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Guerrilla Gardening With Fruit Trees

 
Andrew Michaels
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I'm obsessed with fruit. I get most of my calories from the stuff, and it makes me feel great. What I want to do is start planting some fruit trees around my city, albeit on the sly, cause I know that the city would not be pleased.

It makes me sad that there are starving people in the city but no one thinks to build up a stock of fruit trees that can deliver hundreds of thousands of calories to them at no cost. Nature takes care of everything.

I'll be starting small, and I think I'll start off in odd, neglected parts of the city's parks, rather than in abandoned plots, etc.

I won't be planting fully-grown trees (expensive and too flashy), but prefer to start by growing from seed/pit.

Does anyone know how old a tree sprouted from a pit should be before you transplant it? How can you best prepare the soil where you'll plant it? How do you care for it afterwards?
 
Leah Sattler
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I would imagine they just need to be big enough to avoid being mowed over or eaten down by deer or other varmints depending on exactly where you are planting them. Have you considered asking a local few churchs if you can use their property to plant an orchard? then you wouldn't have to be sneaky about it.
Unless that is what makes it fun 
 
paul wheaton
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Your trees will probably be much better if you can cut a piece of green wood from an existing tree.  The seeds come from two parents and the resulting fruit is often not as desirable. 

You will have much better success with your tree if you mulch it heavily, but don't let the mulch touch the tree.

For the first two years you will probably need to baby it along  a bit.

There is a park on n 105th st just a little east of lake city way.  Meadowbrook?  A fella did exactly what you are describing.  There is now a healthy bunch of fruit bearing stuff there!  And the parks department has adopted it - although they just let it grow wild.
 
                            
Posts: 22
Location: FL
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Hey Rustic, I posted about propagation and care in your other thread. I think guerrilla gardening is an awesome idea! Check out http://www.guerrillagardening.org/ for some inspirational videos. Also, I hear seedbombs are useful as well.
 
Kelda Miller
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I'm overwhelmed right now with the amount of free fruit I can get just biking around and seeing heavily bearing trees in odd places. So this is just a big shout out for gleaning.

I've got some fruit trees in a nursery I'd like to plant around town too. But just learning how to tap the harvest that's already here will take some practice (for the whole community, not just me).

Also, as far as guerrilla goes, I'd look for landscaped areas like for office buildings etc. that are already being irrigated. Chances are noone who works in the office even know what grows outside, and they hire landscapers who come by every couple weeks. If your stuff looks 'regular' enough (like a standard size, and spaced in sync with the rest of the plantings) then they'll do the irrigating and mulching for you
 
                            
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Location: FL
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Yea I remember how awesome it was just walking around Portland, Oregon. So many awesome fruit trees everywhere. Someone even made a website to document the locations of un-harvested fruit trees.

But Kelda I think you are fortunate, as not every town has this opportunity for gleaning. The suburban wasteland where I'm currently staying outside of Tampa, Florida has almost nothing but strip malls and desolate lawns. Occasionally there is a barely edible banana or wild sour orange, but that's about it.
 
Susan Monroe
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Location: Western WA
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I don't know much about guerrilla gardening, but I was recently reading the book Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands (Vol 2) by Brad Lancaster.  He tells about a clever man who plants trees on his bare outside-town desert property in Arizona.  He digs a hole in the shape of an oval.  He places a large stack of junk mail, newspaper (etc) in one end of the hole and fills the hole with water, soaking the paper. When the water level drops, he plants the tree right beside it, and covers up both with soil.  He checked back a few months later (in summer) and found that the paper was still damp, the tree was getting moisture from the stack of moist paper, and the survival ratio of his trees improved immensely.

Also consider making a kind of water trap/catch basin that leads small amounts of rainfall to the young trees.  This book tells you how to do that, too.

This book is second in a series of three, but I don't believe the third one is out yet.  Lots of info, applicable to many areas and climates, and many drawings so you know exactly what he's talking about.  Highly recommended.

Sue
 
              
Posts: 133
Location: West Iowa
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Peaches grow good fruit from seed.  So if you eat tons of peaches a year, you could plant the pits in a nursery.  They should be a couple feet or so in one year, and then you can transplant them around in the waste areas. 

