difficult, if the land is highly compacted, stony, or lacks any top soil...


Once a piece of land has cover year round....wether that cover is grasses or trees....then ilfe becomes easier...you can then grow just about anything.

Kostas


 
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HI All,

It has been years since I checked in on this group.

I'm so thrilled to see that it is still going.

Konstantinos, any chance that you can give us a summary of the last 6 (or however many years) you've been doing this. It would be a lot to read to look though every post.

I'm wondering what it used to look like, how many acres (or hectares) the land is, how it looks now and lessons learned. If you had to start over today, what would you do (since you wouldn't need to make any mistakes - if you could bring all the knowledge back to you?  What did you accomplish. What do your neighbors think of what you've done? How big are the biggest trees now?

I can't wait to hear about it!!!

Sheri

 
Nathanael Szobody
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Konstantinos Karoubas wrote:
The idea and effort here is to find and plant seeds of grasses, shrubs, and preferably trees that can survive and thrive without any assistance....this includes watering mulching or any other human activity...




I see your point Konstantinos. The only thing that meets your criterion is an invasive species, because even your act of planting is human assistance. So would it hurt your method to throw in some leguminous ground cover seeds in your clay cubes? Some native vetch maybe? I do apologize if this has already been discussed; I have not read the whole thread.
 
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Hi Nathanael,

So would it hurt your method to throw in some leguminous ground cover seeds in your clay cubes?

  I believe he has some in his mix.  On this page, if you scroll up, there is alfalfa growing out of a cube.

Some native vetch maybe?

  I think the deciding factor on species selection is whether the plant can establish a deep water seeking tap root as soon as possible upon germination.  I do not think that vetch fits into the category, but alfalfa does.  I'm not sure what else fits the bill in the nitrogen fixing ground covers that are suitable for arid Mediterranean climates which previously suited forests.  In the case of his situation, establishing some trees and shrubs may be necessary initially for shade, moisture retention, hydrological pumps, leaf fall mulch, et cetera before many ground cover species can establish themselves at all.  I may be wrong in these thoughts, but that's where my mind goes with it.   
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Hello Sheri,

You are absolutely right, an overall summary is appropriate, but first, if I may,  I would like to finish the updates from ;last year's planting project.

The following 4 videos can serve as the start of the update.









Thank You

Kostas
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Hello Nathanael and Roberto,

You mentioned good points...incorporating legumes and native grasses will be beneficial...I been thinking for sometime to change the planting pattern...instead of placing seeds in the ground every three feet, maybe a 10 feet diameter circle can used...in this circle all the appropriate tree seeds can be planted closely together...in this circle legumes and native grasses can be planted or simply scattered..they will help the trees seeds to survive and improve the soil. The next circle can be 20 feet away. The advantage of this scheme is that we will create intense micro climate and rapid soil build up within the circle. The space in between the circles can be used by people to walk and harvest the fruits and nuts or for sheep or goats to graze, after the trees have fully grown... provided they are strictly controlled.

Its just a thought... and its only applicable to certain terrains.

Your thoughts please...

Kostas
 
Lori Whit
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Can you view successful young wild forest edges anywhere in your climate, Kostas?  Where I live there are lots of wild trees growing; they grow extremely close to one another if given the chance, and seem pretty happy that way, obviously trying to form a thick forest canopy that would gradually, in time, become old growth with wider spacing.  But all starts as thickly, close-together growing as possible, it seems.  Our human minds desire distance between plants (trees or other) for optimal plant health for an individual plant, but in the wild overall growth and soil health do seem to be more important. 

This year my (temperate) backyard has decided to sprout about a dozen nut trees--acorn and hickory, mostly. Several are very close together in groupings of 2 to 6, planted only inches apart by the squirrels.  I'm going to try to let them grow and see how they fare, if they do as they will in the wild, and grow happily together from a young age into greater maturity if not cut down.  From what I've heard, these trees don't transplant well, so the choice is to let them grow or cut them down.  I'd like to let them try as long as I can, and hopefully learn something from the natural pattern of growth.
 
