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Reforestation - Growing Trees in Arid - barren lands-Almond trees - Apricot Trees

Konstantinos Karoubas


Joined: Mar 20, 2012
Posts: 107
    
    4
Hello everyone,

Trying to grow trees in arid zone/barren places is difficult and expensive, in both time and money. Both are scarce commodities. One way to establish ground cover and to create new soil is to plant closely spaced trees. I have found here in Greece that almond tree and apricot tree nuts will sprout without any care and produce trees without watering or any care.

Simply bury the nuts in the ground in late September and in late spring you will have young trees growing - they do not need to be watered - even in the sizzling heat of August the young trees survive - in the first year, the young trees shed their leaves and even the trunk dies, but in the second spring the trees come back.

To me this amazing - a person can devote an hour of his/her life and create a mini forest using almond and apricot nuts. Care of course must be taken to collect nuts from healthy and disease free trees - not to old or young, etc.

I hope others will try this in arid/barren places and report back on the results. Also if you have any experience with other trees that have the same characteristics please let us know.

We need to plant millions of trees and every bit helps.

Kostas
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Greece used to be heavily forested, so it's not surprising that trees want to grow there!


Idle dreamer

Konstantinos Karoubas


Joined: Mar 20, 2012
Posts: 107
    
    4
We think it used to be heavily forested 2500 years ago - now southern Greece (the Peloponnese) is almost barren. Rains stop in late April - early May and sometimes do not return until early October
Kostas
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6675
Location: Currently in Seattle. Probably moving 1 hour north by end of the year.
    
139
Καλώς ήρθατε στο φόρουμ Κώστα

I once threw a nectarine stone in a side yard after eating the fruit. It never got watered, or tended.
The second year, it produced one small (but edible) fruit. I couldn't believe it.

Konstantinos Karoubas


Joined: Mar 20, 2012
Posts: 107
    
    4
Thanks John
Nectarine it is -thanks for the suggestion.

I will collect nectarine stones and plant them this fall - I forgot to mention that store bought fruits are usually not suitable to collect seeds from. The stones/nuts need to be collected from trees that are naturally or organically grown.

Kostas
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    9
sheeesh I just threw away an apricot that had died..wonder if it would have grown back?? I think it was pretty darn dead.


Brenda

Bloom where you are planted.
http://restfultrailsfoodforestgarden.blogspot.com/
Kay Bee


Joined: Oct 10, 2009
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
Very interesting, Konstantinos. Seed grown trees have a lot going for them, in my opinion. Peach seedlings have a good reputation for producing fruit similar to the parent tree, unlike many other types of domesticated fruits. Given how closely almonds are related to peaches, I would not be surprised if the almond seedlings have decent to good quality nuts.


"Limitation is the mother of good management", Michael Evanari

Location: Southwestern Oregon (Jackson County), Zone 7
Konstantinos Karoubas


Joined: Mar 20, 2012
Posts: 107
    
    4
No Question about
I have a small cluster (about 10 foot diameter area) of seed grown trees that are about 8 years old - they range from 5 to 7 tall and include apple trees, grapes and acacia trees - they are in an area where we threw our organic "Garbage" away. Last year we ate some grapes (very tasty) - the apple trees have not produced yet - but they are strong and healthy. These trees have never been watered or fertilized.

My main interest is to see if we can use seeds to reforest difficult areas such as Texas, Arizona, Southern California or Israel Palestine Africa etc. If forum members in such areas can plant almond, apricot, nectarine and wild peach stones, and report back on the results - it would be great. Reforestation can become so much easier.

The cost of planting individual trees is cost prohibitive (time and money). Closely spaced, these trees can be used as ground cover, and once the ground temperature drops other trees can easily be grown among them.

Kostas
Doug Hack


Joined: Aug 10, 2012
Posts: 14
Location: Sacramento, CA Zone 9
One possible advantage of a seed grown tree over a container grown tree (grafted or not) is the possibility of a stronger, more site-adapted root system developing. I'm not talking about disease resistance - carefully selected root stocks will usually have the advantage there - but if the tree is capable of developing a tap root from seed it may be able to grow deeper into the soil to find soil moisture and nutrients. My understanding from reading is that grafted, bareroot and container trees almost never re-develop a strong tap root.

Nursery supplied trees cost too much if you need a lot of them - making growing trees from seed economically attractive as long as you have labor and time. Many popular fruit trees are selected fruit cultivars on selected root stocks which the nurserymen will tell us are so far superior to a seedling that it isn't worth bothering growing from seed.

I believe Konstantinos Karoubas has identified two crop trees where seedlings can provide decent trees in quantity, at much lower cost. Agribusiness would not be interested, but then, we aren't interested in agribusiness. I've read that Apricot cultivars do quite well grafted on apricot seedling rootstock. Grafting is not that difficult. One purchased cultivar could provide the scion for grafting many seedling roots (if the fruit from the seedling was not judged acceptable).

