Garden Basics with Farmer Fred

295 Growing Pawpaws and Native Persimmons

December 08, 2023 Fred Hoffman Season 4 Episode 49
Garden Basics with Farmer Fred
295 Growing Pawpaws and Native Persimmons
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

The tasty fruits that we delve into today may not be familiar to you, especially if you live west of the Rocky Mountains. However, elsewhere in the country,  pawpaws and native persimmons are a taste treat. Master Gardener and international gardening expert Quentyn Young tells us about growing and pruning pawpaws and native persimmons throughout the United States.

From Dave Wilson Nursery, Phil Pursel says the best fruit, vine and berry deals are coming soon to a nursery near you. In the west, they are probably already there. We’re talking bare root fruit trees, vines, berries and more, available now as rather barren looking sticks that might be in small pots, ready for planting. (Originally aired in Ep. 67)

And our favorite retired college horticultural professor, Debbie Flower, has a warning: Think before you apply a "frost protectant" spray. She offers some alternatives. (Originally aired in Ep. 67)


We’re podcasting from Barking Dog Studios here in the beautiful Abutilon Jungle in Suburban Purgatory, it’s the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast, brought to you today by Smart Pots and Dave Wilson Nursery. Let’s go!

Previous episodes, show notes, links, product information, and TRANSCRIPTS  at the home site for Garden Basics with Farmer Fred, GardenBasics.net. Transcripts and episode chapters also available at Buzzsprout


Pictured: Pawpaw Tree

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Topic Links:

Flashback Episode of the Week: #279 Fall Gardening Basics
Growing Pawpaws (Kentucky St U)
Growing Pawpaws (Cornell U)
Growing Pawpaws (UCANR)
Growing Native Persimmons (Penn St Extension)
New Roots Farm Sacramento
New Roots Programs throughout the US (International Rescue Committee)
UC Santa Cruz Video: Planting Bare Root Fruit Trees
Dave Wilson Nursery: Fruit Harvest Date Charts

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GB 295 Growing Pawpaws, Native Persimmons TRANSCRIPT


Farmer Fred    

Garden Basics with Farmer Fred is brought to you by Smart Pots, the original lightweight, long lasting fabric plant container. It's made in the USA. Visit SmartPots.com slash Fred for more information and a special discount, that's SmartPots.com/Fred.

Welcome to the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast. If you're just a beginning gardener or you want good gardening information, you've come to the right spot.



Farmer Fred

The tasty fruits that we delve into today may not be familiar to you, especially if you live west of the Rocky Mountains. However, in the midwest, east and the south, pawpaws and native persimmons are a taste treat. You’ve probably never seen a pawpaw in a grocery store in the west; and yes, out here we are familiar with Japanese persimmons, but native American persimmons? Probably not. Master Gardener and international gardening expert Quentyn Young tells us about growing and pruning pawpaws and native persimmons throughout the United States.

From Dave Wilson Nursery, Phil Pursel says the best fruit, vine and berry deals are coming soon to a nursery near you. In the west, they are probably already there. We’re talking bare root fruit trees, vines, berries and more, available now as rather barren looking sticks that might be in small pots, ready for planting. And their price is at the lowest of the year. But, how do you plant and care for them? We’ll chat with Phil Pursel, he has the tips.

And our favorite retired college horticultural professor, Debbie Flower, has a warning. Are you thinking of applying a frost protectant spray to your cold-sensitive plants before temperatures drop below 32 degrees? She wants you to think about that before you do it, and offers some alternatives.

We’re podcasting from Barking Dog Studios here in the beautiful Abutilon Jungle in Suburban Purgatory, it’s the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast, brought to you today by Smart Pots and Dave Wilson Nursery. Let’s go!



GROWING and PRUNING PAWPAWS, NATIVE PERSIMMONS


Farmer Fred

We like to answer your garden questions here on the Garden Basics podcast. And, we get a question via a first time source, Substack, which is a newsletter program that a lot of people write on and also have podcasts on. And we get a question from Lisa Burnett who writes Brunette Gardens on Substack. She writes in and says, “Following a recommendation last year, I pruned my native persimmons and pawpaws to harvest height, treating them like orchard trees. That seemed like a colossally bad move. Judging by how they've responded, the pawpaw is dead, though it did send runners out all around the main. The persimmon looked dicey all winter, but came back this past year, though it's now sending shoots off the top because of being topped off. I feel terrible about this and wish I had not listened to the advice. Should I just let these trees heal themselves at this point? I have removed the broken branches from the persimmon, mainly from raccoons getting at the fruit, but have otherwise let it be. Thanks in advance for your input.” Thank you, Lisa, for that question. Let's bring in somebody who knows something about pawpaws and native persimmons. It would be Sacramento County Master Gardener Quentin young. He has lived (seemingly) everywhere. So he knows about a lot of interesting fruit varieties. And he's attempting to grow a lot of interesting fruit varieties as well, at the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center. Quentyn, one of your experiments at the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center in the orchard area is pawpaws. What exactly is a pawpaw?