Nathanael Szobody
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Konstantinos Karoubas wrote:...instead of placing seeds in the ground every three feet, maybe a 10 feet diameter circle can used...in this circle all the appropriate tree seeds can be planted closely together...in this circle legumes and native grasses can be planted or simply scattered..they will help the trees seeds to survive and improve the soil..

Your thoughts please...

Kostas



Brilliant!

What you're describing is a guild,  where several species are mutually beneficial. I'm no expert on the Mediterranean climate, but I have been observant on my trips there. It seems you would benefit from an anchor species that is likely to survive anything: cork oak? Also, with extensive dryness, you're guild would benefit from a succulent; I've foraged prickly pear that were thriving along the Mediterranean. Additionally, a leguminous tree would make sense for soil fertility: carob seems to suggest itself. And I've loved foraging the strawberry tree in Spain (Arbutus unedo). Do you have that? It would be another food addition to your guild.

Just some ideas from my limited experience, but you can see what is growing wild and easily around you. I would really think about incorporating prickly pear though;  a succulent--as I only just learned from Bryant Redhawk--will not only survive the dry spells, but also cultivate the soul biology inside itself until the soul is moist again. Plus,  they're delicious!
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Hello Lori,

Absolutely right about the spacing and about how trees are happy and healthy close together….could not agree more.

Most of the mountain ranges in Greece are covered with conifers. ..they grow as they please obviously, and it's a joy to hike among them….I hope they can survive the coming changes in the climate, but if we are prudent we will have a plan in place for new trees that can replace the conifers, if they begin to die as expected….

There is a mountain in northern Greece, near the village of Loutraki….the mountain is called Kaimaktsalan...there I experienced a forest like you describe. ..multi level forest...grasses shrubs and a large variety of trees all growing together happily and healthy…..while the conifer mountains are susceptible to disease and fire, this mountain I suspect can survive easily fires, diseases and climate changes !!!

My thinking with the circles is that with many trees in each circle, we will mimic the forest you describe….the space in between will allow humans to harvest the fruits and vegetables. By accident we created this at our farm...it's described on page 12 of this thread. That's where the idea came from.

It's great nature brought you these trees….as some say...they came to you for a reason !!!

Enjoy them, and please share them with photos…

Kostas
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Hello Nathanael,

Thank you for your input...all these are good suggestions...I did not know it was called a guild...as they say beggars can't be choosers…..whatever will grow and require no assistance is welcome in the circle...the prickly pears you mentioned are amazing….in the middle of August, when plants and humans are stressed from the heat….the cactus appears to enjoy the weather and thrives. ...an amazing plant….very very useful. ..we need to find more like it.

For nitrogen fixing laburnum works….need to be careful so people do not eat the beans...the wild strawberry is also great, if it can survive the summer heat the first year !!!

Thank you for writing. ..for some time, I been wondering about the fate of the great green wall project….you are closer to it...any info you can provide.

Kostas
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Hello everyone,

This is an update on the seeds and clay cubes we worked with this year.


This was another “unusual” year weather wise. We had very little rain in the fall..december came along, and the fields were dry and yellow, as if it was still August. The winter brought some rains, but no cold weather...no temperatures below zero. The month of May brought torrential rains...it was like the monsoon season.


We placed many different seeds in trenches to measure how they do...what percentages sprout, and how many of these survive the summer heat. These test trenches are important, they provide guidance on what seeds to use in the area, the following years.


Here is some of the info. I know its a lot, but it will be useful to anyone trying to plant trees by seed.


Apple Trees

In the last few years I had great success with apple seeds turning into trees, without any summer watering or care...this was a great surprise because store bought apple trees that I planted at our farm, struggled, and needed much care to survive the first summer, and then they are weak trees susceptible to diseases etc...not the type of a tree that I would like to have at our Fukuoka inspired natural farm.


