I mentioned growing fruit trees from seed some time ago, and a regular reader asked if I’d write more.
There’s a few reasons why I like to grow from seed.
It’s cheaper. Fruit trees can cost quite a bit; a well-stocked orchard is going to set the garden budget back considerably. For the price of a kilo of apricots you can have a dozen new apricot trees.
You get diversity. Mother Nature doesn’t do grafts or take cuttings. She plants a seed—millions of them. While every apple tree seed will produce another apple (and obviously, not a grapefruit), every apple seedling will be ever so slightly different from it’s brothers and sisters (although the apple is a special case—it will never come true to the parent from seed whereas other species can do). The result is diversity—a slightly different set of genes in each plant, some of which will confer desirable characteristics (for people who want to grow them and for the continued evolution of the species in question). Diversity is the raw material on which evolution works.
So, out of a large batch of seedlings, some might have huge fruit with poor flavour or small fruit with beautiful flavour, or, if you’re really lucky, huge fruit with beautiful flavour. Some might be resistant to disease, or more able to cope with dryness, or whatever. You might even become another Granny Smith (the famous green Granny Smith apple was reputed to have come from a seedling found on a river bank by a Mrs Smith).
There’s always the surprise element which I like—I might get a batch of duds, but I might just get one out of the book.
Having lots of cheap trees grown from seed, gives scope for some creative pruning and shaping regimes, without the fear that you might actually kill an expensive tree by experimental hacking.
To save space, I usually plant 3 seedlings close together (like, say, 18 inches apart). This aids cross pollination and better fruit set, and if one, or even two of them are duds, then it’s easy to just saw the offenders off at ground level. Three together will generally grow as big as one would on its own, because they’re all competing for the same ration of water and nutrients.
There are drawbacks, of course. Seedling trees take longer to bear fruit. In my experience, there’s been about a 5 year wait with the species I’ve grown; this may be even longer with some species. (The tamarillo is the one exception I’ve so far found; it has fruited in its second year from seed with me).
I started growing fruit from seed by accident. A friend gave me some beautiful nectarines from her friend’s tree. The flavour was so good I asked her to ask her friend the name of the variety, so I could get one. She came back with the reply that her friend had grown it from seed of a supermarket nectarine. Right, I thought, if she can do it, so can I. I sowed the seed from that fruit and now have 3 large trees, equally as good in flavour as that first fruit I was given. I’ve since grown more nectarines from those three. That got me hooked on growing from seed. That and the price of nursery trees.
Although I did start by buying nursery trees. My expensive Moorpark apricot variety went to that great orchard in the sky shortly after I planted it. I now have 5 apricots grown from seed, all doing well, 3 bearing and 2 only recently planted. One of the reasons for this, I think, is that my seedlings are put out when they’re small (say, 10” high and planted from straight-sided tubes, where the roots don’t coil). Nursery plants tend to be advanced specimens in large pots, which require an equally large hole to be dug—not easy in my heavy soil—and then a significant amount of root pruning and top pruning to compensate. No wonder they struggle for a while.
Small seedlings are easy to plant and establish very quickly.
Amongst the pome fruits, I’ve gown apples, pears and quinces. For something slightly different—tamarillos, feijoas and strawberry guavas. The tiny Chilean Guava (yet to fruit, but said to be spectacular in flavour). Pepino (not really a tree) and pomegranate. Stone fruits—apricots and nectarines (I’ve yet to get a plum up from seed, though). Citrus also; I’ve grown grapefruit and oranges from seed.
And if we’re not talking trees but fruit in general, then grapes, kiwi fruit and passionfruit are easy from seed, too.
I’ve bought a loquat, which is yet to fruit (it was probably a seedling, too) but I’m told it’s easy to grow from seed. And of course avocado is the classic, easy-to-grow fruit (which I haven’t tried yet).
Have a go; it’s a lot of fun, you can give surplus seedlings away and the money you save can be spent on plants that aren’t so easy from seed.
This weeks harvest:
- Butter Beans 319 gm
- Purple King beans 669 gm
- Snake Beans 55 gm
- Black Russian tomatoes 2315 gm
- Red Pear cherry tomatoes 277 gm
- Reisentraube cherry tomatoes 193 gm
- Burnley Bounty tomatoes 542 gm
- Roma tomatoes 847 gm
- Green Grape tomatoes 186 gm
- Grosse Lisse tomatoes 1316 gm
- Grub’s Mystery Green tomatoes 829 gm
- Green Zebra tomatoes 262 gm
- Plums 2893 gm
- Dutch Cream potatoes 233 gm
- Kipfler potatoes 707 gm