Quentyn Young   

So pawpaws are one of the last native custard apples that are native to the Eastern US. There's quite a few that are native to Central and South America. But the pawpaws are the last ones that are native to the Northeast of the United States.


Farmer Fred  

And I guess they do fairly well along the entire east coast. But reading about it, it seems like they would do well here in California, too, because it says it's hardy from USDA zones five through 10.


Quentyn Young  

They are. They may do well here. But  the trick, here, is their need for afternoon shade. They don't like our hot dry summers.


Farmer Fred  

Yes, and that is the true weakness of the USDA zone map. Their Plant Hardiness maps primarily measure how cold it gets in particular zones. 


Quentyn Young    

Exactly. And they're usually found on the East Coast as almost always as an understory tree. Plus, we forget how humid it is on the east coast. So if you're gonna grow them here, definitely give them some afternoon shade. And they do like regular water and they do like really rich soil.


Farmer Fred  

What is the eventual height of a pawpaw? Is it a tree or is it a shrub? Or is it a vine? 


Quentyn Young   

No, it is a tree. I guess you could call it a multi-trunked shrub, as well. They do form thickets, so they do send up suckers or runners. I would say they get to a height  in the eight to 10 foot range. They're going to give your garden a really nice tropical look. The fruit looks somewhat like a papaya or avocado. But the leaves do burn; and, ours burn at the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center every year.  I think I will have to eventually find a new location for it.


Farmer Fred  

Sounds like they would like shade here.


Quentyn Young    

Yeah, definitely PM shade.


Farmer Fred    

Can you plant them from seed?


Quentyn Young    

You can grow them from seed, but you do need two different two different varieties to get cross pollination. So we have two named varieties at the Hort Center, Shenandoah and Susquehanna. There's quite a few named varieties available on the retail market, you can buy seedling grown ones as well. And they tend to be true to their parent. So that's a good way to start them. 


Farmer Fred    

If they're true to their parent, then I guess that would mean that they might take from cuttings as well. 


Quentyn Young    

You could do cuttings, I'm not sure how well they root. And I've never seen pawpaws grafted. My understanding is grafting tends to weaken them, they tend to be better as seedling grown.


Farmer Fred  

OK, but what about just taking some branches off, either hardwood, semi hardwood, or green wood, and starting them in an appropriate soil mix?


Quentyn Young  

I would say definitely give them a shot. I would also try propagating them maybe a couple different ways: maybe air layering, maybe taking cuttings, that sort of thing.


Farmer Fred  

The fruit of the pawpaw sounds very interesting. It's described as, first of all, being very nutritious, but with a strong aroma and a flavor that resembles banana, mango and pineapple. And it's a rather big piece of fruit, too. it's like a two pounds each.


Quentyn Young

Yeah, they are quite, quite beautiful. The flowers are really interesting, purple brown, they hang upside down. They remind me a bit of a bat for some reason. And they do not have a pleasant odor. And they primarily get pollinated by flies and other insects that are attracted to bad smells, let's say. But the fruit themselves are delicious. You'll never find them in the grocery store, they don't travel well. They tend to be ready, kind of when they come off the tree easily into your hand. So you almost have to always be there to check on them. They do have seeds in them. But the flavor, I think, is great. If you like mangoes, you'd love these.


Farmer Fred  

I was reading about it at the emerging fruit crops section of UCANR (University of California Ag and Natural Resources Dept.), where they take a look at several interesting fruits. And it really sounds like this fruit, to me, as far as marketing goes and shipping goes, it resembles a mulberry, in that it doesn't ship very well. It doesn't last very long. So you really need to be on top of it to enjoy it.


Quentyn Young   

Yeah, the skin is quite thin. So I can't imagine that would hold up for shipping. I can't imagine that you could pick them green, like you can with some fruits, and ship them over a long distance. I think it's one of those things where if you're lucky that somebody near you grows one, or has  an orchard. My understanding is they have a commercial orchard at Cornell University, they do a lot of experimenting with. But if you can’t  find one, at a farmers market on the East Coast, for example, I'd recommend you try growing one yourself.


Farmer Fred   

It's a rather soft fruit. So I guess what you spoon it out to eat it? 


Quentyn Young  

Yes, you can spoon it out. Yeah, that's how I've done it here and the seeds are quite large,  they remind me of  a large kidney bean.


Farmer Fred  

At Kentucky State University, they evaluated some of the cultivars that have come out over the years. And they recommend the NC-1, Overleese, Potomac, Shenandoah, Sunflowers, Susquehanna, and Wabash.


Quentyn Young  

All of those sound familiar. You can usually find quite a few retail growers if you can't find them at your local nursery. There's a few retail growers up in Washington and Oregon who ship down here who do grow paw paws. And like I said, we have the Susquehanna and the Shenandoah at the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center.