But the seeds I collected from the store bought apples we eat, when planted in October/November sprouted, grew vigorously, and many, many survived without care. The store bought apples are refrigerated..ie cold stratified seeds, and so when they were planted, they had their dormancy broken. Apples trees grown from seed, are vigorous and healthy. We have three  apples trees, accidentally grown from seed (old compost pile)...they are 15 years old and are producing delicious apples !!!  (See page 12)


Based on this experience, last year and the previous, I purchased apple seeds from a seed company and planted many of them...some were planted in trenches to measure the rate of survival etc. None of these seeds sprouted...I suspect that it has to do with the mild weather we had...for next year, I plan to put the apple seeds for 2 months in the refrigerator to see if this will help….I was surprised at how strong and resilient the young apple trees are, and I am hoping that this will help (there is also the possibility that the seeds I bought are bad).


It's interesting to note that the almond, plum, and apricot seeds, which also require cold wet weather to sprout, did sprout and grow...it may be that the prunus family does not require as much cold, as the apples, to break the dormancy.


If any one has knowledge of the issues...your input will be appreciated...also for the cold stratification ?  I intend to put the apple seeds, dry, in a plastic bag, and put them in the refrigerator in the cold section...then take them out in November and plant them. Will this qualify as cold stratification, or do they need to be a moist environment….they will be in a moist environment from November on….The other issue  that needs to be investigated is the planting date….why not plant these cold stratified seeds in February or March….will they grow...this gives us another window to plant trees….Apple trees are so important, that it is worth examining these issues.


Clay Cubes


I have enclosed a photo from a clay cube that sprouted in the past (2007)...it's  beautiful sight to see !!!

None of the clay cubes sprouted this year...above I discussed the weather etc….it should be noted that the clay cubes stayed intact….they did not dissolve in spite of all the rains we had in May...so I view the use of straw from the alfalfa plants as a success.


In some of the cubes we had plum seeds, almond and apricot seeds. Plums, almonds and apricots sprouted nearby and are growing in the ground near the cubes.... So the fact these seeds did not sprout in the clay cubes, cannot be attributed to the weather, or to the seeds. It's clearly the way I made the cubes.


Will need to try harder to come up with a better mix, additives….something…Clay cubes can be powerful tool, used with drones, planes etc….but I think my dry climate, makes it difficult to work with them….I know there is a solution !!!


Seeds in Test Trenches


Before proceeding with placing large quantities of a seed in the ground, we need to test to make sure this particular seed (tree, shrub, plant) has the qualities we need. Very few species can survive the brutal summer heat. Unless the tests show that a tree has 30 , 40 50 % and above survival rate, there is no point wasting time.


Some species even though we are sure they will do well, in reality cannot survive. I tried pines, many types of acacias, including robinia, but they sprouted and all died in the heat of July. Robinia and pines, I was convinced 15 plus years ago (and many many people assured me), that they will do just fine… I placed many seeds in the ground...they did not survive...and apples !!!  I was sure would do poorly, did well.


So we need to test each type to make sure it has the desired qualities….for different regions, different species will be appropriate...The medick tree may do well in San Diego and poorly in South Africa or China….If we decide to do mass seed placement (in the tens of thousands or more)...its worth to invest the time to investigate and observe…


If I had observed closely 18 plus years ago, I would have noted almond trees growing by the side of the road, as well as wild pears, plus prunus spinoza, plums, as well as a few apple trees…


Of all the seeds I placed in the test trenches in October, the plums have survived and the oak trees are doing well...the plums I already knew would do well. The Quercus ilex oak is a pleasant surprise, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that they will survive the summer and become one of the trees I can rely on.


Medick tree...I threw a handful of these seeds with their covers/coats in three trenches...as far as I can see, 1 or 2 seeds sprouted...the young tree is currently alive…”handful” of seeds is a lot...why did so few sprout ?  Upon further examination...I collected the seeds in August, I threw the seeds along with their covers in a bag….and then used them in the trenches in October.


A few days ago, I collected seeds again, I opened up the covers that hold the seeds. The seeds inside the covers that are dried up (yellow), are also dry and dead !!!


