Friday, April 17, 2015

More Chickasaw plum grafts/Grafting successes and failures

We had almost a 100% success rate with our Chickasaw plum grafting this year.


Those two grafts are from one of my seedling peach trees.

These two are Sunhome nectarine grafts:

  And this is the UF plum variety I grafted last year:

Now look a little closer:

Yes! It has ACTUAL PLUMS on it!

I can't tell you how thrilled I am that these experiments are working so wonderfully.

Lots of folks have wild plums growing in their yards. If they use those plums as root stocks, they've got a hardy resource already in place and can create some amazing fruit cocktail trees that will handle tough conditions without breaking a sweat. Not that trees sweat. Well, they do release moisture into the air via a process called...

Oh, nevermind.

Anyhow, I'm stoked. My little Chickasaw plum is well on its way to being a one-stop stone fruit destination. It's amazing how well the new grafts are doing. The best takes appear to be the "whip and tongue" grafts.

Next year I hope to add a few more varieties of plum to the mix. The only failures we had this year were the sweet cherry scions. None of those took on the Chickasaw - and they also failed on my wild black cherry tree. It was worth a shot, but that shot was a blank.

As a recap, this is what has worked for us this year:

Nectarine grafts onto Chickasaw plum
Peach grafts onto Chickasaw plum
Improved plums graft onto Chickasaw plum
Black mulberry onto black mulberry
Orient pear onto Kieffer pear
Thanksgiving pear onto Kieffer pear
Various apple onto apple
Peach onto Bruce plum
Nectarine onto seedling peach

Too soon to tell:

Texas Everbearing fig onto unknown yellow fig
Black mulberry onto paper mulberry
Pear onto wild hawthorn


Brown turkey fig onto black mulberry
Minnie Royal cherry onto wild black cherry
Minnie Royal cherry onto Chickasaw plum
Long mulberry onto black mulberry

This has been a lot of fun so far... can't wait until next February when we go at it again!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

No Market Today!

My van's transmission has failed, so I won't be at the 326 Community Market this afternoon.

Look for me again next week - hopefully all will be working well by then.

Until then, here's a picture I took of the first bloom on our Red Angel pomegranate tree:

Hope we get a few fruit this year.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A magnificent result: check out my perennial garden bed! (No Market Tonight!)

I'm really loving the way this bed is looking:

This is not only a food bed, it's also an insectary for the rest of my gardens, as well as being a place for my daughter to grow her heirloom roses.

If you remember my post on the mosaic-decorated hugelkultur bed, that's what started this thing off.

I expanded that bed this winter. This is what it looked like back then:


Now it's really filled out. It contains three roses, three varieties of raspberry, rosemary, garlic chives, lion's ear, perennial marigold, oxalis, cut-leaf coneflower, milkweed, plus a Saijo astringent persimmon right in the middle.

That's blooming right now:

The benefit of having these plants growing in the garden cannot be overstated. Though some are only there for beauty (such as the roses), they all provide shelter for good insects, as well as food, spices and medicine for us.

Japanese persimmons are a small tree that fit nicely into a garden design. They don't cast a lot of shade and their fruit is a slice of heaven.

NOTE: I will NOT be at the Gainesville Farmer's Market this evening - look for me again next week.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Want a FAST food forest? Try this!

Behold my epic seed mix!

That's right boys and girls - I mixed roughly 1.5 trillion different types of seed together!

Then I packaged it in my secret patented way:

That bag actually SEALS AT THE TOP, holding in the (Potential) Food Forest Freshness!

I'm a fan of cover crops but now I've gone all out.

Here's what I'm doing to add more biomass/food forest plants quickly:

1. Let the chickens tear up a piece of ground for a few days in their tractor

2. Tear up the ground a bit with a broadfork

3. Toss handfuls of seeds

4. Throw down some loose straw

5. Water for a few weeks and watch the magic

So what's in this mix? There are so many things I've forgotten the complete recipe, but I can tell you it includes:

Mung beans
Pinto beans
Pigeon peas
Wildflower mix
Moth beans
Black beans
Southern peas
Castor beans
Morning glory
Velvet beans
Kebarika beans
Tickseed coreopsis
Asjwan (whatever that is... got it from an Indian market!)

...and lots more. After a week, lots of stuff starts coming up:

Look at that beautiful mess! Can't wait to see what madness happens next.