I am particularly interested in almond, because I live in a zone 9 area of Northern California near where commercial production is common. Almond nuts provide a healthy source of protein and other nutrients, but at $6 per pound at the grocery store, are not very affordable. I would like to grow more almonds for storage and year-round eating for my family. In my semi-rural neighborhood occasional back-yard almonds have been grown for many decades. Birds have spread the trees to various places in the fields, where a few have taken root and established themselves without any attention, fertilization, cultivation, or irrigation. This is amazing in an area with an average 17 inches of rainfall mostly in three Winter months. My experience with these 'volunteer' trees is that they are mostly bitter. I recently checked the sweet/bitter inheritance for almonds and was surprised to find research that at first glance predicted 100% sweet nut inheritance - as the sweet gene is dominant. Closer reading shows that assumes that both parents were sweet almonds, which would have either SS or Ss genes. Because of the many wild bitter almonds in my neighborhood, the few sweet almond trees are almost certainly Ss, and are frequently pollinated by ss bitter trees, perpetuating the high percentage of bitter volunteers. I currently have two sweet almond volunteers on my property and five bitter. I have removed or allowed the sheep to eat many bitter trees. almond taste research pdf

Since I would like to plant seeds and increase the number of sweet almond trees I have, if I were to take seeds from the bitter trees - I would expect to get a very high percentage of bitter seedlings (between 75% to 100% bitter). But by simply taking the seeds from my two sweet trees, I guarantee that at least one parent has at least one dominant sweet gene with the expected outcome between 50% and 100% sweet seedlings. Most people will not have my unique situation of having bitter pollinators in the neighborhood and would get mostly sweet seedlings. (Between 75% and 100%). I believe that there is another factor contributing to the high percentage of wild bitter bird planted almonds spread throughout my neighborhood (beginning with the presence of decades-old bitter almond trees). When a bird takes an almond from a tree and flies away to eat it, if it is sweet, they will finish eating it, but if it is bitter, they will drop it and leave it after the first taste. The birds are smart enough to strip my sweet trees bare if I don't beat them to it, but hundreds of nuts stay on the bitter trees through the Winter.

I suspect the presence of these tough survivor seedlings as pollinators in my neighborhood may carry positive genetic material that would not necessarily be present in standard orchard cultivars. I intend to continue to use my own seed to plant many more trees on my property and keep the best of them. One of my sweet trees produces small tightly enclosed hard-shell nuts, while the other produces large poorly sealed paper shell nuts (easily hand cracked), so there is significant genetic variability. The nuts from both trees are delicious.


Konstantinos Karoubas


Joined: Mar 20, 2012
Posts: 107
    
    4
Thanks for the info and discussion on the almonds Doug. The article by Vargas et al. was very informative.

Now is the time of the year that almonds and apricots mature and seeds/stones are available to be collected – they should be put in the ground around October. We want to see how readily they not just sprout, but survive and grow without watering, in lands that are showing signs of desertification.

You are absolutely right as to seed grown trees – they have a strong root system and adapt to the local environment,

We have experienced a severe drought this summer here with both lack of rain and high temperatures. My seed grown trees and grapes are not effected at all by the weather (at least I do not see signs of it).

If you need to grow almonds for your personal consumption, I think it wood be advisable to purchase a few trees – they will produce fruit much faster than seed grown trees (they take a lot longer to start producing).

This year I plan on trying almonds, apricots, peach (as mentioned by Kay Bee) and nectarines (as mentioned by John Polk). I will also try sour cherries and wild pears among others.

The idea here is to accomplish fast and economic establishment of ground cover in areas that have experienced desertification or under the threat of desertification.

The above mentioned trees will not only provide ground cover but they will also in due time provide food for humans and animals. The benefits of good ground cover are many and include improved water and moisture retention, drop in ground temperature and improvement of the soil conditions.

It would be good if others around the world tried this and report back on the results – what is the percentage of trees that survive the 1st and 3rd years in your area ? Your area is a prime candidate. Putting 10, 20 , 30, 50 or 100 seeds in the ground takes very little time. The most difficult part is getting started – putting the 1st seed in the ground. Seeds can be planted close together (3 feet apart or so) to achieve fast ground protection. I can see 100 volunteers each carrying and planting 100 seeds/stones – if you only have 50% survival rate then you can have 5,000 trees planted in short order and a mini forest is created – in 10 years time the trees will have grown and they can be thinned out (we should have this problem more often). Once the area has good ground coverage other trees can and should be sown or planted there, and will have a good chance to survive because of the shade provided by the existing trees.

Its important to use good quality seeds. Most store bought fruits do not qualify – either the fruits are picked early or are sprayed, so they do not produce trees.

It would be interesting to see at what extremes, climate wise it works – i.e. planting trees via seeds/stones. It looks like it works for Northern Greece (Thessaloniki) and it also holds for southern Greece (near Sparta) – we want to see if it works in Cyprus, Israel, Jordan - i.e. how far into the desert environment will it work? The same for you - Sacramento, San Francisco, Arizona, LA, Mexico etc.


Kostas
Doug Hack


Joined: Aug 10, 2012
Posts: 14
Location: Sacramento, CA Zone 9
There are two significant problems to establishing forests where I live: low rainfall almost entirely in the Winter, and impenetrable cemented hardpan underlying thin (average 12 inches) sandy soil (sometimes with a thin clay layer above the hardpan). It is amazing that ANY tree seedling would ever get established here, however several almonds and at least one oak have managed to survive on their own long enough for their taproot to penetrate a hardpan that may be up to six feet thick in some places. I have tried to dig through the hardpan on my property on two occasions - and gave up after pick-axing through about two and a half feet. It does not soften with water. Most of these seedlings established where there was an undisturbed buildup of natural mulch primarily from wild oats. The dominant vegetation away from riparian areas is non-native mediteranean annual grasses (native perennial grasses are long gone) and undesirable weeds such as star thistle. The soil is primarily granite based alluvial deposits, with good fertility - just add water and humus. There is one tree that established some 30 years (or more) ago along a fence line near the top of a small rise, that has relatively recently sheltered several younger seedlings.

