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

 
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Recently I traveled through _______ Greece, and came upon this site. Its typical of many villages and towns, all over the country.

There is a batch of green at the left...its a small pine forest that was planted probably 30 to 40 years ago; right below it, partially hidden by a hill is a town of 2 to 3,000 people. The mountain behind it is completely bare. At the bottom of the picture we can see trees and farmland. The trees are most likely oaks. The pine trees are most likely not going to survive the increased temperatures and reduced rainfalls---if they survive a fire.

The town is surrounded on all sides by 4 or 5 goat or sheep farms. Researching the history of the area, as I expected, it was covered by trees (oaks etc) which were cut down, burned and grazed, so we are now left with this bare environment.

As stated previously in this post the people trying to make a living with the goats and sheep are barely surviving and not to blame. They feed their livestock by purchasing feed which is expensive and by grazing whatever grass of shrubs begin to grow in this bare mountain; they are barely surviving.  These mountains are usually public land and not privately owned.

If the mountain was covered by trees, and the grazing was managed properly, everyone would benefit.

I suspect that similar conditions exist in many places around the world.

Its would be nice...good ...desirable...necessary if we are to survive on this earth, if this mountain and others like it, were covered by a forest; a food forest wood be more desirable for it would provide many many benefits to people, animals and environment.

As a first step the animals need to be confined to their farms...the owners need to be given financial incentives and they need to agree to stop grazing until the area is well established by trees(20, 30, 50 years? who knows)...there is just no way around it.

The effort to reforest this bare mountain is not going to be easy and would require plenty of trial and error, but its doable.

We have identified many of the species in this post that can serve as a start to cover the ground and produce new soil.

But we need not wait till the ideal conditions exist to start planting. I am sure the goats do not go all the way to the top of the mountain. A few Medicago arborea, holly oaks, Laburnum and Cistus incanus plants at the top, can start the process of covering and healing the land. The wind and nature will begin reforesting.

The journey of 1000 miles (or kilometers) starts with one step and its the most difficult.

The intent and spirit of the first steps will determine the outcome.

Kostas
desert.jpg
desertification
desertification
 
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in pre history ireland would have been 85 % or more under tree cover    , approx 1000 years ago the viking era in ireland was coming to a close ,their trade was making money from ocean going expeditions---slave raids and transport of people to various markets around europes coastline and the med was one of their bigger enterprises---they needed a lot of timber ---their farming relatives and friends plus the celt tribes would have made use of the ever increasing opening up of the forests and added to their herd numbers . The demand for suitable and quality timber exceeded supply  within settlements boundry  limits fairly quickly,and i dont think it would have been too wise to poach timber from the neighbouring celts without buying or trading for it---they were head hunters --they would have also been boat builders and traders--and crew members for vikings So -although it may have looked to be fairly thickly forested the large straight trees of any species would have been taken down and anything growing near a river capable of floating a raft or boat would have had its banks and nearby glades harvested . Even in neolithic times the very large straight oaks were taken down near rivers and lakes to build large seagoing raft type boats built of 4 feet or wider planks 50 feet or longer and perhaps 18 inches or more thick, these were shaped sewn together to give with a raised bow and stern and slightly raised  sides --one plank from one tree---an oak will take 350 years to get that size . The last of the viking ships built in ireland were already using various other species of trees as the large straight pines and oaks were hard to get --- and their method of boat building used trees a lot smaller diameter than the neolthic style.  So add on the harvesting of wood to make charcoal for gold ,copper ,silver and iron working , lime making ,cooking ,fencing and home building ---with no one thinking about this ever coming to an end  or planting up trees---more crops and animals --plus more people all the time ---tree cover and quality would have been lacking ..The celts must have noticed this and its effects on their ways of life and even religion -so maybe thats why the tree laws as such came into practice
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Thank you Tony .... excellent explanation.

So there are tree laws !!!

Any organized tree planting effort?