Farmer Fred  

Have you harvested fruit from them? 


Quentyn Young   

We have, yes. But it's one of those things. You've got to be there when they're ready. And again, there's not a lot of fruit on them. And we have a problem in Sacramento with squirrels, if you're not on top of them. The squirrels will get them. 


Farmer Fred   

Yeah, I was reading about it at Kentucky State University. And they talk about a typical pawpaw tree or shrub will produce about 20 pounds of fruit per tree, per year. And if the fruit weighs two pounds each, that's only 10 pieces of fruit. 


Quentyn Young    

Yeah, not a lot of fruit. And again, you have to be there when it's ready. The three main criteria to meet include afternoon shade and rich soil, so definitely add an annual circle of compost. And, they do like regular water. They are not a drought tolerant fruit tree.


Farmer Fred    

One thing they did mention in the literature I was reading, is that because they tend to soften so quickly, they might only last on the shelf for five to seven days. But if you put them in a refrigerator that has the thermostat set to about 39-40 degrees or so, it can be stored for about three weeks in the refrigerator and maintain good eating quality.


Quentyn Young    

I can see that. That would make sense to me in my understanding. That's also how you're going to stratify the seeds, if you want to try to grow them. Keep them in the fridge, for I think, approximately 120 days. Don't put them in the freezer, just keep them in the fridge. 


Farmer Fred    

Let's talk about pruning, which was Lisa's question. She thinks she pruned it back way too far. How do you prune the pawpaw? 


Quentyn Young   

We just shaped them, gently, in the same way we would a citrus tree. We cut off any dead wood. When you were reading her question, she said she cut them off at “harvest height”. So my question is, what is that? Two feet? Six feet? And then my next question - and we get this question a lot at the Hort Center - “I have an established tree, do I prune it the same way as when we plant a bare root  fruit tree, by cutting it off at  knee height?”  People think you could do that to an established fruit tree. But you can't. So when she says she cuts it off at harvest height, I'm curious as to what height she cut them off. But we don't do drastic pruning on ours at all.


Farmer Fred 

When is the best time to prune a pawpaw?


Quentyn Young

We do most of our shaping kind of like we do most of our summer pruning at the Hort Center. However, we shape it usually in the spring, not the summer, because it's susceptible to the heat. We don't really want to expose too much of it to the full sun. 


Farmer Fred    

As she mentioned in her question, it did send runners out, all along the main. Does that mean that there might be new trees popping up?


Quentyn Young   

Yeah, when she says runner, so I'm wondering if she means suckers? Or is she saying that it's sprouting along the main trunk? So either one of those things to me would be a good sign.


Farmer Fred    

It depends how many pawpaws you want. But I would keep one. How far apart would you space planting pawpaws?


Quentyn Young    

I would say maybe a couple of feet because they naturally do form a thicket. So I wouldn't worry about them. Let's say if they were a couple inches apart, I would thin them. That might be also an interesting way to see if you can get all of those suckers to root and then cut them from the parent tree. Then maybe move them a few feet over.


Farmer Fred   

I noticed that Stark Brothers Nursery sort of agrees with what you're saying. They talk about how light pruning is a good technique for pawpaws. And they say the best time to prune is late winter or early spring when the tree is dormant. And corrective pruning consists of removing broken, interfering, dead, or diseased branches.


Quentyn Young    

 Exactly. I don't think this is a tree that has had a long history of being hybridized or cultivated.  It's something that would have been cultivated in the wild. So I don't think it's something that would be recommended in the same way that you might prune an apple or pear that's had, let's say, thousands of years of domestication. I think it's a little bit different than that. 


Farmer Fred   

Especially since pawpaw fruit is produced on the new growth. Annual pruning, a light pruning, would stimulate that new growth on older trees. 


Quentyn Young   

 Yeah, depending on how old they are and what kind of shape they're in. 


Farmer Fred   

 It sounds like if some enterprising young farmers decided to grow pawpaws, it sounds like it would be a great fruit for a farmers market, to perhaps get people to get the 

“pawpaw bug “, if you will. 


Quentyn Young  

Yes. And I think it's one of those things. You have to give North Americans a taste.  In Central America, South America, everybody's very familiar with custard apples. They're really delicious. There, you can get custard apple drinks, custard apple ice cream, custard apple-flavored anything. But in  North America, when you say “custard apple”, most people just look at you with a very confused face. And they don't really know where to go with that when you say, I”’d like you to taste one”. So if you had samples, I think that would be a great way to get people roped in. 


Farmer Fred  

Yes, the pawpaw. Possibly if you deal with a local nursery this time of year you might be able to special order some pawpaw plants. 


Quentyn Young    

And then, like I said, there's quite a few nurseries I know of -  at least two or three retail nurseries - that do mail order. They are in Oregon and Washington. You could get pawpaws from them, depending on what they have in stock.