Several nursery-purchased fruit trees have been planted and lasted a few years with summer irrigation - only to die from water-logging in a particularly wet winter. I have a number of black locust trees that survive once established, but never break through the hardpan. Given irrigation, they will grow tall enough to blow over in 20-30 years, without irrigation they drop nearly all of their leaves and have branch die-back in the most dry summers, while the best established of the Almond trees remain surprisingly green far from any source of water. Considering that several seedlings have lasted multiple years (even decades, although with extremely slow growth rates) here, almond tap roots must be very tough!

I found a research study which indicates that the highest germination technique for almonds is to plant them in the Fall as soon as they are 'ripe' and supply water until the rains are sufficient. If planting is delayed, the seed needs to be stratified for at least 45 days to achieve best germination. Using either of these techniques the researchers acheived 65-75 percent germination rates. They do not report survival rates, or soil conditions. African Journal of Agricultural Research Vol. 6(15), pp. 3522-3525, 4 August, 2011

If you have more winter rainfall, and deeper, less difficult to penetrate soil than I do, there is a good chance that seedlings will have a reasonable survival rate. Getting them started with some irrigation in the Fall (and with luck a wet winter) could make a substantial difference. Have you considered trying Olives?
Doug Hack


Joined: Aug 10, 2012
Posts: 14
Location: Sacramento, CA Zone 9
Link to research on the root structures of various almond cultivars: http://www.actahort.org/members/showpdf?booknrarnr=373_13 There appears to be considerable variation on the degree of tap rooting versus fiberous rooting between cultivars.

I read quotes from one California almond grower who was very proud of a 2,000 pound per acre crop from a "fifth leaf" (young) almond orchard planted at nearly 120 trees per acre. He said that it took four acre-feet of water to produce a crop! He was paying $100 per acre-foot for water and apparently flood irrigating. Apparently the land was located next to a huge irrigation canal. Some California orchards are installing drip irrigation.

Considering the shortage of summer water thoughout the areas with mediterranean climates, I am interested in establishing orchard trees on their own roots (or planted in-place seedling roots) whenever possible, with the hope that a minimum amount of summer drip irrigation will sustain production. The current state of commercial orchard production (in California) requires extensive irrigation and water is transported hundreds of miles through huge irrigation canals from the Sierra Mountains to irrigated valley crops. Deep water wells are being used for many other crops, pumping "fossil" water supplies out of deep acquifers (often below sea level) at rates much higher than recharge. This is resulting in salinization of acquifers near the ocean.

Detailed discussion of world-wide commercial almond production rootstocks and cultivars:
http://ressources.ciheam.org/om/pdf/a94/00801305.pdf

Here is a very interesting quote from the above paper: "s. Due to the nonirrigated conditions of most Mediterranean orchards, almond seedlings had been the dominant
rootstock for centuries, because of their deep growth and associated efficiency for mining
nutrients and water. Often unselected rootstocks, even bitter almonds, were used for producing
seedlings rootstocks although later some efforts were directed toward some seedling lines
because of their homogeneity (Felipe, 1989) or resistance to nematodes (Kochba and SpiegelRoy, 1976). More recently, peach × almond hybrids are showing promising performance under
non-irrigation, due, in part, to the loss of the deeply mining almond tap-root when transplanting
(Kester and Grasselly, 1987; Felipe, 2000). 'GF-677' has been the most utilized rootstock in the
past years, with an increasing utilization now of new releases. "

Check page 28 of this University of California, Davis publication for a brief history and present direction of Almond bredding in California: http://sbc.ucdavis.edu/files2/57360.pdf

Clearly research for the commercial industry is emphasizing self-fertility first (because of bee pollinator availability problems and expense) and (secondly) either later bloom, or improved pollination source cultivars for the huge numbers of established orchards.

While self-fertility and later bloom both have potential for permaculture applications, it is unlikely that there is any major research being done to select cultivars for low maintenance applications. Commercial orchards (at least in California) use irrigation, weed suppression (cultivation or chemical), fertilization (with expensive tissue analysis), imported bee colonies, pesticides and very high mono-culture planting densities. The emphasis is on maximizing crop weight per acre.

For permaculture applications seedling cultivars are needed that can establish and produce on low-fertility marginal sites with minimum inputs. While current commercial research is not necessarily counter the needs of permaculture, neither is it directly applicable.

Today I will knock at least a hundred almonds from the tough bitter almond volunteers in my neighborhood, and toss them into high dry grass along the fencelines of my property where they will either sprout and survive, or not. If this is a good year for rains, some will survive (based on past volunteerism here). As they become visible in the grass, I will mark them with stakes and encourage them with once per month watering during the dryest months.

This book provides an interesting read not only about almonds, but several other major nut crops: http://books.google.com/books?id=7CK8LFCcvtcC&pg=PA9&lpg=PA9&dq=roots+%22almond+seedlings%22&source=bl&ots=PWEHprqgYr&sig=qfKnMFmQociFxXf-JQzMKwZRqW8&hl=en#v=onepage&q=roots%20%22almond%20seedlings%22&f=false
Doug Hack


Joined: Aug 10, 2012
Posts: 14
Location: Sacramento, CA Zone 9
Today I collected 400 wild bitter almond seeds in a bucket and planted them about every two feet along about 800 feet of perimeter fencing. If even 5 percent of them survive I will have 20 new trees to start my hedgerow/shelter fence. This took about four hours.

In the process of planting them I found a two foot tall volunteer almond, a one foot mulberry, and several tiny oak seedlings that I didn't know about. Trees in grassland! When the fires are controlled and grazing animals fenced out trees can get established.