My peach pit factory


 
Dave Boehnlein
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Location: Orcas Island, WA
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I would say that the successful (and happy) guerrilla fruit tree planter has to make a mental shift. All the advice regarding the how-to's is good, but if you're going to do it you need to be aware that a lot of the trees you plant are going to be brutally killed. This can be heart wrenching, especially if you're glassy eyed with hope for the future of your beautiful, fruit-bearing babies.

This goes for folks who are renting, as well. Anything you stick in the ground is subject to the whims of the landscaping crew, the owner, or the future tenants. There may be less heartbreak for the guerrilla planter if they are operating in the realm of annuals. A weed whacked melon plant carries less sting than a weed whacked peach tree that has been growing for three years simply because of the time you've invested.

In order to minimize the heartbreak factor, you need to maintain a certain attitude of detachment. Plant a lot in a lot of different places and know that you will have low survival percentages. And in terms of the mechanics, make sure it looks like it's SUPPOSED to be there. Mulch ring, stake, tree cage (if necessary), rabbit protection, and, of course, a little ring of "beauty bark" around it. I wouldn't hesitate to tap into the existing irrigation system and get water to your tree as well (if you've got the skills). If it doesn't look good, it doesn't stand a chance. Also, keep in mind the principle of least effort for greatest effect. Don't bother planting a big ring of seeds around the soccer field where they are almost guaranteed to get trampled. Focus on the neglected areas, or places where disturbance is minimal.

Good luck!

Dave
 
              
Posts: 133
Location: West Iowa
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Also remember that if you do plant any vegetables or fruit in an area, makes sure it isn't full of chemicals. 
And as Dave said, most of the trees will die.  The main tree I use for guerrilla purposes is willow.  Its a simple easily propagated tree, and I throw them in ditches all over the place.   Domestic and wild animals take their share, weather can play a role too in killing them, and also humans take out a share also.  But, if I have 1 out of 20 make it, its all worth it.   
 
paul wheaton
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lkz5ia,

So, are you drying the pits on the sidewalk?

And are you planting hundreds of pits all at once because only 1 out of 100 will germinate?

 
Susan Monroe
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
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In Brad Lancaster's book Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Vol 2,  he describes how to increase success with guerrilla-type gardening in the desert.

The book says to look for gentle slope, with just a few degrees of slope (steeper slope will create a scouring effect).  The slope collects rainfall and mulch and gravity guides it downhill.  Create shallow water catchment basins on the downslope side in the form of a C, with the opening facing upslope to catch the water. Rim the lower edge with rocks or debris wood to catch sediment and mulch.

You can add some nutrients if you have them, or just collect mulch, which will break down into nutrients as the tree grows.  Plant the tree inside the basin.

Timing is rather important here, as rainfall is imperative to the plan.  Planting in winter, the seed will stay moist and some will need that winter chilling to sprout.  You can do it in drier weather if you use seed balls (see Seed Balls thread in Organics), which will just sit there, protected from birds and rodents until there is enough rain to soften the seed ball and allow the seeds to sprout.

He also says a friend of his plants seedling trees this way, but makes a double-wide hole.  In one half of the hole he buries an old phonebook or a big stack of junk mail, in the other half he plants the seedling.  Then he soaks the junk mail with with water, which acts as a moisture reservoir for the tree.  He said he has dug down to the junk mail in the middle of summer and it was still damp (in Arizona!).

Sue
 
              
Posts: 133
Location: West Iowa
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paul wheaton wrote:
lkz5ia,

So, are you drying the pits on the sidewalk?

And are you planting hundreds of pits all at once because only 1 out of 100 will germinate?




Paul, I wouldn't say exactly that my intention was to dry the peach pits(because too much moisture loss would be bad).  Just a convenient place to throw them after eating them.  Then I can plant them all at once, once the peach season was over.  The germination rates I expect to be high.  The problem is when they get planted out of the nursery, alot can perish for tons of different reasons.  I already have like 70 peach trees that are about 4ft tall in the nursery that I will be planting out next spring.  I hope to use some as rootstock and graft onto them.
 
paul wheaton
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So if I were just wanting some peach trees, I might plant a pit every foot or so.  Maybe one in ten will make it to maturity?  So I'll have a tree every ten feet or so?