Farmer Fred  

It has a long history, it goes back to 1541. The Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto - and didn't we love the DeSoto as a Chrysler product? - he reported that Native Americans growing and eating pawpaws could be found in the Mississippi Valley. Native Americans also use the bark of pawpaw trees to make fishing nets. Daniel Boone and Mark Twain are reported to have been pawpaw fans, as well. So it has a long history of populariity among the knowledgeable.


Quentyn Young   

Yeah, and it would probably have an even longer history with indigenous people in North America, correct?


Farmer Fred   

Yeah. So the appeal of the pawpaw could be growing if you get a chance to taste it and those of you that like to experiment with new plants, the pawpaw might be something to try, especially since it can theoretically grow in USDA zones five through 10…as far as cold hardiness goes. Butas you found out here in rather warm Sacramento County (USDA Zone 9), it probably doesn't like temperatures over 90, especially in the full sun. So afternoon shade is definitely a requirement here. I am amused at the pollinator for pawpaws. It does need a pollinator. And as far as an insect to pollinate the plant, the primary pollinator for pawpaws are flies.


Quentyn Young    

Yeah, it's a really interesting, very unusual, upside-down looking flower. When I first see the petals -  I'm not even sure if they're true petals - it reminds me of the corpse flower. It has that same kind of bluish purple, unhealthy look, with  a not very pleasant odor. But the first thing I thought of when I smelled it is: “Oh, this must be attracting flies and yellowjackets.”Anything that's attracted to rotting meat would want to find this flower.


Farmer Fred    

I see the University of Kentucky recommends that if you want to commercially plant pawpaws, the recommended density is 295 pawpaw trees per acre. That's a heck of a lot of pawpaw trees!


Quentyn Young   

Yeah, that's like a thicket. Yeah, it's like I said, it's not something that's really been cultivated, for centuries. I think you're kind of starting from scratch and you're really learning as you go along, how to develop a pawpaw orchard. 


Farmer Fred  

And again, pruning it would be light.  All right. The other part of Lisa's question: she was having problems pruning her native persimmon tree, not to be confused with the Japanese persimmon, which is one of my favorite fruit trees to grow that we're harvesting this time of the year. But the native persimmon tree is sort of akin to the astringent Japanese persimmon, in that you need to let the fruits get soft enough before you eat it.


Quentyn Young  

Yeah, you can soften it off the tree, or you can wait for frost. But the longer you keep them on the tree, the more chance somebody's gonna take them: squirrels, raccoons, things like that. But you do have to let them get soft before you can use them. 


Farmer Fred    

Lisa says “the persimmon looked dicey all winter, but came back this year, though it's now sending shoots off the top because of being topped off.” There you go. Another vote for pruning by making thinning cuts, not heading cuts.


Quentyn Young  

So again, my question is: where did you cut it off? How thick was the trunk? We have established Japanese persimmons at the Hort Center. Two different varieties. The Fuyu,  which is the crunchy apple type. And the Hachiya, which is the acorn-shaped one. Again, those are the Japanese persimmons. We do light heading cuts. Most of our thinning cuts believe it or not, we do kind of towards the end of the summer, when they've sent up quite a few arching branches. We will prune them back because we want to keep them at around eight to 10 feet tall. We kind of run the risk, a little bit, of exposing some of the wood to sunburn. But we specifically grow those two persimmons on the southern side of the large sycamore trees at the Hort Center, to give them afternoon shade.


Farmer Fred   

In my experience with Japanese persimmons, they do respond well to pruning although there are some sources that say about the American persimmon, the native persimmon, that it does not tolerate heavy pruning very well.


Quentyn Young  

I can see that, because that's another one that has not been domesticated. That's another understory tree. And like you said, you need a male and a female. So I can imagine them being sort of scattered, kind of out in the woods, growing without a lot of attention. Not needing a lot of pruning, but probably not wanting a lot of pruning it.


Farmer Fred   

Persimmon Trees are tough trees and they will probably bounce back, as Lisa is finding out. The problem, I would think, with native persimmon trees is fruit production. Because it can be widely variable, from small, to a good sized piece of fruit, to no fruit whatsoever. 


Quentyn Young  

Yeah. And then like you said, you do need a male and the female, unlike the Japanese persimmon so I'm wondering what she has in her orchard for production of those two types. 


Farmer Fred  

Yes, one would hope that there are two varieties within pollination distance of each other to do that. You noted that she removed the broken branches from the persimmon tree, mainly to keep raccoons from getting at the fruit. And that’s another good reason to keep a tree, a fruit-bearing tree, no taller than you could reach. 


Quentyn Young    

Yes. And we do prop up our branches at the Hort Center occasionally when the fruit does get too heavy.


Farmer Fred    

Native persimmons. I don't know if I would recommend native persimmons or not. But if you have them, well, you know that they can be a wild tree and can get pretty tall, 60 feet in some instances. 