I also planted sweet almonds in seven locations, with three seeds in each location. I just used a shovel sideways to skim the young wild grasses and duff away in about a two foot circle, planted the seeds shallowly, and pulled the duff back over them. This is in an area with existing Black Locust overstory and is being watered this Fall to establish new plants before the Winter rains come. I will report on the outcome of these low-input plantings.
Fabrizia Annunziata


Joined: Feb 12, 2012
Posts: 28
    
    1
There are culinary uses for bitter almonds but they are hard to find in the US. It might be a lucrative niche.

I have heard that innoculating the roots of trees when they are planted with mycorrhial fungi helps them to grow roots and eliminates the necessity for any additional water other than rain water.
Konstantinos Karoubas


Joined: Mar 20, 2012
Posts: 107
    
    4
Hello Doug,
Sorry it took so long to get back to you.

Congratulations on planting the almonds – you will most likely will have a 60 – 70 % survival rate – let us know how it goes – I think I have mentioned before that in arid zones the almonds drop their leaves in the 1st summer, even the tree trunk falls of sometimes – do not get discouraged next August if you do not see anything – they will grow back next spring and they will become stronger. Make sure you have seeds from healthy mature trees - store bought seeds will not do.

Do not worry about the hard pan subsoil – I have similar (almost exactly) conditions – its like a cement floor – a white subsoil harder than rock.

Trees like almond, olives, prunes, plums and pomegranate have no trouble penetrating through this subsoil and are very very drought tolerant. They have worked very well for me in Northern Greece – you need to find what works in your farm – test different trees and listen to your land – it will show you the way.

I have been placing seeds/stones of the previously mentioned trees all over my farm and in places where I want to reforest – the land needs to be covered by green at all times, as the beautiful late Wangari Maathai used to say.

I would recommend that you put as many seeds in the ground, and as close as you can – do not think to much – clear your mind, place seeds in the land and enjoy the time you spend there. The sooner the land is covered the better – it may take 10 years for some of these seeds to become trees.

Golden rain trees have adopted well to my land I planted about 100 trees and they are doing well – more than half of the trees you plant should be to serve/enrich the land and provide food for the birds and wildlife – not for you. Read and follow Masanobu Fukuoka-San's books – he was a genius – we are lucky to have his books.

As mentioned before I will keep trying by seeds/stones almonds - apricots - wild pears – jujube – nectarines - plums, prunes may also work. I know cactus pear pads stuck in the ground will produce cactus without any help. The goal is to have at least 10 different types of trees or shrubs that can produce trees and ground cover without any assistance. I am trying these both at northern Greece and southern Greece – high and low elevations. The climate conditions are much more favorable at high elevations and northern Greece than, the low hills 175 – 250 meters at southern Greece.

I am encouraged by the low cost and good survival rate of some of these trees – nature will instruct us.

A single person can plant 50 – 200 trees by seed in no time at all – I just use a screw driver to open a small hole in the ground and place the seed in – whatever works. Imagine what schools can do – a class of 20, 1st graders can plant 400 trees in no time at all. Imagine employing the unemployed to start reforestation on a grand scale – just the money spend on a single military plane or tank can reforest thousands of acres. DO NOT JUST IMAGINE – DO DO DO start small and grow – 10, 100, 1,000 1,000,000, 10,000,000, 100,000,000, 1,000,000,000, 10,000,000,000 !!!

Keep us informed Doug.

Can you try some of the above mentioned seeds in your area and report back on the results ? Can You suggest other trees that are drought tolerant and can survive from seed without care?

Kostas
tori suzuki


Joined: Sep 08, 2012
Posts: 4
Location: morocco
hi all,
will be experimenting with various seeds, jacaranda, acacias, parkinsonias, ricin, jujub, rose tremière, and meny more.. and thanks for the info ill add some almonds =)
ill be planting in morocco, near marrakech, in quite an arid zone, the only thing that growes wild is the jujub, nothing else survives due to the WAY over grazing of goats and sheep..

i tgibk its good to mix the seeds as much as posible to be able to do as much tshop n drop as possible, also plants help each other in more ways and we know, hence the random associations.

will be reporting the evolution of the project on the permacultureglobal.com or mail if some are intrested.


peace love and harmony.. oh and come visite =)
Konstantinos Karoubas


Joined: Mar 20, 2012
Posts: 107
    
    4
Thanks Tori,
It would be nice to see how things progress for you in your area - please keep us informed, and let us know if we can help in any way.
Kostas
tori suzuki


Joined: Sep 08, 2012
Posts: 4
Location: morocco
things will go fast from here, the 70tones water tank is just finished and soon to be filed,
a seed im having a hard time getting is of the moringa olifera, i know its grown in difrent parts of the world but i can seem to get any here.. :/
Jeffrey Hodgins


Joined: Nov 14, 2011
Posts: 166
Location: Yucatan Puebla Ontario BC
B and T world seeds has them and they can ship almost anywhere. They should pay me for all the publicity I give them. Ah I wonder if my moringa trees will be dead when I get back to Mexico.


Diversified Food forest maker . Fill every niche and you'll have less weeds (the weeds are the crop too). Fruit, greens, wild harvest, and nuts as staple. Food processing and preservation are key to self self-sufficiency. Never eat a plant without posetive identification and/or consulting an expert.
Emily Harris


Joined: Mar 18, 2012
Posts: 13
Jeffrey Hodgins wrote:B and T world seeds has them and they can ship almost anywhere. They should pay me for all the publicity I give them. Ah I wonder if my moringa trees will be dead when I get back to Mexico.


