I’m Building a Self Sustainable Food Forest Here is What I Learned

Future Food Forest in Montura Ranch

Welcome once again to my personal blog. Today I will be writing about a big personal project I’m working on with the aim to share some of the useful information I have found so you can also use it if you are also interested in doing something similar. I’m talking about a project that is challenging me very much because my aim is to set up an off grid homestead with a fruit trees orchard, and dedicated space for agricultural and farming to grow food. In short, my goal is to become self sustainable to reach another level of abundance and security for msyelf and my family, even if times get harder.

**I’m still adding more pictures and developing this article.

Up to this point my family has been able to accumulate the resources needed so we could get a plot of land which is a little over 1 acre near the sweetest city in USA in Clewiston, Florida. We also have a nice big mobile home on this land and we also have access to power lines and unfiltered well water. My dad wants to go live in this place full time but he has not been able to find a job there yet. Jobs are scarce in the area although there will be more jobs available in 2022 since an airport will be opening. The area is very rural but in the process of development as there are many other families moving in and doing the same, converting their forested or empty parcels into livable homes. The place is called Montura Ranch Estates.

Since I’m able to work from home I can probably move there full time but the problem I face is the internet service in the area is both expensive and does not perform well to work from home comfortably. Sometimes I have to make conference calls with clients in countries outside of USA in order to help them with SEO and Marketing, so I need a reliable and fast internet connection so the video feed and audio communication is good and clear.

Up to this point, I have been using the weekends to work on this project which is when I plant new trees to the food forest orchard and go water them since the area is very dry and sunny. The trees that prosper in this area are the resilient pine trees and white oaks, which are the wild trees in the property that I did not plant. I’m glad there are trees in the property because these will add a layer of protection to the fruit trees I’m planting and as more trees grow and mature it will be even easier to plant more because the land will continue to improve with time.

Even though we have access to power lines I want to add redundancy and make the property fully off grid. I also want to add means to make it possible to collect and pump water from underground even if there is no electricity. So I will be setting a hand pump well at some point. My goal is to make this piece of land and the property as self sufficient as possible! Even now as I write this, there are many estates in USA including California and locations in Mexico which are suffering heavy droughts that are destroying edible production crops. The article I linked to states 82.9% of mexican territory is affected by the low rainfall conditions. Considering US imports so much produce from Mexico and the global events due to the covid-19 pandemic is likely many more people will starve.

This is among the reasons I’m also in the process of seeding and planting a big food forest that will have hundreds of trees in the land my father got and I’m converting the soil which is very sandy into rich loam soil where I could grow crops and vegetables 3 or 4 years from now. Part of the problem I face is that through improving the soil a new ecosystem of birds, bunnies and squirrels now inhabitate the place. So they would eat unattended tender crops and vegetables so I will have to invest and set structures that would prevent crops from being eaten. But on the good side this activity from the animals eating and pooping and recycling between the different species, leaves behind animal manure will slowly overtime help me get better soil!

Pictured above is a wild bunny in the property I got to pet the other day. 

I have spent a good 8 months or so working on this project so I will add the useful information I have learned so you can also take advantage of it if you are working on a similar project or you are thinking of doing something similar in the future but you don’t know how to do it! As the years go by I will improve this post since this is only the beginning for me and I plant to master agriculture and farming as much as I can.

The reality is we are living through difficult times and is good to be prepared. Also I feel investing time and energy to learn to be self sufficient will help me reach time freedom in a few years once I have acquired all the skills, knowledge and equipment I need and the off grid homestead is in full production! Also I think of ways to accumulate wealth. Fake financial systems can crash and is possible to lose everything but nature is abundant and learning to live in harmony with the planet is key to be able to preserve it. So the more people that learn to be self sufficient the more we can help the planet and teach other people to live in harmony with the planet that is sustaining our very life.

Trees Orchard – Building A Self Sustaining Food Forest

The first thing you should know is that there are 7 layers of a forest as seen in nature.

The layers include:

The canopy layer, sub- canopy layer, shrub layer, herbaceous layer, ground cover layer, underground layer and lastly the vertical or climber layer. For permaculture purposes, some people also like to include the aquatic layer and the fungal layer.

What I have found important to understand for my own project is that having well developed trees is very important in order to be able to succeed in setting up a food forest. More specifically, the location where I’m planting all of my trees is USDA hardiness zone 10A which means in the winter when it gets freezing cold the temperature here can go down between 30 to 35 degrees fahrenheit which can kill many tropical and subtropical trees early when they have not developed.

This makes the climate where I’m working rather difficult, because although for most of the year is very hot and sunny and arid like there is drought, once winter comes is possible to see temperatures that would freeze water. In fact, during January of 2021 it got “so cold” for South Florida standards, to 31 degrees F, that my papaya trees I had purchased from the nursery all died and many of the other tropical trees I had planted that got started from seed suffered frost bite including guava, mango and avocado tress, some which also died.

Some of my neighbors who had moved recently and planted tropical fruit trees and palm trees also lost their investment. My palm tree almost died, but since I was careful to mulch around it and I also added big pieces of coconut husk around the little tree that must have been 4 months old at the time, it was able to survive and come back from the couple of freezing days. Later I learned that coconut husk, just like concrete brick, is able to absorb the heat from the sun and release it during cold times. Acting as an insulator. This also applies to wood logs. So had I set some logs or concrete bricks around my little papaya trees perhaps those would have survived. Below is a picture of one of the palm trees I planted showing evidence of frost bite in the parts that died off. The green part is new growth after the cold temperatures stopped.

 

Surprisingly I was nursing some more trees from seed which I kept under the canopy layer of the oak trees in the property. All of those trees that were protected under the oaks survived successfully and showed no signs of frost damage. So I learned that in areas where it gets freezing cold is important to plant new fruit trees in areas which are protected by other more mature trees, or is important to create a structure to protect the immature trees in the first couple of winters while they become strong enough to survive cold all on their own.

In a similar way, in this property I also learned is important to plant new fruit trees in areas where they can receive some shade and protection from more mature trees. The reason for this is because the area I’m trying to develop into a thriving food forest does see many days when there is drought because the sun is so hot. It is only well established, mature trees that have big root systems that are able to store all the water they need in order to survive when it gets really hot. The big pines and oak trees in the property all feed from a water mantle that is flowing 7 feet under the sandy soil.

Why Orchard Farming Is Important

Today the world is globalized so produce can travel thousands of miles and get to the supermarket where we can get to eat it. But it was not always this way. There was a time when the main medium of transport was by foot or by horse. So by having localized productive trees orchard it was possible to harvest fresh nutritious fruit to feed people and animals. Even then, there are many fruits that can only last a few days if they are not refrigerated. This is the case for mango and avocado for example. However it was still possible to preserve some of this food by methods of canning and dehydrating to be able to eat it out of season and specially during the winter when there would be less food available. To give you an example, Eskimos which live in the colder environments of the Arctic sometimes must eat raw fresh warm bloody animal meat because there is nothing else to eat.

Another important reason for orchard farming is because is possible to plant different varieties of the same type of tree, or trees that offer different types of fruit altogether. In this ways these trees can flower and bear fruit ready for harvest in different times of the year so that there is food available throughout the year. Something interesting which I learned is that citrus trees, and more specifically the orange fruit, can remain attached to the tree for up to six months and still be picked and edible fresh. This is one of the reasons I want to have many orange trees in the property, and also because the land I’m planting in is very good for citrus and sugar cane production. US Sugar corporation is established in the area.

Orchard farming is also important because it allows the farmer to follow natural processes and be successful. While hardwood trees and woody fruit trees take much longer to develop and produce fruit, these are more resilient to drough and cold or bad weather than soft and tender seasonal vegetables that can snap if an animal steps on them or which most herbivore animals that do not eat meat want to eat. Also, in terms of work. Setting up a tree orchard is hard in the begining because it requires extra care and watering and protecting the trees from environmental conditions such as the cold. This is because inmature trees are more tender and can more easily die. However as trees mature their root system develops which allows them to absorb more water and the bark grows thick and strong. Also, the root systems help retain moisture deep in the soil which creates the right environment for beneficial insects and organism to live, and this includes beneficial fungi.

