Saturday, November 26, 2011

Why is my Avocado Tree (or Lychee, Fig) Not Fruiting?

AKA Maui Farmer's Union Meeting 11-22-11: Gardening Questions Answered - Lychees, Figs, Avocados, Artichokes, Tomatoes... and all manner of other topics

Is it better to do one long post or several short posts?  I don't know. 

The Farmer's Union meeting has so many segments, that I am experimenting with breaking the information from the meeting into shorter posts instead of one super-long post.

This will still be a somewhat long post... but covering one topic: the gardening questions asked by the audience at this past meeting.  I didn't take notes on all the questions, but here's what I have. Others are welcome to contribute, or make corrections in the comments.

Q. I have white mold on my collard greens. What do I do?
Vincent Mina said it could be soil issues. Need to feed the soil, not just the plants.

Q. How do I make a garden that can produce enough to live off for 1 year?
One answer is to go to the Mother Earth News website. There is a link to help plan a garden – also available as an iphone application.

Another answer: There’s a method one farmer observed in Peru: farmers moved their planting from one bed to the next over the course of a year.

Another answer: Find the wet borders or wet sections of your yard, to grow taro and yacon and plants that require less care and take a long time to grow. If your garden is tilted, plant these at the bottom area of the garden, where it’s wetter.

(My thought - Craig Elevitch of has been doing some research on this question, and will be making it public later. He did a fantastic talk a few years ago on food security and growing food in a Pacific Bio-Region kind of style, meaning a Polynesian food forest.)

Q. Why is my avocado tree not producing?
Jayanti’s answer: there are A type and B type flowers. One pollinates at night, one during the day. Need both types ideally to get fruit.

It could be from a root stock that is used for grafting, but does not produce a productive tree. One can re-graft it with any variety. It could also be a lack of pollinators or lack of nutrition. Also if a tree is grown from a seed, seedlings don’t grow true to the fruit.

Q Why is my lychee not producing?
Jayanti’s answer: Get the right variety that fruits each year. Some varieties don’t produce. A seedling lychee that’s 30 years old may not fruit. You can keep it and graft it.

Glenn Martinez’s answer: In Hilo, a UH group planted 50 acres with lychee, then waited 12 years for them to fruit. There was no fruit. Eventually, the researches asked around, and learned that the Chinese living in Hilo always have a good luck lychee in the front yard. They dig about a shovel’s worth of soil from the dirt around their good luck lychee, a tree that is fruiting. Then they put that dirt into the new hole before planting the baby tree.  They are inoculating the soil with the microorganisms from the good tree. This puts mycorrhizae around the baby tree roots.

Q. What if it’s an adult lychee tree?
A: Go to a fruiting lychee tree, and get some soil from it, as in the directions above, and give it to the barren tree. Also make worm compost tea when the tree is blossoming, and spray it on the tree. Once the tree successfully fruits, you’re in!

Use worm compost tea and EMs (effective microbes) on the bottom of the leaf, the soft underbelly. The top of the leaf is hardened by sun and wind, so you want to spray the underneath of the leaf. Glenn bent his backpack sprayer tube so he doesn’t have to bend his back.

Glenn likes to alternate EMs and worm tea in his sprayer. It’s about $5/wk. He doesn’t know which one is more effective, but says for $5/week, he doesn’t want to wait 6 months to find out.

Glenn urges that if you have any garden problem, find out who has solved that problem or who doesn’t have that problem. Copy what they are doing. They usually have a routine that works. They may not know even what part of what they are doing works, but you don’t have to know. Glenn says he tried adding a little molasses to the worm compost tea to spray and the plants loved it. He thought it was the worm tea, but later tried a little molasses in plain water, and it still worked. So he says, even though this tip goes counter to what his logical brain thinks: adding sugar to a plant would attract bugs, but it works.

Here's Glenn on video with gardening advice:

Q. Where can I get dwarf fruit trees to grow in big buckets or pots?
Jayanti has some dwarf mango trees and will later have some dwarf avocado trees. There’s also a farmer in Olinda who has dwarf varieties and is usually at the Kula Longs Farmer’s market. His farm is “Aloha Honua.” (Or that’s what it sounded like.)  Go to the http://www.mauifarmer' comments site if you need to contact Jayanti.

Q. Figs are not fruiting much.
Vince's answer: After it fruits, cut the tree to the ground. Put compost on it, and new shoots will come up. It will do 1 fruiting cycle that year not two. When it starts fruiting, you can take a ti leaf, remove the spine from it and wrap it around the figs to fool the birds. Also fig trees need good food in the soil.

Chef Justin Pardo of Market Fresh Bistro had some funny tips to share about birds:

Q. Where to get EMs?
A. Feed store, agricultural supply store, online, on Fridays at Eco Island Supply in Haiku, they offer free bokashi. Click here to see Jenna Tallman talk about bokashi.

Q. Has anyone used seawater to mineralize their soil?
Yes, as a 1 to 100 ratio. Evan Ryan uses fresh unwashed seaweed in Haiku, since there’s good rainfall. But if in Kula or elsewhere, then wash it first. Vince uses Seacrop since he is concerned about adding sodium to the soil, and this product has the sodium taken out.  Evan offers some popular gardening classes.

Q. I have white stuff on my tomato leaves and also the leaves are turning brown.
A. Sounds like powdery mildew. There are some sprays that can be used on the leaves. But it may also be a case of growing them in too moist a place.  

Q. My artichokes are not producing in Haiku, but they did last year.
A. Artichokes need a long time to grow and they need some cool weather. Sounds like a case of growing plants in a location not suited to them. (They do better higher and dryer.)


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