Wednesday, January 22, 2014

From the Inbox: Ants, Avocado Spots, Growing Bananas, Planting Fruit Trees In Existing Forest

I get asked a lot of questions via e-mail. Usually, but not always, I'm good at getting back to folks.

It strikes me, though, I should share my answers more often, since some of you may be dealing with some of the same problems.

Let's jump in:

Q: I live in south mississippi and will be planting a few pear, plum, peach, mayhaw, etc. trees in the coming weeks. I had a crazy idea to clear out a section of woods (overgrown cut-over) and plant in this location as opposed to my yard which is low wet clayey and not organically rich. The location would be an east facing forest edge I guess you could say.

Would the existing root layer "outcompete" the fruit trees or would the leaf litter etc. provide a great place for these. I have plenty of ramial wood chips to mulch with. -T.R.

A: There's a lot to think about when you jump into the middle of an existing system. The roots from trees will reach more than double the size of the leaf canopy outwards. That said, I've seen videos on how old settlers used to simply girdle unwanted trees, then plant apples and other fruit right in between them.

The great benefit to planting in established forest is on the microscopic level. Forests contain fungally dominated soils which are more beneficial to trees. There's a huge network beneath the ground of mycellium which will connect with your new trees and help them flourish. Forest edges are notoriously good places to grow a wide range of species. East is also better than West, so you're good there.

Here's what I'd do: I'd clear a little space for each tree, plant them in, then see how they do. If the weeds, etc., grow back around them, keep chopping that stuff down and dropping it around the bases of your desired trees to feed them and mulch the ground as they grow. Trees like to grow in the remains of other trees... keep that going and they should do great. Ramial wood chips are a great addition as well.

Q: J.P. - What's wrong with my avocado tree? A lot of the leaves look like this:

A: Looks like some kind of leaf spot disease to me - probably fungal. I'd try picking off the effected leaves and burning them. If it comes back, try spraying with copper sulfate according to instructions.

Q: I came across your website and was happy to know that you are so close to where I live.  I am ... thrilled to see another survival garden in the nearby area, especially one with the same climate.  I basically have veggies, adding different odd edibles each year. I have some papaya growing in my greenhouse waiting for the weather to break before planting but I am really interested in what you do with your bananas in the winter.  We have one planted in the back and have tar paper wrapped around the trunk and cover it with a blanket during the hard freezes. It's about 3 years old but no bananas yet. Another BIG problem I have is ants - what do you use to kill them?  I grow an organic garden and since I am retired I have the time to pick off caterpillars but the ants are something else! -G

A: Bananas are not the best producers in this area and most of what I have are a type I dug up from a foreclosure property. One thing that really helps them is LOTS of nitrogen. The best I've ever seen were growing over a leaking septic tank. I grow some of mine by the back of the house. I cut out the pipe running from my kitchen sink and ran the water directly onto the banana trees, so they're swimming in a slop of food wastes and warm water half the day. They grow like crazy. Unfortunately, the frosts still take about half of the crop each year. It's sad. I need to try some new types.

As for ants, I've had luck kicking their piles open and dusting the insides with diatomaceous earth. It doesn't kill them all, but it also doesn't poison my ground. They are bad here... there's just no way to get rid of them all without harsh poisons.

Have a question? Drop me an e-mail on the e-mail link at the top left of this page. Just know this: I'm likely to post it online at some point, especially if you say something hilarious. (I will, of course, edit out personal details to maintain your privacy.) -David the Good

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At January 25, 2014 at 10:12 AM , Blogger Gardens-In-The-Sand said...

" I cut out the pipe running from my kitchen sink and ran the water directly onto the banana trees"

you had an article about this pipe running out of the house... I wanted to link to it... and can't find it... WTF?


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