If you have lots of seeds and a sprinkler, you can do this. You're guaranteed to get something cool.

I keep adding seeds to a big bowl on the counter, then throwing more out on a patch every week or so, then adding more...

Half of these seeds came from bags at the Oriental store or from the bulk bins at the local organic market.

Anarchy at its finest.

Monday, April 13, 2015

African Yam propagation from minisetts: it worked!

I posted on my "minisett" experiment last month.

Here are the results:

Not all of the pieces emerged. I knew some of the yams were old, so I'm guessing that was the issue. The tissue inside some of them was a bit mottled, which makes me think that's why they rotted rather than jumped to life.

Lots have come up, however - check it out:

Those vines are really hopping. I need to get transplanting ASAP!

True yams are an excellent survival crop for Florida and other subtropical areas - I can't recommend them enough.

Speaking of yams, here's a rare purple one that's popping back up after its long winter sleep:

I've got that growing at the base of a pollarded sweetgum tree. The pole beside it is there to give it a jump onto the trunk. 

This year the root will likely be large enough to harvest...

...and make more minisetts for next year.

Go out, hit your local ethnic market and hunt down some yams. They're beautiful and easy-to-grow - and unlike air potatoes, they're not at all invasive.

Friday, April 10, 2015

SATURDAY: I'm speaking in Volusia County and bringing fruit/perennial vegetables for sale!

Come on down!

Details here:

I'll be talking about spring gardening, answering questions, sharing some from my new book and generally having a grand old time with this excellent homesteading and preparedness group.

Last Chance!

Today is the last chance to see my hour-long presentation "13 Tips, Tricks and Lessons from Homesteading an Acre" for free at the Home Grown Food Summit!

Go sign up! You'll enjoy it.

How I protected my loquat fruit from the frost

These are the first fruits to appear on this loquat tree. It's likely 6 years old, though I planted it 2 years ago.

We had a late frost this year that would have taken all the fruit off this tree... except for the fact that I had a secret weapon!

That is a drum filled with liquid plutonium.

No. It's not. It's just water.

The thermal mass of that water, along with a few thrift store sheets and blankets made a big difference.

Look at the entire tree:

I'm not sure if you can see it in this photo, but the only place on the entire loquat tree that held fruit was the portion right around the barrel of water.

Loquat fruit are only cold-hardy down to 25 degrees, though the rest of the tree can easily handle the teens.

Because I HAD to know what the fruit on this tree tasted like, I covered that one corner of the tree, plus added the barrel - and it worked like a charm. Water holds a lot of energy. You can use this trick to protect young citrus and other tender plants as well. Just tuck a barrel right next to the trunk and cover the plant with a blanket or sheet to keep the heat of the water in.

It works.

Unfortunately, the loquats are really lemony-tart and sour (which has nothing to do with the cold weather). Not all loquat trees are created equal, which is why I wanted to see what this seedling tree would bear.

Now I know it needs to be grafted with scions from an improved cultivar. It'll take some work, but will greatly improve the fruit. I've waited 4 years for fruit - why not graft and wait one more?

I've got time.

For now, I'll just pretend it's a cold-hardy lemon.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Today at the 326 Market: Florida cranberry starts, blueberries and more!

As is my Thursday custom, I shall be at the 326 Community Market this afternoon with plenty of interesting plants... including Jamaican sorrel/Florida cranberry starts for $2.00 each!

If you're not growing this plant, you need to. Here's why.

I've also got some good-looking blueberries in stock right now. Multiple varieties of rabbiteye and Southern highbush types at good prices: 3 gallon pots are $14 and 1-gallon pots are just $8.

I've also got some culinary ginger, Chinese chestnuts, yacon plants, longevity spinach, butterfly-attracting chaya and more.

Stop on by and say hi!

The 326 Community Market's webpage is here. Just north of Ocala. It's a great little market. You can pick up plants, farm-fresh eggs, worm castings, raw honey, fresh produce, horsehair jewelry, crafts, baked goods and a lot more.

A great place to take your family for a nice afternoon out. See you there!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


The Home Grown Food Summit is now on Day 3 - almost time for my in-depth 60 minute video presentation (I'm on day 5!)

If you want to see it for free, go sign up!

Today at the Union Street Farmer's Market

It's been nice getting to know a new crowd and putting plants into the hands of Gainesvillians and beyond.