Do they have nuts or actual almond trees? Needless to say, everyone is probably already aware that the FDA has seen to it that even certified organic Almonds are now "homogenized" (or heated beyond the temperature where they can still be sprouted) and probably have 1/10 the nutrition they used to have. I have been trying like CRAZY just to find a farmer that will send me fresh almonds that haven't been pasturized. I thought I found one but the almonds I received did not sprout and when I called to complain they said they probably were too old since they'd been picked 7 months earlier.
Konstantinos Karoubas


Joined: Mar 20, 2012
Posts: 107
    
    4
How is the moringa tree doing in Mexico ?
do they grow there as perenials ? do they need much attention such as watering in the summer ?
Kostas
Doug Hack


Joined: Aug 10, 2012
Posts: 14
Location: Sacramento, CA Zone 9
This is a very good time of year (in the Northern temperate zones) for this discussion as most vegetation is ripening its seeds. In addition to spreading the almond seeds around, I am collecting and redistributing seeds from Chinese Pistache (an 'ornamental') and Western Hackberry (Celtis Reticulata), both of which I have growing on my property, and which are doing well with little or no watering. In my area the Pistache is very commonly planted as a street or parking lot tree. They produce copious amounts of small seeds that birds eat, and they do well on a minimum of water and fertility. In areas with more rainfall they can become invasive.

The Western Hackberry is a 'native' that is also sometimes available from nurseries. The one I have was imported by birds, washed into a crack in an old concrete foundation, and has survived there for about 15 years - now a very nicely shaped small tree (about 15 feet tall) that has never had any attention whatsoever. One of its common names is "Douglas Hackberry", which I find amusing since my real name is Douglas Hack. The seeds of the Hackberry were used as food by native americans.

I have also taken about 50 tip cuttings of semi-hardwood from my ceanothus bush (California native nitrogen fixer) and inserted them into a large planter full of peat moss and perlite in the shade of my grape arbor. This is not a controlled rooting situation, but some may develop roots to be transplanted out. I also placed some cuttings from a California Bay tree that has survived over 60 years on my property from a volunteer. This is a small evergreen multi-stemmed tree that I could use as a privacy screen along the road. I have transplanted several root sprouts from my black locust trees, and will be continuing to do so as new sprouts come up.

I've been thinking about other free sources of seeds and plant material. My neighbor has an established olive tree that overhangs the street and is never picked - I will keep an eye on it for when the olives ripen. Another neighbor has a California Black Walnut tree, that he never harvests from. I know of areas in the foothills where black oaks and grey pines (both edible) drop their seeds along the highway. I've been saving the seeds from the fruit I eat and placing them in the area I've designated for a 'food forest'.

On a slightly different subject, I have also divided a five year old clump of bamboo (Bambusa Multiplex) , and planted it out as a hedge/windbreak for my vegetable garden. One clump about three feet in diameter has made about 40 feet of hedge spaced 18 inches. I don't know how little water it would get by with (it was in a shaded planting border with drip irrigation) but bamboo is pretty tough. This variety is small but supposedly edible, so once it is re-established I will harvest the shoots to control its spread. (or continue to divide it and establish new clumps in various places.) It makes useful poles about 1.5 inches in diameter.
Kathy Burns-Millyard


Joined: Feb 17, 2012
Posts: 75
Location: Arizona low desert
I spread probably 100 olives around the start of the year at my place. I initially tried planting to see if I could get a grove started but critters came along and dug up every single spot. After that I just tossed them around and hoped. We've had a floods since then so I don't know if they all washed away. I expect to keep watching for sprouts for years just in case I got lucky


Personal projects occasionally added at http://www.sasez.com - Photos & Books at http://www.electronicperceptions.com
Konstantinos Karoubas


Joined: Mar 20, 2012
Posts: 107
    
    4
Kathy, as far as I know olives do not sprout easily from seed; you should try the other seeds we mentioned above, and let us know how it goes. This is a good time of year to collect seeds and start putting them in the ground. Almonds though, are susceptible to field mice and other critters so you may want to wait until November or December.
Kostas
Kathy Burns-Millyard


Joined: Feb 17, 2012
Posts: 75
Location: Arizona low desert
I don't get to town often but family members have started watching for seed opportunities for me. It doesn't seem like much food is grown in the area though.

I've never seen our heard of nut trees growing in the area for example, and almost never see berry bushes. Trees are planted for shade and ornamental purposes. Many ornamental bushes, plants and vines are also planted, but too many are poisonous. Fruit trees generally consist of oranges unless you go to a commercial orchard.

Food Gardens seem to be limited to standard salad fare. Weeds are unacceptable in most of the city areas and most people seem to think "water wise" means "spread gravel."

My father in law is a postman and he finds things occasionally. He dug up a small bit if bamboo for me last year and I'm slowly starting to divide that now.

He is also the one who found the olive windfall. It's not legal to buy/sell the plants here anymore (something to do with pollen) so I figured I'd try the seeds. Cant hurt and trees have to start from seed at some point in their history
Konstantinos Karoubas


Joined: Mar 20, 2012
Posts: 107
    
    4
I just spend half an hour to an hour today putting seeds/stones in the ground here in southern Greece (Zone 10 I believe) - I am confident, based on what I have seen so far, that within 10 years a small (20' x 20') barren piece of land can be turned into a small oasis. For the next 5 years (if life and nature permits) I will continue putting seeds in the ground (an hour or so each fall or winter), and if time allows I will spread seed balls (seed cubes to be exact 2.5 " x 2.5" x 2.5") - it does not take much effort or cost - the most difficult part for a person is to make a start - that 1st step however small, is very important
.
Alfalfa is also a good ground cover - very deep roots and drought tolerant.

