Guerilla Gardening: I want to be "Johnny Appleseed"


#1

I put this in the fruit category 'cause I’m more concerned with trees and perennials than annual vegetables in this regard.

As I referenced in another thread, I’m interested in spreading the wealth and putting some fruit into the hands of the public. I’ve wanted to plant fruit trees in my town’s public areas for years. I’ve resisted the temptation more out of practical concerns than anything else… Most of my fruit trees are moderately rare trees (Eugenias, Myrciarias, Garcinias, Lychee, Artocarpus hypargyreus) that take some years to grow and bear fruit, and they’re still small: no seeds to spare. Now that I’m getting my hands on some fast-growing readily-propagated fruits, this changes things. I already had a few “white” mulberries growing in my yard for some time, now I’m getting figs and shrubby berries too. If I succeed in propagating them well enough, I figure it’ll soon be time for action.

There’s two empty planters in town square that look like the perfect spot for some fig trees, and maybe a strawberry groundcover. There’s a similar spot in a tiny plaza close by, in the town entrance. And a broad grassy stretch next to a roofed cement bench by that same entrance (it could use a mulberry and some thornless blackberries). And as far as I know, there’s no big claim to the grassy yard of the basketball court in my neighborhood (though it is taken care of by someone… Maybe concerned neighbors?).

I’ve no idea what the public reaction would be… I can conceive that someone with authority might react poorly, but I honestly doubt that it would happen. (And if so, if they could even trace it back to me, I don’t think I would get in trouble… There’s no rules on public gardening in my town). The worst that could happen, I think, is that my efforts might be unappreciated, and passively dealt with by the landscapers or caretakers. Thus, my efforts would be lost… But then, that’s why I’ve been waiting for these fruits: it’s no great loss to lose something common and easily-propagated, especially if I still have my own plants at home. I figure it’s worth a shot. At best, I might spark the gardening interest of the townsfolk, and maybe a greater appreciation of fruit.

I don’t know if this’ll actually go anywhere, or if it’s just a pipe dream. If I take action, I’ll be documenting it here, with pictures of the areas before, after, and over time.

Does anyone else here dream of setting their towns ablaze with plant growth? Have y’all actually done it? Gimme the goods, show me some pics!


#2

If you’re going to be sneaky and plant things for public consumption like that, I’d recommend things that don’t require much pruning or spraying. Pawpaws certainly fit the bill there. People here have reported that Jujubes are similarly trouble-free.

BTW are you in a tropical zone or is that lychee grown indoors? (edit: Zone 13a, I’d say that’s tropical). Lychee’s one of my wife’s favorite fruits. If you’re in a tropical zone then it’s a different game. I’d plant jackfruit, soursop, and (if it’s not too hot) the sweet passionfruit. Passionfruit’s basically a weed once planted.


#3

In florida i saw lots of ditch oranges growing everywhere! My point is noone is even eating them but who knows what they taste like!


#4

In some countries the fruit on the side of the road seems to be “owned” by someone who brings it to the local fresh market. Food and life in general is too inexpensive/easy here.


#5

i was thinking jujubes and pawpaws too, but also noticed like you did that OP is in a tropical zone.
And yes, i totally agree re: jackfruit. Probably the only fruit species that produces at least as much food value per unit square foot as bananas/plantains. Not just nutritionally-dense(vegan/vegetarian-friendly), but also drought-tolerant and spray-free(conservation-friendly and environmentally-friendly). And certain varieties are just absolutely delicious(connoisseur-friendly :wink: )
bananas may produce lots of fruit, but fruiting diminishes with time as the suckers grow too close to the soil level-- or above soil level, which would then require staking. And spent pseduostems end up needing to be removed on a yearly basis. Whereas jackfruit is well-anchored and need no upkeep.


#6

forgot to say that for temperate climates, excellent-bearing cultivars of jujubes(that are relatively thornless) on their own roots will be the next big thing. Currently working on the cultivars sihong(thanks to the crowd-sourcing atmosphere of jujube fanciers in this forum) and vegas booty, a cultivar we grew from seed.
while we immensely benefited from having mass-produced jujubes using thorny wild-type jujus as rootstock, the diva in us now intend to establish jujube groves on virgin property that will be exclusively populated with desirable cultivars on their own roots.

like jackfruit, jujubes will be productive for several hundred years. While jackfruit has the advantage of rapid propagation since it produces plenty viable seeds, jujubes readily propagate vegetatively by producing suckers.

of course, the issue with guerilla intentions is that the very desirable characteristics of jujus/jackfruit(being pest-free/drought-tolerant/long-lived and highly productive perennials) can be the same undesirable traits if they should find their way outside of urban areas.

jackfruit does not just feed plenty brazilians, but feral jackfruit trees recently have tipped the natural balance in the brazilian rainforest due to the bounty the species produces.

btw, mulberries on their own roots are also desirable, but unfortunately the excellent species and cultivars are not as cosmopolitan in climate-adaptability as jujus.


