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Sepp Holzer on apple trees

paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15410
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
This is a huge topic.

There is what is in the book.  There is what you can see in the video.  And there is what he said. 

Add into that, the mix of exceptions to everything depending on lots of variables.

Sepp prefers non grafted trees that have never been pruned.  He might even say it is the only way - although the pictures and the videos tell a different story.

He will use nursery trees that have a graft and have a history of pruning in certain circumstances.  Like, if the trees are free and hauled to his property. 

I have to say that I really like the idea of no graft and no pruning.  A year ago (or was it two years ago) I had learned about spindle cut orchards and felt they were just wrong.  But I didn't have anything other than a gut feeling.  So I turned to some permies I knew and it sounded like a lot of permies really liked spindle cut orchards.  It just rubbed me wrong.  It seemed unnatural. 

The no graft and no pruning stuff seems very natural. 

He did share how he propagates lots of trees from an existing tree (root cuttings) but I wonder how he gets the first tree.  Rooting hormone with scion wood perhaps?




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Joined: Jan 15, 2009
Posts: 9
Location: Cascadia (Maltby)
He propogates lots of trees from an existing tree? 

no pruning...no grafting?

hmmm

pitchforks and torches....ha

(just a note ...im biased )

double ha...all the better


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paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15410
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
albertpostema wrote:
He propogates lots of trees from an existing tree?   


Yes.

albertpostema wrote:
no pruning...no grafting?


If he gets a pile of free/cheap trees, he'll work with those - but his preference is no pruning or grafting.

I did ask his son, Josef, "what if there is a young tree with a crotch in the middle?  If you don't prune, surely the tree will die when it gets older".  He said they would probably let it die.  But if they happened to be in the area with the right tools, they might prune it.

albertpostema wrote:
(just a note ...im biased )

double ha...all the better


What is your bias? 

C'mon Albert, you're one of our permaculture teachers in the area.  Jump in!  Are you a fan of the spindle cut orchard? 

How does Sepp get that first own-root tree?  Can you get roots from scion wood?

What would be the down side of own-root trees?

What would be the down side of zero pruning?

              


Joined: Nov 08, 2008
Posts: 133
Location: West Iowa
You probably answered your own question, if he gets root cuttings from existing tree, than he probably does that to get his first tree.....  or he grew alot from seed, and propagates the best of them.  I like the logic of grafting, so I won't be following Sepp's ideas on this subject
                  