The seed covers that are partially green have seeds that are alive….in conclusion….the seeds I used, were dead, and I need to try again...not sure at what point to collect seeds...yellow and they are dried up, completely green and they may not be viable...trial and error I guess.


Scared Koelreuteria, gleditsia, and carob seeds were also placed in trenches...as discussed in previous posts, very few of the Koelreuteria and gleditsia seeds sprouted. It should be noted that the trenches are at our farm, and the Koelreuteria trees love to grow there, as well as the gleditsia...so it may be just a bad year, and we should try both trees again in the next years….in trenches before mass seeding…


Other seeds we tested and did not sprout at all, included olives, pomegranate, goji berry, elaeagnus umbellata, prunus spinosa, sorbus domestica, crataegus ...we will try these again for 2, 3 years in trenches, before abandoning them….



Seeds in hard surfaces


In a town near Thessaloniki, there are three abandoned stone quarries...they are hugh an eye sore, and a scar on the earth...the possibilities are endless for this space, including community gardens trees etc.


I placed a few plum seeds there, to see what will happen. In places where there is a bit of topsoil, the young trees sprouted and survived to early June...in places where there was a hard gravelly surface, the seeds sprouted then turned yellow soon thereafter...I wonder, if a small hole was dug, say 12 inches, and filled with nearby topsoil, if the young plum trees would survive the 1st summer. The other question is how can we “green” this ugly wound on the surface if the earth, with the least effort…what is the min input max output solution to this ?


But the conclusion of the experience is that trees planted with seeds, will not survive, if they have difficulties penetrating the soil or subsoil during the 1st few months of their life….they have a hard time surviving the heat and lack of water….if we add a hard surface, it appears they cannot overcome it. I am sure there are species that will adapt to this environment...I have seen fig trees grow in stone, maybe wild pear trees, capers, or the medick tree…


But if we are going to do large scale reforestation, where thousands of seeds are placed in the ground, its best to pick places where there is some top soil.


Kostas


q1-2007.JPG
[Thumbnail for q1-2007.JPG]
Clay Cube trees sprouting
q2-2007.JPG
[Thumbnail for q2-2007.JPG]
Clay Cube trees sprouting
 
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Hi Kostas,

about your questions on the cold stratification:

-The seeds need to be kept humid in the fridge for the stratification to happen. If the seeds are dry, nothing happens.

-different species have different requirements for the cold stratification, and it also changes within a species: some varieties need a longer time than others, and you can select within a few generation for sprouting without cold stratification. Some species (for example Crataegus if I remember well) may need more than one winter of cold stratification to sprout. And it gets even more interesting (= complicated...) with hazelnuts, who may have a deep dormancy lasting many years if they were dried. This reply is maybe not helpful, but keep in mind: try out for a few years, it may take some time.

For Quercus ilex: I love this tree. Do you know that there are sweet cultivars, which you can eat like chestnuts? For planting them, mixing the seeds with a mycorrhiza species helps with the growth. Several restauration projects I know of have awful survival and growth rates which can be improved by adding some compost with the right biota.

By the way, thanks for your updates, I usually do not reply to each post but enjoy reading them.

All the best
 
Roberto pokachinni
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maybe a 10 feet diameter circle can used...in this circle all the appropriate tree seeds can be planted closely together...in this circle legumes and native grasses can be planted or simply scattered..they will help the trees seeds to survive and improve the soil. The next circle can be 20 feet away. 

  I think this is a great idea.  Over time these will build up moisture pumping stations from the deep roots, as well as litter reservoirs from the dropping of leaves and small branches, This will aid greatly in hydrating not only the circles but the areas in between them.  In time, as well, the extended root systems from the circles will join with each other, sharing information and nutrients within their fungal partners, as they become a synergistic whole. 

My only thought negative to this, is that the distance between circles (20 feet) might be too far for each circle to get the best benefit from the next closest ones; and so those huge benefits of the forest patches linking and becoming one will be much further in the future, rather than sooner.  Of course this last point I make will have to be balanced with the need to cover as large an area as possible.  You seem to be a very good judge of what you are doing.  I only add this, since you asked for thoughts on the circle idea.   All the best to you and your incredible dream.
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Hello Sheri,

I will do the best to provide a summary of the project so far and a general discussion of the objectives.