#7

Do you know much about fruiting some of the less common tropicals like Star Apple? Also, Mango seems to be as prolific as apples can be here but I’ve seen people doing things to maintain them (i.e. burning directly under them). I’ve also seen perfectly useful mangoes that weren’t managed at all but none of these were the type that’s popular in my wife’s country.


#8

@clarkinks

If the fruit’s no good, at least you can make a great tea from the leaves. Over here, ditch oranges usually mean Naranjo (C. aurantium), not China (read as “chee-nah”, C. sinensis).

@jujubemulberry

Jackfruit’s rare here, but not unheard of. I could probably get more than enough seeds from a single fruit (and I’ve a vague idea where I might find some). But then there’s the issue of getting an elite tree vs a subpar one. I doubt there’s much variety to choose from on the island, specialty nurseries not withstanding, and I’m kind-of a stickler for the good stuff.

That said, it’s definitely on my radar now. I’ll get a good one from a nursery for my own house (or maybe seeds from the other forum) and propagate it once it starts bearing, for the guerilla gardens.

I think that might come into play… People think trees on public land means the fruit isn’t theirs (when in fact, it means it’s everyone’s). I’ve actually seen fruiting trees on public land get completely ignored, leaving the fruit to waste on the ground. You bring up a good point, I think I might leave a little sign saying “you can take the fruit” or something along those lines, once they start bearing. Gotta do something to motivate people; they don’t always appreciate what they got.

I actually looked into jujubes recently, they look appetizing and I think they can bear well here, despite the lack of chill.

Star Apple is good, but I don’t remember if the tree is a tall-bearing giant or not. I’m mostly looking for trees that are smaller in stature and bear within reach. I’ll look into it.

Mangoes are everywhere here, you can barely throw a stone without hitting one (and plenty of them go to waste on public lands, despite public appreciation for them). An avocado would probably be very well appreciated… They never go to waste here. Soursop sounds good, I think I’d have to plant a few seedlings from different sources though - I’ve seen pollination issues on isolated trees. Sugar apples are decently appreciated here, Custard apples even more so. Quenepa is everywhere, I wouldn’t even try. Spondias dulcis is liked well enough, and they usually fruit at knee-height. There’s also guava, but they get fruit flies when picked too late.

I had several spare Red Hybrid Jaboticaba trees that I regret having lost during my neglectful phase. They would’ve been prime candidate. Now there’s just one, and it hasn’t started bearing for me. That said, I gave one away to a friend and it already started fruiting, so if they could bring me some seeds, I could bring them back into play. But they really like water, so they’d mostly be suited to moist areas.

I took some pictures of the proposed areas. I got a little overzealous and started getting pictures of the view… I might as well show it off, now that we’re here. :sweat_smile:

Near the town’s entrance:

The small plaza at the entrance:

The Town Square… It actually has 4 empty planters, not two. I’m a bit concerned that the grass in those planters was green a few days ago and it’s suddenly dry… Either the planters aren’t getting watered (I didn’t see any systems in place), or they’re getting sprayed for weeds. Besides the little plaza, this is where I hoped to put the figs. Pics:

Some of those pics were included for the view. :sweat_smile:

A local municipal building (I don’t remember what it was for, but it used to be a library). I saw it as I was going back up, and noticed the unused grassy yard, though perhaps trees would not be appreciated there. Pics:

And finally, the basketball court’s yard, near my house. It’s like a small park there, and I can think of several fruits that the neighbors might appreciate there. Pics:

Some extra pics for the view - notice the gigantic Spondias in the second-to-last pic… No one’s picking those! Not with the riverine cliff at the base in the last pic.

And some pics at my Grandma’s, a Mocambo tree (Theobroma bicolor) with a Soursop, a Camansi Nut, and some potted trees awaiting planting: Mexican Mangosteen, Lychee amd Kwai Muk:

The view from my house:

And some of the plants in my house… Myrtles, Atherton Raspberries (sourced from the local mountains), White Mulberry, a Moringa tree sprouting from a trunk I cut down years ago (not the stump in its original location, the trunk thrown away elsewhere), a breadfruit, and an experiment in growing Oca. Then theres my lower backyard… past my head in guinea grass! I have a Pedalai, Durian and a Sweet Madroño down there, and I don’t even know if they’re alive (they seemed fine last time I went past the grass; they’re decently large now).