Kostas
 
tony uljee
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The celt tribes had tree laws ,restrictions on what trees could be felled or not and fines imposed for those who broke them ---more of a cultural law ---based on religion and custom of the time---this all fell away as ireland was occupied by normans and a feudal system and law imposed which although denied the lower classes rights to most of the  woods and trees ,it did not save the forest s or their diversity as the ruling class could do as they saw fit with forests they now owned. This evolved into an english occupation of ireland and the royal navy viewed irelands forests as a vital military asset , and all oak or any stand of useful timber  was under their control , and as boat building methods and machinery like gang saws for plank cutting  had come about ---virtually any oak of 50 years old in any shape or form could be used for ribs and the various curved sections of warships and trade boats.The open fields also now had acres of hemp growing to supply rope ,and sail cloth to the navy.
 
tony uljee
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todays modern ireland  does have tree laws as such ,if you wish to fell a tree on your land by rights you would have to apply for a permit from your local council authorities , as to what terms or conditions apply to what is defined as a tree i dont know , i live rural and as far as i can say nobody does this for bringing down a tree or two ,living near a town or village would be more controlled .But if you have large trees of heritage value on your land rural or town ---they will be preserved by order ,and felling these you would get you fined and maybe in court , the fines are sometimes worth the risk it seems as sometimes there are trees felled by "accident"" and they are sold on to timber mills --for a good profit ---but this is fortunately a rare practice.As a member of the EU ,ireland has to follow the directives set out by Brussels and follow a tree planting program --largely funded by EU---our state  subsidizes landowners to plant --not forests but plantations--done mostly by private companies by a contract and mostly sitka spruce ---about 80% of plantation.We should have had 20% of our island under tree cover according to this directive a few years back , we are just on 15%--prior to this irelands tree cover was 1% and crept up to  2% over the decades. Harvesting of this is  on a  20 year cycle and permission has to obtained , plus planning applications to local authorities for access roads to be built , and the state forestry commission has final say ,even if you plant out an entire forest of mixed species out of your own pocket--this will still apply . Sometimes  due to species die backs like we had with our larch trees --identified on a few trees in one plantation --all of irelands larch planted out had to be cut down --and all diseased trees and saplings burnt---large trees deemed clear became pallets , fencing stakes or gates and dog kennels
 
tony uljee
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I have seen how trees can change a landscape within my lifespan so far , relatives of my wife farm in hills /mountains that were used for potato cultivating up until the famine history  on a large scale and then for animal grazing ever since ,mostly sheep higher up and beef cattle on the lower fields , we have high rainfall and fairly constant  mild climate , even though they do have snow up there  so grass cover is okay but was heavily grazed .Most people did not believe it could be grown any better or improved without human management , the plantation companies started up there about 25 to 30 years ago but really expanded from about 20 years ago till today and are increasing. Its mostly sitka spruce in big blocks , after a year or two the deer moved in ---mostly escapees from deer farms and small remnant survivor herds---a hybrid mix of red deer and introduced sika deer ,with some muntjac escapees as well ---they were following the lush grass growth and shelter in the firebreaks . No fertilizer or weed killer used ,no sowing of selected grass types , with in the trees plantation there is virtually nothing to eat ---densely planted so no light gets down plus the needles carpet the ground. Whenever sheep or cattle break out and get lost --just find them in the firebreaks eating away---but unless these firebreaks are cut or mowed ---brambles ,rush and willow move in . The deer numbers have exploded ,and are now considered a novelty by most of the numerous houses with landscaped gardens around --as they graze the lawns and give people something to talk about---if it was cattle or sheep it would a huge problem ---for the farmers deer are a problem --they come out at night mostly ---but are a lot bolder every year so daytime raids are not uncommon ---jump the fences and feed off winter silage and hay next to the cattle in the sheds and yards. If only it could be a vast food forest combination and become a managed system for all to benefit from ---including animal species of course---i dream still
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Thank you Tony for the write up and history of Ireland...its essentially the story of man kind on earth...the destruction if his own home.

"wise man" lol  more like idiot man !!!  (homosapiens)

Try planting some seeds on the firebreaks...see how they do.

Land is much more valuable to everyone if planted with a wide variety of trees shrubs and grasses.