Joined: Jul 13, 2009
Posts: 29
I wonder if I can do this in late july -august

First transplanting attempts with fruit trees
By sepp holzer

In my youth we grew a wide variety of crops on our farm. Oats, wheat, rye, barley, linen, as well as beans were cultivated successfully for our own use up to elevations of about I,350 m.
However, there was one difficulty. Above all roe deer and red deer caused quite a lot of damage to the crops. We were able to defend ourselves quite well with various protective measures such as scarecrows, however. For instance we stuffed old clothes with straw and made man‑sized dolls that were hung up and intended to drive off the game. We also tried to frighten off the game with small fires. Another method was to construct knocking machines that were fed with water and in which hammers regularly banged against a tin can. This noise drove off the game very successfully.
The variety of plants cultivated in those days proved to me that contrary to the opinion frequently expressed today that nothing will grow on the mountains, in fact a wide variety of plants could grow and flourish there.
On the way home from school I often roamed across meadows and through woods. One time or another this shortened my school path, but often enough looking round like this made me late. However, since work was waiting for me at home it was something of a disadvantage for me if I stayed away too long.
During my rambles across the country I discovered a lot of interesting things, such as a foxhole, an old mill building in the ditch, or a number of wild fruit trees. Wherever there are large trees, you will often find small trees, growing nearby. I found these small trees. I often dug them out and took them home to put them in my plant garden.
Once, it was nearly the end of the school year in June, I discovered a few wild apple trees. They were already about 2 m high. Since they had grown on a stone slab I could pull them out together with their roots without digging and take them home with me. I dragged the thin trees home. My mother saw me coming home, covered in sweat. She scolded me and said it was a pity about the trees since in summer they would die off because they had already got blossom and leaves.
However, this didn't disturb me. I planted the trees in my plant garden despite this. I pulled off the leaves and blossom by hand, since my mother that the trees would die off because of this, since they had developed shoots. It was not possible for me to water them in my garden. The bed was too far away from the house and there was no water nearby. As well as I could I dug the roots into the ground and covered them with thin grass and leaves. I put stones on top so that the trees could not fall over. I had often gained positive experience with stones. A few weeks later when I thought that the trees had died off already because the young shoots had become so thin, I discovered new buds and leaves on the tree.
This experience was very important for me, since I still do my best business today with this type of planting. I buy what is left over in the tree nurseries at the end of the season in May and June at a low cost. I use the experience gained in those days, but I don't pull off the individual leaves from the many trees any more. Instead I lay the trees out briefly in the sun, but cover the roots with jute bags. This is important because naked roots do not withstand the sun at all. The leaves and blossom are completely exposed to the sun. Since the tree wants to survive by nature it quickly rejects its leaves and blossom. The trees lie in the sun for one or two days. I only plant the trees once the leaves and blossom are completely dry so that they won't flourish anymore.
Throughout this entire period I don't let a single drop of water reach the roots, since otherwise the tree won't cast off its leaves. Even after planting them I don't water the trees. Watering would make the buds and leaves shoot out much too quickly. The fibre roots could not grow into the ground fast enough to ensure continuous supply for the tree. If the tree is planted with blossom and leaves or without leaves and then watered, the old or the new blossom and leaf shoots take too much out of the tree and the trunk dries up.
However, if the leaves and blossom have fallen off and the tree is not watered, it does not use up any energy and the roots can develop further in the soil at this late time in the season and grow in well. The moisture in the soil is completely sufficient for this. If you then place stones or leaves on top, you have done the best you can for the tree.
During the last decades I have planted many thousands of trees using this method in my alternative tree nursery and sold them later for a good price. This example shows how important practical experience is in dealing with plants. In other words what my mother reproached me with quite unintentionally as stupidity in those days was to be the foundation for my subsequent success.
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    9
over my nearly 60 years I have found that the most productive fruit trees and the healthiest in our areas are the ones grown from apples, pears, or whatever fruit..on their own roots..they are less prone to diseases..bear heavily..grow full size..and are much stronger and long lived than grafted trees..and if something breaks....it is on it's own roots..so it grows back the same..


Brenda

Bloom where you are planted.
http://restfultrailsfoodforestgarden.blogspot.com/
rose macaskie


Joined: May 09, 2009
Posts: 2134
    Pruned trees put up so many suckers on there branches that i don't like pruning.
    I read a book that said prune them in summer, the wounds heal quicker as it is growing season and as they haven't put all the goodness down into their roots, as trees have in winter, they don't throw up so many suckers in spring.
    My brother in laws apple trees he does not prune, have lots of fruit.

  Here are my reflections on why it is that tree covering increases rainfall, and as trees with bigger canopies would count as better producers of rain i think it is relevant to this discussion on whether to prune them or not. 

    Trees that aren't prunned will have much bigger canopies to provide shade for the ground, an important consideration here in too hot summered Spain. 
      Of course too much shade would harm pastures in England.

      They would have more leaves to form soils with. This would  be much more in line with permaculture principles.

      Bigger canopies means that they act as bigger vaporisers keeping the air cooler.

        I reckon that trees must work as car radiators do, hot convexion currents rising off the ground bang into leaf after leaf and cool.

        I wonder if trees don't absorb dew through their leaves or absorb humidity in the air.
      Foliar feeding would tend to back up this idea,
      A North American or half American called James Churchill from Forence Winsconsin, wrote a book called "Survival" about how to survive if you get lost in the wild. He said that you can inflate a plastic bag and tie it with a small pebble in it, over a sprig of leaves on a tree in the morning. You untie it in the evening and drink the water that the leaves have transpire that gets caught in the bag. The most interesting bit of the story was that he said that if you did not take the bag down in the evening the tree would reabsorb the water in the bag!
    I found an article about some pine seedlings that did better if they were sprayed with water. I am writing to much and so i am not looking for the articles so that i am not giving the names of the articles. Some other day i will be going slower and can give them.  rose macaskie.
   
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    9
i have noticed that when I am walking down the paved roads coming up to our house..(i walk about 2 to 4 miles now..used to walk 5 a day)..

when I walk BY treed areas..even though I'm not in shade..you can feel the cooler breezes wafting out of the treed areas and it will feel moist and will cool you when you walk by..when you walk by an open field area..if the temps are high ..it can be stifling.