#9

I’d like to add… That huge fallen trunk in the last (guinea grass) photo was our old avocado tree. It was huge, from my childhood, felled from the root by Hurricane María. We still miss it, we have to buy avocadoes now. Gotta get rid of the trunk before replacing it with a new tree.


#10

Star Apple is good, but I don’t remember if the tree is a tall-bearing giant or not. I’m mostly looking for trees that are smaller in stature and bear within reach. I’ll look into it.

I’ve seen some Star Apple trees that were almost mango tree sized.

Your town looks like a Ghost Town! Also, it’s clean. My primary point of reference for tropical countries is the Philippines where cities tend to be crowded and messy.

Soursop sounds good, I think I’d have to plant a few seedlings from different sources though - I’ve seen pollination issues on isolated trees

The pawpaw, a relative of the soursop that can grow up here, is pollinated by carrion flies and not by bees like most flowers are. Hand pollination is usually best with this but if you are going to leave it you’d want to do a few. Generally here with fruits people use named varieties but in the Philippines, most backyard gardeners just plant seeds. I guess it’s good enough. Most of the fruits are still better than anything I can get up here.


#11

star apple needs well drained soil and full sun to be productive. It is easier to get to fruit than mangos. Producing lots for almost zero upkeep(apart from full sun and well-draining soil). No need to amend the soil in most tropical conditions.

mango is just like star apple, needing full-sun. As for burning stuff directly under mango trees, aka “smudging”, i don’t really see any benefits from the practice. Theory is that burning stuff neath the leaves provide the trees with lots of carbon dioxide, and may also be insecticidal, but mangos aren’t really magnets for pests, and if there might be any, smoking them out probably won’t do much good since once you stop burning stuff, the pests can just come back. Would rather use leaves and twigs as soil amendments/compost, instead of using them for smudging. Mango is a stronger feeder than star apple and will bear more with soil amendments/fertilizers.

it is a veritable giant if grown from seed, but grafting mature budwood to seedlings will produce trees bearing at smaller sizes, and bearing sooner. As with many other species, airlayers will be the most dwarfed, but not as productive as mature budwood grafted to seedlings. Btw, i like the green cultivar better than the purple one.

i see you have breadfruit, so really intrigued as to why jackfruit isn’t popular there.

seed-grown jackfruit may vary in quality and characteristics, but in my experience with jackfruit trees randomly grown from seed, the likelihood of getting a subpar cultivar is actually much lower than getting a cultivar with decent quality. So it is definitely worth trying even if growing from random seed. Of course you could always graft some branches with known cultivars some day, should the trees not produce quality fruit.

have my doubts if temperate jujubes will do well in your zone(considering that you’re also growing garcinia and durian!) but will gladly send you some jujube pits and seeds if you want to sprout some(and if it is not illegal or not needing quarantine). Temperate jujubes can live to a thousand years, but can be incredibly precocious, with some seedlings being able to bear fruits at 6 months of age(and without undergoing chill hours). Most juju seedlings though will take two to three years though before they start blooming and bearing fruits.


#12

I suggest going to a city hall meeting and offering to be a sponsor of a section of the park with goal to make it an organic non-toxic area where kids and dogs can play, and anybody can eat the fruit of your labor.

My belief based on my town’s homeless crisis is if I did so here the city would tearmy work out. They do not want the homeless to congregate or eat in the park, but they do.


#13

There was actually trash in a couple of pics. :sweat_smile:

Lazy Sunday, not many people out and about at that hour. There’s plenty of activity in the weekdays, but I can’t say I’ve ever seen it crowded, except during special events.

Villalba isn’t really a city, it’s a mostly suburban & rural municipality at the foothills and in the mountains. Those pics are as close to urban as it gets, it’s all suburbs here. The view from the mountains is something special.

Most people grow seed-grown here too, the Ag research station doesn’t carry a lot of species variety, so few get named cultivars - mostly mangoes and avocados.

I haven’t seen the green one around these parts, but I know where I can get it. ¿How does it compare to the purple one? I tried growing Abiu at my grandmother’s once, a tall-ish bagged tree that had survived my neglectful phase. It died spontaneously after a few months, no discernible cause. The soil there was good, and there was no drought at the time. I’m trying Langsat now, hoping it’ll do better.

Breadfruit & Camansi Nut are the Artocarpus of choice here… Anything other than these and Jackfruit are nigh unheard of, save for rare fruit growers. (And most of those are in Mayagüez in the west).