All of this means that as the trees mature there is less work I have to do and many fruit trees continue to bear fruit for decades. Trees orchards can also be set up to copy one of the most thriving systems in the planet which is beaming with life. That is the rainforest and set up trees which create beneficial and symbiotic relations at all 7 layers of the food forest which can increase the yield and fertility of the whole ecosystem. If done correctly, the fruit trees will shed leaves every fall and all this organic matter will decompose into fine, rich, black, hummus rich soil that will produce great tasting fruits and vegetables.

Trees sequester the carbon from the environment by capturing carbon dioxide and turning it into wood or biomass by means of photosynthesis. Most of the other energy they need they can get it from the sun which is like a power plant giving off energy. What this means is that in this system is possible for a tree to grow more and more and as it drops the leaves in the fall the soil becomes richer and richer without more fertilization. This system can produce abundance and this is why is so worth it and why I’m working hard now so that if I ever have grandsons they can eat great crops and fruits and perhaps inherit great productive land.

Sometimes I think to myself I have $1000 and I can put it at barclays for example, where it will earn less than the average inflation which is said to be 3% per year but which is more than that. Food costs way more these days than it did a year ago. Well with the current annual percentage yield (APY), I can make perhaps .40 to .50 cents of a dollar on my money every month. If instead I put that money to plant a mature lemon/lime tree, that tree could bear hundreds of lemons every year if not thousands. The price of a lemon/lime these days where I live is north of 48 cents each. So I do reach more abundance by investing into nature and the land but it does takes great knowledge and skill in order to work with nature to create the right conditions so that the trees are prosperous. This is in essence what I have been learning about and I’m NOW sharing here!

How to Build Soil Fertility for the Food Forest

Like I mentioned the land my dad purchased is very sandy and low in nutrients. This is part of the reason he could afford it. It was cheap land. The big problem with this type of land is that any rainfall drains right through so the soil does not keep the moisture it needs in order to feed crops and vegetables, and also the moisture which is characteristic of rich soil that thrives with bacteria, microorganism, fungal activity and beneficial insect population.

So in order to make the soil better I’m trying to replicate a system similar to the one found in the documentary Back to the Eden Garden where a farmer with 50+ years of experience explains how to develop great productive land. I want to note there are many recordings and each of them is not the same, some of them have more valuable information than others. So it may be worth your time to watch a few of the videos if you are interested in learning how to farm too.

I have not yet been lucky to find arborists within working range from Montura Ranch Estates that can dump trucks of wood chips in the land I’m working in, but I have been able to get started planting the fruit trees with mulch. I got a pallet of organic nutra mulch in Miami from buymulchdirect.com which contains 70 bags of the material and even after plating some 50 trees I still have another 30 bags I can use.

The nutra mulch has many certifications which makes it a good product for the purpose of plating trees orchard and building soil fertility. I want to state this is the real deal when it comes to organic matter. The bags smells like it came from the zoo and it contains a mixture of various manures and different trees and organic matter that got crushed. This supplier is good for people in Miami and Broward Counties. I got it from there because it was the cheapest option since it was a bulk purchase and also the material is better than standard mulch I previously got from other sources. For this type of project colored mulch or rubber mulch is no good because it contains toxicity that kills the soil life we are trying to build! Once this mulch is exposed to the hot sun, the bacteria on the surface dies so any bad zoo or manure odor quickly goes away. 

Based on the testing I have done seeds can sprout and develop in the nutra mulch although they do not develop as good as in compost or potting soil mix. The mulch is also very spongy in nature and retains or absorbs a lot of water. I have not confirmed with the supplier but I believe they also inoculate this organic matter with beneficial fungi because every time I water my trees and the nutra mulch gets soaked wet with water the next day I have many small trasnlucent mushrooms that look like umbrellas which sprout from within the mulch. Mushrooms are a phenomena which is the flower or the fruit of the population of living fungi active under the surface of the soil so when I see mushrooms I know the soil fertility is improving because mushrooms decompose organic matter like wood so other living trees and vegetables crops can reuse the minerals and nutrients broken down from natural processes.

I have also found that the mushroom population that was active in this land under the white oaks flowers more vigorously in those areas where I add nutra mulch because the material is good at absorbing water and maintaining moisture. It is my belief that if I’m able to add a layer of this stuff 1 to 2 inches high in all areas where I’m planting fruit trees and vegetables perhaps I won’t need to water anymore because the material can retain the water from the morning dew which is very prevalent in this area. In fact every morning when I wake up and go for a walk in the grass in this property my shoes get soaked wet, but by early morning all the water evaporates since the sun is also very strong.

However, purchasing all the mulch I would need would be really expensive since I would need to mulch an area larger than a quarter acre. So I’m trying to find arborists or other sources where I can get truck dumps of wood chips for free or for a delivery fee. One such service you can try in order to get free wood chips is chipdrop which perhaps has more active tree cutting businesses in your area or location.

It has not worked for me, but it also depends on the area. Basically arborist get charged a lot of money to dump their trucks of broken down wood material at the landfield or designated dumping areas. So they would deliver the wood chips to the properties which are closest to the working area where they were located. If you tip them with $20 for gas they will give you the delivery if they are close to your area.

I have not yet been lucky to find a free source of wood chips in my area but I will keep reaching out to different arborists and companies which could perhaps help me. Most arborists I have reached out to would have been happy to help me but they work outside of the location I’m in. So that’s the issue I have had. If it comes to worse I will buy a powerful gas wood chipper and make the wood chips myself, the only problem is that with gas prices going up this will probably come out to be just as expensive as purchasing mulch in the first place. This Biden administration sure is helping me…

One other key way to build soil fertility in the land is to plant nitrogen fixing trees alongside productive fruit trees. If you want to learn more about how nitrogen fixing trees can help your productive fruit trees this article has very good information. In my specific case I have a neighbor that has been really successful growing various pea trees in his land which is very similar to the one I’m developing. Since peas are nitrogen fixing and also produce an edible crop, this will be my choice for nitrogen fixing trees at least until I learn more about which tree types and varieties I can experiment within my agriculture hardiness zone which is 10A.

Mittleider Method – Cheapest and Most Effective Way to Fertilize I have Found

While I have found mulching has greatly helped my fruit trees develop. The sandy soil I’m working with lacks nutrients the plants can use to grow strong and successfully. I feel I’m on a race against time to turn the land prosperous and I also want to live more abundantly and eat better quality food. I know the land needs minerals and nutrients because I planted some cassava (yuca), my neighbor gave me. This is one of the most resilient and easy to grow trees and the cuttings I got were grown in a plot of land just 60 meters away so the tree was definitely adapted to the environment or ecological structure of the area.

The big difference is that my neighbor had sheep and many roosters and hens so his soil had more nutrients and nitrogen from the manure of these animals. As I came to realize this I started experimenting with chemical fertilizers. So I used Mittleider Method as part of the foundation to get the trees to grow and become strong to the point they no longer need any fertilization.

The yuca tree to the right had lost all foliage and was about to die but after fertilizing and adding some nutra mulch on top it came back. I hope the soil continues to improve over time so that this tree can become mature and I can harvest some yucca roots and get to plant more of these!

The way it works. As plants and trees grow they put out leaves. The purpose of the leafs is to act kind of like a solar panel and extract radiant energy from the sun. This energy is then taken down through the branches and stem of the tree or plant into the root system of the plant. At which point this energy from the sun essentially becomes simple and complex sugar molecules so that the living microorganisms in the soil can consume these sugars and break them down into a more simple state which is water soluble so that the plants can absorb it with their root systems. It is then that the plant can use this energy to produce fruit, to grow and to put out more leaves with which to capture more energy. Notice I said sugars. Something interesting I learned is that Mittleider pre plant fertilizer is rich in calcium which is very important for plant development. Most processed foods which are white powdery are just like sugars. So whey protein which may be toxic to consume can actually do a decent job as fertilizer!

One of the problems to using chemical fertilizers as it is with the Mittleider method, is that these fertilizers could potentially kill the soil life which is important to promote a cycle of more fertility in the soil. The pre-plant fertilizer is not as dangerous as it contains minerals which the beneficial bacteria and fungi can use so then the plant can absorb it. But the other dry granules of fertilizer which contain NPK: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K), these are the ones that can really affect negatively the beneficial soil life such as the worms, bacteria and fungi.

