New seed failure rates, Zero water garden, Tiny Fruit Trees Large Productivity

This is just a general everything mix post to show off how things are going in my backyard garden.


I grow in north-east Texas. We experienced extreme stage D4 drought last year. The soils are heavy clay and with summer suns the ground cracks into large fissures and cause extensive foundation damage to homes requiring everyone to water their clay to protect their property’s value (using my method in the backyard I could remove the ground cover in stage D4 drought and no longer see black cracked clay but lighter gray clay completely moist and crack free. I was focusing on my backyard food garden while not the front yard flower garden. I am actually in a HOA and wrangled permission to convert to a covered ground mulch gardening system. I know!

This year my entire seed germination station, was completely dedicated to my front flower garden, a zero additional water garden full of Master Gardener Texas SuperStar selections and a bunch of my own research and selections of native American flowers and plants that should do good in this area or have been grown by Native Americans in the past in this area, etc. My backyard is all food production and experimentation space for new flower selections before deciding to grow them out in public in the front yard. Both yards are zero water gardening style, the front is completely my own method as I’ve never seen it done elsewhere. The backyard is the “orchard” version method of wood chip mulch not the “vegetable” growing method of wood chip mulch, two completely different methods so I have a mix of a known orchard method and my own flower garden method.

New Seed Failure Rates

Just sharing some failure rates to those that may be getting started so they can see what to expect.

I got Kajari Melon from a farmer in Washington that cleaned up the seed before sending it on to companies such as Baker Creek Seeds, etc. I had no time the previous year to grow kajari melons so my seed sat for a year before planting out into the backyard.

I had about 60% transplant failure from the kajari melons. They would refuse to grow and after weeks to just over a month would slowly wither and die. I have a hard Grow or Die mentality and I don’t want these genetics being passed on to the next seed I collect and grow out next season so I was very happy they decided to die and go away so I didn’t have to worry or do any work for them.

I had two plants that decided not to die. But also decided not to grow.

Example Plant#1 - Did not Die, Did not Grow and Develop

But I had almost 40 percent of the plants that not only did not die but exploded into growth. These are the plants whose genetics I want to collect the seed for next seasons planting from.

Example Explosive Growth of the 40 percent

Even nestled within the explosive growth you can see another refuse to die but refuse to grow plant. Grow or Die. I don’t want this plants genetics in the seed collected for next seasons grow.

Example Plant#1 - Did not Die, Did not Grow and Develop

In the foreground is tobacco, I had read the Native Americans grew it in this area and as an experiment I raised a selection of varieties and planted them out and observed. Not only did they grow explosively (with some plants succumbing to my Grow or Die mentality as with Kajari this first season), but I cut them down to ground level and left the roots to decompose in situ in the ground so they could feed the soil ecology and improve the soil. This year I did not plant any new tobacco but I had just under 20 percent of the plants regrew from the roots (we had two severe not normal to this area ice covering the ground freezes this winter). Perennial tobacco?

I am using the leaves of the plant this year to drop around the new plants in case the nicotine in the leaves, a known insecticidal poison, had any benefit to protecting the new plants until they could grow and develop. I have zero hopes this will be effective as the leaves need to be consumed before the insects get nicotine in their system. So its really only giving nutrients back to the yard but I can still have happy wishes about it.

Native and European Grapes

I bought a bunch of native American grape vines and planted them last year along with fruit trees. On a complete whim I said why not and bought one single European grape vine to try as an experiment. European grapes are not supposed to grow well here which is why everyone is growing the native (Muscadine) variety of grapes.

To my astonishment, with my Grow or Die mentality, no watering, no fertilizing, you are on your own plants! The European grape is thriving while almost all the native grape vines died off.

European Grape thrives while grapes native to my state and America died off.

Tiny Fruit Trees with Large Productivity

Dwarf root stocks need not apply! You can do this method without dwarfing root stocks and on the original root stocks of fruit trees. I had a mix of both when buying from the local nursery.

My second plum tree got fully shaded by the single and only okra plant I had of the Choppee variety. Only having single plant grow from a packet of otherwise dud seeds meant I needed that okra plant to not only grow but to thrive and grow fresh new seed for next season, how is that for Grow or Die mentality. Now that I have the seed from this single okra plant my second plum tree can now get full sun light instead of being nearly shaded out completely and get to grow and develop this season. But this is a perfect opportunity for you all to now see the details of how I cut the tree less than a foot off the ground throwing away the majority of the fruit tree which is something I have not found too many folks with the fortitude and willpower to do to trees they spent hard earned money on. I then train out four scaffolds in a roughly plus sign configuration “+”. Those scaffolds will grow and develop horizontally less than one foot off the ground and the new verticals will shoot up from them and keep the tree shrunk down to six feet or even shorter. This means I can, or anyone who does this method can, work the entire tree and harvest all the fruit standing on the ground and without any need for a ladder instead of growing to large twenty to thirty-five foot tall trees only good for feeding the birds, squirrels and other critters and dropping heaps of rotten fruit to splatter all over the ground. After this seasons growth the scaffolds will swell in size and I can remove all the bricks and training rope. As I trim the European grape I throw the leaf trimmings down on the base to decompose with rain and send nutrients back into the yard rather than into the municipal garbage cans.