I'll be at the market today from 4-7 along with an esoteric selection of edibles, ranging from fruit trees to perennial vegetables. Some of my new and recent offerings include yacon, culinary ginger, Chinese chestnuts and pawpaws.

I've also got a different type of chaya (Mexican tree spinach) that attracts butterflies like you wouldn't believe.

There are some great photos of this chaya at The Great Wall Of Lutz - like this one:

Stop on by and see what I have!

The Union Street Farmer's Market website is here.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Survival Plant Profile: Coffee

Homegrown coffee cherries.

What does COFFEE have to do with survival?

If you're asking that question, you must be one of those strange and rare creatures that live their lives in a state of drug-free serenity.

Perhaps you sleep in late, eat only vegetables, and spend hours watching a fishtank in your condo.

For those of us addicted to caffeine, coffee (or tea) isn't just a plant. It's a need. A burning need combined with pleasure.

The smell of roasted grounds... the hiss and trickle of a percolator... the first hit of the day...

These things will make the oncoming Econopocalypse almost bearable.

I mean, honestly: who wants to face a horde of the undead or fight with AI-equipped death-dealing homing drones without a cup o' joe in the morning?

Not I.

Coffee, unfortunately for those of us dwelling in non-tropical climes, is a completely tropical plant. It likes somewhat cool temperatures though cannot stand the frost.

Fortunately, there are ways to grow it outside of its natural range. Growing coffee in Florida is easier than in most states.

Thanks to its ability to grow as an understory plant, coffee can be successfully cultivated indoors and in sheltered locations through the cold of winter.

My mother plant. It's about 2-3' taller now than in this picture.

If you live in South Florida, you can pop some coffee plants into your yard and they'll grow without much care; up in my neck of the woods, however, they're best grown in pots or against the south wall of your house as I've started to do in my Miami Garden.

I've been growing a coffee tree in a large pot for about four years now and it's paying off. During the freezes I keep it in my greenhouse. During the spring, summer and fall, it resides in a shady spot outdoors, happily blooming every spring and producing coffee cherries in the fall and winter.

Though I've been told that "good" coffee only comes from the mountains, I'm not all that concerned. If shipping lines fail, I will happily enjoy my locally grown coffee.

Right now, however, all the beans are being used to grow new coffee plants.

A word on those "beans": they're not really beans. They're the seeds inside a small fruit called a "coffee cherry." Coffee cherries taste a lot like sweet red bell peppers with a bit of spice to them.

Not bad at all. Just spit out the seeds, then roast and grind them.

Coffee trees take a little bit of time to propagate.

Last year I started a couple dozen of them and sold them in my plant nursery, though the time involved was a bit silly.

Here's why germinating coffee seeds is a little tough:

1. You need fresh seeds

I've bought coffee seeds through the mail and tried to germinate them. They all failed. If the seeds are more than a few weeks - or maybe months - old, they won't come up. Roasted beans from the store are obviously not going to work, so finding green, non-aged seeds is the first thing you need to do to get started. I paid $30 for my mother coffee tree and then waited a year for seeds so I could get started on my future plantation.

2. It takes time for coffee to germinate

Coffee beans usually take a couple of months to germinate. Even then, the germination is uneven and hasn't been that high. Maybe 50%. Bottom heat helps. I've had them come up in a month with a heating pad (like this one) beneath my seed trays. You need to keep them moist during this time. I put the seed trays on a large oven sheet with a little water in the bottom so they don't dry out. That works well for me.

3. It takes time for coffee to grow

From germination, it takes 2-3 years for your new coffee tree to start blooming. Fortunately, coffee is self-pollinating so you'll be able to get beans off a tree without its needing a mate. The plants I sold last year were mostly about 6 months old and 6-8" tall. They grow moderately quickly if you keep them in acidic soil and supplied with nitrogen. I feed mine with rabbit manure and coffee grounds. Blood meal is another good choice.

Coffee takes well to growing in a pot and can actually be grown as a houseplant year-round. The leaves are attractive, the blooms are lovely and the fruit is a fascinating conversation piece.

Back in the day, David The Good was a cartoonist. And coffee junkie.

To roast your own beans, go hit up YouTube. There are plenty of ways to do it at home. I can't spare any right now due to my need to grow them for my nursery, though one day I'll finally have enough to spare. (Call this post a "preliminary" survival plant profile. I can grow coffee well at this point but I haven't actually processed it out yet... when I do, I will update this pot.)

