Awhile back trees were purchased and stored on the estate, but a number up and died. All received the same amount of water and care, yet some would inexplicably die. Frustrated and to combat this loss of investment dollars it was decided to grow trees and other plants from seed and cuttings. Starting with spineless prickly pear cactus pads provided by Mountain Valley Lodge the first attempt was successful. Planted around the estate and at the entrance to the Rustic Cabin, as long as the transplanted cactus were protected from the rabbits by chicken wire they survived. Without chicken wire the rabbits and cattle destroyed everything. The next attempt was Agave (starting with drought tolerant plants seemed prudent since my gardening skills were initially non-existent). Several small Agave were rooted and successfully transplanted but the Javelina also found them tasty and the first crop of Agave were lost to rooting Javelina. But eventually by protecting the plants from these browsers the problem was resolved.
Emboldened by the initial success with drought tolerant plants, oaks were chosen for the next try. Oaks grow on the estate and in the fall acorns abound. Usually, these are removed from the courtyards and left on the open landscape surrounding the houses where the birds and other wildlife consume them. This past fall though several hundred acorns were saved and used for the next experiment at growing plants for the estate. The acorns were bagged in wet potting soil and left in the refrigerator for several months. Once germinated the acorns were transplanted to 1 gallon buckets outside. Watering and watching the buckets on the ground for any sign of sprouting was slow. After several months nothing came up. Periodic soil disturbances were noted in the containers and eventually the realization dawned that something must be stealing the buried germinated acorns. Emptying several buckets no germinated acorns were found. The best guess is that by keeping the buckets on the ground rodents and birds were digging up the acorns for food. So, more germinated acorns were planted and this time the buckets were raised off the ground, see below. After another couple of months of daily watering small sprouts began to appear. Over a dozen oaks have sprouted so far and once established these will be transplanted to individual containers and then replanted for use as a wind break at the Rustic Cabin.
While a slow process, the results of these gardening experiments are proving fruitful and will provide the estate with locally grown plant resources. The next species will be the Afghan Pines found on the estate. A number of pines were lost as a result of irrigation problems in combination with the big freeze 2 years ago and require replacement.
|A Christmas cactus, Agave, and Spineless Prickly Pear grown for the estate|
|An Oak seedling sprouting|
|Keeping the germinated oaks above the ground reduces rodent activity|
|Five seedlings have leafed out in this experiment. Empty buckets and buckets of dirt are the controls.|