What Should I Do?

Apple Tree in Bloom

Direct Seeding Trees and Shrubs

Understanding the benefits
Monday, July 27, 2015, 7:52 PM

I have planted well over a thousand trees and shrubs on my permaculture site. I have tried bare root, potted, long tap root pots, and seedlings. The problem with all of these options for plant material is that it is not the same as a tree that is planted from seed and is never moved. A tree that is seeded in place has a huge advantage in that it has its taproot intact, and it never had to go through transplant shock. The negative is that for certain seed like apples and pears, you will not get a true to type plant. If you plant a seed from a Gala Apple, the apple tree will not be a Gala. It has a one in a thousand chance of being better, but will likely taste worse. It still has a decent chance of being an okay edible apple. And that apple tree will probably be much more pest resistant and adapted to its home. Going forward, I will be planting more and more of my trees and shrubs directly from seed, none in pots, and less as bare root.

I planned a fall tree and shrub seeding project a few months ago. I wanted to plant seeds that would do well being planted in the fall without any special preparation. My thought was that it would be really easy to prepare the areas that I need more trees growing by simply weeding, planting the seed at the proper depth then applying a nice coat of mulch. Then I would let Mother Nature do her thing over the fall and winter, and hopefully I would have seedlings in the spring. I planted many more seeds than I need, understanding that it would be very easy to thin out the weakest trees.

In my research I found that there are a lot of seeds that prefer a simple fall planting and mulching to get good germination in the spring. These are the seeds I procured from Sheffield’s Seed Company based on that logic:

1. European Plum: I may not get a great tasting plum, but then again maybe I will. If the plum turns out to be terrible, the root stock can be over grafted.

2. Beach Plum: Shrub sized plum should yield good tasting fruit.

3. Bartlett Pear: This seed is typically used for root stock, but I will grow the tree to see what I get.

4. Golden Currant: Should yield quality berries.

5. Serviceberry: Should yield quality berries.

6. Speckled Alder and European Alder: Seed is a great way to establish nitrogen fixers.

7. Hardy Kiwi: I should get decent kiwis.

8. Seaberry: The powerful medicinal berry is a must have for the permaculture garden.

9. Common Apple: I’m rolling the genetic dice on the apple seed.

Apple tree in bloom

10. Red Mulberry: I’m confident I’ll get quality fruit with this tree.

Mulberry Tree

11. Hazelnut: I should get quality hazelnuts.

~ Phil Williams

Phil Williams is a permaculture consultant and designer and creator of the website foodproduction101.com.  His website provides useful, timely information for the experienced or beginning gardener, landscaper, or permaculturalist. Phil's personal goals are to build soil, restore and regenerate degraded landscapes, grow and raise an abundance of healthy food of great variety, design and install resilient permaculture gardens in the most efficient manner possible, and teach others along the way.

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thebrewer's picture
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Nov 7 2012
Posts: 110

I noticed the top two trees were both plum so I thought I'd mention an interesting observation on the Japanese plum trees I planted last year. They finally started sprouting plums and I noticed a lot of hummingbirds showing up around the trees. I thought it was for the blossoms but it turns out they like the plums. Every plum on the tree has a little hole bored in it that narrows down as it goes in. The hummingbirds come back everyday and stick their beaks back into the same holes and preserving the fruit. I thought it was pretty cool!

Phil Williams's picture
Phil Williams
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 14 2009
Posts: 345

That is really cool. I hadn't noticed that on my plums. I will keep an eye out.

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