Kostas
Doug Hack


Joined: Aug 10, 2012
Posts: 14
Location: Sacramento, CA Zone 9
I have a correction. The Bay Laurel tree I mentioned before does not fit the description of a California Bay, it appears to be a true Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis) originally native to the Mediterranean. This one is adjacent to watered lawn, so I'm not sure how they do in dry land. My neighbor appears to have several that were planted by birds (under a dead tree) and established when his lawn was watered. They are still surviving (with very yellow leaves) now that area is not watered.

Another species that may have potential for reforestation and food is fig. I don't have any on my property yet, but on what was my Grandparent's land there is a fig tree that is over 60 years old. Over the years the birds have "planted" several trees from this beginning. They only get started here with a little extra water (adjacent to the lawn or under roof runoff) but they are tough and get by with a minimum of summer water and no specific attention. These are what we call "Black Mission Figs" in California. They are supposedly descendants of figs brought to California 300 years ago by Spanish missionaries. This type of fig doesn't require wasps to fertilize, and they produce two crops (early and late summer). They are very sweet and delicious. They may require some irrigation to get a crop.

Here is a link to a description of arid and sem-arid climates that provides a framework for understanding: arid climates

I read an article (that I can't re-find) suggesting that tree canopies in the San Joaquin Valley of California may effectively double the 'rainfall' under the canopies by condensing common winter ground fogs and nightly re-condensing a portion of transpired moisture. The average precipitation is 5 inches per year. Increasing this to 10 inches per year under the canopy is substantial.

Here is a scientific study of "hydraulic redistribution" (HR) by velvet mesquite tree (Prosopis velutina) roots. This species is a legume that produces edible seeds. The study shows that water in relative abundance in surface layers during periods of precipitation is redistributed by the roots deep into the soil for later use in drier periods. A portion of this water may become indirectly usable by other closely associated plants. The implications of this is extremely important. In our meditteranean grasslands dominated by shallow rooted annual grasses that sprout, consume all the available surface water, reproduce, and dry out there would be no HR. Introducing appropriate deep rooted tree species in correct densities for conditions could change the environment for other plants substantially. Avoiding getting bogged down in the technical details, mathematics, and assumptions of this study, it provides clear evidence of HR from surface lateral roots to deep tap roots during times when surface soils have a surplus of moisture. This is on soils that are far from ground water and are otherwise dry. A significant portion of this 'banked' water is available to extend the active period of the tree once surface moisture is depleted. This has important implications for the importance of tap roots (and possibly 'sinker' roots) in trees and shrubs for arid and semi-arid regions even where there is no significant sub-soil water to tap.

Link to a good description of velvet mesquite.
Konstantinos Karoubas


Joined: Mar 20, 2012
Posts: 107
    
    4
Very interesting that you mentioned figs Doug - this month I have experimented with figs - on half of my farm, I tossed 25 or so dried figs, hoping that ants will collect the seeds and distribute them around the land, and hopefully fig trees will grow - ants are a very powerful force - I do not know how we can harness some of this force or work with this giant force of nature. On the other half of the farm, I planted 25 figs in the ground, to see if they can sprout and survive without care. I am not very optimistic on fig trees though - we will see.

As far as the Hydraulic Redistribution, thank you for the article - I will read it carefully - I remember Fukuoka-San mentioned trees that distribute ground water around (sideways etc) - I like the Do Nothing Philosophy - just plant seeds or make seed balls and let nature work and choose - it will show us the way - we just need to look and listen (sounds weird - but it makes sense).

Kostas
Doug Hack


Joined: Aug 10, 2012
Posts: 14
Location: Sacramento, CA Zone 9
Here is a very similar study (with similar results) using the species Juglans major (Arizona Black Walnut). On this site, the tree's roots had penetrated a cemented hardpan layer. http://www.blueplanetbiomes.org/velvet_mesquite.htm

The reason I find these studies so important, is that my property and major portions of the east side of the Calfornia central valley are underlain with cemented hardpan. This means that even the meager seasonal rain that falls, rapidly saturates the shallow sandy surface soils (often only 12 inches deep) and runs off. Even when surface runoff is not apparent, there is significant sub-surface drainage leaving the higher areas to dry rapidly, and the lower areas to be saturated for an extended period - drowning the roots of many species.

I have read with interest the discussions of hugelculture and imagined cutting deep trenches along the contours and filling them with moisture retaining wood. There are several problems with this concept: First it is prohibitively expensive in terms of equipment rental and time. Secondly, the fragile topsoils will be substantially destroyed in the process. There are other reasons, including an intuitive one that this sort of land raping is immoral and exactly the opposite of good permaculture practice.

These studies show that there exist at least some (perhaps many) tree species with root systems that will grow water storage in place without resorting to heavy equipment and fossil fuel consumption. If the roots penetrate the cemented hardpan and store water in the relatively porous layers of sediment below, they will be capturing and storing the seasonal rainfall for extended use. They may also reach acquifers with significant ground water. The earliest well in this neighborhood that I am familiar with was hand dug (pickaxed) through the hardpan and produced water at about 20 feet. Later wells were drilled to 50-80 feet and produced substantial irrigation water. These layers were 'used up' and domestic wells in the area are now at the 120 to 160 foot level. Tree roots might still find substantial usable water in the higher levels of sediments, as their usage would be slower than an electric pump.