 
Steve Nicolini
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Maybe.  I think there are other factors, like which peach type it is.  Also, the sunlight, soil content and pH will probably have a lot to do with the success rate.  In the PNW, according to Dave, the frost peach has the best success rate and defense against peach leaf curl (looks pretty nasty).
 
laura sharpe
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I had exactly the same idea in many ways. You see years ago this town was full of apple trees but some blight or another got them....back in the 70s or 80s....before i was born of course....the number of fruit bearing trees has not been returned to the town at all.

I actually live in a town house, complete with condo association and they have not seen fit to replant any fruiting trees at all. I thought I would like to fix that.

Here is my suggestion....At the end of the season the nurseries sell off fruit trees at a small price, i got my apple tree for five american dollars and it came in dirt....bare root trees need to be watched so much more. These trees are large enough to withstand animals and mowing. I want to go around town and just plant them without permission just dig a big old hole put it in and settle it down and hope. No staking, none of my selfishly horded compost....just a good hole and a nice drink and let them go....if i see leaves near by, i would put them on the bare dirt as mulch. There it is, the five dollar tree. If you only do a few a year it doesnt matter since they will more likely than the home seeded ones survive and bare desirable fruits. If no rains came, i would probably visit each for a second drink of water.

Keep in mind most fruit trees cross pollinate so plant two different apples near each other etc. We want flowers...we want fruit!
 
Tom Reeve
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Location: Seal Harbor, ME
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Do you have a land bank that might want to work with you on this? Fruit trees on their properties might make them more desirable to buyers. Until then, which can be decades they could be open to the public. How about working with your local beautification non profit? Maybe they have in roads to doing this above ground (pun intended). This might cut down on losses from city workers etc
 
Lucio Cavalca
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Hi guys, this is my first post. I'm Lucio from Parma Italy and I have recently joined tranistion town group.

Our plan is very big, to give "food sovereignty" (hope this translation is correct) to our city and we just started to create an urban orchard in a public area without asking and without any permission.
We are at the beginning, and at the moment we have planted 11 fruit trees in an external district. Now we have a bit of stop because we are going to follow training course about fruit trees, but we will re-start to plant soon other trees.

Now we are going to ask to our comunication group to support us with information for citizens, a website with our plan, map of the trees and so on... this is very important because we need people understand what we are doing, support us, and start to take care of those trees.

During the spring we will start also a veggies garden between those trees.... but we think orchard is the first step.

I will let you know







 
chris glazier
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Location: noth western michigan, petoskey
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I want/ed to do this but a more rural situation. I was thinking of ordering an extra budle of "some usefull native tree" and plant them around in small groups to assure I always know where to go picking something. Great idea
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
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Location: North Central Michigan
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I love to sneak fruits and nuts into hedgerows and roadsides when I'm walking or whatever. I often take pockets full of nuts or berries with me when I walk and plant them along the roadsides, I also have an open field (used to be) that I put in bits of nuts, fruits and berries of every kind I can find, and it is now getting some good growth going.

I also love to give baby trees to neighbors and friends to plant, and I tend to go along dirt roads behind the road graders and get the little seedlings in the loose soil graded up along side the road..generally evergreens which make great windbreaks and privacy screens...if you look on my blog almost all of those evergreens you see have been replanted from the wild.

Also several of our apple trees here grew from bait piles that were put out years ago when people were hunting wild whitetail deer on the property..and they are great apples
 
laura sharpe
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I think the best way to insure they are not run over by mowers is to dig up a fair size around each tree...those tossing pits have less of an investment in each tree...I put those flags over smaller things to keep the mowers away.

You really do have to understand city employees, the guy who mows isnt the guy who orders and plants new trees etc. If the tree is in the middle of the lawn and they see it, they will simply mow around it...not a second thought. My local condo association will be more difficult to fool.
 
frank larue
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Dave Boehnlein wrote:I would say that the successful (and happy) guerrilla fruit tree planter has to make a mental shift. All the advice regarding the how-to's is good, but if you're going to do it you need to be aware that a lot of the trees you plant are going to be brutally killed. This can be heart wrenching, especially if you're glassy eyed with hope for the future of your beautiful, fruit-bearing babies.