The cost of planting trees the conventional way, is relatively high in time and money. In comparison... putting seeds in the ground costs much less. The drawback with seeds is that you have to wait for 15 plus years before the trees start producing fruits or are fully grown;and it depends on soil conditions and the microclimate.

Let's say I wanted to plant 15 plum trees by the side of the road, as a gift to the passersby, to the wild life, nature etc etc. If I bought trees, I would have to content with the cost to buy the trees, digging the holes, watering, and watering all summer long, as needed; the positive with this course of action, is that within a year or two, the trees would start producing fruits of certain known quality. The costs of money and time add up, and are prohibitive for a volunteer to plant even just 15 trees.

On the other hand if I saved 50 plum seeds from the previous year (or bought them), and if I spend 10 minutes of my time, I will get at least 15 plums to sprout and survive. If due to the weather etc, the trees do not survive, I will repeat this again next year and the next; after all, it is just 10 minutes and no funds have been used. The benefit... trees grown from seed, are drought resistant and stronger trees, plus you will get a large variety of fruits (in 15 years).

Sometime back (from memory), I had estimated a cost of 5 euros for planting and caring for trees, as opposed to 2,5 to 5 cents for trees from seeds...Putting costs on this is difficult, but if one were to think only in terms of time and human energy...I can easily plant 1500 plum trees for the same amount of time it would take to buy plant and care for 15 trees !!!

The problem is that most trees and shrubs, planted by seed, cannot survive on their own during the summer months.

I think, that for every place on earth, there are a few trees shrubs or plants, that like to grow there, and do so abundantly, without any human help. They can be used to cover the ground, lower the ground temperature, improve the soil (create organic matter), and provide the conditions needed to plant other variety of trees.

For the area around Thessaloniki, the trees that fit the above description, are
Almonds
Apricots
Wild pears
Plums
Apples
Laburnum
….this year I am hoping that  oak, Quercus ilex will join this list

I am delighted and grateful to have these trees, and some of these will work throughout Greece….this means that they can serve as a starting point for anyone working in Mediterranean climates...that's a lot of land !!!

Trees that may work, but need to be further examined, include
Medick tree
Prunus spinosa
Crataegus
Olive tree
Pomegranates
Koelreuteria
Gleditsia
Goji berries
Elaeagnus umbellata
Grapes
I am sure I gorgetting some

Once ground cover has been achieved, and the soil has improved, then young bare root trees like the mulberry tree grapes and others can be added and they will survive the summers without care.

If we get to this point with a piece of land, we are there...nirvana...the land of plenty etc etc
The point is, that it is not difficult to get there...it's simple !!!

Around 2012 we discovered that almonds can withstand the summer heat...and that was the only tree we knew would survive...we placed almonds every 10 feet at the side of the road near Thessaloniki, for 2 kilometers or so...the next year and year after, we placed more almonds there as needed to fill in the spots where trees died. Some of these trees are only about 20 inches tall, while others are 3 feet...its a red clay soil with pine trees nearby...in another 4 to 10 years they will begin to bloom, and I hope it will be a beautiful sight to see.

As previously stated, around 500 seeds per hour can be placed in the ground, if the land is flat and soft...seeds are placed in the ground October and November, so they have a chance to break the dormancy.

As noted in the recent videos there are 3 pieces of land we are reforesting near Thessaloniki..EK 1, EK 2 and TR 1...the MK 1 area, we abandoning….stray dogs and wild pigs, make the task difficult.

About half hour south of Thessaloniki a piece of land about 3,000 square meters has been planted….essentially waiting for the trees to grow there...see video above 2018 08 11 Update Petra ND.

Near Athens, last year, I spend, maybe an hour, and put seeds in the ground, at an area that was burned...Athens has brutal summertime temperatures...it will be interesting to see how they do.

