The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Planting persimmons

Range map of the American persimmonBoth American and Asian persimmons can be tricky to grow, which in part explains their absence from many permaculturalists' gardens.  Although you can buy named persimmon varieties from nurseries, you're taking a big chance since persimmons put down a long taproot and hate to be transplanted.  In addition, Gene Logsdon reports that persimmon seeds germinate better and trees transplant better into forest soil rather than into garden soil, suggesting to me that there may be some kind of soil microorganism the tree needs to associate with in order to grow well.  From all I've read, your best bet for growing persimmons is to mimick natural conditions, gathering wild seeds and planting them into a wild habitat.

In tomorrow's post, I'll run through all of the tricks I've read about for getting your persimmons to sprout and grow, but there are a few other things to consider as you plan your planting.  On the positive side, once that seedling sprouts or that transplant puts down new roots, persimmons can live quite well in poor soil, seeming to thrive in just about every soil type out there.  The trees will grow in the shade (although they need sun to fruit), so you can get away with starting them in a small gap in existing forest, opening up the canopy bit by bit as your persimmon tree grows.
Persimmon flowers
Keep in mind that persimmons are large trees, requiring at least 30 feet spacing, and that most trees are either male or female.  Although you might get lucky and find a variety that is self-pollinating (like the one in the photo to the left), in general you should plan to plant at least one male for every twelve female persimmons.

Finally, be aware that there are two races of American persimmons and that the races can't interbreed.  The tetraploid race, with 60 chromosomes, is found in the southern Appalachians while the hexaploid race, with 90 chromosomes, grows further north and west.  In general, the latter has larger fruits that ripen earlier and has wider, more fuzzy leaves.  If you're going to try to start an orchard from seed, you may want to include both races to extend your harvest, in which case you'll need to be sure to plant both a tetraploid and a hexaploid male to pollinate your females.

As a final side note, persimmon flowers are reportedly beloved by bees.  Maybe that will push a few beekeepers over the edge into including persimmons in their forest pastures.

Our homemade chicken waterer never spills or fills with poop.

This post is part of our Persimmons lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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