Quentyn Young   

And I've never seen them really offered by any grower here on the West Coast.


Farmer Fred  

That would indicate maybe it doesn't have heat tolerance here. 


Quentyn Young 

Yes, that's another reason. You're going to have that as an understory tree, they're going to have to stay fairly small. If you need both -  male and the female - I think now  your problems have sort of doubled in terms of how you're going to place them. And I would recommend for the West Coast gardener to stick with Asian persimmons. 


Farmer Fred    

I concur wholeheartedly on that. But if you have  native persimmons on your property, then take care of them. And they'll have that bright orange fruit that is common with both the Japanese and the American persimmons.


Quentyn Young    

Yes, easy to see in the fall. That's the one good thing about being able to find them. 


Farmer Fred    

Plus, they are winter hardy down to USDA zone four, and they can tolerate winter temperatures to 25 below zero.


Quentyn Young   

Yeah, anything on the East Coast. I always say it's not the winters that's the problem here. It's the summers.


Farmer Fred    

Yes. And consider the soil too. Our soils tend to run slightly to a lot Alkaline. Whereas on the East Coast, where there's a lot of acidic soils, the native persimmon tree prefers a slightly acidic soil.


Quentyn Young  

Yeah. And then we also forget too, on the East Coast, it is much more humid in the summer, and they get usually regular summer rains, which we'd never get.


Farmer Fred    

Penn State University says that American persimmons are slow growing and seedling trees may take four to nine years before bearing fruit. So be patient.


Quentyn Young   

I can see that. I can see that if they're growing in the wild, they're preserving their energy for just growth, not for production.


Farmer Fred  

And Penn State also says you can train them into a hedge.


Quentyn Young  

That's very interesting. I hadn’t thought of that.


Farmer Fred 

Well, that's something to think about if you want them. Now, speaking of growing unusual fruit, you have an interesting job. As a horticulturist, you're a Master Gardener. You have worked for years and years at retail nurseries. But now, you're doing something a little bit different. And it's very intriguing.


Quentyn Young  

Right now, I work for an international nonprofit that works for primarily resettling and placing refugees and asylum seekers. And my specific program has to do with community gardening and food security, and food access.


Farmer Fred  

And I would think if you're dealing with an international population, you're probably trying to be persuaded to grow some crops you've never heard of. 


Quentyn Young    

Yes. And part of the benefit or the joy of my position is we allow the immigrants and refugee and asylum seekers themselves to grow whatever it is that they need to either sell at our markets, or to sell at local markets that also have people  from different nations who are looking for specific things, they can't find it regular grocery stores. And they can also grow those for themselves as well.


Farmer Fred  

Is there an internet site where people can get more information?


Quentyn Young  

I have nothing that would give detailed information about what we grow. But we do have a farm stand every Saturday in West Sacramento, at our farm stand, and it is from 11 to three every Saturday. It is let me get to the address because you caught me off guard.


Farmer Fred   

Take your time.


Quentyn Young    

So the farm is in West Sacramento (CA). It's 491 Regatta Lane, it's off of Lighthouse Drive. And like I said, it's from 11 to three every Saturday. Believe it or not, we still have some really great tomatoes. Everything that we grow there is grown either by us or our immigrant and refugee farmers. And it's a really great place to see some unusual vegetables or just to support your local community.


Farmer Fred    

And what are some of the unusual foods one might find there?


Quentyn Young  

So this time of year, because it's sort of winding down from summer, we have a plant that's called Gandana. Some people call it Afghan chives. It is probably our number one seller. Botanically it's a leek, but it's used a lot in Afghan cuisine. We just got back from a conference where the 12 different New Roots programs all got together. And it's amazing. We have quite a few plots of Gandana at some of the other growers, let's say in Montana or South South Dakota. We're really having a hard time I'm sourcing this vegetable. We also have bottle gourds that's called Opo by a lot of people. We have bitter melon amaranth. So a lot of things that you might not see the regular grocery store, including these really specific Nepali hot chili peppers. And again, these are grown by immigrant farmers. These are plants that they're used to, and they grow them, both to sell at the market and also to sell to local markets as well.


Farmer Fred    

It sounds like if somebody wants to expand their culinary world, it would be to head to that farmers market.


Quentyn Young  

It would be, Yeah. And like I said, the produce is always changing. We're getting ready for winter. So we're planting peas, a lot of leafy greens, a lot of root vegetables, but on average, there might be at probably at least 50 different vegetables that we're going to have at any certain time. We have sugarcane, too. It's a pretty inclusive group of vegetables that we grow there.


Farmer Fred  

All right, we'll have a link that has will have that farm stand location in the show notes. We learned a lot about pruning native persimmons and pawpaw trees. Something to expand your horticultural horizons, with Master Gardener Quentyn Young, thanks so much for helping us answer that garden question from Lisa.