I always try to walk on the sides of the road that have trees close to them when it is very hot so that i can catch those cool breezes

One thing about our yard also..is i prefer to sit under a huge old on it's own roots apple tree for shade..then trying to get shade from a dwarf or semi dwarf one..

i do grow those too..the grafted ones..but they tend to be in my gardens rather than where i can sit under them..so they cast some welcome shade in my gardens..i use them kinda as understory trees..but my favorites have always been the big ones that are sturdy enough for a kid to climb in..

honestly i do prune them some..i prune out dead limbs, scrape off any dead bark and occasionally i'll lop off some suckers that grow out of the trunk base or branches..and last year we had to lop off some branches that were eating the shingles on the toolshed !!
rose macaskie


Joined: May 09, 2009
Posts: 2134
Brenda Groth in my book on encinas, evergreen oaks in Spain, the writer waxes enthusiastic as you do but a little more dryly and less poetically, about the trees keeping people cool and it being so much better in parts of Spain with trees.
  Isn't it cold were you are, maybe the climate is extreme, cold winters and hot summers , in England where the summers are cool you don't so long for the shade and cool of trees as you do here. All my efforts in my garden till now have been for growing trees mostly the ones that grew on there own are the ones that grew.
  The man who writes on evergreen oaks said another thing when he ws talking of how they maqde life there better, that i liked and thought was funny, serious and funny, he said that cars work better where there are trees, use less petrol to the mile because there is more oxygen in the air and so they burn the gas more efficiently.  rose macaskie.
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
the temperature difference near a large stand of trees is amazing! there are many deeply shaded areas on the wooded portion of the property. crawling into (it is very dense) one of the areas offers at least a 10* change in temp.

my apples are getting ripe! found the first one with black seeds today. the tree that is most productive seems to be a green type with a blush of red when they are ripe so it will be easy to spot the ones ready to pick. that particular tree is loaded with apples too! yeah!


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Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    9
the funny thing about the temperate climate that i live in..we get pretty doggone used to the cold..and then when it reaches 80 we run for the nearest tree.

our high yesterday was 61..when I walked i could see my breath yesterday morning..we are talking July 17 and I could see my breath !!!

they said we did not break the record for the coldest day on record in July yet..but we are heading that way..the forcast for the rest of the month here is well below normal temps...right now it is 9 am and it is 54 degrees and rain.

But even with the cold..i would rather have that than any temperature above 75 degrees here....when we aproach 80 i melt..we had 101 a couple weeks ago for a couple of days..it was so odd for here..no one moves.
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
I forgot to thank you for sending us this weather! it might make you a bit chilly but it is a huge relief when these fronts reach us!  we had record lows at 61* and it has only been in the mid to upper 80*'s which feels cool compared to the 100+ temps we were enduring. I practically cried when I walked out the door the other morning to do chores in the morning and it wasn't like walking into a sauna. I figure our nasty summer temps are better (for me anyway) then been housebound by snow for months in the winter. and we have mild winters that only are restrictive (usually) for a few weeks at at time...probably will be less so now that we moved farther south. I was excited when we were looking at houses to buy in december and there was one with a garden that had rows of perfect cabbages and greens still trucking along without any protection.
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    9
Bless your heart..glad you are enoying the colder weather..we had 43 this morning which delayed my walk until 9..

I walked back into the woods to check on that wild apple tree back there..the one i found in the spring, and low and behold it has apples on it..they are green right now and about 1 1 /2 inches..plenty of them too..they are about the size of the transparents next door..but more apply green..so they must be an early apple..Ron has his hopes..he wants snows..but i don't think so.

We'll just wait and see what they turn into....the other small apple tree that we found i don't see any apples on it..but it is really hard to get to now with the pond dug..i'll check it out whe i can cut my way to it.
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15410
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
This whole thing about getting rid of all the leaves, then planting it with no water ....  I just don't get it.  It sounds like a recipe for disaster.  Yet, we're talking about Sepp.  A lot of his stuff sounds completely crazy at first and then later it turns out to be genius.

So I am trying really hard to wrap my head around this. 

Anybody tried it?

Can anybody help me to understand it?

Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
paul wheaton wrote:
This whole thing about getting rid of all the leaves, then planting it with no water ....
Can anybody help me to understand it?


You'll notice that he only does this when the nursery's prices (or some other externality) prompt him to plant at the "wrong" time of year.  If the trees haven't blossomed yet, I assume Sepp would put them in the ground without setting them out to dry first.

I can understand why watering them after a dry-season transplant would give them the wrong idea...his way, they only get water by reaching out into damp soil as much as possible.