What I can tell you on cultivation: it's hard to kill coffee. If you move it into full sun, it will burn the leaves and make it unhappy. If it goes without water for too long, it will wilt but usually recovers rapidly when water is reapplied. Just keep it fed and watered and it will reward you with plenty of rich, glossy leaves and abundant blooms and fruit.

According to my non-scientific estimates, a serious coffee drinker will require about 25 bushes to stay caffeinated through a year. An occasional coffee drinker will only need a few. They bear more and more every year and can grow into a decent-sized tree under good conditions.

I met a man at the Kanapaha plant show this year that grows a small plantation of coffee trees in his yard somewhere around Gainesville. They're brought in during freezes but he told me he's had great success with fruiting and production. (If you're the guy I met and you're reading this, drop me an e-mail - I want to see your place!)

If you're not growing coffee, give it a try. It's a lot of fun, even if you're not an addict. If you are, it's a necessity - unless you're willing to switch to Yaupon tea.


3 Spuds

Name: Coffee
Latin Name: Coffea arabica/canephora
Type: Tree
Size: Can grow to over 30' under ideal conditions. Usually much smaller.
Nitrogen Fixer: No
Medicinal: Yes
Cold-hardy: No
Exposure: Part to full shade
Part Used: Seeds
Propagation: Cuttings under mist, seeds
Taste: Excellent
Method of preparation: Roast, grind and consume
Storability: High
Ease of growing: Moderate
Nutrition: Good - high in antioxidants and POWER
Recognizability: Low
Availability: Low

Monday, April 6, 2015

Grafting Pear onto Hawthorn

The victim, pre-surgery.

I've read that it's possible to use wild hawthorn trees as a root stock for pear, though I've never had the chance to try until now.

While doing a horticultural analysis of a client's property in prelude to installing a food forest, I discovered a large number of hawthorn trees on the premises (probably Crataegus flava).

Though they have edible fruit, they're generally said to be bland and only really good for jellies.

Since the trees are thriving on highly drained humus-deficient sand, if it's possible to add pears to their tops, they'd serve as a hardy rootstock rather than trying to establish new pears.

I shared the idea with the property owner and he was intrigued. The answer: "Go for it!"

I love folks like that.

Since my own pears were still dormant when we discussed the idea, I cut a good amount of dormant scions from multiple trees and refrigerated them until this last week when we started phase one of the food forest installation.

To start on the tree, I cut off quite a few of the crossing and smaller branches, then picked out which limbs would support my pear scions.

(I use this parafilm tape and this Japanese pruning saw. It's simply got to be tried to be believed - I can carve through 4" of oak in half a minute.)

Once I did the initial clean-up, I started plugging in scions. Here's what the tree ended up looking like:

And here are some close-up shots:

I tied the grafts tightly with flagging tape before wrapping them in the parafilm.

It's very important to have a tight fit between rootstock and scion. My friend Steven also told me one of the most common reasons for grafting failure is having the scions dry out, so I'm now quite meticulous with my parafilm wrapping or wound seal application (I lost my bottle of sealer somewhere so it was just parafilm on this hawthorn).

Due to the wavy nature of hawthorn growth (the branches are all zigzags) it wasn't easy to line up my pear scions. Most of the grafts are cleft grafts, though I also performed a few somewhat shaky whip-and-tongue grafts as well, just to see which would work.

I will report in the future on whether or not they took. If they do, I'll be thrilled and will have opened up another avenue for food forest fruit production. If not, I will have invested an hour of my life in the pursuit of an enticing possibility that didn't pan out but will have taught me something new.


Sunday, April 5, 2015

He is Risen!

Luke 24:

24 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ Then they remembered his words.
When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.
13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.
17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
19 “What things?” he asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”
40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.
44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.
Glory to the Father!

Friday, April 3, 2015

THIS SATURDAY: We'll be at the Macintosh Garden Plant Sale from 9-3!!!

The vintage town of Macintosh is worth visiting just for its Victorian charm - but when you add a big plant show it's even more enticing.

I'll be bringing a wide variety of fruits, nuts, perennial vegetables and other oddities on Saturday - look for the Florida Food Forests booth and my brown fedora.

Here's the map:

Come on down and say hi! We'll be there from 9-3. It'll be packed, so arrive early!

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