Planting Apples from Seed

These days I listen to “The Survival Podcast “ almost every day – Jack has an in-depth knowledge of Permaculture and an “Fear not and Farm on” attitude towards end of the world scenarios that are usually so rampant in the Permaculture and Survivalist world. His explanation of Permaculture on his YouTube Channel is actually also an excellent “non hippie, non socialist” introduction to the world of permaculture, to people who think that permaculture is about hippies bathing in mud-baths and “sharing the surplus”.

Jack interviewed Mark Shepard from New Forest Farm. Mark is one of those Permaculture heroes, who show us that we can grow sustainable food and make a profit. He is showing farmers how to ditch the fertilisers and pesticides and at the same time become more resilient to pressure from big box supermarkets who continuously lower prizes to the point where many farmers are close to bankruptcy.

Well the story of todays blogpost is a result of something Mark said about planting apple seeds – which struck a coord with me: He said that if every child planted a seed from every apple they ate, we would soon have a 100 new varieties of eating apples (or something along those lines). 

So I have started doing that – and since apples are kept on cold storage in the supermarkets, many seeds had already sprouted when I took them out of the apple (those who weren’t have been put in the fridge in water for a few days and sprouted shortly thereafter). 

Since I eat at least an apple a day, and my daughter usually does the same, and one apple contains at least 4 seeds, this amounts to something very quickly. I will actually be running out of space to plant seeds in fast if I don’t think of something to do with it. 

Now some will – and indeed some have – argued that you cannot plant fruit trees from seed. And I will argue back that mother nature has done that for millennia before man invented grafting, root stock propagation etc. I know that the apple that comes out of the seed will not be “true to type”, and that I will not get uniformity by doing so. 

I know all that – but that is not the point of growing apples from seed. The point is biodiversity. I may not get a good eating apple – or maybe I will get one out of the hundreds of little trees that comes out of my daily apple-eating. First of: More biodiversity gives us more disease resistance, which means less need for fighting pests. We may not get a good eating apple, but instead we might get an apple that makes great cider, or an apple that make for good pig food (and porc chops finished on apples should be some of the best meat in the world).

If I can grow 8 apple trees pr day … or even just one – I can grow a hedge in my garden pretty fast, and even if it never gives me any apples that I like, they will bloom and give food for bees in the spring, and they will hold on to the soil, and hold ducks in and produce biomass. I will be able to feed a goat with the leaves and branches that I cut of and use the wood in my pizza-oven or a rocket mass stove, or for smoking fish, and if I have too much of it I can cut it into woodchips and use it for mulch. Or I can graft an apple onto the root, which I do like, and then the root stock will have been free of cost. 

The point is that in Permaculture we don’t grow apple-trees for the fruit alone – function stacking is at the hart of Permaculture, and in that respect, and apple tree has many functions aside of producing apples. 

And if I am lucky – in the course of a lifetime, I might grow an apple that I can name after myself “The Granny Hoff” apple or something kind of like it (and that is actually part of the story behind the famous Granny Smith Apple). 


11 thoughts on “Planting Apples from Seed

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  1. I don`t really understand why you put so much value on Spirko`s work. He brings absolutely nothing on a table what a good PDC would not already cover. The cultural context of American survivivalism is that when something mega catastrophy happens and the State is stopping to exist those loonie toonie guyes have and live in a safehouse in ass of the world (like Spirko, in middle of woods), possibly hidden in some remote area and they are armed to teeth just they can shoot all the bad city gangstas coming to steal their food like some zombies. Is that the values of permaculture of people care and earth care? Is that the values the people in Nordic countries have mostly been brought up? Hardly. In my opinion, you can have a different one, permaculture and our shared northern heritage speaks of values of cooperation and sharing and overcoming the difficulties together as a folk. As a matter of comparison the strength of cooperation was coming up in different responses to Tsunami in India and the aftermaths of Hurrigane Katrina In New Orleans. In India the whole country was coming together and organized huge relief operation out of scratch and people on those areas stood together. In New Orleans large spread looting and martial law followed and State took long time to act and help the affected.
    I appreciate more the permaculture folk who are bringing the permaculture to there where it is desperately needed, like Urban Farming Guyes or Looby Macnamara author of People and Permaculture or Food is Free founder John VanDeusen and countless others. I also don`t see that permaculture community would be desribed with having an negative end of the world schenarios, but more as a designing solutions for permanent culture. Funny that non-hippie, non-socialist thing is that David Holmgren is an anarchist and values of permaculture really leftist, or traditionalist if you think that many natives still live with philosophies like Umbuntu.

