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

 
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Hello everyone,
This is an end of summer update for some of our seeding projects.

Interesting summer with high temperatures and many many fires, unfortunately.

The first video shows a quick test to help determine if a tree that looks dead is alive.



The 2nd video is an update on the Red Clay site, we reported on before.



I hope these videos help others that try to plant trees.

Kostas
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Here is the update on the "Difficult Site"
all of the trees that are here have turned brown...I know some of the almonds and apricots will grow new branches at ground level. Don't know about the oaks.

we need to keep planting seeds here, especially seeds that may do well on rocky environment.




Kostas
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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And




Pine trees and other conifers, under 1,000 meters elevation, are projected to die from disease or fire soon.

In the meantime,  here in Greece, the experts, who planted only pine trees the last 70 years, recommend, that after the fires, we should either:
1.   Do nothing, and hope the pine forests recover, or
2.   Plant millions, of ....you guessed it ...pine trees.

At the moment the future of the homosapiens is not very bright...

But, we hope for the best; nature recovers amazingly quickly if left alone and helped a bit in the right direction.

Another season for planting seeds and trees is approaching here...hoping for good weather and favorable conditions over the next spring and summer.

Kostas

 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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The case of Japan's tragic reforestation mistake
After WWII, Japan cut down half of its ancient broadleaf forests and replaced them with Japanese cypress and cedar trees to provide for its construction and industrial needs.

They wanted to make the land "useful" and "productive" - they deemed the beech, oak and maple trees and all the other creatures that lived there as "useless" and not "productive".

More than 15 million acres of broadleaf trees were cut.
44 percent of forest cover was replaced with cypress and cedar trees.

A once healthy forest that cleaned the water and air and provided abundant food for animals like bears and deer, now became a source of pollution.

-the soil became acidic,
-no understory or plant life,
-life in the water streams was killed,
-food for the bears, deer etc was eliminated,
-so were these animals,
-cypress and cedar trees have shallow roots and don't transfer water well to the subsoil.

In a sense, a green, toxic desert was created.

75 years, later, the cedar trees have matured, and produce an abundance of cedar pollen. In Tokyo the pollen at its peak is so thick, it looks like fog, or fire smoke coming towards the city.

One in ten Japanese suffer from allergies, resulting in lost productivity and sick days.

The Japanese have started to plant broadleaf trees and are examining ways to restore their ancient forests. It will take time. The bear population is making a comeback.

We wish them success.

Sources for this short article:
https://www.nytimes.com/1995/01/17/science/japan-s-cedar-forests-are-man-made-disaster.html

https://ensia.com/features/japan-reforestation-deforestation-lessons-indonesia-china/

https://www.ozy.com/true-and-stories/japans-fatal-forest-mistake/261877/

Kostas
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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An Update,
The October rains came and fully soaked the ground.
As mentioned previously, many of the oak trees we planted turned brown over the summer.
The summer was a "difficult" one, so its not surprising.

Our experience, planting oak trees is limited, so I am trying to understand how they behave and react to severe conditions.



As can be seen in the video, I dug down around evergreen and deciduous oaks to see the condition of the acorns and the root system.

I suspect, the acorns, provide nutrition and moisture for the young trees to survive the 1st year. The young trees essentially feed and drink from the acorns. When the summer is over some of these acorns are close to disappearing.

Foe the young oak trees that did not survive the summer, the acorns have turned to dust...they had nothing more to give.

I am optimistic that most of the young oak trees have survived...this coming spring will verify this.

Considering how important this tree is, even 1 tree can have a significant impact for the next 1,000 years.

Kostas



 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Update continued

A forest fire burned a small part of the pine forest we have nearby.

The heavy fall rains have washed away part of the topsoil and probably some of the seeds.

We scattered some seeds that we know sprout easily when scattered on the surface. They include arugula, Mediterranean hartwort, vetch, alfalfa and others.

There are many questions about the condition that the fire has created...how toxic is the soil now? will the seeds we scattered grow and improve and hold the soil? will the oaks and almonds grow in this area?

If the seeds we scattered do well, we should consider using this in a wider area to help protect the soil after fires.