Quentyn Young    

Thanks for having me on, Fred.


Farmer Fred    

Master Gardener Quentyn Young works as an advisor and instructor at New Roots Farm in West Sacramento, California. It’s part of the New Roots Program of the International Rescue Committee, providing refugees and immigrants the opportunity to learn about the business of agriculture in the United States, as well as a place to grow and sell the foods of their native lands. For more information, do an Internet search for New Roots Farm Sacramento. Or, visit rescue dot org and type “new roots farm” in the search box at the top of that page.



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Farmer Fred

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PLANTING BARE ROOT FRUIT TREES


Farmer Fred

Santa is coming early to nurseries in California and soon will be arriving at nurseries throughout the United States as the weather warms up back East and in the Midwest. You're going to see more and more fruit trees, berries, nuts, vines, plenty of edible crops for you to be planting in your garden. And as I said, California gardeners have sort of a head start on it right now as Dave Wilson Nursery is delivering vines and berries and a few fruit and nut varieties to California nurseries. What's in? What's good? Let's find out. We're talking with Phil Pursel from Dave Wilson Nursery. Phil, I was at the nursery the other day and I noticed a lot of Dave Wilson product had just arrived. There were blueberries, blackberries, raspberries. I think I saw kiwi, there were all kinds. There were pomegranates. There's a lot coming in.


Phil Pursel 

Yeah, so what we do is we have two basic programs, we have a small fruit program that we put into four by nine inch columns, liner sleeves. And then we have our traditional bare root program, which is our standard fruit trees. So we ship the farmer's market program early so that it kind of gets the nurseries in the mood, then you know, get the edibles out to the consumer. At the same time. They  tend to make nice little early Christmas gifts for people to pick up. And that kind of is the intro to you know, our big bare fruit season where we send all of our fruit trees for the year.


Farmer Fred  

There has been a big change in the way that the product is being delivered. Now, when you said bare root, old timers might think, 'oh yeah, the trees are plunged into a bed of sawdust in the back of the nursery'. Well, not so much anymore. It seems like most berry plants and others are coming already in containers.


Phil Pursel  

Yeah, you know, we've done market studies and the demographic has just changed where the younger consumer is more comfortable with trees and berries and set in pots. These feel a little bit more safer to them. We still grow our fruit trees as a basic bare root. And to give you a little background is that we field-grow our trees. We have just finished harvesting our trees with a digger that excavates these trees. We planted trees about four or five inches on center. And when these trees come out of the ground, it's just a dormant top, in bare root. We grade everything out and then we bundle them then we ship them to our retailers, the retailers now instead of just popping that tree into the sawdust bin, and some of them still do that, and sell them. But a lot of them have gotten into just going ahead and potting them up. A very popular way of doing it is putting them into a pulp pot which is biodegradable. It's it's just a way to get the plants out for the newer gardener who is not quite comfortable with just seen a tree, a stick and bare root and not knowing what to do with that.


Farmer Fred  

What do they do with the pulp pot when they get at home.


Phil Pursel   

So what they do Is the nice thing about the pulp pot, as opposed to a bare root tree,. If you get a bare route tree, you need to plant it that day. With a pulp pot, it allows you to go ahead and prepare the soil. And you can plant it right now or you can plant it in the spring, but you plant the tree in the pulp pot. It's made out of a paper product, press paper. So you can plant that tree in this pot, like you would a normal plant. And after about six months, the whole pot itself would disintegrate and the roots will keep on growing into the soil. So it just gives you  more options of when to plant that tree.


Farmer Fred  

Can you help out that pulp pot to break down by perhaps soaking it before planting?


Phil Pursel   

Yeah, there's different ways of doing it. Actually, if you were to get a tree right now that is in a pulp pot, you can just pop it right out of the the pulp pot and plant it in the ground as a regular bare root. But it's like I said, if you want to hold on to it, different ways of doing it is like you said, soaking the whole pot. We always suggest scoring the sides of the pulp pot in the bottom with a utility knife to kind of help open things up a little bit, to help the process of breaking down.


Farmer Fred   

And so why is it that  it would be advisable to plant it in the pulp pot if you've been holding on to it for weeks or months? Is there something about the root structure inside?


Phil Pursel   

Yes. So what happens with the pulp pot is that it acts almost like a plastic container. If you don't have time to plant the tree right away. As the weather starts warming up. Let's say you wait, you know, from the time you get the tree and you can't plant it for a month. If you just get it out of the sawdust, it's already starting to send out feeder roots, that can be damaged if you try planting it as a traditional bare root. By planting it in the pulp pot, your not disturbing the roots. It minimizes the chances of that tree failing.


Farmer Fred   

The pulp pot acts as insulation. And then and then as the winter rains come or you're irrigating that pulp pot breaks down and the roots go out and you've got yourself a healthy tree. How deep do you plant that tree?