So true, my buddies and I have been working on guerrilla projects in Brooklyn for three years now. Every space, every one of them, has been sprayed down, mowed, built over, and even guarded by police all day to prevent any access. the last part left us dumbfounded, of all the brutalizing the NYPD is busy doing, we can't believe our trees and shrubs in a public vacant lot were a threat enough to require two police posted in front at all times.

Since our last loss, none of us have recovered. Heed Dave's words, detachment is something I should have worked up towards, and expect that the living system you endeavor to stabilize will be destroyed before you get to see it take off on its own.
 
Sean Banks
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If you are going to do guerilla gardening I would use native species. Natives are much more adaptable than exotic species like apples. Apples will have a hard time competing with forest species as succession takes place. You will have to clear an area for them. The good news is that there are native alternatives to the exotics...for example here on the east coast there is American Plum, American Persimmon, Wild Ginger, PawPaw, Black Walnut, American Hazelnut, Red Mulberry, and countless other species that actually thrive on neglect and are able to reproduce by themselves.
 
Jay Hayes
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Location: Missouri
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I saw this awhile back. Something about the perniciousness agreed with me. Guerilla grafting seems like a much sneakier way to garner the means to the delicious ends. Jebus knows there are more than enough flowering ornamental cherries and Bradford pears in the public commons to feed and army(with a bit of grafting) in my neck of the woods.

http://www.fastcoexist.com/1679037/guerrilla-grafters-splicing-fruit-bearing-branches-onto-city-trees

J
 
Lucio Cavalca
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Hi guys,

here in Parma (Italy) we started our project.

We don't want to call it guerrilla gardening any more, because it is becoming much more.

I think we are planning to create a new free system opposite to economical system: ok ok just thinking at the moment, but probably we will have a big crisis soon here, and we need to start to grown up our food all together. that's why we are not doing guerrilla but planning a new system.

We have planted 49 trees at the moment and we have also a website

www.fruttortiparma.it

but take a look at the map, you can see pictures and what we have planted too http://www.fruttortiparma.it/webmap/index.html

regards
Lucio
 
Jen Shrock
pollinator
Posts: 363
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I have thought about guerrilla gardening in my city too. I thought about sneaking in edibles within the city. Where the on and off ramps to the highway are, there are areas where the hillside is quite steep and doesn't really grow too much. I thought about guerrilla gardening wildflowers/garden flowers on them. I hope to build up some seed stock from what I grow this year and I do not think that it would be overly frowned on since I live in a city where there is a liberal arts college that has enhanced the community through art. I think flowers would be a better introduction to the city than a bland hillside.
 
Jane Reed
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Location: Fair Play, California
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I recently planted a pineapple guava (feijoa) at my local library and one at a nearby park. The library grounds have been left to the ministrations of a mow-blow-and-go guy. I found the perfect spot there: next to the building, behind a row of mid-size perrenial bushes, and near the sprinkler head. It is out of sight and where the maintenance guys pay no attention. At the park, I put the sproutling next to the fence, near the parking area, where no one walks or plays. This area gets no water, as far as I can tell, so I have raked up some fallen leaves to mulch the immediate area around the plant. I will have to keep my eye on it and bring more mulch and maybe water from time to time. The "gardeners" mow the grass and do nothing else to the trees and bushes around the edges. It may be a point in our favor that cities are running out of money to budget for park maintenance. If the groundskeepers do the minimum, we guerilla gardeners may be able to keep our plantings secret.
 