I am sure it will become evident even to the current crop of wise man.

Thank you

Kostas

 
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Chestnuts are carbs growing on trees. They take a long time to mature, and disease can affect them, but in regions where they could grow, you get the food plus the forest (and the wood). You don't need to plant new seeds/grains each year, I wish there were more chestnuts out there. They are not cheap, if you buy them in shops/markets, but they used to be called "the staple of the poor" at a time when wheat was fashionable. They can also grow in mountainous areas where it would be impossible to have fields of grains. You can use them in lots of different ways: in salad, with veg, as sweet desserts, or even with game and other meat, and also fish. They are tricky to peel, you need to peel them when still warm, and this would be the most time consuming part, but some varieties do peel much more easily than others, which could be good to know.
The climate in Europe is changing so I could imagine some parts of Europe could more easily grow them. Not sure how they would thrive in Ireland for instance?
Maybe some parts of Greece are too dry/hot for them, but I would imagine in the north and mountains, maybe?
Many civilisations relied on chestnuts, even Japan, China, the Alp area around Switzerland. Also in Ethiopia, chestnuts are very popular, the African climate being milder because of the altitude.
Before grains became a staple, chestnuts where the staple. And they were also used among mariners during sea voyages.
They are versatile: you can boil or roast them, or use the flour, for cakes. In northern Italy for instance, there are some traditional cakes based on chestnut flour.

 
tony uljee
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yes its a history you can find around the world , we are not by any means in desperate conditions or comparable to other really serious drought  torn countries , i dont have a grand plan or idea as to what we should be doing or not doing --- i just try to make my own little spot better and try to meet and gather ideas from like minded people on here or around my area---  in ireland there are a few  not for profit run nurseries for fruit and nut tree and shrubs/bushes/berries--- with a strong permaculture beliefs , most are running growing trials and restoation /rescue of old varieties  plus looking for trees that will cope with our climate and the future changes with it .They supply cultivars that are proven or likely to produce  fruit/nuts/berries   here and offer endless advice , a good bunch of people , i would like to be a good customer of theirs but with my budget i just cant stretch it that far yet   , so i  grow from seed what i would like to have  , its long term and a lot of mistakes and failures---but when  something germinates and you see it grow then thrive  ---well thats just  green magic and it makes you smile .
 
tony uljee
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Chestnuts do grow in ireland , but would not be at all common around my parts ,our western coastal side is considered to have heavy clay soils not best suited or freedraining enough for long term survival of them--- i have never seen a chestnut growing here , some old estate s that are now parks and attractions would most likely have at least one , i have some planted --grown from seed ---this year i had my first crop off a 5 year old tree ---7  nuts ---so at this rate ---i will be shopping for flour , and carbohydrates at my local shops for a quite sometime into the future. I am certain that greece would have been a major producer of chestnut and the most sought after chestnut honey--from blossum nectar  and the honeydew that bees collect off them.
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Yes indeed Lana, chestnut trees...free...carbs on trees !!!
I bought about 25 to plant this year...we will see how they do. I need to spend more time with this tree.

There is a section of mount Olympus where the chestnut trees self seed and have taken over a section of a hill.

I know of a another mountain in central Greece where they grow wild...the locals collect them and sell them to the winter tourists.

And the 3rd place where they grow wild is at a monastery peninsula called agion oros. The monks allow selective cutting of the trees to raise money.

I am sure there are other places.

Walnuts, pecans, apples, apricots, plums are just a few that can serve a similar purpose. The hunzas rely on apricots for a good part of their diet...they eat the kernels too.

Every place on earth has trees and shrubs it likes to grow like weed.

I mentioned before, that my father struggled all his life to get rid of a weed in his olive fields. He plowed he used round up, he cursed, but the weed did not give up. Carpers was the weed...It grows every where in southern Greece.

We need to grow trees and our food in a similar manner to these weeds.

So plant chestnuts (and other seeds) even in places where science says they are not supposed to grow and see what happens

Kostas
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Capers (not carpers)
 
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Hi from Cyprus. This is a great thread. Probably the best of it's kind. Good job Konstantino of inspiring people and how nice it is to hear from people who know Fukuoka's work!