I’m thankful to have known plenty of exceptions, but the rule here is that most people don’t care for exotics. The logic is that if it’s rare, it’s probably rare “for a reason” (implying that it’s of poor quality, and not worthwhile). When you actually get some samples, a lot of people are reluctant to sample them… “I don’t like it because I haven’t tried it”. It’s the stupidest logic, absurd and maddening, but there’s not much you can do about it. Most people aren’t that extreme, but there is a general tone of dismissiveness towards exotics. I’m hoping to play a part in changing that on the eastern side.

Back to Jackfruit, I’ve only had the pleasure of trying it once (during a visit to Minnesota, ironically). I didn’t like it, but I refuse to let that experience color my perception, because I’ve heard that it’s a wildly variable species in flavor profile. The one I sampled had an aftertaste that reminded me of onion, yet I was the only one in the group that could detect it; the others (not that knowledgeable about exotic fruit as far as I know) detected no such aftertaste, and they enjoyed it. It’s weird, I expected to hate durian, but found it more palatable than the jackfruit (except for the texture, but the durian was frozen, so I don’t count it).

The only quarantine plants here are bananas, coffee and citrus, anything else is fair game. I’d love to try my hand at seed-grown jujubes. PM sent!

There’s not many homeless people here, and not many public areas that the municipality actively manages. And actually… I don’t think we have a park either. We have parks in the metropolitan cities, but over here we just have the natural areas in the rural regions (“Toro Negro Forest” in my town).

I’d be interested in a project like that, but I don’t really have the cash for it. If I did, I’d get the rare plants planted everywhere, instead of having to rely on just the easily propagated stuff. A fruit and spice park here would be amazing! For now, it’s just a crazy dream.


#14

These things should only be considered “exotic” to people from temperate climates. Jackfruit isn’t any more exotic than mangoes or bananas. They all come from tropical south/southeast Asia. The soursop is one of the good fruits native to the Caribbean.


#15

Over here, you could say we have two major groups, with a minor group that straddles the line: Traditional Fruit and Exotic Fruit.

Traditional fruit is any crop that’s been grown on the island for a long time, and is very well-known: Mango, Avocado, Breadfruit, Camansi Nut, Banana, Guava, Quenepa (Melicoccus bijugatus), Grapefruit, Barbados Cherry, Soursop, Corazón (Custard Apple, A. reticulatus), Passionfruit, Carambola, Tamarind, Coconut, Pineapple, etc.

Exotic is anything relatively new, or that hasn’t been grown enough to become recognizable by the public… Basically anything that most of the public doesn’t know about. most Artocarpus, Garcinias, Jaboticaba, Eugenias, Lychee, Longan, Baccaureas, Durian, Cupuaçú, Flacourtia, Salak, Loquat, Medlar, any Nuts, almost all Palm Fruits, most temperate fruit (even the low-chill ones that work here), etc, etc, etc (way too many to list).

The mid-category are either traditional crops that have been widely (but sparsely) grown enough to be known by the locals, or new crops that are starting to gain ground and be recognized by more people. Either way, they’re not common, but decently well-known. Pouterias, Pomegranate, Rambutan, Sugar Apple, Spondias plums, Mammee Apple, Ice Cream Bean, Wax Jambu, Dragonfruit, Vangueria, Ketembilla, Otaheite Gooseberry, etc. This category’s a bit ambiguous with the Traditionals, and some fruits could switch lists.

We also have some wild or feral crops that few people recognize in edible capacity, and even fewer use: Manila Tamarind, Sea Grapes, Jamaican Cherry, Cattapa Almond, Coco Plum, Jácana (Pouteria multiflora), etc.

Yeah, the Traditional and Mid-way lists look longer, but you’ll notice they have specific species, the Exotic list has entire genera, and there are many, many more exotics that I can’t remember off the top of my head (the other lists are nearly comprehensive for the island).


#16

Hi Ceasar: From what I’ve read of your comments on a couple threads, I have a link to something I think you will really, really enjoy seeing. As it turns out, there is an international colaboration of folks just like you who have either planted or discovered fruit, nuts, berries, etc growing on public lands/public places and have mapped them. I think there are even 11 or 12 in Puerto Rico (I think that is where you are?) so maybe there are already some close to you. (I saw Mangos, breadfruit, starfruit, and macadamia nuts all shown on the map of PR). You can plant more, then list them and one day contribute to the map.

It isn’t perfect, it isn’t always up to date, the produce isn’t always on truly “Public land” but is almost always a location where its fine to pick it (ie edge of parking lots, trees on private land but with limbs hanging over public sidewalks, etc). In short, it just seems like this map and the idea behind it is right along the lines of what you’ve been talking about and hoping to do. Take a look…I hope you like it!