Kostas
 
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Dear participants of this amazing thread,

First of all thank you all for the valuable inputs, I have been reading parts of the thread now and then. I like the idea of playing around with seeds clay balls or cubes, although never tried it myself.
I am based in Portugal and in the mountains' barren lands (commonly owned) there is not variety of species (pine, brooms and not much else). I have access to very very cheap seeds from the public forestry institute and I am thinking about reuniting a bunch of volunteers, make a lot of seed balls and drop them on our way down after a hike to the mountain top. I am thinking of some 30 species of bushes and trees that are native to the country and compatible with the climate. I am looking for your inputs on the following:

- Best method for batch production of seedballs (I would say 10000 seeds) - links are welcome. Please note the nature of the project, this is not for vegetable or wild flower mixes.
- One seed per ball or many?
- Best way to spread seeds? i.e. choose a small area vs spread them as much as possible? Or put in another way, how many seeds per square meter?
- Any tips on micrositing? i.e. just throw them around, or is there something we can do to increase germination chances?
- Mix species as much as possible, or not?
- I was thinking of starting next to the top of the mountain so eventually if some succeed, seeds would come down each year. But there are so fewer trees and bushes as we approach the top of the mountain: do you think this increases chances of germination because they will lack competiton, or probably this means conditions are harsh and it will likely not work for the seeds?

Thanks in advance,
Fernando
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Hello Fernando,

You pose a lot of good questions...

I don't know the answers.

Panos Manikis here in Greece is the expert in using clay balls on large quantities for revegetation.

https://m.facebook.com/pg/naturalfarmingcenter/posts/

If you have difficulties reaching him let me know.

Kostas
 
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This process is intriguing to me as for small-medium acreage (Hypothetically 20ish acres near Grand Junction, CO) it could be a good and inexpensive project that may be able to have good long term returns for developing a micro-climate, or at least adding some wind break and shade.

Most of the references in the thread seem to be in warmer climate zones. I am interested in what would be possible for zone 5b for desert species. There are lots of pinyon pines and brush nearby, but other than that I am unfamiliar with trees that would natively grow (although grand junction is known for peaches and wine).

I don't know the first thing about permaculture, but am interested in getting started on projects that take a long time to establish, so that in 20+ years I will be able to see some effect. It would be great to be able to get a few trees going in the background while I experiment more with establishing a more intentional area of solid and food production.

Are there any companion plants that would help this process along?
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Jonathan and Fernando,

Tree planting is easy...see



Stick a few seeds in the ground (a few hundred) and see what happens.

Now, and the next 6-8 weeks is a good time to plant.

Kostas
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Update
Reforestation at a difficult site Oct 22 21 update plant wild pear seeds

Checking today this site, I was pleasantly surprised to see that many of the young trees are apparently alive.

It looks like we have many oak trees that made it through this tough summer, and many of the almond/apricots.

Spring will tell us for sure, but the young tree trunks are flexible-they don't break when bending them, and they have strong root systems - they don't become loose when pulling them.

while there I collected 10 wild pears and buried whole...the soil is soft from all the rains we are having and i dug a small hole with my foot.

The wild pear tree is small one, growing at the site.  If 5 trees grow from this...its a perfect example of doing minimal work and getting great returns...a minutes worth of work and we get 5 trees thst czn live to 100 years old or more.




Kostas
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Just came across this young tree...awesome!!!

A survivor...the memory of the summer of 2021 will be its DNA.

Kostas
oak-tree-recovering-from-summer-heat.jpg
[Thumbnail for oak-tree-recovering-from-summer-heat.jpg]
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Hello everyone,

The heavy rains have soaked the ground around here.

It is time to start planting for the future.

I spent 15 minutes and planted around 50 trees.

Every 3 meters I stopped and planted 2 almonds (one hole), 2 apricots and 3 plums about a meter apart forming a triangle. I did this about 50 or more times...the ground is soft and level.

If these seeds are planted later, in December or January, they will be taken by the hungry field mice and other rodents.

The rains that will come soon, will hide their location; it worked last year.

its the best way to protect these seeds.

kostas






 
fernando ribeiro
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Thanks for the info and inspiration, Konstantinos. I will be planting almonds soon!
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Another activities update.

The acorns on the oak trees are beginning to ripen and fall around here, so its a good time to start collecting them.

I have discovered 2 mini oak tree forests near me, so I don't have to travel 2 hours away.

Its a pleasant feeling to be among these ancient trees.

If kept in a dark cool place, I believe the acorns can be stored for at least a month, and maybe much longer...but its always a good practice to plant the soon after collecting them.

As usual the acorns are put in water, and the ones that float or are visibly defective are thrown away.

Acorns should be collected from mature trees, and should be large and healthy looking.