    Growing trees from seed is a good thing to do, when you it relates to your context of life you want to have. However if you have planned a steady income from the fruits, then just putting ONLY any seeds on growing trees might not be the best idea as trees take a lots of time to mature and it might affect negatively to the quality of your life you want to have, if you miss the income. If the income is planned then might be good to balance the equation by having also saplings from known cultivovars or crafting to rootstock of those you grow from seed.

    1. Hi Pauli – have you listened to Jack? He is not at all as you describe him, so I am guessing no. Many people put a lot of value into his work, including Paul Wheaton, Mark Sheperd and Diego from Permaculture Voices – and yes you can get the same information from Jack as good, difference is that his Podcasts are free (yes he does host PDCs too). And Jack doesn’t live in a forest hidden away, he lives in a community and the survivalism he talks about is – among others – to build community around you and help your neighbors be as prepared for disasters as eg Hurricanes as possible. He has just started a non-profit where citizens across America help each other out in diseases situations – with food, blankets, water etc. etc. I don’t like my heritage from the Nordic countries, I think it breeds dependence on the state, which is the last thing I want. Values of permaculture are neither left, nor right – they are anarchist. Thank you for your tips regarding fruit trees – I do know that, and I have no intention of planting only from seed – but it is a resource, it is there and I put it to the best use I can.

  2. Hi, I have listened him, but I don`t understand the fuss you wrote. There is for examble good quality PDC from Will Hooker completly free on web from North or South Carolina`s State University. Only thing it doesn`t provide is certificate. Americans are americans, quick to say you friend even if they don`t really mean it and that goes long way in their networking. Spirko is on the saner side of the survivalist schene, but still why to hate the State so much? My country have the one of the highest participation in volunteering, all the while we have somewhat effective social security system. I am also in favour of having strong communal mutual interdepedency, but that doesn`t necessary make state completly obsolute. Think of having a hard tooth pain or broken leg, or being in need to have complicate surgery. People in developing coutries are know of killing themselves without a help of dentist as the pain is unbearable. Also things like disaster relief, you cannot really manage long term higher coordination work without state organization and deep drilled training these organization provide. In my opinion values of permaculture with anarchistic tones are deeply leftist, even Marxist in the end as bouth value the same things. Fact in this mechanized world it is that we cannot leave the states completly run down, othervice we end up to situation like Ukraine is having. Some states still wish to dominate and exploit the weak. So the situation of communities and areal anarchism is still an utopia, which may never be archieved, even if it would be our aim.

    We are standing on the same ground when it comes from the seeds. Got good amouth, which will be planted soon. Diversity is our shared aim 🙂 Wish you and your family happy plantings as spring time must be there already.

    1. I do agree that we need to cooperate – but to me cooperation is voluntary and the State is coersion. I don’t see anarchy and marxism as the same – in fact I see them as each others direct opposites. Fortunately we don’t need agree politically to agree on permaculture 🙂