I just wanted to chime in on a few points that were mentioned in the thread, after I introduce myself.

First of all, I wish I had the amount of rain you get in Thessaloniki Konstantino. I did my Bachelor's there a little over 20 years ago... How has the heavy snow affected you recently?

My land is a south facing terraced hill, near a village a few km from the sea, with basically no soil. It's gypsum. The previous owner was doing everything anti-nature. Max spraying, max artificial fertilizers and max water (from the dam). The villagers believe I have completely left the "orchard" to be ruined, since they believe it's impossible to produce anything without heavy spraying and fertilizing.

I bought it 3 years ago and it took 6 months before seeing the first ground worm. Now they are everywhere. I don't use any mechanical tools except for a small wood chipper. There are no nitrogen fixing trees (carob trees are debatable... I never saw any nodules on the roots), so I plant broad beans under the trees in winter and they do great with no added water. I add coffee grounds which I collect from coffee shops, wood shavings, grass clippings and weeds. I don't compost separately, everything is placed constantly under the trees.

I have pomegranates, loquats, apricots, apples, peaches, figs, olives and various others that I'm experimenting with. Overall the biggest issue is the Med Fruit Fly. During my first year it completely decimated the late loquats, apricots, peaches and apples. Last year due to the weather the fruit fly came late and only affected the apples and late loquats and apricots.

By far the most sensitive trees I have are the apple trees. Everything attacks them. I lost one tree so far and most of the others are struggling, but I refuse to make any interventions.

Also the fig trees are very water sensitive. These are not from seed and have very shallow roots.

Now with regards to things growing wild...

The strongest by far is the Pistacia lentiscus (Σχινιά). They are indestructible, the more you fight them the stronger they get. Self seed relentlessly and will outcompete everything. It's an impressive tree, so well adjusted to draught. By the time you see the sprout sticking 1cm from the ground, the root is usually 15-30cm deep. If you cut it, it gets stronger and sends out hundreds of side shoots. Best I found to do is prune it into a tree... it feels happy and stops sending out shoots.

Second "nuisance" is pomegranates growing everywhere from the seeds. I mean thousands. Under every tree there are constantly tens of pomegranates growing from seed. This is my fault, since after juicing I put the leftovers under the trees.

About the same are the olives. Under every tree, I'm constantly removing the tens of olives that sprouted. This must be the birds fault :)

Also the carob seeds sprout readily under each carob tree from the fallen carobs. I tried transplanting them in the winter, but they all died in the summer.

From the seeds I planted, apricots and peaches do well, but need watering in the summer. Also under the thick shade of the fig trees I planted avocados and they have grown to 30cm-50 cm and stopped growing. They are alive, just not growing.

I planted two local oaks and tested them. I watered one and not the other. The watered one is growing vigorously. The other one looks exactly as the day I planted it. It's alive though...







 
Nick Antonio
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I forgot to add... capers everywhere. I love capers and I harvest them, but they can also be a bit of a "nuisance".  If you neglect them for a couple of months, then it's an impenetrable wall of thorns.
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Nick,
I am delighted to hear from you....very glad about your efforts on your farm (please attach many  photos)....we didn't get any snow in the city so far....

Cyprus used to be heavily forested with oaks carobs wild olive trees etc.
Do you think we can return it to its former glory...how is the Solea region reforestation effort going?

Kostas
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Yesterday I collected the last batch of holly acorns. They were collected at the Halkidiki region, the eastern side of the middle peninsula. See photo A. The area faces the eastern peninsula, and Mount Athos; its a monastic community. Never visited but I have been told that they are self sufficient and that the environment is pristine.

The holly oaks here have acorns that are 3 times  larger than the trees in Olympus. See photos 1, 2 and 3. The trees are far apart and are surrounded by a large variety of trees and shrubs. The Olympus holly oaks grow closely together, a meter or less apart.

In most areas of the country, I been told that the acorns mature around October...here due to the microclimate, its mid January and there are still acorns on the trees.