There is one oak tree on my property that grew in dry grass far from any irrigation. It became established within the past 40 years, and is now approaching 40 feet tall with a diameter about 14 inches. I have never seen it produce acorns. This tree stays green and healthy looking all summer, with no irrigation. Based on its leaves, it is most likely a California "Valley Oak" (Quercus lobata). These typically grow in deep valley soils, often near water courses and require a good soil water supply. I have to assume that it has successfully sent it's roots through the hardpan and is tapping deeper water sources. There is no way that a tree of its present size could maintain such a large leaf canopy without access to lower level water. This indicates that tap root penetration of the thick hardpan is possible. Having attempted to transplant oak seedlings (California black oak Quercus kelloggi) that I had planted in a vegetable bed, I know that Oaks with only two leaves have already sent a tap root down deeper than I could dig. There is probably great potential for arid land reforestation in many oak species.
Doug Hack


Joined: Aug 10, 2012
Posts: 14
Location: Sacramento, CA Zone 9
All of the volunteer figs here were passed through the intestines of birds, and landed where extra water (and shade) was available. I share your doubts about their ability to sprout and survive with no help in a mediterranean climate. However, they are an excellent food tree given a reasonable amount of irrigation.
Konstantinos Karoubas


Joined: Mar 20, 2012
Posts: 107
    
    4
he reason I find these studies so important, is that my property and major portions of the east side of the Calfornia central valley are underlain with cemented hardpan. This means that even the meager seasonal rain that falls, rapidly saturates the shallow sandy surface soils (often only 12 inches deep) and runs off. Even when surface runoff is not apparent, there is significant sub-surface drainage leaving the higher areas to dry rapidly, and the lower areas to be saturated for an extended period - drowning the roots of many species.


One of the reasons I like alfalfa is that its roots go 6 to 7 feet deep into the hard pan subsoil - I have seen this during the excavation for a house - right at the edge of the excavation set an alfalfa plant, and its roots were exposed for me to see - I should have taken a picture. The alfalfa plant lives 3 - 5 years and then dies. Its roots remain in the soil and decompose, leaving holes deep into the hardpan for water to penetrate and percolate into the surrounding area - its like drilling holes into the soil for water storage. Thousands of alfalfa plants thousands of mini storage areas. Simply scatter the alfalfa plant (or make seed balls) when you get extended rainy period - make sure the ants have curtailed their activities otherwise they will collect your seeds.

Kostas
Konstantinos Karoubas


Joined: Mar 20, 2012
Posts: 107
    
    4
Here is a scientific study of "hydraulic redistribution" (HR) by velvet mesquite tree (Prosopis velutina) roots. This species is a legume that produces edible seeds. The study shows that water in relative abundance in surface layers during periods of precipitation is redistributed by the roots deep into the soil for later use in drier periods.


Simply Amazing - all this underground water traffic - the wisdom-complexity-ability of nature - we are so small and know so very little.

Thank You for the article

Kostas
Doug Hack


Joined: Aug 10, 2012
Posts: 14
Location: Sacramento, CA Zone 9
Here are notes from my recent on-line research into seed germination:


Short simple explanation of stratification and dormancy.

http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/hil/hil-8704.html


Wikipedia has a technical listing of the many varieties and combinations of

seed dormancy. Although comprehensive, it is likely to intimidate the reader

and does not include useful techniques and applications for breaking dormancy.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seed_dormancy

This article from the Montana State University is packed with specific

practical advice by species for collecting, storing, and germinating seeds of

many common temperate trees and shrubs.

http://csfs.colostate.edu/pdfs/growseed.pdf


Here is a link to a 1960 article on seed propagation of woody plants by the

Arnold Arboreatum of Harvard University that is often referred to in later

literature, but contains instructions and explanations not found elsewhere.

http://arnoldia.arboretum.harvard.edu/pdf/articles/1553.pdf

Chapter 9 of This 1985 FAO Guide to Forest Seed Handling details various

methods for breaking seed dormancy (including batch processing of large

quantities), although containing only minimal reference to species

applicability. Notable is a chart showing the effect of germination on Black

Locust (Robinia Psuedoacacia) of various pre-treatments. Sanding the seedcoat

produced over 70 percent germination in less than 10 days compared with 10 to

14 percent in 12 to 40 days without treatment. Other sources state that this

species has no stratification requirements and has only simple seedcoat

dormancy. http://www.fao.org/docrep/006/AD232E/AD232E00.htm#TOC

Some varieties of nut tree seeds (specifically oaks and walnuts) should never

be allowed to dry out thoroughly after ripening.

Soil germination tips for a variety of tropical fruit, ornamental, perennial,

heb and vegetable seeds from Trade Winds Fruit:

http://www.tradewindsfruit.com/seed_germination_tips.htm

Germination Characteristics of South African Tree Species:

http://www.worldagroforestry.org/downloads/publications/PDFs/ja07164.pdf

Germination experimental study for Common Elderberry (Sambucus Nigra) Warm

stratification for 60 days followed by cold stratification for 90 days gave

nearly the same results as acid scarification followed by 90 days cold

stratification. Mechanical scarification was not included in the study.:

http://www.plant-materials.nrcs.usda.gov/pubs/mipmctn10584.pdf
Konstantinos Karoubas


Joined: Mar 20, 2012
Posts: 107
    
    4
Thank You Doug,
I have gone down the same path you are going now - it's a good way to learn - some of your references I have not seen before though.

I have not found a study on the issue I am interested - which seeds trees or shrubs survive and grow, from seed without assistance - of course we are interested for arid climates and in areas without ground cover. Nothing on this subject anywhere. I hope you will have better luck.

On the issue of mechanical seed scarification I have searched for seed scarification machines and did not find something that is "economical" - I have used with a good degree of success small food blenders - fill the blender with 3/4 of water and add seeds - run the blender 3 or 4 times - some seeds (small amount) get destroyed - but the majority get scarified and become soft (ready to germinate) the next day. You need to use the blender a few times before you become proficient with it - i broke a couple blenders in the learning process. The blender definitely beats scarifying by hand if you have lots of seeds to scarify.