Something I want to note is that most produce today is grown on the most basic ratio of NPK necessary to get the plants to fruit and produce in order to save money. But this adds to the problem that the food is deficient in nutrients. We eat food to nourish or replenish the body, but if the food is not good then the body slowly continues to deteriorate until we are sick and unhealthy. This is among the reasons I’m learning to farm so I can produce good nutritious produce for my family, my neighbors and myself and also to save some money because food has becomes expensive now that gas has gone up 30% across USA. Everything goes up but income remains stagnant. This is not a good way to live.

Based on the research I have done and experiments I’m doing I have found that adding a layer of mulch which is 2 to three inches tall above the ground and then fertilizing (using powder or dry granules) and then watering on top produces results where the soil life remains protected. Basically the mulch acts like a filter and absorbs the materials and nutrients from the fertilizers and then as it breaks down through erosion, weather conditions, sunlight, bacterial processes and wood eating fungi, these nutrients and minerals are given back to the soil in a state that is no longer toxic to the soil life and which can in fact improve fertility. Of course I’m also talking about using modest amounts of fertilization because once the trees mature enough and can process the energy of the sun they need to be healthy then at that point the soil will continue to improve and no fertilization will be needed.

Every time the trees shed leafs, all those leafs that fall will contain some of the nutrients and fertility that was incorporated into the soil, so it helps amend the soil once again and remineralizes it with nutrients. Similarly, is possible to pick so much fruit from the land as to leave it void of nutrients and minerals so building soil fertility is about being attentive and paying attention to how the plants are growing and developing. If you do see the plants constantly yellowing then this is likely a sign they are suffering from nutrient deficiency in the soil but it can also be other factors too. Farming is very complex!

One of my lime trees pictured below is starting to produce and as you can see some of the leaves are turning yellow. I don’t know if is an issue where the plant may be lacking minerals since it has to use so much energy to produce the lime. Perhaps it can also be a problem of overwatering. If you know what the problem is please let me know! In my experience applying some liquid kelp + MR fulvic mix usually does the trick but I like to wait to see if the problem corrects itself before applying fertilizers. 

What I like about the mittleider method is that it shows us how to mix our own fertilizer to make cheap fertilizer in bulk. The other thing I like. Is that it works! I set up my own small raised bed to test this stuff and since starting to use the mittleider method I have been able to pick some of the largest Kentucky Wonder green beans I have ever picked that I farmed and harvested myself. 

Also other crops that previously would not yield anything are currently in the process of producing fruit. This is the case of pepper and tomato plants! However I have also found that is very important to build strong trellis to grow some of these crops because I tried doing it by using only string without support at the top and what happens is that as the plants grow and become heavier the string is pulled down so the leaves of the crops start to stack one on top of the other.

This is very bad because when leaves stack in this way malicious insects can more easily lay their eggs or make home of those leaves and eat them. Also is more easy for bacterial infection to occur which kills the inmune system of the plant because the leaves can trap water which contains microbes which are active and can cause disease. They are just doing their job of decomposing and eating anything which is not healthy. As a rule of thumb is important that leafs have sufficient space for air to circulate because this prevents bacterial and fungal infection and also it can prevent insects from laying larva and their eggs in the plants. At the same time, is important to set windbreaks to prevent too strong air circulation because strong air can cause tender trees which are young to break and even more mature trees could have their heavy branches severed if winds are too strong!

The tree in the picture above I had to add bricks because the wind made the stem break. I’m hoping it will still prosper. Sometimes when plant stems suffer trauma the tree will produce hormones which will allow it to lay more roots where the damage took place if more soil is added to the area. So I did just this and also added support in the form of small strong branches to keep the tree from collapsing again when there is a lot of win. One other thing I did was to apply root hormone to the area that was damaged to help the tree regrow roots that will help it recover. 

One other thing I also like about the mittleider method is that it teaches the essential minerals to use in the soil which based on scientific experimentation are those minerals which the plant needs. Some of these minerals have been withdrawn from the agricultural process and the result is that when we buy food at the supermarket we are eating very low nutritional food. If you want to learn more about the mittleider method the best resource is The Food For Everyone Foundation where you can even find the first six chapters of the book covering this farming method for free.

Some farmers do not like this foundation because they sell natural mineral fertilizers and micro nutrient mixes which are needed in order to prepare the weekly feed soil amendment for the method to work. However, I still found purchasing materials in bulk and mixing them myself is cheaper than other alternatives and the fertilizer I’m using also contains more minerals and micronutrients than conventional fertilizers currently used in large scale agriculture which just lacks nutritional sources because their goal is to lower their expenses and increase profits. Note this is unlike farmer’s market where there are many farmers who use organic methods and try to produce vegetables and fruit which have the most nutritional content and this is the reason it may be more expensive to buy from them.

Pictured above to the left is Mittleider pre plant fertilizer which is dense in calcium and to the right is the weekly feed that I did not finished mixing up.

Something interesting In the documentary back to the Eden Garden I learned is that after picking a crop or fruit after just 10 minutes of it being detached from the mother plant it loses some 80-90% of the nutritional content in the food. Also on average in the USA most crops travel 1500 miles before they are sold at the convenience store. During this trip the food loses most of its nutritional content.

Those fruits and vegetables which are imported from other countries that may travel tens of thousands of miles, often times must be picked before the fruit matures so not only is the nutritional value lacking; the taste is also not very good as compared to growing your own. Part of the reason so many people seem to have cancer today is because the food we eat is not healthy, not to mention environmental and other factors like it is we breathe polluted air and drink toxic water.

So while I continue to build soil fertility in the land my dad got, I will continue using these methods until I have built a thriving food forest that is so rich in soil life it can sustain itself and take care of me and my family without me having to do much. The beginning stages is always the hardest part and I have had to work very hard today to achieve the ultimate goal which is abundant and healthy food grown by me I can share!

 

Other Important Soil Amendments 

While a cover of organic material like wood chips, mulch, straw or pine needles can make a big difference in the soil fertility over time because it protects the organisms living in the soil and retains water and moisture for longer which creates the perfect habitat for worms and fungi to do their magic and turn bad soil into black fertile soil. There are many other soil amendments that can be used in order to achieve this goal of making great soil. Using mittleider method is what I have found to last the most and be the most economical but here are other options. Note that mittleider method uses the 16 most important minerals plants use.

Azomite: This is a natural product mined in Utah and other places where there was heavy volcanic eruptions. Most land masses and islands that have formed at some point were nothing other than volcanic eruptions that were cooled down by the sea, so there is a lot of this available. Azomite stands for A to Z of minerals and includes trace elements like lead which are not safe to consume. It comes in various forms but the micronized form is the best because is a very fine powder which makes it more water soluble so is possible to add some of this product on top of the soil and water it down to the roots and sub levels of the soil.

Although some farmers do not like azomite because it contains trace minerals which are toxic or poisonous you have to remember that it is the bacteria, microorganisms, microbes, beneficial parasites like worms which aerate the soil with their tunnels and fungi, which break down the minerals into a form which the plant can use. In this process the organisms convert the minerals and trace elements into other substances, and once the plant absorbs the elements it further breaks it down and filters it with the plant flesh which contains millions of plant cells. The result is that trace elements in azomite are broken down before it gets to the fruit and plant leafs people consume so it doesn’t result in a harmful effect. Even if some of the trace elements make it to the produce, the quantity is so very small is not toxic or poisonous. I have been eating kentucky wonder green beans grown with Azomite and it has been some of the most energetic food I ever ate! Some of them even taste sweet, that is those for which the plants were mulched by 4 inches or so in my experiment.

Azomite is known to have 70 minerals and also small amounts of trace elements. I live in Miami which is a very urban city so I don’t have as many convenience stores which are specifically for farming. So in my particular case the best deal for Azomite I have been able to find is on Amazon and I got it for $54 including taxes and shipping, for a 40 pound bag. Is possible to find it in other places for less but then the shipping can cost $50 or more, so it ends up being more expensive. If you know of a good store in Miami where I can get Azomite for cheaper please tell me in the comments!

