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David L. Green

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since Jun 05, 2016
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Recent posts by David L. Green

I love your graphs!  My expert friend confirmed my suggestion of Anthophora, but said he couldn't confirm species from a photo. Fair enough, I think.
3 years ago
I am not expert enough to say categorically, but I don't think that's a bumble bee on the tomato blossoms. I think it's an Anthophora (digger) bee. It doesn't look quite right for a bumble bee to me, plus the Anthophora bees have a habit of flying with their tongues hanging out. If this is true, you are blessed to have them

With your permission, I'd be glad to send the photo on to a friend of mine with more expertise.

Did the bee buzz the flowers, as a bumble bee would?
3 years ago
I've been growing on sandy loam for many years, here in the South. The problem with adding organic matter is that it burns up fast. Compost lasts much longer in the North; here it is basically gone in a year or two in our heat and humidity. So I've been using biochar to help hold the nutrients from the compost, and I've found that it helps quite a bit. It also helps with water conservation.

Now we will soon be moving, and I'll be giving biochar the extreme test, as we are going to be growing on an old barrier island that is pure sand. It's not only droughty, but it's even hotter than the sandy loam I am used to, so I expect it will burn up organic matter even faster. Since much of the land is wooded with loblolly pine and blackjack oak, and I have lots of half-rotten wood, I'll be doing hugel for much of my growing, and I'll be amending it with copious amounts of biochar, along with compost.

My impression is that biochar makes a lot more difference in the South than in the North, but it might be worth a try for that sand, too.
3 years ago
I remember reading an article years ago, about growing apples in Ecuador. They were grown at a suitable elevation, so it was not a tropical environment. But neither was there any real seasonal changes. So they were stripping the leaves off the trees to simulate winter dormancy. I wonder if you know anything about this experiment, Robert? I think maybe they did some other things as well, but I can't remember all the details.
3 years ago


Love your experiment, and hope you succeed at it.

One of the oldest tomato varieties we have is the yellow pear - and it has an exerted stigma, which makes it more amenable to cross pollination.

One correction - there are no tomatoes that are self pollinating, despite the mythology. What you refer to are tomatoes that are self fertile, or self pollenizing. Tomatoes need help to pollinate. Not saying that there is NO self pollination - but the percentage is very, very small. If you don't believe this, try growing tomatoes in a greenhouse where there are no pollinators, and no wind.

Wind - and other forms of motion will distribute some pollen, and can give some fruiting, but to maximize fruiting the flower needs to be buzzed or "sonicated." This releases the greatest amount of pollen, and ensures that all the incipient seeds are fertilized. (you do know, of course, that full pollination - the delivery of two grains of pollen for each incipient seed - gives the best size and quality of fruit.

Bumble bees (B. impatiens and others) buzz the flowers. This releases vast quantities of pollen instantaneously. The bumble bee uses the resonant frequency of the flower (Middle C) in vibrating its wing muscles. You can imitate this pretty well with a tuning fork. If the flower is ready for pollination, pollen will spew out of the flower.

I have not seen any of the solitary (hole or ground dwelling bees) do buzz pollination. Honey bees will occasionally gather pollen, where they pull down the flower and shake it some, so they may accomplish some pollination, but they do not buzz in the same fashion that bumble bees do. And some years, they never go near the tomato blossoms.

Not all of this is directly relevant to your experiment, but is background information that may help you design better experiments.
3 years ago
Heheh, we used to have ONE apple tree among all the hedgerow seedlings that made a good apple - and we all knew where it was. It was a yellow, summer apple. The problem was that the fruit was never quite ripe when we did the first cutting of hay, but we were not willing to wait for it to ripen. So we would indulge, while we were working in that field. Before long we were doing a manoevre that we aptly named "The Green Apple Quickstep."
3 years ago
R. Ranson, I'm not sure where you get your nursery stock, but I get some of my apples from Cummins Nursery, and I plant them early. Most of them have borne the year I planted them - not five years, as you say. They have good trees, not like the junk that one gets from Stark Brothers and the other meganurseries. Ones I've grafted myself usually bear in 2-3 years.