Kostas
Abe Connally


Joined: Feb 20, 2010
Posts: 1407
Location: Chihuahua Desert
I know this thread is a bit old, but I am in a similar climate, and I find it completely interesting.

In my climate (Northern Mexico, elevation 2000m, zone , apricots and mulberries readily grow from seed without irrigation. Our rain season is July through October, and then no rain for the rest of the year, so I don't know how some seeds do it. I think they actually sprout in August, rather than in spring. We typically get 20-25 inches of rain a year.

We have a red, acidic clay here. But, peaches, plums, and apricots do well, as well as some grapes. Pines also do well, and our area is known for the wild Pinon Pine nuts. We have a lot of oaks that give good acorns, and the Mexican Blue Oak has acorns that are not bitter, can be eaten without processing.

So, don't forget to try some pines and acorns. I want to try almonds, but I have no idea where to find seed. I would also like to grow Pistachios, but again, no seed. At least with Pistachios, I can find seedlings at the nurseries.


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Konstantinos Karoubas


Joined: Mar 20, 2012
Posts: 107
    
    4
Thanks Abe for the info especially the Mexican blue oaks - usually as far as I know the oaks need to be planted as soon as they mature - is this the case with the Mexican blue oak ?

Almonds - we have plenty growing around here, but recently I purchased some by the kilo at a local farmers marker whole (with the shell) - I plan on planting a few thousand - I can plant about a thousand a day - they planted close together, about 50 cm apart, so they will provide a good ground cover in a few years - then they can be thinned out and other trees easily planted under the cover of the almond trees. The temperature of the ground drops a great deal when its under the shade of almond trees and allows grass and other plants to thrive even in the summer time.

I try to do a small area each week - for my area here I have until mid January to continue planting - I have recruited my daughter and her friends, and they are helping out when they can.

I will look into the Mexican blue oaks, it would be a great tree for this area especially since its edible.

Kostas




Janet Demetriades


Joined: Nov 28, 2012
Posts: 1
Hi Konstantinos,

I am a garden designer in Cyprus (in the med) and have recently designed a garden in a village in the foothills of the Mount Troodos range. So although I know a little about horticulture I am mostly involved in the design factor of gardens. There are loads of almonds trees in the area and I would like to plant a couple in the garden since the soil and temperatures seem to suit them. It is very hot in the summer and the winter nights can bring frost. But my client is concerned with how large and how invasive the root system can become because the spot where I would like to plant them is only about 3 meters from the neighbours back house wall. Do you know anything about this? You seem to know a lot about almond trees in general. They are so gorgeous in January when they flower. Here in Cyprus I will buy the little trees from the local forestry department as my client is in a hurry to see his garden finalised. Many many thanks in advance for you invaluable information, it would be lovely to see your planted area when the treea have grown and are in bloom.
Konstantinos Karoubas


Joined: Mar 20, 2012
Posts: 107
    
    4
Hello Janet,
Thank You for your reply - I will tell you what I know from experience - the roots are not invasive at all, nor is the tree itself invasive - I first noticed a few small trees growing underneath abandoned almond trees, that's how I got the idea and started using them for reforestation/ground cover purposes.

I am sure the small trees you plant will thrive in Cyprus and will require very little attention - its a very useful tree. I learned that people that have severe cholesterol problems have their breakfast with liquid from almond juice, instead of drinking milk.

I was wondering if you are willing to plant and monitor a few almond stones in the beautiful foothills of Troodos to see how they will behave in Cyprus - I know the summers there are very difficult - from now until mid Jan is the best time to plant them (3 to 4 cm deep) - and then keep us informed. It will be interesting to see if they will survive the 1st summer.

Thank You

Kostas

Abe Connally


Joined: Feb 20, 2010
Posts: 1407
Location: Chihuahua Desert
Konstantinos Karoubas wrote:Thanks Abe for the info especially the Mexican blue oaks - usually as far as I know the oaks need to be planted as soon as they mature - is this the case with the Mexican blue oak ?


I don't know. I usually see them sprout in the summer during the rainy season. They usually fall off the trees around May-June, so spend an entire year underground (at least) before sprouting. You might have difficulty finding seed, as far as I know, they are only located in this region of Mexico.

Konstantinos Karoubas wrote:Almonds - we have plenty growing around here, but recently I purchased some by the kilo at a local farmers marker whole (with the shell) - I plan on planting a few thousand - I can plant about a thousand a day - they planted close together, about 50 cm apart, so they will provide a good ground cover in a few years - then they can be thinned out and other trees easily planted under the cover of the almond trees. The temperature of the ground drops a great deal when its under the shade of almond trees and allows grass and other plants to thrive even in the summer time.

I would love to do a similar thing. I will look around the markets for some fresh, raw almonds. Apparently, in the US, there is a law that almonds must be pasteurized (and they can even be labeled raw), but I doubt we have that law here.

I doubt anything here would sprout until the rainy season in the summer, unless I gave it water. But, maybe it will. Even if it sprouts in July-August, it usually doesn't get cold until December. We still haven't had a frost or anything yet, it is about 75F in the day, high 40's at night right now.



Konstantinos Karoubas


Joined: Mar 20, 2012
Posts: 107
    
    4
Hello Abe,
I am sure you will be able to find almonds in their shells in Mexico, not pasteurized or sprayed. Just plant them during your winter time, and they will sprout in the spring. The idea is not to water them - they should grow by themselves - its not practical to water all summer long thousands of seeds - and if you start watering then you have to water until they mature as trees.

Kostas
 
 
subject: Reforestation - Growing Trees in Arid - barren lands-Almond trees - Apricot Trees
 
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