 

Water Retaining Crystals: Also known as hydrogels, root watering crystals, water retention granules, these are synthetic manmade polymers that can absorb water anywhere from 300 to 1000 times its weight. The polymers made from certain materials which have certain molecular characteristics are preferred over others because some of these polymer crystals can leech into the soil toxic substances which are not safe for human consumption.

But once again I know that microorganism in the soil and plants filter these substances so I’m not worried about this. When I use this stuff I just sprinkle a little bit of it. Some studies claim the water crystals do not help plants grow any better while others claim the product does produce noticeable results. The polymers can take anywhere between 3 to 5 years to fully break down and can expand with water and contract to release the moisture stored hundreds of times.

The reason I began using these is because the sandy soil I have drains water and moisture extremely well. Sometimes there is big rains of two inches and more and within a day is like it never rained since the soil drains so well. So by applying sprinkles of this stuff every time I plant a new tree directly into the hole I dug, I’m hoping to make it so that the soil can retain more water for longer and so that when the water inside the crystals transpires or evaporates back into the soil, then it is the mulch material on top that retains it for longer allowing the plants to drink all the water they need until I’m able to go back and re water them every 7 days.

In the beginning this can be a lot of work but I know within a year or two of planting the trees the roots will develop into intricate systems that will penetrate deep into the soil. At a depth of 7 feet deep or so, there is a water mantle which acts as a a reservoir or storage of water inside the ground so once my trees build roots that deep I won’t need to water them again and I can sit back and relax!

I learned about hydrogels when I first got bare root trees from Willisorchards and they used these polymer crystals to keep the root systems of the plants hydrated during transit from Georgia to Florida and while I planted the trees. I don’t like that they don’t sell any citrus trees but they have really well developed trees for pretty cheap! At the time I thought they would send the trees potted but this was not the case. They came in a tall cardboard box, bundled with a root wrap that included the hydrogel. As soon as I got them I drove to the homestead where I’m planting the orchard/food forest and it took me two days to fully plant all the trees I got. It felt good to do it because I know what I’m doing now that I’m strong and healthy will be something myself and my family will enjoy for many years to come and as I age I may not have the same endurance or physical strength to work the land.

Liquid Fertilizers: There are many different liquid fertilizers that can be used to amend the soil. That includes fish emulsion and liquid kelp but there are many others. The best liquid fertilizer combination I have tried is liquid kelp plus Mr Fulvic at their appropriate ratios as it says in the product label.

Something I have noticed is that when transplanting trees from a container into the ground where the tree will be for the rest of it’s life almost always there is root damage which cause the tree to start to wilt. If the tree had the leaves springing up an showing lots of vigor, then the leaves start to look down like they are sad and starting to die. When I see this I apply a dosage or liquid kelp and mr fulvic diluted in water and this is plant food the plant can absorb and use right away. After doing this I do notice the plants regain vigor and start to look again as if I had not transplanted them and severed some roots.

But there was one time when I transplanted a big mango tree and I did it wrong because I did not know what I was doing. Applying liquid kelp + mr fulvic helped the plant live longer but eventually it died. Honestly I did everything wrong when I transplanted the plant so is my fault but I learned the lessons!

A negative aspect I find to using Liquid kelp + Mr Fulvic is that it seems the plants create dependence on this substance or plant food. In other words I have noticed, when I apply this plant food the plants do a lot better but then they seem to grow to an unnatural state where the roots can no longer sustain the foliage of the plant so is like it needs some time to adapt. This is the reason I started applying it about once a month or when I make transplants and the roots suffer. Applying it once a week did not work too well for me because the plants seem to create addiction and do worse if I don’t apply it.

Liquid kelp can be applied diluted in water to the leafs of the plant (foliar spray), or by watering the ground for the roots to absorb. Liquid kelp is made by processing seaweed into a concentrated liquid solution which is very strong. Kelp seaweed can grow 2 to 3 feet per day and is abundant in the ocean, however a lot of harvesting has been made lately to produce kelp products which has impacted the amount of kelp available in the places of heavy harvesting. Kelp contains many salts and nutrients from the sea productive vegetables can use in order to grow faster and healthier. It also has hormones like Auxins, Cytokinns and Gibberellins which help productive crops grow larger and better root systems, put more foliage and also produce more branching which can result in more fruiting.

Dry Fertilizers: There are many cheap NPK dry fertilizers. This is in part what is used in Mittleider Method as is one of the ingredients to create the weekly feed. 

To the right is 25 pounds of generic 14 14 14 NPK fertilizer and to the left is the finished, mixed weekly feed which contains more ingredients.

What I have learned is that overusing dry fertilizers makes it so the fruit can taste bitter or synthetic and not sweet. Also, applying too much fertilizer can actually dehydrate the plants, because these are salts which absorb moisture and can in fact take water the plants need from the soil. So whenever I apply dry fertilizer as instructed in the mittleider method I also water the plants.

One other important distinction is that when applying too much fertilizer the plant will have a different smell that can attract more malicious pests and bugs. While is true that fertilizer can boost the inmune system of the plant and make it more resilient to pests and bugs, it should be used in moderation to avoid the scenario where the plants become too attractive to the bugs that eat and destroy them. Towards the end of the post I share some organic pesticides which can work as bug repellents. 

In nature the trees and plants grow in foliage and continue to absorb more and more sunlight which as I said goes deep into the root systems of the plant where the energy is converted by microbes from complex sugars into more basic elements the plants can absorb and use. As the plant grows the root systems grow larger and the plant can absorb more sunlight because it can sustain more foliage and produce more of it’s own food but at no point naturally does it produce a surplus because everything is balanced so that makes it harder for the plant or tree to attract pests.

Something which is also really important is the water content inside the plants. When plants are dehydrated it is easier for pests to eat them but plants which are healthy and high in water content drown the insects when they bite into them. The pests in a way have the purpose to take out bad unhealthy plants so that these do not reproduce, so that only the healthiest plants with the best seeds can reproduce. Nature is about becoming stronger and not the other way around.

Peat Moss: Also known as sphagnum peat moss this is a natural sterile material often coming from vast bogs in Canada. Peat moss has great water absorbing and retention properties since is finely powdered organic material that develops at a rate of an inch every 15 to 25 years. The peat moss being harvested right now has existed for thousands of years and this is not a renewable resource. Notice I wrote sterile material, what that means is that is void of life so planting vegetables in pure peat moss won’t result in mature plants that produce fruit. 

However, because is sterile, void of soil life and can absorb water like a sponge, this is actually a good medium to start seeds, especially tender seeds which rot easily when there is a lot of microbial activity. Once the seed germinates however, is best to move them to a more diverse medium which may include potting mix and compost. Is also possible to create a mix of potting soil and compost and add some peat moss on top for the seed to sprout and be able to develop.

If you see anyone advertising peat moss as good soil now you know this is not true. The reality is peat moss is harvested from bogs located in wetlands and muddy soil which happens to have one property. Plants and trees do not grow there! The picture below I took it from this blog to show you how nothing is growing in it.

Coco Coir: This is another organic material which is also sterile of soil life and can be used in the same way as peat moss. The only difference I know is that peat moss can be slightly acidic but coco coir is not acidic. So this amendment can be used to balance the PH of the soil where vegetables and plants are being grown. I want to note that sphagnum peat moss from Canada is known to have the lowest ph of 3.0 to 4.5 so that can also be used instead of Coco Coir if the purpose is to reduce soil PH (acidiy).

Coco coir is a byproduct from the harvesting of coconuts in places like Indonesia, Thailand, Viet Nam and India. Normally coconut husk is discarded but they have found a new way to sell this organic product by breaking down the coir fibers and putting it into blocks that can be as big as 20 pounds and selling it this way in dehydrated form. Coco coir fibers expand 6 to 7 times it’s volume when water is added. The same happens with peat moss.

Overall what I have learned is to keep the husk from my coconut tree which produces hundreds of coconuts each year and I use this to cover the soil of some of the trees I plant. One advantage to keeping the husk chunks whole, instead of pulverizing it into fine dust is that this material can absorb sunlight and store it deep into the fabric. Then as it gets colder this heat is dissipated. This is in fact how some of my mango trees survived the frost of January when it was 31 degrees F! I had them covered in layers of big chunks of coconut husk!