"the qualities of these bacteria, like the heat of the sun, electricity, or the qualities of metals, are part of the storehouse of knowledge of all men.  They are manifestations of the laws of nature, free to all men and reserved exclusively to none." SCOTUS, Funk Bros. Seed Co. v. Kale Inoculant Co.
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
I can see why it might prepare them for transplant at a poor time of year. stimulating them to go dormant as a protective measure and to leaf out naturally as the weather becomes more suitable.
Rachell Koenig


Joined: Jan 08, 2012
Posts: 69
What does he plant around his apple trees?
Cj Verde
pollinator

Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 3102
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
    
  54
Loony K wrote:... or he grew alot from seed, and propagates the best of them.


This doesn't seem very likely. My understanding is that your odds of getting a palatable apple from a tree started from seed is 1 in 80,000 (hence all the grafting being done).

Has anyone here actually stuck a cutting from an apple tree?


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Nick Kitchener


Joined: Sep 24, 2012
Posts: 349
Location: Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
    
    6
paul wheaton wrote:This whole thing about getting rid of all the leaves, then planting it with no water ....  I just don't get it.  It sounds like a recipe for disaster.  Yet, we're talking about Sepp.  A lot of his stuff sounds completely crazy at first and then later it turns out to be genius.

So I am trying really hard to wrap my head around this. 

Anybody tried it?

Can anybody help me to understand it?



This reminds me of some findings made during the Falklands war in 1982:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falklands_War

Because of the isolation, it was difficult getting the required medical supplies to the front and treat wounded soldiers. At the time, it was thought that if one could replace the blood through transfusion as fast as the patient was loosing it then they would survive.
It sort of worked but this option wasn't available at the Falklands battle front.

They then discovered the body is much smarter than that and it goes into a special survival mode where the survival outcome is actually higher than the previous method. The catch was that this mode is triggered by massive blood loss and the resulting low blood pressure.

It's quite possible that this method kicks the tree into a similar survival mode where the survival outcome of a massive trauma is actually greater than a medium trauma.

Sorry, no links except this:
http://www.paulstips.com/brainbox/pt/home.nsf/link/28082006-Sometimes-its-better-to-do-nothing

Aaron McCarty


Joined: Nov 15, 2012
Posts: 9
I suppose if the tree lives it will be one hell of a strong tree. This sort of reminds me of the difference between using transplants and sowing seed directly. The sown seed is always going to be a better producer if it makes it. Not a perfect correlation here, but I think there is something to it.

So let me get this straight. You can propagate apple trees by root cuttings?
Cj Verde
pollinator

Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 3102
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
    
  54
Apparently, but not easily. See here

Grafting is probably easier.
garrett lacey


Joined: Nov 22, 2011
Posts: 72
Location: Kamloops, BC, semi-arid rainshadow, zone 6
    
  10
paul wheaton wrote:This whole thing about getting rid of all the leaves, then planting it with no water ....  I just don't get it.  It sounds like a recipe for disaster.  Yet, we're talking about Sepp.  A lot of his stuff sounds completely crazy at first and then later it turns out to be genius.

So I am trying really hard to wrap my head around this. 

Anybody tried it?

Can anybody help me to understand it?



By getting rid of all the leaves he is essentially stopping the tree's transpiration. Without the leaves spewing moisture into the air, the roots have time to recover, re-establish root hairs, and find water. If the leaves were left on, the whole tree would wilt and desiccate because the roots wouldn't have the capacity to replace the moisture being lost through the leaves. In the horticulture program I took, we removed most of the the leaves from the cuttings we were propagating for this reason.

I guess the one thing that gets me is how he removes the leaves by leaving the whole tree bare-root in the sun. Somehow this causes it to drop the leaves before the whole plant dies.
Jordan Lowery
volunteer

Joined: Sep 26, 2009
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
    
  11
I did this with a peach and a cherry last year.

It makes the tree grow roots. And like said stops the trees transpiration. I did experience some dieback on the upper branches. But the trees lived and put on fresh growth.

I did notice that the trees were much more drought hardy afterwards. We don't get rain from may to October. I flooded the swale above them once with duck
Pond water around late July.

The trees were given to me late in the season. I prefer to plant my trees after the soil is saturated in the fall. Or just plant seeds. A fun experiment and a useful tool to have in the brain.


The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings. - Masanobu Fukuoka
 
 
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