Kostas

acorns.jpg
[Thumbnail for acorns.jpg]
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Reforestation at a difficult site
Nov 4 21 update 1


Wild pear, paliurus, Spartium junceum, wild rose and robinia pseudoacacia seeds were planted at this site to see if they can survive without watering, and find a way to penetrate what appears to be solid rock, underneath a thin slice of soil.



During the summer we also made a limited number of clay balls (hearts) using ice cube forms...they were buried in the soil; it will be interesting to see how they do.



The wild pear, Spartium junceum,  and robinia pseudoacacia are growing nearby...so they may do well.

Kostas
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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And some very wise words !!!

This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.

I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no "brief candle" for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.

George Bernard Shaw
oak-trees.jpg
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Konstantinos Karoubas
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Continuing with seed collection and placement.

Gleditsia triacanthos is on the menu.

The seeds are cleaned and separated from the pulp and placed in hot water.

Pre-treatment helps the seeds sprouts in the spring.
Water is brought to the boiling point...we let it rest for 10 seconds, and then the seeds are thrown in.

5 or so seeds are planted per hole.

Koelreuteria paniculata, and robinia will also be planted.

Kostas



gleditsia-triacanthos-1.jpg
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gleditsia-triacanthos-2.jpg
[Thumbnail for gleditsia-triacanthos-2.jpg]
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Hello everyone,
I have tried something new,  and I think it may workout very well.

We got a sunny semi warm day a few days ago, and I mixed a small batch of clay with apple seeds and some alfalfa seeds.

I used a plastic form with small spaces - see photo below.

This small batch produced 400 plus tiny clay cubes.

Instead of scattering on the ground surface, these will be buried just below the ground surface.

I am hoping that the apple seeds and alfalfa will both germinate and help each other.

The alfalfa can quickly grow deep roots and provide nitrogen and shade for the young apple tree thus improving its odds for survival.

I am excited about this.

It also makes it easier to handle and plant the apple seeds.

Kostas


small-claycubes.jpg
[Thumbnail for small-claycubes.jpg]
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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See the photos below

Kostas
1.jpg
I have discovered an empty piece of land near our farm and decided to plant it and turn it into a community forest
I have discovered an empty piece of land near our farm and decided to plant it and turn it into a community forest
2.jpg
The northern side is bare with white soil, while the southern side is covered with grass
The northern side is bare with white soil, while the southern side is covered with grass
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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I have started seeding the area shown above.

I scattered small seeds like arugula, Tordylium apulum and others, and placed almonds, apricots, plums, acorns,  gleditsia, and Koelreuteria seeds, and apple trees small clay cubes.

The area residents-creatures-rodents, find my arrival in the area interesting and probably curious.

See the photos that follow.

I am learning more about these creature residents.

They love almonds
They don't eat the other seeds--almonds, plums apricots etc
They nibbled on the acorns, but don't eat them. The area is full of acorns from the wild oak shrubs, but they don't eat them.
They love almonds so much that they open up all the holes I dug to see if they contain almonds - in the process they expose my seeds and they will not sprout.

I am running a small experiment nearby... I planted plums and apricots, but no almonds...I am hoping that they will open a few holes and give up once they realize there are no almonds.


Kostas
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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See the photos and descriptions below

Kostas
3a.jpg
This is could be a badger like animal - it likes wild pears and vetch seeds
This is could be a badger like animal - it likes wild pears and vetch seeds
3b.jpg
Loves almonds
Loves almonds
3c.jpg
It nibbled on the acorn - but left alone
It nibbled on the acorn - but left alone
3d.jpg
The seeds I left on the surface, were not touched
The seeds I left on the surface, were not touched
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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A sign of hope...

we had a hot hot summer...

but this young oak tree is a survivor!!!

Kostas
IMG_20211118_155256715-3.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_20211118_155256715-3.jpg]
 
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Have you considered trying planting Sea Buckthorn? Those plants LOVE dry, sandy and rocky areas and the fruit has a very nice flavour even when it is quite acidic and can with the help of sugar be processed into many tasty things. But maybe it's just a little bit too warm for them over there? Though I've seen that they can do well growing near desert areas like the Gobi Desert but they probably have colder winters there. They are used to prevent soil erosion in dry terrain and used in projects to reforest barren areas all over the world.

Even if the area around them is very dry they can produce A LOT of juicy berries:



 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Thanks Anton,

I am aware of sea buckthorn, but have not tried it to see if it will fit our criteria

If I am well, and can, this effort may move south to Crete, Cyprus, the middle east and northern africa (I hope).

Sea buckthorn may come handy there.