Inoculants (Mykos): An inoculant refers to a substance which contains a living component of a beneficial bacterium or fungi that is known to create a beneficial relationship with your plants. It turns out that the roots of the plants are in fact some form of spongi fungi that can absorb water. Well inoculating is about adding more of the beneficial fungi and bacteria that can help break down minerals in the soil and absorb the resulting plant food into the roots to be used by such plant.

Not all plants create a harmonious and beneficial relationship with inoculants. The only product of this sort I have used so far is Mykos which contains living mykorrhizae fungi which acts like a sponge and helps collect and store nutrients and water for the plant to use. While most plants can create a beneficial relationship with mykorrhizae fungi in Mykos, there are some varieties of plants like the brassicas which include Cabbages, cauliflower, kale, brussel sprouts and broccoli that do not create a beneficial relationship. Using Mykos won’t hurt your plants but why waste it on brassicas where it won’t produce any meaningful effect.

In a similar way for cannabis growing, depending on the type of cannabis your are growing there are inoculants which will work when others won’t. Here in Florida is against the law to cultivate cannabis for recreational use so this is something I have not tried but if it ever becomes legal I will try this too and learn and test the best methods. Part of the reason I learn about this stuff is because I do Search Engine Optimization at the professional level so I’m forced to upgrade myself and learn something new every single day so I can help my customers who are in all sort of industries, niches and verticals. A customer I’m currently working with sells hemp seeds and from the time they started with us at Shift4Shop to now their monthly revenue has increased by over $100,000. All the learning I have done paid off.

Here is a good post about inoculating cannabis plants if you are interested in this. One thing to note about the living beneficial fungi in this product is that it only last about two years. So make sure to check the expiration date and try to use all of it before it expires. The earlier you use the product the more beneficial it will be for your plants and the better the results it will give you. When it comes to using the product I just sprinkle a little bit in the root ball of the plants I’m transplanting. There is also water soluble mykos which is possible to sprinkle in the surface of the soil and spray water to get it into the roots of the plants below but I did not purchase the water soluble version.

Vermiculate: I have never used vermiculite myself because is a rather expensive hydrous phyllosilicate mineral. What this means is that vermiculate has great water absorbing properties so it can be used in a similar way as the hydrogels are used. The difference is that vermiculate is naturally occurring and it also has mineral properties. If it wasn’t because is really expensive I would use this instead of synthetic hydrogel polymers which used to be very expensive back in the early 2000’s but now are much more accessible for those people like me that are on a budget.

Compost: Good compost is rich in plant nutrients and beneficial organism. In simple terms, composting is about reusing organic material and breaking it down into smaller and simpler organic and inorganic materials which the plants can more easily use to grow and produce fruit.

When it comes to learning about composting there are many great resources in the internet.

 

What I have learned from building my own raised bed is that organic material introduced into the garden bed decomposes as time goes so the soil level goes down. So is a good idea to add compost and more organic material every three months. As for mineral heavy materials like Azomite or Mitlleider pre plant fertilizer, I add some every time I transplant a new crop or add the minerals every six months in order to remineralize the soil. Up to this point I have probably harvested more than 20 pounds of green beans from my TEST 72 square feet garden bed so these are nutrients and minerals the soil is losing overtime that has to be replenished. More recently the bean plants caught some disease so I’m cutting them and leaving the roots in the ground. Since beans do their own nitrogen fixation, the roots do contain round nodules with nitrogen so as the plant dies and this material decomposes other plants can use it as fertilizer. Something interesting is that even hair can be composted!

More recently as of 6/27/2021 I finally managed to save enough money to buy compost in bulk. I must confess I was also helped in a big way because what costs the most is shipping and moving these stuff around in big trucks from the landfield or facilities where all the organic matter is composted into this product. I actually was able to purchase the compost and the shipping fee was waived – lucky me! Since I have discovered places of these property where I want to grow trees won’t do well because there is just too many pine and oak roots, instead I’m going to experiment using 30 gallon grow bags and 15 gallon nursery pots to grow dwarf varieties in pots. There is actually many people who live in the city and have very limited space, and this is how they are able to grow some of their own fruit trees.

Worm Castings: One of the most wonderful beneficial organisms in the soil are the worms. Worms work hard eating organic material and food scraps. Inside the worms digestive system they have populations of living beneficial microbes which take care of breaking down what the worms eat and this is secreted as black gold (worm poop) which is known as worm castings.

Worm castings are among the best soil amendments and is organic material broken down to such a form that plants can more easily use it. Something I have not yet done is put together my own worm farm to produce worm castings but having an acre of land to play with I will set one up in the future.

Truth be told, there are people out there who make hundreds of thousands of dollars each year by collecting the disposable unwanted food from restaurants and composting it into worm castings in worm farms which then is sold to amend the soil. Composting is not a bad business to be in. There is little overhead and if the worm farm is set up correctly there won’t be bad smell either. To get good worms is possible to buy some worm castings from a good source and it will contain eggs from the worms that will hatch that will be able to produce similar worm castings as the original worms in the worm farm as long as the food scraps given is similar.

 

Food Scraps: Worms love these stuff to turn it into worm castings! There is also many beneficial microbes in the soil that can turn food scraps into nutrient rich compost. Egg shells which are high in calcium are amongst the food scraps materials that take the longest to decompose. It can take anywhere between a few months to years for egg shells to decompose naturally in soil.

Some farmers recommend digging food scraps in the garden to get the microbial activity going. The main reason why they say to burry it is to avoid odor or bad stench. However doing it this way can make the soil in that area more acidic. Also since there will be more microbial activity in this area is possible the plant roots can catch some disease which may kill the plant.

As a result another method of doing it is by placing the food scraps on top of the soil and letting it decompose. In my case when I have done this there are wild animals like squirrels, rabbits and birds that eat what they find useful and the rest is used by insects and bacteria. I have noticed a lot more birds in the food forest I’m working on as of lately and in part is because they come and scavenge the top of the soil for insects to eat, which happen to be attracted to the food scraps. This promotes the ecology of the place the only issue is I’m sure in the future the rabbits and the birds will also start eating the fruits and vegetables I will be farming but I’m hoping there will be enough to share with them as all the trees start to mature and produce!

One place I have become active is in the platform fromthefield.tv which contains a big catalog of videos to do with farming, off grid planning, permaculture and pretty much anything to do with becoming self sustainable. Some of the best and most knowledgeable farmers are inside sharing their wisdom from years of experience. So I plan to become more successful by reviewing many of the videos in this subscription based service. A tip I picked up is that Black Diamond produces some of the best worm castings/compost to amend the soil. So I placed an order and will try growing some of the vegetables I have failed to grow in this medium to see if my success rate becomes any better. The way I see it, is best to learn now than when there is a big emergency!

Wood Chips/Mulch: I already spoke about how I’m using wood chips and more specifically nutra mulch to cover the soil above the trees I have planted and also the vegetables in the garden bed. I have noticed that is those plants I most heavily mulch that produce the sweetest fruits and vegetables.

Wood chips and mulch have stored in them the energy from the sun that the trees collected while they were living. This is the same energy that can be converted into complex sugars, that can be broken down by fungi and microbial activity into a substance the plant can use in order to grow.

So basically wood chips/mulch can turn into plant food by processes of naturally breaking down of the material over time. This organic layer on top of the soil can also insulate (or trap heat/warm) into the soil when it gets very cold. This protects the roots of the plant from frost which can kill them. Also a layer of wood chips/mulch can add as a filter so that pollutants in the atmosphere that land in the wood chips decompose by natural means and by the time these substances reach the plant roots is in a different form which is no longer toxic. Lastly, since wood chips/mulch can only absorb and hold so much water, when it has excess water it will evaporate it into the atmosphere, whereas when it has too little water/moisture it will absorb it from the atmosphere for example during the wet morning dew or when it rains. If there is too much sun and heat, the layer of mulch will maintain the roots cooler. Fungi is also among the organisms which breaks down wood, so wood chips/mulch can promote the existence of beneficial fungi in your soil!