Phil Pursel    

Generally speaking, when you will buy a plant in a pulp pot, the nursery will have it planted at the level where we took it out of the ground. You'll see where the soil is, when you plant that tree into the ground. You want to make sure that you do not plant the tree and the pulp pot deeper than the soil level that is in that pulp pot. In fact, we always like people to kind of elevate the pulp pot a little bit so that it's you know, half an inch inch above your your normal ground level. So any type of settling you'll pretty much be pulp pot-level soil and your ground level will be about even.


Farmer Fred  

How do you get water inside that pulp pot then if you just planted it all into the garden is there a lip around that pulp pot that you can cut off to perhaps make it easier for the water to flow into that area?


Phil Pursel    

Yes. So what I like to do there's different methods is that when you plant the Pulp pot I like leaving the pulp pot lid exposed, you know for the first few months and when you water your water inside the pulp pot just like wiring in a pot but then you also water on the outside of the pulp pot equally. And what that will do is it helps the water transpire from one to the other so you don't get a stuck type of plant by water inside the pulp pot and then water outside of pulp pot and this actually helps speed up the breakdown of that lip. By the summertime that lip is just going to pop right off. it's going to you know it will have disintegrated.


Farmer Fred  

Now for those nurseries that still have true bare root. They do have their fruit trees, their bare root fruit trees plunged into a bit of sawdust. Now one strategy we used to employ when we got those home would be to immediately plunge it into either a bucket of water, a big bucket of water or if you've got a blank garden space, what's called healing it in. basically just sort of digging a shallow hole and getting the root zone buried in the garden soil temporarily until you decide to move it.


Phil Pursel    

Yes, the water part is we always suggest when you get ready to plant the true bare root tree is that you want to really soak the roots so you hydrate everything. Let's say you bring it back from the nursery, and you know they'll wrap it in, you know some plastic a little bit of sawdust. If you let it sit there, odds are it's gonna dry out a little bit. The one thing you don't want to do with the true bare root tree is the have the roots dry out. So soaking it, hydrating the roots are, you know, something that's recommended. Now, if you have a true bare root tree,  and  let's say you buy it on a Friday and you really can't get to it till Sunday. Then healing in is a process where you just cover the roots with soil, even if it's you know from soil that you're going to be planting the tree with. Or if you have like a little planting bed that you can just go ahead and dig, you know, dig the tree into but you want to make sure that it has some sort of type of soil covering until you're ready to plant it and then at that point, we still recommend soaking in water before you go ahead and plant in the hole.


Farmer Fred   

Visit Dave Wilson dot com for a whole host of very good, accurate information about growing fruits, vines, and nuts. No matter where you live wherever Dave Wilson product can be found, which is most of the United States, Phil Pursel, we learned a lot today. Thank you so much.


Phil Pursel    

Thanks for having me on.




FLASHBACK EPISODE OF THE WEEK: EP. 279 FALL GARDENING BASICS


Farmer Fred  

I know that most of you have a favorite podcast player that you use to listen to Garden Basics and other podcasts. One of the most popular podcast players is Spotify. And according to Spotify, the most listened to episode of the Garden Basics podcast in 2023 was Episode 279, entitled Fall Gardening Basics. The cool seasons of fall and winter is the best time of the year to grow some of the healthiest, most nutritious vegetables around in milder areas of the country. But how do you start? That was the question tackled by myself and America’s favorite retired college horticultural professor, Debbie Flower. It was a question from a college student who wanted to try to grow a fall and winter garden for the first time. If you missed it, give it a listen. It’s our Flashback Episode of the Week, Episode 279, originally aired last August (of 2023). It’s entitled “Fall Gardening Basics.”  Find a link to it in today’s show notes, or at the podcast player of your choice. And you can find it as well, along with a transcript, at our home page, garden basics dot net.



QUICK TIP: MYTHS OF FROST PROTECTANT SPRAYS


Farmer Fred

Time for a quick tip here on Garden Basics. Now those of you that live in USDA zone nine probably are very familiar with protecting tender plants from frost, maybe you're using frost cloths, maybe you're being sure to make sure that the soil is moist, to stave off the effects of a frost. Maybe you're stringing Christmas lights in your citrus trees in order to add a few degrees of protection, the big old C seven or C eight or C nine bulbs that actually have some heat to them. That's always a good idea. But then you could go to a nursery and buy a spray to put on those plants that will allegedly protect your plants from freezing. Is that a fact? Well, it just so happens that retired college horticultural Professor Debbie Flower, once upon a time took part in a study to determine if that was so or not. But I think in your study, Debbie, did didn't you do it on conifers?


Debbie Flower  

Yes, the study was done funded as studies at colleges, I was working at a cooperative extension office and they get funding from many places, and one is industry. And this was a study funded by industry that mailed Christmas decorations to people who ordered them. So it was a Pacific Northwest company and they have lots of conifers up there, Douglas fir and cedars. And you know, some many I'm sure grown specifically for this industry, which would be clipped and packaged up and mailed to your house if you ordered them so that you can decorate your home with the lovely smelling real greens of Christmas. 