Outside of Sparta, I have placed seeds at elevations of 250 meters to 1000 meters. At these places, I am essentially exploring to see what will grow. Once I know, then I can expand the energy to put thousands of seeds in the ground.

The biggest impact that we have is on our own farm near Thessaloniki. In the last 18 years, its been transformed from a bare piece of land, with poor soil with no organic matter, to a healthy and vigorous natural farm, with many many trees growing from seed...year by year the soil is improving and the trees are providing us with plenty of fruits…This farm helps me see the future of the areas we are reforesting.

Masanobu Fukuoka, San was brilliant !!! we owe him…

I hope this helps...any questions, please let me know.


Kostas



 
Nathanael Szobody
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Thanks so much for the summaries for us late-comers. I'm surprised you do not have fig on your list--or some hardy Ficus species. Aren't they native there? Or is it not possible to plant Ficus trees with your method since they have such small seeds?
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Thanks for the info Hans,

I checked with someone in Ikaria I know...the variety of oaks they have there, are not edible by humans...great food for the pigs he said…

Anymore advice on how to cold stratify the apple seeds….put them in moist compost and put them in the frig...how often do you open them, if you have hands on experience…


Roberto, thanks for your input...good points...I think I may actually give the circles a try this winter. ..see how they are actually in real life, then make adjustments as needed…

Nathanael, it would be great if we can find a way to use figs...mother nature plants them all the time around here...but we are nowhere near as smart as mother.
I tried to use them in the past, with no success…


Kostas
 
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What about growing loquats from seed with the clay cubes?They are very drought tolerant.But i don;t know how long their seeds can be stored to remain viable.
 
hans muster
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Dear Kostas,

The cold stratification need of apples are very variable depending on the variety, some varieties are said to need no stratification at all. Maybe you could try different varieties adapted to your climate(s)? If the apples are growing and producing historically in your area, they were probably sprouting by themselves in spring if sown in automn. So the seed of your local varieties are probably sprouting better than northern varieties from the shop.
If you buy seeds, try a few months in the fridge, they do not take up much space.

I just cold stratified some Prunus and Diospyros in the fridge and outdoors: in the fridge I used an empty plastic box where I pierced tiny holes for the oxygen exchange, and filled some of them with wet sand and some of them with wet activated carbon (charcoal pieces). Additionally, I buried some seeds in sand outdoors, in a shaded spot behind the house. All stratification worked (as I am I a cold climate), and the one outdoors requires the least work but a fast reaction in spring. If you miss the spring, you risk to break the sprouts while seeding. You could also seed already in autumn if there is no risk of wildlife eating the seeds or of grasses overcrowding the seeds. If you use the fridge, you are less dependent on the weather, and can start seeding a bit later.

Have you tried mulberries? If no, I can send you some seeds. It’s better than them being eaten by my slugs.


 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Hello (Geia sou) Panagioti,

I love loquats... looked into them….from what I read, they dry out, and you need to keep them in a moist environment, until they are planted. If you have experience with them please let us know...

How do you keep them from drying out for 5 months, in a simple easy way…



Hello Hans,

Apples are so important to life, that it is important spending time to learn to work with them….The “native” apples that I know around here, are at high altitudes... 1000 meters and above...the lower elevation apple trees are store bought varieties…

At this stage I need about 5 to 10,000 seeds per year, so I have to buy them from a seed company and cold stratify them.

So…. put them in moist sand,  in a plastic box, with holes, and store in the fridge for 2 months...add water every week ?...is this needed ? or  take them out of the frig to breath? I would like to do this so its successful, but with the least amount of effort (max min rule must apply).

Thanks for the offer on mulberries, I have about 10 trees at our farm...love this tree...I plan to transplant them bare root, at some of the seeding sites, and see if they survive the 1st summer without watering…

Thanks for the input.

Kostas



 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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How did I forget.!!!

On this above list opuntia, Cactus pears should be added.... All you have to do is throw a pad on the ground and it will grow roots... Provide food and fruits for all... Makes great fire break...

Kostas
 
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