The Scary Act of Planting Trees for the Future

Planting coffee trees isn’t so daunting, but planting other trees is scary to me. We see plenty of examples of how coffee trees grow and how they can be pruned and managed. Ours are mostly around 80 years old or so. We are behind on planting new, young grafted coffee trees in the empty spaces we have. That has been an ongoing saga; I won’t go into that here.

avocado, lime, 'ulu (breadfruit), mgambo, native white hibiscus, and lemon cutting.

We have been motivated to do some new plantings, maybe it’s the Hawaiian version of mainlanders, spending more time at home, wanting to plant and grow things. It’s a healthy reaction to the pandemic I hear. Many things grow well here, perhaps too well, and that’s what I’m afraid of. We don’t want to plant the wrong things and create future problems for ourselves.

From L to R: avocado, lime, ‘ulu (breadfruit), mgambo (Hawaiian pussywillow), native white hibiscus, and a sad lemon cutting.

Large Song of India tree.

One example is the $5 Song of India 8-inch cutting we bought at a now-closed Kainaliu nursery. Bea admired it in a flower arrangement, so later we bought a cutting. That’s it on the left in the photo. That has even been cut several times. You can’t slack off on your pruning.

We’ve been enjoying our aunty’s Kahalu’u avocados for years. It’s not uncommon that you buy an avocado at the farmers market, ask what variety it is and get an answer like, “We’re not sure. We think it might be XYZ. The tree was already there when we bought the land.” People keep referring to the “over 200 varieties” of avos grown in Hawaii. See this poster by Ken Love, fruit freak, maven of tropical fruit. This article from Hana Hou magazine is one of a few about him that gives you a taste of how special and unusual Ken Love is.

Kahalu'u avocado tree.

Anyway, we want to grow our own Kahalu’u avocados. The hard part for me is planting something that’s now a toddler and imagining what it’ll grow up to be. How tall will it be? How wide will the umbrella be? When and how do we have to prune and guide it so we’ll be able to harvest and maintain it?

We have a lychee tree that even with our extension picker, we can only barely reach some of the very lowest fruit. The majority of the fruit just goes to waste because we can’t reach it. Bea used to climb the tree in her croc shoes (!) and prune branches with fruit. She was in her 70’s, and it would freak everyone out. Others have problems convincing their elderly parents not to drive. How do you get your mom to stop climbing trees if she wants to? She has been saying that she’s losing the arm strength/stamina to saw off branches, so maybe that will do it.

Two foot triangle palm.

This is a triangle palm “tree” that we bought at a garage sale. It’s now two feet tall and is hardly taller than our weeds. Have we planted it far enough away from our house? Supposedly they can reach heights of 25 to 35 feet with a crown spread of 15 feet. I’m just not good at imagining such things.

3 thoughts on “The Scary Act of Planting Trees for the Future

  1. Coffee trees thrive better when they have compatible trees such as mango, avocado, lychee or citrus plants. They also like attention too such as timely and approprite pruning.

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