Monday, January 12, 2009

Today's budget tip - grow your own

Many of the exotic fruits I want are only to be found in catalogs and online web stores. In addition, many of them are also very expensive, to top it all, shipping on plants are exorbitant.

The problem is that many fruit trees take many years to fruit from seed, some take 20 years, like the langsat. I had to make a quick decision, did I want to taste the fruit of labor or plant for my children (or their children). So I started exploring the Internet and searched high and low and every time my searches point back to one place - Trade Winds Fruit This is easily the most comprehensive rare fruit seed web site that exists. Not only are they the most comprehensive, their prices are also (in my opinion) the most affordable and they offer free shipping for orders over $7.50 ! I have grown so many plants from their seed it would be hard to list them all. Right now my surinam cherries are blooming for the first time. Though not hard to find in garden stores around here, I choose to grow them from seed, at $3.25 per packet, my four Suriname cherries cost me $7 (I neglected the seedlings and 2 died), at garden centers you'd pay about $8.99 for a 3 gal container - but then you get the foul tasting common ones that everyone in my neighbourhood are growing as hedges. I bought seeds of the black variety, which supposedly have the best taste. Likewise, I bought seeds of the plants that I am willing to wait about 2 - 3 years for. My wonderful pomegranates are standing about 10 feet tall and I expect them all to start fruiting this summer in their 3rd year ! My strelitzias are doing great and should be blooming shortly also. My natal plums (carissa macrocarpa) should also be blooming this year.

Getting your seeds to germinate is another story, I should have followed the pro's advice and used the baggie method from the start. I ruined many of my seeds and lost a lot of them to rot due to too much moisture. I have successfully started star fruit (from my own tree), marlierea, feijoa and tamarind seeds using the baggie method. The larger the seeds the more difficult to keep them in contact with the damp baggie. I also strongly recommend you sterilize the seeds with hydrogen peroxide (soak them for no longer than 10 minutes) before you start, also, use sterilized tweezers to handle your sterilized seed as your hands contain many pathogens.

Once your seeds have germinated, use a good potting soil mix and gentle remove the little seedling or germinated seed from the baggie and place them in the mix. Never handle them by the stem. I have had very good results so far using organic composted cow manure - sold at $2.50 per 15 lb bag at Home Depot. Potting soil mixes can run as much as $15 per bag, so go figure. I dare not say it, but I have also had good success with plain old top soil sometimes sold for as little as $2 per bag ! I do not use my garden soil as it consists mainly of sand and it nematode ridden. I have also used my own compost with great success.

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