Something cool I learned is that fungi has the largest living organism here in planet earth that we know of. Oaks which are interconnected by big root systems are also considered among the largest. If you watch Back to the Eden Garden Documentary you will understand the importance of wood chips and mulching in order to produce soil that keeps on building fertility overtime as opposed to the soils of big corporate farms that lose fertility every year and in due time become heavily salinated soils where is impossible to grow anything!

Sometimes certain crops like peanuts and sunflowers, known as hyperaccumulators are used for their properties to be able to extract toxic salts from the soil in which they are growing in. Although nature is really powerful and able to filter toxins, I think soil so heavily toxic will produce crops which are not the best for people to eat. This is the reason I will try eating less of the nut mixes I often snack on. A prime example of the power of nature is that there is new bacteria in the sea which is capable of decomposing or eating plastic since there is so much waste at the sea.

Potting Soil Mix: There are many brands of potting soil. Some are good and some are not so good. But it also depends on luck. To make potting mix at a large commercial scale companies source raw materials from different places. Sometimes the raw materials used in one batch of the product is different to the raw materials used in another batch. So the same brand could potentially give you great, highly useful, just as horrible, not useful potting mix product.

What I can tell you is that potting mix contains more organic material and minerals that can sustain plants growth BETTER than peat moss or coco coir which are sterile. So if you test sufficient potting soil brands you may come to find the one that you like most which works for you. One of those brands which is highly popular and also controversial is miracle gro which has ties to Monsanto – A company which is in the business of producing and selling GMO (Genetically Modified Organism), which includes crops that do not produce seed. So the farmers are obligated to keep purchasing seed every year.

For this reason many people do not like to support Monsanto. Others claim that there is no clear science as to how Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s) are metabolized in the human body and whether GMO’s can create toxicity when digested and used by the body. I know there is an MIT PHD known as Dr. Shiva that is studying the effects of GMO’s on the human body so it would be interesting to learn what he concludes.

I can tell you my goal is to build self replenishing fertility out of the sandy soil I’m working on and I don’t care too much about the product I use in the early stages of the project as long as it takes me to the desired outcome. Which is soil which becomes more fertile with every passing year as the soil life continues to proliferate or multiply and grow. If you have a brand of potting soil you use which has worked great please share it in the comments and I will try it!

Molasses: This is a product resulting from the process of refining sugar cane (or sugar beets) which is a sweetener. There is molasses in liquid form which can be diluted with water and applied to the garden or farm and there is also starchy, sugary sweet organic material that can be added to the top soil or also be buried but remember this can create acidity in the soil and disturb the roots because of the bacterial activity.

The purpose of using molasses in the garden as far as I know is to encourage beneficial bacterial growth and also because molasses is sweet the crops being harvested will be of sweeter nature. Tomatoes are among those cultivars which most benefit in taste when molasses is added. While molasses can help the population of beneficial bacteria, worms and fungi explode after a few days of applying the product, BUT the bacteria will once again start to die and go back to the normal levels the soil can sustain at a natural rate as the sugars are consumed. But since in nature everything is recyclable this activity or the loss of bacteria and organism can be used by the plant as plant food with the aid of the existing bacteria and fungi that is left alive in the soil. Like I said dry fertilizers could make fruit and vegetables taste bitter. A remedy to this could be to apply molasses.

Nitrogen: This post contains more nitrogen based amendments which I did not include in my post because I have not tried them. Maybe I will in the future. Note the place I’m linking to has audio running in the background so you may have to mute the site. As a general best practice is best not to add audio like that. This is what I tell to my customers because audio can and will disturb people coming to read the blog. Of course I’m in no way affiliated to the website I linked to.

Unchlorinated Water: I know this sounds crazy but one of the best amendments you can use is to make sure to use water which is free of chloride and fluoride. These are toxic waste chemicals that are put in drinking water which kill the beneficial bacteria in the soil that process complex minerals into more basic material the plant can use. A trick I learned is to let water sit for 24 hours in a spot where the sun shines. The sun will make the chloride evaporate and it will also get rid of the fluoride so when you pour the water on the plants it won’t kill the beneficial bacteria and microorganisms.

 

Where to Get Deals and Liquidation Prices

From personal experience I know purchasing all the products can be really expensive. The reason I have purchased many of them is because I’m investing in my education which will help me build a more self sustainable home and also I can use the knowledge to help my customers when I do SEO and digital marketing for their websites and businesses. Some of them operate businesses that sell seeds and live plants.

However, one trick I learned which you can use if you are purchasing a lot of products is to research the products in liquidation at brickseek.com. To put it simply big chain stores like walmart, home depot and lowes list their gardening (and other products) which are on liquidation here. So it may be possible to purchase products at 30-80% off their original value. However, it may still be a better deal to purchase products in bulk but not everyone has a property large enough or the budget to do this so I’m just offering an idea. One thing about purchasing products in bulk is that although the overall product per pound will likely cost less than getting it in bags from a big chain store, the shipping will still be quite expensive for such deliveries. 

For example recently I purchased horse stall matts because I’m trying to set up a gym area and the rubber can protect the floor from falling weights. Well the shipping would cost far more than the product itself! So I chose to wait until tractor supply had the product and I will go pick it up tomorrow in the family truck. Doing this saved me over $700 worth of shipping because each horse stall mat is 90 pounds. The product itself is worth $50 each. They charge about a dollar per pound for the delivery. Crazy!

If you don’t happen to have a local convenience store where you can pick up the bigger bulky products for cheap the best place I have been able to find is Amazon because of  Amazon prime shipping. Amazon may still charge some money to deliver the products which are over 40 pounds but often times their total is cheaper than placing the order online from another source. That’s my experience thus far, which makes little sense but is what I have come to realize. Just keep in mind if you do find a better deal from another seller in Amazon or outside of Amazon, they can’t do price matching because you are purchasing at the price which the original seller you bought from, set for that very product.

Hey! If you happen to know the best place online to buy clearance productive trees let me know in the comments. Thus far some of the best places I have found to purchase trees in the range of 3-5 years old is lowes, walmart and home depot and although some farmers say the trees sold in the garden centers of big box stores are trash because they are not pruned correctly, or are sick trees, or are not the best varieties… My experience when I went to krome avenue in Homestead, Florida which is where all the big and popular nurseries are located in my area. Well, the owners of such nurseries kept telling me how home depot or lowes were purchasing all of their inventory of citrus and fruit trees. This told me the demand for trees has grown substantially and I also uncovered another myth – the quality of the trees sold in big box stores in my area in Miami is good! I don’t know if this is the same in your area but if you learn what to look for when purchasing the kind of tree you are looking for, then you will know when you are getting a good deal!

The other day at my local home depot for example which has a very small garden center I found a lemon tree, bearrs variety that was at least 9 to 11 feet tall already putting little lemons and the price was $99. While I understand the reasons some people may not want this tree:

-long tall tree (lemons hard to reach)

-The tree has thorns

-The tree shape was okay but not optimally pruned

-The 15 gallon pot was very heavy to lift (probably 150 pounds or more). The pot itself was worth a good $10-$15 not including the soil inside of it.

-Transporting such large tree from home depot to it’s final location and then panting it would be a difficult task (I’m driving some 100 miles and planting the tree tomorrow)

I still chose to buy the tree because I knew a tree as mature as that one probably was worth more like $200-$300. Normally when they reach 7 feet they are sold for $99 depending on the variety. And also my goal is not to have a small tree that I can easily pick lemons from, but instead I want a large 20 foot lemon tree with many branches that produces thousands of lemons each year that can convert into delicious organic lemonade and share with my neighbors in Montura Ranch. I don’t care if I have to buy a big pole to pluck the lemons of the tree! Lemons these days are costing 50 cents each and more… I’m talking investment because I can put $1000 in a barclays bank account and make about that much (50 cents of a dollar) in one month… Imagine a tree that can bear thousands of beautiful organic, high in vitamin c, lemons a year. Much better investment!

In case you are curious here are some of the fruit trees I’m planting. Recall this is USDA Hardiness Zone 10A so some of the apples and pear trees may not produce but since there was a big frost last January and the trees I got are all low chill perhaps it will work and the trees will produce! Low chill just means they need less cold hours to trigger the tree into flowering and production.