As this effort progresses, I will try to obtain acorns from areas that have harsh dry climate. The acorns from Halkidiki would face difficulties in Cyprus or northern Africa. In comparison acorns from dry, hot, Ikaria would have an advantage. For now we need to work with whatever is available.

I am hoping to plant these acorns in Athens and Sparta...I am planting there much later  there than I would like...but...

Kostas
A.jpg
View of Athos
View of Athos
1.jpg
Acorns
Acorns
2.jpg
Note leaf size...2 different trees
Note leaf size...2 different trees
3.jpg
Acorns
Acorns
 
tony uljee
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Could you conduct a taste test  please, as  comparison against/to the rotundifolia acorns ,  this posting is about the only one on  the net , that has currant and real first hand knowledge on these oaks ---and interesting little nuggets/acorns of information  are being collected here all the time---some of which has been lost or gone out of practice and can only be read about from third hand accounts and articles ---i think by looking at the leaf shape they are not rotundifolia ---but they just might be sweetish  to taste---and a lost food source being rediscovered by you.
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Tony,
I don't have any more rotundifolia acorns....I ate 2 of the acorns that Burra Maluca send me from Portugal...the rest I planted.

I roasted 10 of the acorns I collected yesterday...large ones...they are not sweet, and have almost no bitterness...I took a handful and burried them in the soil...I will take them out in March to see if they become sweet at all.

I hope it helps.

Kostas

 
tony uljee
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Thats good , at least if they are not bitter and just bland ---thats a good result---thats why we have spices ,salt , butter and tasty oils  ,and gravy and so on to add flavour --just like we do with our other carbohydrate we tend to eat ---of course there is still a process of leaching to be followed for acorn to be properly used as a food source---so a good find you have made ---happy planting,tony
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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!!!

Kostas
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Hot water scarification for carob seeds works....boil water...remove from heat source and 5 seconds later throw in seeds...in 12 to 24 hours remove seeds that have become soft and increased in size...again boil water and repeat process until all seeds have been scarified...

Carob seeds do not sprout easily...thousands of seeds fall each year under the carob trees, but I have rarely seen any trees growing under them (this may differ in other parts of the world). The exterior coat of the seed is so hard, that is broken by mechanical chemical or hot water methods.

If anyone has extensive experience working with this great tree...input of knowledge would be appreciated.

Again, the parameters are minimum input no watering or care.

Kostas
IMG_20200123_073045918-2.jpg
Carob seeds sprouting
Carob seeds sprouting
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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While visiting southern Greece, near Sparta I came across a magnificent site that had old beautiful trees that must have been the backbone of the ancient forests in Greece and the Mediterranean region.

Olive, oak and carob trees. For the 1st time I see young trees sprouting under a carob tree. This seeds of this tree are much smaller than the carob trees I know.

The oak trees are easy to grow...just put the acorns on the ground and let nature do the rest.

The carob trees, can be planted using hot water scarification. They need work, but we are getting there.

I still don't know how to mass plant/sprout the olive trees.

These three trees are powerful.

The olive trees provide the olives and olive, provide fodder for domestic animals, and they regrow after a fire.

The carob trees also resist fire and regrow, provide food for animals and people.

The oak trees have similar characteristics.

They all have excellent wood for building homes and boats.

With these three trees mixed in with other shrubs grasses and fruit bearing trees we can proceed to restore/heal this place.

Kostas
Three-Very-Strong-Trees.jpg
Three sisters
Three sisters
Majestic-oak-tree.jpg
Oak.
Oak.
Old-Carob.jpg
Carob
Carob
Carob-trees-sprouting.jpg
Carob trees growing under the mother tree
Carob trees growing under the mother tree
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Continuing with the visit to the Sparta area.

Even though its late, I am placing laburnum, carob and acorns on the ground, at 300 and 1000 meter elevations.

Kostas
Corob-sprouts.jpg
Another carob tree with sprouts
Another carob tree with sprouts
Amazing.jpg
Nature is Amazing !!!
Nature is Amazing !!!
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Traveling south and west of Sparta, we came across this remarkable sight.