And so we treated the cuttings that had come off the plant we had collected  on our own site, and then mailed them to ourselves to see which treatment worked best. So that when the cuttings, the plant pieces, arrived back to us, they were in the best shape possible. I can't tell you what worked the best I don't remember the specific details of that study. And the answers went to the industry that does it on a regular basis. 


But I can tell you that I also participated in some other studies with the same sort of material that was sprayed on those conifers. And Holly would be another one, a broadleaf evergreen, that were shipped in the mail. But we did it on plants that were alive and we're in containers, and then we checked their respiration rate and transpiration rate. So we're getting into some big words here. The plant is alive and it has to breathe. It has to absorb air and it has to get rid of the air, the parts of the air doesn't need. And a lot of that exchange of gases occurs in the leaves or needles needles do the job for a conifer. And they're often on the back but sometimes on the top of the leaf as well. And if they're called stoma, or stomata, and if those openings get clogged, then that exchange of air cannot occur. And that's what we saw. So we sprayed the plants that are alive with the commercial frost preventative sprays. Then we measured there again we had already done at once measured their ability to exchange gases with the atmosphere and it went way down. And it also increased. 


The other thing we noticed that was increased by the sprays on the plant was loss of moisture from the plant. Yeah, in order to understand that you need to understand the concept of osmosis. Osmosis is when water moves from an area of high water concentration to an area of low water concentration, and it goes through a semi permeable membrane. If you make coffee or tea in the morning, you're using osmosis, the water goes into the coffee or tea and then moves out and makes the drink that you get to drink in a plant. It happens from cell to cell and many other places in the plant. But what we noticed was when the chemical that is used to prevent the supposedly prevent the plant from wilting due to frost is on the plant just one layer of it. It sets up an osmotic water exchange where the water inside the plant which is at high concentration moves through what is now a semi permeable membrane, which is the spray that was just applied to the plant out into the environment. So it actually increased the loss of water from the plant and caused wilting to occur sooner. 


We also did the experiment with multiple layers of the spray that changed the water situation. It still clogged the pores, still stopped the gas exchange, but it did, the loss of water did not occur. And our speculation was that it was because we just coated the whole plant with so much waxy stuff, so much of the chemical, that the water couldn't come out at all.


Farmer Fred   

What was the reasoning behind the industry to come up with this stuff in the first place? It basically is a coating. It's a polymer coating that allegedly protects plants. It staves off the effects of a frost or freeze, it offers a few degrees of protection. So I would imagine a lot of people are thinking as they're applying it, oh, this will make the plant warmer. It doesn't make the plant warmer, though, does it?


Debbie Flower   

No, it doesn't make the plant warmer. And it doesn't even, as far as I know, allow the plant to hold on to any warmth that it has. So I really don't know, lots of things. There are lots and lots of things. I had a professor who had a whole file of  advertisements for things in horticulture that were just somebody's idea. But they actually make no sense. products that come to market that people try to sell you. Now, it would be on the internet, probably. And it used to be in magazines. It they say it can do one thing really well. And maybe that's true, but there are other consequences in many cases.


Farmer Fred  

Sounds like vitamin B1.


Debbie Flower  

Exactly, exactly. Yes.


Farmer Fred  

We'll save that for another time. Yes, come planting time we'll bring up vitamin b1, and how you're better off just leaving them in those Flintstone tablets. Well, we learned something new that if you want to protect your plants, your tender plants from a frost or freeze especially your citrus and USDA zones nine, you're better off using a frost cloth. You're better off watering the soil thoroughly to help stave off the effects of a frost. You're better off stringing warm lights in there as well to stave off the effects of a frost


Debbie Flower    

right. add heat, trap heat, or mix the air in case you've got a  local friend with a helicopter they can fly over your house and mix the air.


Farmer Fred  

Well. Yeah, that's the other thing you could do is you could set up a big fan outside and blow it around your plant and that might help but I don't think so.


Debbie Flower  

No, you need to bring the air from above back down to the earth. 


Farmer Fred  

Well, once again, we've learned a lot here on the Garden Basics podcast. Thank you Debbie Flower. 


Debbie Flower   

My pleasure, Fred. 


Farmer Fred  

The Garden Basics With Farmer Fred podcast comes out once a week, on Fridays.  It’s brought to you by Smart Pots and Dave Wilson Nursery. The Garden Basics podcast is available wherever podcasts are handed out, and that includes our home page, Garden Basics dot net, where you can find transcripts of most episodes, as well.  Thank you so much for listening…or reading.

Q&A Growing Pawpaws, Native Persimmons
Flashback Episode of the Week: Ep. 279 Fall Gardening Basics
Quick Tip: Frost Protectant Sprays?