Something which is really important is that while many trees can take even 20 years to mature and produce fruit from seed is also possible to buy grafted trees which can produce within a couple years. Grafted trees are often dwarf and do not grow as tall as trees from seed. These trees do not produce as much either but in the good not only they produce quicker, the grafted trees are also made with the best varieties so the fruit will taste very good. Imagine waiting 20 years for a tree to produce fruit and then you realize the fruit is bitter, not good! But even mature trees like this can be grafted. Here is a post containing grafting techniques. If my orange trees mature and I realize the fruit is bad I will just apply grafting techniques and get it to produce the best and most popular oranges I buy from the grocery store.

Here are some of the trees I’m planting and I want to have 500 or more:

Arbequina Olive Tree, Anna Apple Tree, Dorsett Golden Apple Tree, Ein Shemer Apple Tree, Hong Kong Guava Tree, Goji Berry Plant, Big Red Mayhaw Tree, Georgia Red Mayhaw Tree, Mason’s Superberry Mayhaw Tree, Reliable Mayhaw Tree, Black Beauty Mulberry Tree, Persian Mulberry Tree, Snow Queen Nectarine Tree, Sunred Nectarine Tree, FlordaKing Peach Tree, FlordaPrince Peach Tree, Hood Pear Tree, Hachiya Persimmon Tree, Fuyu Persimmon Tree, Wonderful Pomegranate Tree, Southern Highbush Blueberry Plant, Bronze Carlos Scuppernong, Bronze Southern Sweet Scuppernong, Fredonia Bunch Grape Vine, Lime, Lemon (various types), Tangarine, Mango tree, avocado tree, cashew tree, palm tree, sugar cane, pineapple, Papaya trees (red lady, Solo papaya sunrise).

Talking about papaya trees, if you happen to know how to get some seeds of the IPB9 hemaphrodite carica papaya variety please let me know in the comments! I know this type was introduced by the university of agriculture of California but I have never been able to buy seeds and the only places that seem to sell these seeds are in indiamart and other weird marketplaces that are full of scammers. So if you got a reputable source for IPB9 carica papaya let me know!

My ultimate goal is to plant 500+ fruit trees and convert the place into a jungle of abundance. I’m the kind of person that doesn’t care too much about money but when I have big projects or ambitions I want to achieve like the goal stated above then I’m more willing to become a hustler and acquire resources by working extra hard. The reality is acquiring the resources to build a food forest is not easy and I’m lucky I’m an appen contractor and my contract got extended another six months so as long as I keep opening new projects and keep learning about permaculture I should be able to reach my goal.

Something I learned which is really important is that is best to purchase trees from local nurseries. Trees grown locally will have adapted to the environment and climate where you are located so when the trees are transplanted there will be less shock. This means the tree will establish and grow faster. If the trees happen to be nursed in a different climate far away it can take a long time, sometimes even years for them to be able to adapt properly to the new climate. These trees may even have to activate different genes based on the new environment conditions to be able to survive. What I have noticed is that the trees I get locally which are adapted to the climate in the area grow and produce faster. 

Why is Important to Consume Fresh Produce Picked From the Tree or From the Plant

As I previously discussed after 10 minutes of picking the fruit or vegetable it loses 80-90% of it’s nutritional value. By the time the produce runs the 1500 mile shipping range for USA (on average), the produce has lost most of it’s nutritional content.

So by learning to farm and growing your own productive trees you will be able to eat fresh fruit, in season which has better nutritional content. Also as the years go by and the trees mature during fall they will drop lots of leaves which will turn into compost and amend the soil overtime. So with every passing year the food forest will have better soil life and produce better crops and fruit which will be more nutritional and help the body stay healthy and free from inflammation and disease. In short you will have a better quality of life and more abundance by working on a project like this one.

Also, you will have the power to grow fruits which are considered to be exotic in your region or climate. The kind of fruit which is either very expensive to buy where you live or simply it is non existent. The global covid-19 pandemic took down 1 in 4 restaurants in the USA which will never come back, but there was a more prosperous time under Trump in which it was possible to exchange exotic produce and fruit for top dollar which chefs at the restaurants wanted for their customer meals.

Something I want to grow for example is rose apple but I don’t know if it will do well in my zone 10A since those trees are very tropical and do the best in zone 12. Something I learned is that nuts and fruits have pathways to breathe even after being plucked from the tree. So there is more life in plant based products the body can use as opposed to meat which is a lifeless rotting corpse. This is the main reason many people are turning vegan but it needs to be done intelligently because there are nutrients and macronutrients in meat that are not as easy to find in vegetables. One great plant I’m trying to grow is Amaranth because is very nutritious and both the leafs and the flowers can be used as food. Every vegan should learn about this plant and learn to grow it! Moringa tree is also very good and is the staple tree that big and strong giraffes eat in the east African savannas.

While many human beings posses neanderthal genes which means their intestinal track can properly digest meat. It is still better to eat natural non GMO plant based products because meat consumption can create toxicity in the body which turns the body acidic and this is the environment that breeds inflammatory diseases and cancerous cells. A way to detox the body is to fast, which results in healthy cells using the sick cells as food and that would include cancerous cells. Plant based food can keep the body in a more alkaline estate which is better, but there is also a drawback.

You see all plants as a mechanism of defense produce some level of toxicity to make sure animals and people can’t eat them indefinitely without having undesirable secondary effects. Native Americans understood this and would teach it to their young. Fructose in fruits like oranges for example can affect the pancreas, kidneys and the liver so all foods should be consumed in moderation. I knew I was drinking too much orange juice when my kidneys started to bother me. In life balance is key.

Building Raised Garden Beds

While I’m doing everything in my power to turn the sandy soil into better soil I know it will take years to get good soil where I can drop just about any seed and be successful at growing the plant or tree.

So in the meantime part of my strategy is to build more raised garden beds. The problem is the price of wood has become so expensive that using concrete comes to be about the same price. The reality is that many wood mills and warehouse units that stored wood got burned down at the same time there were riots and protests going on in USA so this is one of the reasons wood has gone up so much.

It also has to do with the fact people are investing into urban and suburban areas, going away from the cities because of the covid-19 situation and all the restrictions in the city. Part of the investment includes building houses and structures made with wood.

As far as I know and understand cedar wood is among the most desirable for garden beds because cedar is more resistant against rotting and it can last anywhere from 5 to 15 years depending on the climate where the raised bed is and the weather conditions is exposed to. Of course raised beds that are more exposed to rain are more likely to rot earlier so the frame and the wood has to be rebuilt or replaced. 

When I made my first 72 square foot raised bed with my dad, I made sure to buy Cedar. It was expensive, I spent close to $500 just to make that structure. The raised bed is something like 20 inches deep and I will keep using it to keep testing methods and starting trees to put into their own pots. So far of all techniques and places where I have tried to sprout coconut palm trees, it is in the raised bed that I prepared that I have had the most success.

Since lately I consume a lot of content to do with gardening I came across the channel self sufficent me.

This is where I learned about birdies gardening raised beds which are made of steel and have rust resistant coating that make make those garden beds to last for many many years. Although the beds are somewhat expensive I like how they look on the landscape and also in the long run since those garden beds last longer they may actually be a cheaper deal. So I will try to purchase many of them but I will start with just a few I will fill with the best soil I can buy so I can keep building on my gardening skills. I will most definitely buy the real tall ones because that would prevent some of the animals in the land from eating the crops. Also the tall ones make it so I don’t have to bend which may hurt my back if I do it too much.

I know and understand these garden raised beds are not any good for commercial intent and instead is better to do mounts of good soil, as raised beds on top of the sandy soil in order to operate a more commercial production. But really my goal is to learn and to produce enough crops for my family and to share with my neighbor I’m not thinking commercial scale at this time but maybe in the future if I can master the skill! 

 

In regards to what I wrote above. After much consideration and seeing the lumber prices skyrocket 600% in the last 5 months or so. I decided in the end the best option was to get steel raised beds. I ended up purchasing mine from vego garden because they gave me a great deal which included free shipping, so I saved $700 on shipping. I got 10 of the big 32 inch high 10 in 1 raised beds. I’m assembling mine into 90 square foot configurations but there are also other configurations that can cover 95 and 96 square feet of space. Is also possible to assemble these together in a chain, sort of like a train and in this way extend the beds even further adding an extra 8 to 10 square feet because the materials that would go at the corner end of the bed can instead be used on the sides, which results in more square footage to grow more crops.