A giant Quercus ilex tree..trunk diameter about 2 meters. All the holly oaks I had seen up to now were 25 cm at the most; what a beautiful sight. This tree is growing near a water stream and has plenty of water and organic matter.

I was told that the oak trees in the area used to be cut down and were valuable because the made very good quality charcoals.

In addition to the holly oaks there are some really old oak trees at these remote villages.

In another area, west of Sparta at an elevation of 900 meters, I only found 1 holly oak tree in the entire area, in what must have been a forest of these trees...

Every hilltop or mountain top can be planted/seeded with a few trees and then allow time and the wind to do the rest (until organized society can do more).

Kostas
Giant-Quercus-ilex-.jpg
[Thumbnail for Giant-Quercus-ilex-.jpg]
!!!!
Giant-Quercus-ilex.jpg
[Thumbnail for Giant-Quercus-ilex.jpg]
!!!!
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Athens Update
We recently visited the Athens site...the area burned down 3 years ago...it was a pine forest...the soil at this particular site is rich.
The forestry department has cut down the burned trees.
Its a small area, maybe 500 square meters that we are trying to plant.

It's more of an exploratory expedition trying to determine what will grow in the Athens region.

https://youtu.be/dRsMT5IW1a0

There are young pine trees growing everywhere and there many many cistus incanus plants. Surpringly there are no wild oaks shrubs coming up. If left alone nature at this piece of land will regrow pine trees.

As discussed previously the future of pine trees is bleak...our objective is to see if we can grow a more diverse forest that will include food for people and animals. This forest should be drought and fire resistant. Compared to a pine forest which will produce acidic soils...this new forest should hold moisture well and constantly improve the soil by depositing organic matter.

Wild pigs visited the site this winter and tore it up in many places. As shown in the enclosed video, the clay cubes we placed 2 years ago produced a few trees. Clay cubes need a good winter and spring to grow trees.

The holly oaks, laburnum and wild pears are growing at the area we marked and seeded....this time of the year, its hard to see if any other young trees are growing because they are small and have dropped their leaves.

Even though it's late we scarified and planted a few carob, gleditsia and laburnum seeds.

The future will show weather its possible to create food forests in Athens and Sparta, or wether its late.

I am optimistic that it is doable, but more difficult than Thessaloniki which is 500 km north of Athens. The weather is more severe, the summers hotter and longer, and fewer trees can survive these conditions.

Again the objective is to do this by seed placement and watering or other care.

In the Sparta area we also planted scarified carobs, laburnum and gleditsia seeds. In addition a few holly oaks, evergreen oaks and apple seeds were planted. This should have been in October and November.

I was told that the area has not received any rain in 2 months.

We also placed 3 medick trees in hilltops that were severely degraded. We want to see if they can flower and seed the whole hill sides in 10 plus years.

Here again is an attempt to have minimum effort and maximum results by using time, wind and gravity.

Time will tell...

Kostas
Young-Medicago-Arborea-tree.jpg
[Thumbnail for Young-Medicago-Arborea-tree.jpg]
3 planted at hilltops
 
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Location: Outside Detroit, MI
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what a wonderful thread!!  Only read the first page and the last 4 pages... (have to read the rest as time allows) but found it all most intriguing!!  

What fine efforts you are undertaking Kostas!!!  Bravo!


Konstantinos Karoubas wrote:
Wild pigs visited the site this winter and tore it up in many places.



Not sure of your dietary choices.... but i certainly have to ask!  What are the laws/regulations with wild pig harvest?   it sounds like there are large populations of them that could do for a thining!  

l would be all about harvesting a whole 'litter' of one year old piggies and roasting them in the barbecue pit!!!    What you have there.... is a PORK garden my friend!!!  Time to begin a bountiful harvest!!  

Peace
 
Konstantinos Karoubas
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Thanks for the laughs....
"A pork garden"  lol

Kostas

(they allow hunting at certain times of the year)
 
Hey cool! They got a blimp! But I have a tiny ad:
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