Jen Shrock
pollinator
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I have already thought that, when I get my legs under me with my own property, I was going to approach my library about possibly adding to it's landscape. It has some plants/flowers, but they are pretty sparse and not very interesting looking. About the only thing that struck my interest is a rose bush which they have pruned up to look like a rectangular hedge. This is in a little point that juts out into an island right beside the library sidewalk. I thought that, if I pose it as the fact that I will donate the plants and that maybe identification tags could be added as to what they are and their usefulness, then it might be well accepted. The library is on the corner of the town square which has a couple of other islands on two of the other corners, so I figure that if I could convince the library to let me enhance their landscape, maybe the city would let me doodle a little in the other two small islands. If I remember correctly, they only have daffodils planted in the other two island, so the plant interest is pretty short. My city seems to be on a beautification path, so hopefully (fingers crossed) my guerrilla gardening thoughts might be well received, especially if they do not have to buy any plants or pay anyone to install them.
 
David Goodman
gardener
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Here in N/Central FL, I met a fellow that planted loquats here and there all around town as a kid. He spit pits into corners, transplanted babies, etc., and there are trees all around his old neighborhood, loaded with fruit.

I'm a big fan of the "don't ask don't tell" approach to gardening. In my experience, local governments are almost always the main barrier to any kind of forward thinking or food-producing idea.
 
Xisca Nicolas
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Andrew Michaels wrote:Does anyone know how old a tree sprouted from a pit should be before you transplant it? How can you best prepare the soil where you'll plant it? How do you care for it afterwards?


Sow!
You will get good roots, as they are always longer than the seedling you can see.
No pot will ever do great...
- Pre-germinate according to the specie.
- Make a long and narrow hole with a tool, 2 feet mini.
- Fill it with loose good soil.
- Take a plastic bottle, cut the bottom and then cut in halves.
- The lowest part goes into the ground, this is the "pot".
- Sow
(you can put 3 if you can come back to quit the weakest ones.
- Put the upper part of the bottle with the cap. Very important!
This is your nursery...
- Make shade with a milk or juice brick.
Cut it and put it around the bottle the other way round, so that the aluminum shows outside.
- Come back for getting off the upper part of the bottle.
- protect at least from rabbits etc with a piece of net...
- You can leave the shader longer.
- Usually the buried part of the bottle will decompose, or else be very careful to break it with no root damage.
 
Dan Porter
Posts: 9
Location: Tempe, AZ
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Many fruiting trees won't be edible if grown from seeds. You can clone new trees from a mother tree by taking cuttings from growth tips on the branches and rooting them. This is a routine process for greenhouses and nurseries. You might also want to use slow release soil ammendments so the young tree will have plenty of time to transition to native nutrient sources. Like someone already mentioned, the tree is going to concentrate any toxins from the ground and water into the fruit. Pick a location free of polluted wastewater, or plant a tree nobody will eat (like crabapples).

More from my website: hydroharbor.com/start/clones
 
John Saltveit
gardener
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The peaches that grew from seed at my house tasted great. I keep getting too many extra new trees growing wild from the compost so I just planted some in unused areas near my house. I wait until they are clearly visible, like 5 feet tall before planting them out so no one will accidentally step on them.
John S
PDX OR
 
Xisca Nicolas
pollinator
Posts: 1277
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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I think what you want are trees that can stand a life on their own!
SOW directly whenever possible!
-> depending on the annual rainwater...

Sow what you know that will be good without grafting
OR be prepared to go grafting...

@ Dan, cuttings do not have the same root system as seedlings, so who knows which species will give good result without irrigation?
@ John, when your seedling is 5 feet tall, how are the roots and what is the size of the pot you use?

Seedlings that are meant to be left on their own FIRST need a good root system,
which is a DEEP one, able to look for water.

Try to unroot wild seedlings.... I tell you what I always find: roots are longer than what shows outside.
-> I plant before the seedling is taller than the pot.
What I said in the last post is a system that was done in the south of France for growing trees in orchards, only with little rain water from a Mediterranean climate. No irrigation. And those trees live very long.
 
John Saltveit
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My seedlings are never in pots. They grow from the ground at my house into some other place. I usually transport them in bags or just in the back of the truck. The roots are sometimes long. Maybe 2 feet in one direction, up to 3 feet in the other. They usually seem to grow well unless someone chops them, which happens often. Suburban guerrilla gardening.
John S
PDX OR
 
Xisca Nicolas
pollinator
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Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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Ho great! And good if you can manage to delocate them without root damage!
One also has to think about the size of the hole to be dug when relocating!
 
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