(Nice photos)

Kostas
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Hello everyone,
A partly sunny day today and I made some more small cubes.

A larger variety of seeds this time...some seeds I am trying for the 1st time. They include:

Apples,
Alfalfa,
Wild rose
Robinia acacia
Mulberry,
Wild pear,
Spartium junceum, and
Paliurus.


They will be placed in the ground, similar to plums; about ⅜" (1cm) below grade.

They will be placed at 9 plus locations around the greater Thessaloniki area, and near Athens and Sparta  (if I get to them).

The microclimate and soil conditions are different at each location...it will be interesting to see what nature chooses to do at each place.

Kostas

cubes.jpg
[Thumbnail for cubes.jpg]
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Running a small experiment that I would like to share.

We have a small pine forest/patch near our farm that is about 40 years old.

The  pine needles under the trees are 10 to 20 cm deep.

I placed 2 acorns in a small flower pot, filled with soil.
I want to see if the acorns will sprout, find the holes at the bottom of the pot, then go through the pine needles, find the soil and grow normally in this acidic soil.

There are wild oak shrubs growing nearby.

I also removed the pine needles and placed acorns in 2 places, and in the 3rd, I placed small cubes with apple seeds and alfalfa (just for the hell of it).

Kostas
pine-n-oaks.jpg
[Thumbnail for pine-n-oaks.jpg]
 
Anton Jacobski Hedman
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Any chance walnuts with their freakishly long taproots could end up doing well somewhere? Or is it just too dry for them to get a chance to establish in the first place?
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Definitely Anton,
I think at higher elevations they will thrive,  as will chestnuts.
I have ordered some pecans to try this year around here...they say they are more drought resistant.
They have not shown up yet.

I strongly believe that every piece of land has a few trees, shrubs and grasses that it loves to grow...and will grow them easily, abundantly and without any assistance or care.

By offering a large variety of seeds and observing wild nature nearby, the secrets of the land will be revealed, and then farming and reforestation will be effortless.

The land and all of its creatures will rejoice !!!
(lol)

Kostas
 
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Location: Denia, Alicante, Spain. Zone 10. 22m height
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Hola Kostas!

I had some Florsilva seeds that I had for my place. I bought more than needed, so I went to a nearby abandoned place wich belongs to a Spanish major bank, and I sowed all the leftovers there with my two kids.

I had a super special tool (half pruner) to dig fast holes and place there 5-6 seeds. I had almond, peach, apricot, cherry, prune and walnut. Lets see how it goes. The place is really close to the city border, so I guess they will plan to build there anytime in the next years… or dont, as it is empty since I can remember (there was a house when I was a kid, but it was empty)

Sowing all that, I started to think that maybe for next time I should add some helpers in thr mix, like vetch, fava beans, brassicas and any soil improvers that could “nurse” the trees. Of course, being without irrigation everything in this phase should be 100% mediterranean adapted. I will also look for acorns and plant here and there.

It was a fun experience being with the kids and somehow a bit “guerrilla” as the place belongs to a bank (although I guess nobody passes by ever). I am running against the clock, but who knows, maybe I can create a forest there and when the time comes by it will be more appreciated.

Most of what I have I focus it in my property, but I came home thinking that maybe every year I should go and plant things on that property.
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Well done Antonio,

Bravo !!!
!    



Kostas
 
Anton Jacobski Hedman
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Konstantinos Karoubas wrote:Definitely Anton,
I think at higher elevations they will thrive,  as will chestnuts.
I have ordered some pecans to try this year around here...they say they are more drought resistant.
They have not shown up yet.

I strongly believe that every piece of land has a few trees, shrubs and grasses that it loves to grow...and will grow them easily, abundantly and without any assistance or care.

By offering a large variety of seeds and observing wild nature nearby, the secrets of the land will be revealed, and then farming and reforestation will be effortless.

The land and all of its creatures will rejoice !!!
(lol)

Kostas


Pecan was another tree I thought of mentioning. Those are like walnuts and grow freakishly long taproots, should be able to handle drought better than most trees. Did you buy pecan seeds meant for planting? Or got those from local trees maybe? Else you can just get the whole nuts meant for eating in bulk at least from online stores and plant those instead I think, the store ones are already grown in climate similar to yours I think.
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Hello Anton,

It's hard to find pecans in Greece. But they are becoming more popular.

I found a grower in central Greece that recently harvested his trees and ordered a kilo (expensive at 10 euros per kilo). Walnuts and almonds I find at public fruit markets.