#17

If you are in Puerto Rico, I will have to ask my interpreter buddy who is native Puerto Rican about that idea. :slight_smile:


#18

there will be folks who are satisfied with a limited fruit vocabulary, which, as you’ve described, can be outrageous to folks like us, but i guess that is their comfort zone, and there really isn’t anything wrong(or right) about it. Speaking for myself, i am much inclined to be a citizen of the world, and not just of one country. I guess we’re the type who would like to get to know as many fruit species as we possibly can, and to try as many cultivars if the first one or two don’t impress. If there were fruits growing in Mars, quite certain we’d be interested trying those too :wink: Have had a few pointless/meaningless correspondence with folks who seem to be a little too active about disparaging durian, or mangos, or jujubes, or mulberries, or even apples or peaches which can get really old since it shouldn’t really matter if there might be folks who don’t like them, since the goal of any forum is to host correspondence between folks who share common preferences. There will be folks who post pictures of the apples and peaches they’ve grown as being the best fruits in the world, just as there will be folks who think the jackfruit and durian they’ve grown are the best fruits… Just as there will be folks who claim their daughters/sons are the smartest… Well, perhaps the best response to any of those folks would be a nod, and of course, a smile. Acknowledge their love, and let them beam with pride.

hey, i am weird too, but who’s to say who’s weird and who’s not? The sense of taste varies between folks, just like color-blindness, or the inability or ability to smell asparagus-laced urine. I actually think durian has an onion after-taste and jackfruit does not. Regardless-- i enjoy both fruits, oniony or not. Btw, frozen durian does not taste too differently from fresh durian, since it is mostly fat. Simply thaw the frozen durian, and the taste and texture of thawed durian would be practically the same as it was when it was freshly prepared. Jackfruit is a totally different story. If the jackfruit you’ve eaten was fresh, it is more likely to have been picked too soon for the export market. Jackfruit picked too soon will ripen, but far from the quality of itself having matured on the tree. Have noticed though that the chances of getting a close-to-mature jackfruit has been increasing over-the-years. I would say that jackfruit from Mexico will now have a 50% chance of being prime or close to prime(the flesh is meatier, deeper in color, and sweeter). It was only ~ 10-20% chance of getting a good one just a few years ago.

the flesh of green cultivar have tried is more firm. The purple ones have tasted tend to be too mushy for the same stage of maturity as the green one. Incidentally, my heart skipped a beat when you said you’re growing langsat. That is exciting! I hope the cultivar you’re growing is sweet(there are super-sour ones), and hoping they bear fruits for you soon. A good langsat/longkong is as luscious as any other elite fruit species. And so refreshing! Can have it for breakfast and will eating nothing but( even mastered maneuvering in my mouth without biting into the bitter seeds, and swallowing the seeds as well). The trouble with the species is the long-gestation period, as the trees have protracted juvenile stages(just like mangosteen and lychee), and even grafted ones may take a long time, though certainly not as long as when growing from seed. Breadfruit/camansi are delicious cooked in coconut milk, makes my mouth water. And hopefully you’d be able to obtain A. odoratissimus, which is absolute candy. Would love to see your yearly updates.


#19

I don’t have a clue about what works in your zone @Caesar , but I say go for it. You will probably get frowned upon by some people, but you will be doing a great service to others.

Most people in my country don’t know what fresh food is. Many don’t recognise any fruit they find growing, the few who know what they are looking at won’t eat it and worry if they will be poisoned by it or something.

When I was a school teacher I would see kids who were lucky if they got 1 meal a day. They would stop at the plum tree on the way home from school and have a plum fight, but they never ate a single one.

The kids saw me eat the plums off those trees and thought I was insane. As it turns out, they had never eaten any fruit in their life, let alone ate any fruit from a tree. It took a lot of time, and a whole lot of effort, but I eventually got a few to try them. We don’t live in that town anymore but I hope at least some are eating those plums.


#20

I applaud your efforts, Caesar. When I was a young kid in the subtropics, I did a lot of foraging for fruit. I remember picking various types of guava, including what we called strawberry guava (yellow and red) and pineapple guava (feijoa). Also passionfruit, lychee (had to steal that one), some starfruit, tropical raspberries, avocado and mountain apple (Syzygium). Papayas were everywhere too, but I had to lug those home for my parents to prepare. If you can get the local kids hooked, that fruit won’t go to waste.

In southern California and Portland, Oregon, I’ve heard about local guides who take people on tours and show them plants in public places that produce edible fruit. I’ve also noticed that when people see me eating fruit like Cornus mas in the parks here in Oregon, they’ll approach me to ask what I’m eating and will occasionally try some themselves.