I think this would depend on where you are, what kind, and how small you're talking about. I don't think there's a universal good source of all plants at a good price, but if you know which plants you're looking for, then it's much easier to narrow it down to the relevant suppliers.
Often farmers will bring extra seedlings to the market with their produce during the appropriate planting season. I think most of them start from seed and then when they have finished planting for their own farms they sell the excess starts. Google can probably help you find the farmer's markets so you can talk with the local growers.
Something else that occurs to me, not every young plant is called a seedling when it is small. Trees and shrubs are probably marketed as saplings, many perennials are sold as cuttings, sweet potatoes are sold as slips. I can think of a few other terms that might be used. Could it be a terminology issue rather than a lack of suppliers?
Very good point about the terminology!
Maybe I'll see some baby trees (all inclusive) at the farmer's market later this year, I hope so.
We are in the process of buying a dead, no topsoil piece of land in Texas. I want to fill it up with many kinds of trees.
My propagating skills has a low success rate, and is hampered by the fact that I have to sneak cuttings from people's trees, haha.
As you don't say what part of Texas, I'm going to proceed with suggestions as if you were in my area. If you're further west you may be able to adapt these ideas to work with water harvesting techniques and/or irrigation. I'm also going to guess that you're talking a fairly large acreage rather than the half acreyard I'm working with. Small spaces can be a complete game changer.
I'm pretty sure that if you're anywhere from central Texas east that all you would need mulch piles (I use wood chips from landscapers mostly) and the squirrels would work for you. The squirrels fill my mulch with pecans and acorns every year and so I spend a lot of time weeding small trees from my gardens. Most stone fruits are easy to grow this way and come close to true from seed. If you've got areas of your property that you're not immediately going to be developing, this can be a cheap and effective way to get something growing there, even if they are only nurse trees for the eventual crop species. This would be a good time of year to gather wild seed, possibly from local nitrogen fixers that could start developing your soils.
Growing your own fruit and nut trees from seed is not some herculean task that should only be done by trained experts. All the named varieties of fruits and nuts where started from a common everyday seed. Someone was just paying attention and had the marketing skills to capitalize on a good plant. Most citrus, and most stone fruits come true to type from seed. Here's a discussion started by one man who has very good success growing apple trees from seed https://permies.com/t/52696/trees/growing-apple-trees-seed.
I'm also of the belief that seed grown trees have stronger, more extensive root systems and so are more drought tolerant. Most stone fruits start fruiting within a couple of years. As much as people want immediate results, time passes faster than you think. I know, even in my 1/2 acre, I've found room for a couple of trees that I don't expect to get a harvest from for more than a decade.
Really I'm playing a little bit of the fantasy game of 'if I only had acres to work with'. Actually, as I think on it, there may be a place where I could get away with trying this. I know an undeveloped lot in a small town here where the owner wouldn't mind if I wanted to try starting fruit trees on their land. Right now all that grows there is scrub oaks and cedar. Maybe I need to haul a load of seeds and mulch out there myself. It's almost the perfect time of year to start, it gives me just enough time to plan and obtain the official go ahead. Thank you for the inspiration.
The property is east of Waco, severe farm country.
Used to live in San Antonio and have an organic garden + water harvesting.
I just got into permaculture, mostly because of all the issues I encountered gardening.
I am the definition of newbie in this regard, so forgive my ignorance.
Please fantasize away! I honestly need all the ideas I can get. The mulch piles would work well for me, since there are lots of mesquite that need to be chopped. Do you keep those mulch piles in a shaded area? I have a hard time determining how much sun my baby trees need. Thank you for the apple seed link, tree seeds are not my strong side so I need some pointers
As far as property goes, there is soooo much not being used! The problem is that landowners seem hesitant to advertise.
What nitrogen fixing crop would you recommend here? Something that can grow in the clay?
My first order of business is improving the soil, and stop the water run off, but I can't get animals until a year from now so I'm limited.
I just pile the mulch everywhere I plant. It doesn't change the sunlight recommendations or plants. Keep the wood on the top and you won't have an issue with soil nitrogen becoming tied up. Landscapers wood chips are especially good because they include a very high ratio of green leaves and bark which include a more complete balance of plant nutrients. Research ramial wood chips if you want to read the studies.
Mesquite is actually fairly well known as a nitrogen fixer, so the best soil on the property very possibly might be where you're taking those trees out. I grew up with an old mature one in our front yard and we always had healthy grass growing in the dappled shade (and the only care our grass gets is mowing) I also remember the thorns, which is the only reason I'm not suggesting you keep them.
Mimosa is a short lived nitrogen fixing tree that gives a similar dappled shade. It also has a long blooming season that brings in pollinators like hummingbirds and bees. I'm growing olive trees to try an get that same kind of dappled shade growing over some of my vegetable gardens. The seed pods are probably hanging off your neighbors trees right now. This is a tree that has a reputation for becoming weedy, so I wouldn't spend money buying one.
If you are having problems getting trees to grow because of the clay, you might think about planting in small mounds. That's actually the recommended strategy to keep peaches alive in this area. It doesn't need to be very high or elaborate just a few inches will improve drainage around the roots and help stop a lot of problems before they start.
For smaller than tree sized nitrogen fixers, you're pretty much gonna want to plant legumes. That would be clovers, black medic, any kind of bean, lupines (yes, bluebonnets qualify). I keep rotating different eating beans through my vegetable gardens and leave any 'weed' that I know fixes nitrogen. At the most I'll prune it back (chop and drop) if it's physically crowding out my cropping plant. This is one of the many reasons it pays to know your weeds. I don't get much use out of knowing the edible weeds, but I use all the nitrogen fixers.
This is actually the start of planting season for bluebonnets, but the seeds can be expensive. If you want, I'd be willing to save seed at the end of next season (which would be June) I've been growing them in my front lawn for the last few years. The blue bonnets shade out all the grass in that corner until the temperatures are already in the 90's and the rains are almost gone. Right now it's the thickest grass in the yard. I'm probably going to have to give it a very short cut soon, so that the bluebonnet seeds can get enough light to germinate.
Even if you can't get domesticated animals, don't underestimate the value of wild ones. Something as simple as encouraging the wild flowers can go a long way to improving conditions where you garden. I don't think you can start encouraging pollinators or predatory insects too early. The more insects you bring in, the more birds, toads, snakes, ect. Most of the next level of predators will also hunt your squirrels, mice, and rabbits. Every level of this system will be adding their own small contributions of manures and nutrient rich carcasses to your soil.