What I like about vego garden beds is that they offer 32 inches extra tall, birdies as far as I know is 30 inches maximum for the height. Those 2 extra inches are important to me because I do have all those wild bunnies and squirrels roaming around the property and taller garden beds are an advantage to deter them from eating what I’m trying to harvest. Other reasons which impacted my decision were the fact birdies raised beds were sold out at the time, since birdies is more popular. I also wanted to support the great estate of Texas, and vego garden beds ship from Texas, which also means they have more economical shipping options than birdies – although epic gardening does import birdies garden beds which are made in Australia and they ship from intercontinental USA so shipping prices may be similar.

One final key reason I ended up getting the vego garden beds is because a single of the 10 in 1 extra tall beds can cover up to 96 square foot which Birdies raised beds don’t cover as much, but perhaps they will redesign larger garden beds to become more competitive. I founds that by purchasing the larger garden beds I could save more on the overall price per square foot of the raised bed, but it still costs much more to fill the larger beds with compost and every 2 months or so I need to refill them since organic matter decays and it seems like it evaporates and vanishes. So make your decision based on your needs. As far as I know these metal raised beds all use aluzinc coating which is what allows them to be rust resistant ad last for 20 years or even longer. I have purchased wood to make my own raised beds our of cedar wood, and the most I will get them to last will be 10 years, with 5 years being about the most common time range it takes before the wood planks decay to the point they need to be replaced. So in the end, with the current prices of wood is best to invest in steel beds which will last far longer and cost about the same.

One thing I want to note here though and something which I found negative in nature is that the vego garden beds, the box does says “Made in China”. China doesn’t have the best reputation in building products that last very long but I also want to say the raised beds I got which I have built so far have not had any noticeable manufacturing defects and look solid built and very strong. So now is a matter of time to see how they actually hold up. Virtually everything birdies use, including a thin layer of plastic outside of the metal panels to protect the aluzinc coating, the vego garden beds also include. So it makes me think is a product of the same quality/standard and they also have a great community of happy customers. The picture above by the way, those are the 3 vego garden beds I have assembled so far. Filling these up with compost can easily take six hours and is a lot of work, so if you do decide to do this know is a lot of work to set them up but then it becomes more passive to refill them every two or three months as the compost levels drop. 

Building a Green House and Green House Tunnels

If you are planning to do more commercial farming investing on building a green house may be a good idea specially if you are in a colder climate. I wish I could give you more information but I’m still learning about greenhouses myself. I can tell you, that you can find a lot of content about building the best greenhouses at the most economical rates possible inside fromthefield.tv.

 

Building Watering Systems: Sprinklers and Drip Irrigation

My pluming skills are rather low although building water systems is not that difficult. Once again I would refer you to fromthefield.tv or you can do a Google search and learn more. Something I like about fromthefiel.tv is that there is a big community of farmers in there that exchange knowledge. Some of them are experts and are doing free consultations that they record in order to produce more content in the platform.

Well they can tell you where to find the best materials for the project at most economical rates and show you methods and strategies they use which work really well. For a long time I assumed overhead irrigation using sprinklers was the best since this is what I see most people doing. But it turns out that water carries bacteria that can get sick the plant leaves and make the plant wilt and die. So drip irrigation is a better method for those plats like cucumbers and tomato that suffer from foliage disease real easily. One added advantage to drop irrigation is that since the water is served underground, less of it evaporates and escapes into the atmosphere, so is a most cost effective way to irrigate and manage water.

Hey by the way! I heard the US government has some programs where they pay a monetary incentive to those people who happen to have protected trees in their land. I have not been able to find more information about this and I don’t know if such a program even exists where I live in Florida. If you know anything about this please share with me in the comments or send me an email with a tip at rey@reyrdriguez.com. Thanks!

How to Keep Plants Healthy and Treat Plant Disease by Organic Means

I’m still learning more about this topic and trying different organic products. I want to note that in my experience even when applying these organic treatments sometimes the plants which became diseased don’t fully recover or get to produce fruit. However I have come to understand this is because where I’m doing all my tests is a very humid place because there is a big artificial pond that was made many years back that is over 3 kilometers in diameter. The humidity causes the leaves of the plant to catch fungus and other bacteria which is not beneficial. This is in my mobile home located in Miami, Florida.

Something I have noticed is that when I take diseased plants to Montura Ranch they do a lot better especially if I put them under the shade of the oaks so that the sun doesn’t kill them. The reason for this is because in Montura Ranch the ecosystem is more developed and there are a lot more beneficial insects which can eat the bad bacteria and fungus that is not good for the plants. So this is probably the best tip. Try to promote a good ecosystem filled with beneficial insects and your plants will do better. Here are some other products I’m using.

BT: also known as Bonide Thuricide is the right product to treat caterpillar infestation and Cucumber worms. Previously I was able to grow some of my own cucumbers and something which happened is that as the plant matured many cucumber worms started to appear and ate the mature leaves of the plant. Eventually the plant wilted and died after only producing 5 cucumbers. BT is a naturally occurring bacteria which restricts the appetite of caterpillars so that they stop eating and eventually die. Is good to apply this about once a week as the plants mature and is best to use it as a preventive measure because once the caterpillars spawn sometimes is already too late and the plant won’t recover.

Neem Oil: This is another naturally occurring pesticide and insect repellent extracted from seeds from the neem tree. The way it works is by suppressing the appetite of insects similar to BT, but it also has bitter taste and a garlic combined with sulfur smell. This prevents insects from smelling the plant they want to feed on and also when they do feed on the plant they forget to eat. This substance contains a hormone called Azadirachtin which is addictive and prevents insect from producing and laying eggs, and also from secreting the hormones that allow them to find mates in order to reproduce. 

Is best to treat plants once a week and to apply spray in such a way so as to reduce exposure to it because this substance is also toxic to human beings. Something which I have learned is that is cheaper and most effective to purchase pure neem oil and mix it yourself to a stronger concentration. Not only will it be more effective and last longer, it will keep your plants healthier and on track to produce fruits and vegetables. In order to mix neem oil you will need pure neem oil extract and soap in order to get the oil to mix with water. Here is a good blog about neem oil and how to mix it for foliar spray.

Cobalt: The other natural pesticide I use is Cobalt which is a fungicide and can kill bad common fungi like Downy mildews and powdery mildews. Cobalt is great for its antifungal and anti bacterial properties but it should only be used at the leaves of the plants (not on the soil where we want to maximize soil life). I want to note that too much exposure to Cobalt can be toxic so it should be handled with care. Is best to spray plants early in the morning so when the sun comes out the leaves dry up fast. Plant leaves should not be wet for a long time as this can cause more bacterial and fungi problems. At the same time is best not to water under full sun because water absorbs the heat from the sun and that which is stored at the surface of the soil and it can get boiling hot and cook the roots of the plants, killing them.

 

Gardening tools for this project

In order to work on this project I have had to use many gardening tools including:

Gardening Rake

Protective Gloves

Spade and Shovel

Machete

3 x100 foot Garden Hoses

trowel

pickaxe

hatchet or axe

gardening scissors

Buckets

gas chainsaw

lawn mower

I’m still purchasing more tools and will need to get a wood chipper in the future and a garden wagon. I also need to get myself power tools to be able to build compost bins and worm farms, and also to be able to make trellises for the grape vines I planted. I’m slowly scratching things off my list a little bit at a time. If you want a more comprehensive list of gardening tools this post can help. Most of the tools I use now I got them as gift from my uncle or purchased them from Home Depot and Lowes.

I may add more to this post later as I learn more. I hope you find it useful. If you happen to have a nursery and want to contribute some trees I can plant for this project in Zone 10A I will be happy to take them and add you as a resource in this post. The reason I’m doing this is because purchasing 500+ trees will come at a steep price. I’m hoping 5 years from now I will be able to post pictures of the food forest progress and the trees will be mature and productive and I will have my jungle of abundance!

Take care and until next time.

-Rey

 

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