I understand pecans are more popular in Cyprus...the climate there is very very difficult - high temperatures and low rainfall.  

They (Cyprus) are facing an imminent existential threat and I am not sure they realize it. Mother nature will evict them by shutting off their water supply. Their land is bare from plowing, and the only mountain they have is covered with pine trees, which are dying. In the absence of trees, whatever rainfall they get will cease. In ancient times (2500 years ago) the whole island was totally covered with oak, olive and carob trees. Water springs were everywhere. It's a beautiful island with wonderful people that like many places, has been badly managed.

Recently I met a farmer locally that grows almonds, without watering his trees...I plan on purchasing from him next year. As you mentioned ideally you want local seeds from healthy unwatered trees...
very very important to have good healthy strong seeds. Their journey in life the 1st summer is difficult.

When the pecans get here I will plant them and anxiously wait for the results.  

When we visited the eastern slopes of Mount Olympus a few years ago we saw a section was covered with chestnut trees. The locals informed me that they self seeded from a nearby farm that was abandoned.

On a mountain in central Greece walnuts have taken over a section of the mountain. The locals collect them and sell them to the tourists and at farmers markets. My kind of farming.

And on a mountain in north western Greece hazelnut trees have become dominant.

Nature's monoculture is different from the monoculture modern farming systems create.

So the pecans and walnuts may not do well here, but they will thrive at other locations

Some trees like oaks thrive from Russia to northern Africa. I know in Greece they were prevalent and dominant  from northern Greece to Cyprus. We are very lucky to have such a tree, and it will form the basis for rehabilitating the land.

This year we are trying many new things so we hope for the best.

Kostas
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Antonio,

I forgot to mention,

Mark some of the locations
you place the seeds, so you can check on them.
You can put three stones, or a stick to mark the location.

In the spring, as the weeds grow its tough to find the small new trees.

Kostas
 
Antonio Hache
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Konstantinos Karoubas wrote:Antonio,

I forgot to mention,

Mark some of the locations
you place the seeds, so you can check on them.
You can put three stones, or a stick to mark the location.

In the spring, as the weeds grow its tough to find the small new trees.

Kostas



I didnt mark them, but I followed a pattern. I sowed 4-5 seeds and walked a stride, and then again, so I just have to follow that pattern to see where I planted them. I will not go there again in some months

What I was thinking is how to add to the mix some “placenta” seeds as Ernst Götsch said. Some seeds that can nurse the “focus seeds” and give them some shadow and protection while they grow.

Maybe a good method could be to broadcast some mediterranean seed mix with legumes, mustards, brassicas, some shrubs…

 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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No question about Antonio,
All of these things will help and in many ways.
Kostas
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Hello everyone,

I hope all is well.

Just a reminder...now is a good time to collect apple seeds, from store bought apples.

Depending on your location, these apples have been in the refrigerator for over a month. They perfectly cold stratified.

They can be placed directly in the soil in the area you are reforesting (5 seeds per hole). Around here apple seeds have around 40-50% survival rate - without any assistance; watering etc.

Alternatively, they can placed in large soil filled  pots and wait for them to sprout in the spring and water them all summer. By next winter you will have good size trees that can be transplanted bare root in the reforestation area.

Its a great tree that will feed people and animals for many years to come.

Kostas



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Konstantinos Karoubas
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All the best to everyone for the new year !!!

The planting season for the winter of 2021 is almost done.

I am revisiting the olive tree. About a year plus ago, I scarified a few olive pits and planted them...it worked, they sprouted and survived the summer without any care.

This thread is about minimizing input-work, money etc. and maximizing output (trees).

In this spirit, this year, I collected olives, and as they are, with the pulp, they were placed in the ground - about 5 to 10 per hole. No scarification - no preparation (pulp removal).

If we are going to see any trees sprout, it will be the following year - spring of 2023 !!!

It is such a useful, strong and long lived tree that it's worth the effort.

Mother nature plants them all the time...we just need to learn how to do it also.

Kostas

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Looking forward to hearing the results of the olive plantings next year. I'm very curious about different tree planting regimes. It seems like in nature there are two basic patterns,

1. Tree drops fruit or nut, seeds establish, trees gradually spread.
2. Tree makes fruit, fauna eats fruit, deposits seed in dung, seed establishes somewhere farther away.

I assume scarification happens more in 2 than 1 and be more important for trees who rely on that method.

Do you have thoughts on this matter in your area?
 
It's in the permaculture playing cards. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
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