  3. For me state is like a family you are born. You do not choose it, like you don`t have a chance to choose your parents or culture. I am not sure if we agree politically in the end, as I dont really know the spectrum you stand for. I am not political marxist by any means, even if I agree on analysis of Marx when it comes to effects of capitalism. How things should work on society level one can only have opinions and guessing. In the end we all rely on rule of law and our respective coutries. If everything would be decentralized, including the justice system, would it in the end be even more manipulated by those who have the most? Would we end up having feudal fiefdoms, what still exist in some parts of the world? or would the universally agreed human rights cease to exist? As you were writing earlier of being scammed and your moneys stolen, what would you do without not being able to sue the A-hole? There is number of ways, that start from threats to using violence. Would we have even the chance to move to other areas? Even in state system we have now a divide between the people in country of origin.
    You are in Spain as relatively wealthy expats, having propably had free state education and had a good starting point of earning the wealth to buy considerable land area. There is also thousands arriving every year as “illegal”immigrants, without any rights at all, having a much poorer chances of any upliftment.
    What I mean is that you may leave the north, but north won`t leave from you, so long we have the succesful national states, we are on the Haves- side of the humanity.
    Wishing you a nice weekend 🙂

    1. See the illegal immigrants would not be illegal if not for the state, I would not need permission from the Spanish state to live here if it did not exist. The education system – well I don’t think anyone has given me an education, and I think that the education system very conveniently divides people into class, all the while giving the impression that if only people would work harder they would all have the same chance. We cannot agree politically as long as you think the state is legitimate and I don’t – anarchism is not left nor right – it is what is when people live together voluntarily. The a-hole that I have been robbed by, well yes I could report him to my ensurance company or something if there was no police force – but I would not have hired him if not for the state, because I hired him to help me through the myriad of bureaucratic obstacles here. The state is not like a family – the family is bound together by love, the state by force. If the family is not bound together by love all can agree that it is a sick thing. At least one has the opportunity to leave the family when one grows up, but one cannot leave the state without joining a new state. You should try to read “the most dangerous superstition”. You may think that anarchy would lead to fiefdoms – but reality is that what we live in is just that. Monstanto etc would not be able to get the power they have if not for the state – the effects you see of capitalism is in fact crony-capitalism, with the state as the biggest monopoly.

  4. I know anarchy can work and has worked on many levels troughout the history 🙂 Hope we will live to see the streghtening of local democracy and decision making, as the signs exist for weaker states and localization ie. Skotland etc. Rohava of Syria is interesting live case study going on btw.
    To other thing have you made a research if there exist a good local plant history of Malaga area, and does this kind of history have effects of your design? I mean is part of your design to try to restore part of the “lost” vegetation as part of the succession towards more abutant and stable ecosystem? As the whole climate and plant composition of Mediterrannea area was changed by humans. As powdering of future green house plants stumbled to the importance of Laurus nobilis ( in your area. Not a bad permaculture tree either!
    Feel always exited to learn new things 😀

    1. I just planted a Laurel yesterday 🙂 Yes we do intend to bring back manynatives to place – specifically I would love to have more oaks, laurels, some pine (only a little as they use a lot of water), chestnuts, carob, prickly pear etc. We will plant hardy drought tolerant species first, as we don’t want to irrigate – there is an interesting thread on permies with a Greek guy who has planted almonds from seed on his land (which is far away from where he lives). If we can do that, we should be able to restore the land with little effort, and be able to concentrate more on the area around the house for production of annuals. The problem is that the knowledge of what actually grew here in ancient times is limited – the land has been cultivated for so long – even the Dehesa is a form of cultivation (albeit much more sustainable than the current olive and almond production which crazy).

  5. That is really cool! I love the idea for regenerating agriculture and its possibilities in brittle areas! That is really near my heart. Hope your laurel will get a good start 🙂 I have followed that particular threat too with a great interest 🙂 I think I would not have the nerve to wait so slow return and would try to jump start the succession with more active tools 😀

    1. Puh – yes… We are also considering making a small experiment with more intensive planting and irrigation – we saw a TED talk a while ago with a guy in India, who is creating small areas of jungle – he uses irrigation and shade cloth the first two years (and heavy sheet mulching) and after that the area can hold it’s own without any irrigation. I think we will try that on a small area – he claims that 100m2 is the smallest area you can do it on. Then maybe expand from the edges of that. But as we have 6 ha we have space to do both, and then maybe at some time the two areas will meet and we have 6 ha of forest instead of 6 ha of run down pasture…

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