As to needing lots of land for seedling apples - I just drove across western Pennsylvania and western New York during apple blossom time - and there are whole hillsides of seedling apples to be seen. I can tell you from my own experience that most of them are not worth picking; they are just deer food. It's fine if someone wants to grow seedlings, but as I said, between my space limitations and my age, I want my apples soon and where I can reach them.

The guy who has hundreds of fruit trees on a small lot is not growing seedlings that way. He has grafted his onto full dwarf rootstock.

I've been using semi-dwarf, but thinking I'd like to use some full dwarf with my next planting. The problem is that my soil is pure beach sand, and gets very droughty in summer, so I'm going to have to hugel the full dwarf apple trees, I think, as I have no running water there and I'm not up to carrying a lot of water through the summer.

I have two loquat trees established now. They are from seed, and I look forward to them fruiting. Many a peach tree in this area came from a pit that someone just threw away, as they were eating. As I said, the self fertile fruits are usually good candidates for growing from seed. But not apples. I guess your mileage may vary.
3 years ago
Some clarifications are needed to fully understand why some fruits come true and others don't. Let's get some basic ideas straight. Self fertility and self incompatibility are not absolutes, but are a scale, with various fruit varieties somewhere on a line between the end points. With apples as our example, they would be more on the self incompatible side. A few varieties are self fertile enough so that you can get some fruit from self fertilization, but will do much better with cross pollination. Notice that I said self fertilization, as there are no apple trees (and no other fruits that I know of) that self pollinate. Bees pollinate apple trees, even ones that are self fertile, so if you see a claim by a nursery that a certain variety is "self pollinating," you have a reason to shop elsewhere with nurseries that know their own business better.

To pollinate is to move the pollen, either from anther to stigma on a self fertile plant, or between flowers in cross pollination. To pollenize is to provide viable pollen for fertilization to occur. In street language, it's the difference between the pimp and the john.

Thus an apple tree might self pollenize, if it is self fertile, but it cannot self pollinate. Nor can an apple tree pollinate another apple tree - bees do that. But an apple tree can pollenize another variety. Apple mates are called pollenizers. In most commercial orchards today, crab apples are the pollenizers of choice, because 1) they produce abundant and fertile pollen, and 2) the pickers cannot get mixed up and put the pollenzer fruit in the bin.

This means that, if you plant seeds from a supermarket, the odds are that you will eventually (seedlings take a long time to fruit) get a cross between the variety you ate, and a crab apple. This is not a very good formula for growing quality apples. If you want to cross two varieties, you might choose an apple fruit that's grown with only two varieties and no other apples in the neighborhood. Or you might hand pollinate to make a deliberate cross, then bag the blossom to make sure of no contamination from other pollens.

If you want to grow fruit from seed, your best bet is to choose fruits that are self fertile and do not need pollenizers. Good examples of these are peaches, sour cherries and most citrus, which are all high on the self fertility scale. There are no absolutes here, only odds.

If you grow seedlings from fruit that is high on the self incompatibility scale, such as apples, sweet cherries, some plum varieties, etc., your chances of getting a fruit that is true to the one you ate become very small. You will (almost 100% odds) get a fruit that is a cross between your fruit and the pollenizer that was present at bloom.

We need to understand that most temperate zone tree fruits are usually grafted, so a block of say, Red Delicious, is for pollination purposes, all the same tree. So planting such a block, without pollenizers would be serious misjudgement. I've seen people do this, however. Then they have a problem, which must be corrected.

Growing fruits from seed is an endeavor for the young who have lots of land, or for a teacher who wishes to illustrate. Seedling trees take much longer to bear fruit than grafted trees, and you lose all the benefits of the rootstock. For me, I am old, and my space is limited, so I will graft my apple trees. I generally get fruit in the second year, as opposed to the 8-10 years that is typical of seedling apples. I also will never fall off a 25-foot ladder while picking. All my apples require no more than one step up to reach.

3 years ago