Mulch it!


We went and picked up a load of wood chips from a local friend who takes down lots of trees on the island. We brought it down to the nursery and for about 5 hours, it was my job to sift the entire load of chips through a compost screen. This was done to produce finer particulate chips, used to mulch the smaller pots in the nursery, that bigger chips just won’t fit into nicely. We also decided to try screening the peat moss for our soil mixes, just to speed up the process of mashing the soft blocks into powder for the mix. Worked great!



And more nursery space is created! Jayanti and I have been setting up very cost effective nursery space for fruit trees. Down the road at a local outlet store, are vast numbers of untreated wooden pallets that are usually picked up and taken to the landfill if I’m not mistaken… Anyway, we have decided to RECYCLE, and use these well made strong and most importantly, FREE, wooden pallets for the fruit trees. Amazing materials, following sustainable principles of recycling and reusing.

We decided to sheet mulch over the grass where we chose to place the pallets. First we cut the grass back a bit with a sickle, put down a layer of cardboard, covered the cardboard with local woodchips, and then placed the pallets on top of the mulch, making sure they were level by adding some rocks or cinder blocks under certain corners to adjust the levels.

New vacant nursery space about to be filled!

Lots and lots of planted Mango and Avocado seeds waiting to sprout and be grafted, along with some already grafted young Mango trees in the back. Mmmmmm, gonna be tasty!!!

My First Graft

After practicing a “Wedge Graft” on some Pidgeon Pea twigs while watching Jayanti graft over 20 White Sapote fruit tree keiki (Hawai’ian for “seedling”), it was then my turn. I felt confident enough after lots of observation and hands-on practice with some twigs, to make two wedge grafts, which turned out great, although not so easy… It’s all about getting the right angle, it has to be perfect in order to fit together on the Rootstalk. I have lots of practice to do still. I wouldn’t necessarily call my first to cuts perfect, so we’ll see if the grafts heal and begin to sprout. Hopefully they’ll take and I’ll get to plant these two beautiful White Sapote trees and someday get to eat their amazing fruit!

Fake Scionwood from the twiglike branches of the Pigeon Pea. It’s best to practice making the graft cuts on a stick that’s similar in size and texture as the actual wood you will be grafting, since mistakes are very common in the beginning.

The tool we are using to graft is an Xacto Knife with very sharp razor blades, but special grafting knives also exist.

The Scionwood of a Denzler White Sapote collected in upcountry Maui.

After the Scionwood is connected with the Rootstalk, it is crucial to wrap the freshly cut pieces together with ribbon tape from a hardware store (we were using green plastic ribbon), this holds the two pieces of the graft together so that they can heal properly. Afterward the entire piece of Scionwood is wrapped in a clear protective layer of plastic parafilm tape, this is to hold in the moisture of the Scionwood, so that it won’t dry out and die while it’s healing.

And finally, a little homemade paper sheath is placed over the Scionwood to protect it from the sun for a few days while things settle. This was my very first graft! I am so excited to see if it takes! More grafting to come! Ahui hou!

Fruit Tree Grafting 101

Grafting is something that I have dreamed of learning for a while now. After coming to terms with the actual definition and explanation of what grafting is and why it is done, I now am much more activated and ready to learn to graft fruit trees!

I spent a big chunk of the day last week learning how to graft. Previously, I got to watch Jayanti graft some Avocados, but today was going to be different. He acquired some “Scionwood” from a White Sapote tree nearby and intended on grafting a bunch of them, and leaving just two for me to graft. Scionwood is the term given to a cutting taken from a tree of choice, usually a preferable fruit bearing tree. The base of this cutting is then cut in a certain geometric shape which fits on your “Rootstalk” a special way. These cuts are then sealed together with plastic tape until they heal together and begin to grow as one tree, which will then bear the same fruit as the tree that the Scionwood was taken from, kind of like natural cloning. The Rootstalk is the term given to a seedling tree that is either the same or related species as the tree you acquired the Scionwood from. This is generally sprouted to about 2 feet tall before it is grafted.

White Sapote Rootstalks

Jayanti holding some White Sapote Scionwood about to be grafted onto Rootstalks.

Jayanti carefully cutting a Wedge Graft with a piece of White Sapote Scionwood.

Pot Em’ Up!

Freshly mixed potting soil and some new Mulberry cuttings!De-seeding Mangoes, Star Apples, and Avocados to plant for Rootstalks, to be grafted to later on once they sprout and grow to be a foot or two in height.
Once the seeds are washed and cleaned of fruit scraps, they are freshly planted as soon as possible.After planting these Avocado seeds, they are watered and then mulched with woodchips. This is to mimic the natural system of a forest floor; the mulch acts as a living blanket, protecting the fragile soil from the intense heat of the sun, reducing evaporation and the need to water as much. It’s incredible how much water and money are saved when mulch is applied to both potted plants and plants in the ground! MULCH IT!
  • I’ve heard that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, and the second best time is right now…

From the Ground, Up!

Working with Jayanti these past few weeks has been an exciting adventure, he has so much to share and so much experience that he brings to the table. A basic principle that I’ve learned, is that having good soil, is everything. So, we began by creating a healthy and diverse potting mix, which usually consists of 1/3 volcanic cinders locally harvested from the enormous volcano we live on, 1/3 peat and 1/3 locally sourced organic compost.

                             It’s nice to have a flat surface to mix your potting soil on.

Because of the extremely hyper arid environment where this nursery is located, it’s important to add some water as we go. This helps to keep the dust down as we mix the pile with a shovel, as well as activating the microbial life with the most essential ingredient for life that nature has to offer.

Exciting Summer!


I am back on Maui for the Summer, and am finishing my last 12 college credits through an internship with a very skilled and knowledgeable Permaculturist named Jayanti Nand. Jayanti is a certified Arborist and specializes in fruit tree propagation and care. I am helping him transform and expand his nursery for the next few months. I hope to gain experience with nursery systems including a solid skill base with propagating fruit trees and setting up and maintaining nurseries using organic, holistic practices.

More updates to come!

Ahui hou! 🙂