Tiny Fruit Tree Large Productivity Method first years stage

All the fruit trees get trained by this method. If they have a root stock it goes like this: root stock into the ground, then if they have a grafted scion then the graft goes above ground less than a foot in height then the entire rest of the fruit tree is cut off and discarded unless collecting scions. Then I train off four lateral scaffolds. Then the verticals grow off of the scaffolds. Then I am set for life for a tiny fruit tree that is highly productive since I can work it all through the season at my height caring for it, thinning fruit for optimal individual fruit size, netting individual fruits, etc.

The first plum tree that got full sun last year. You can see how much further along it has grown and developed. I am not letting it fruit this year and instead am allowing vegetative explosive growth to grow thick lateral scaffolds to hold the future weight but you can see the tree will never get taller than this and everything is at my height standing on the ground.

Tiny Fruit Tree Large Productivity Method additional season from first years stage

Tiny Fruit tree method has two separate tree pruning for the method. One in winter time develops the shape of the tree you want. A second pruning in summer time controls the height and growth and ensures everything stays at your working height while standing.


I have lots of other projects keeping me busy. My ultra crossed collard landrace project is in year two and I just started my watermelon landrace project this year using 6 varieties of watermelons of differing watermelon phenotypes. This time I did not have the benefit of farmers cleaning up seeds for commercial companies or friends or landrace buddies to draw from so I bought from the big box stores of America. I would say 97%+ of the plants died. Horrible rates, but expected based on a lot of experience buying big box store seeds in my lifetime. I needed a start and didn’t have time or seeds handy so I just got what I could. Out of 6 entire packets of seeds I have 5 watermelon plants with a Grow or Die mentality of growing but not explosively but not deciding not to grow and just linger around and not die. I have 3 late planted plants in an entirely different section of the yard showing signs of growth, although again not explosively. I will be watching any seed I collect from any successful fruiting very closely to see how any subsequent plantings of seeds performs compared to this very first year of working on building up a landrace.

And one day I won’t be so busy so as to mark down I need to buy some Lofthouse landrace seeds and then end up completely forgetting about them and going without for another year without starting to work on all the beans and all the squash :slight_smile:

Edit: A final reminder that everything you see is a zero water garden, I have not spent a penny watering anything. I have spent not a penny on fertilizer this year, I have spent not a penny on insecticidal sprays this year.


This was interesting to read, especially the details on success rates in general and also how the European variety surpassed you. Thank you.

And I thought I was ruthless in the garden …… Excellent.

Similar to my goals. 0 outside water use. I’m not quite there yet.

Since I am in an entirely new environment (previously alkaline sand and rock, 12 inches water per year, currently heavy acidic clay loam with +30 inches per year) I’ll collect seeds from everything that produces this year.

Dry garden under deep woodchip mulch 2 years ago.

The majority of the seeds I am planting have been grown multiple years in the old environment, so they’re struggling even with more water. And no, I haven’t watered them.

I have watered the purchased (i.e., grafted) fruit trees because their tap root has usually been removed so they can’t reach for deep water. The seedling trees don’t seem to need that care so far.

Where I haven’t yet spread the woodchips starts and seeds were planted through grass into the native soil. So far, so good.

I will wait to cut most of the trees off until next spring, so I can see which survive the winter as well as letting them get a good root system.

I need more plum seeds, as only three survived (about a 10% survival rate) and I need to replant in the fall for spring emergence. I would have done that last fall, but I wasn’t here.

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In many places in Europe you will hear that grape wine needs to suffer in order to bear excellent fruits. There is a lot of truth to that, one of the best wines are being grown in rocky, dry, volcanic soils with almost no maintenance. An extreme conditions, like on the Lanzarote Island give grapes and wine specific, excellent taste :slight_smile:

Is that because it concentrates the flavor, them getting little water? I know dry farming is supposed to concentrate the flavor in tomatoes and cucurbits, so it would make sense if that’s universal.

I love seeing success with dry farming. I’m on year three of my garden, and this is my first year (hopefully) using no outside water. I am giving my garden greywater and saved rainwater. I have about 1,000 gallons of rainwater saved in four giant rain tanks, and I haven’t tapped into them yet. That, plus a gallon or two of greywater a day (whatever I can save in a bowl from the sink that doesn’t have soap residue in it) is all I plan to use for my garden this year, and we get pretty much zero rain in the summer.

Hope it works!

This whole methodology is why I hope at some point we can get “starter packs” of seed that contain 1000+ seeds of each plant type. A small 20 seed packet just doesn’t work if you’re going to plant a ton and let the strong enough survive. This year I find myself wanting to baby the ones that are alive so that I can get enough seed to do a more brutal approach next year. I also have found that I need to do a different approach than I normally do. Ideally just creating a long row (or multiple rows) for each plant type.

I grew my grapes dry for the last 7 years at my old property. No water at all. The harvests were slightly smaller and the fruit drier, but for those few weeks the yard smelled like grape candy.

Depends on the size of the seeds whether 1,000 seeds is necessary, I think. 25-50 is probably sufficient for most squashes, since the seeds are so big and therefore germinate so easily, even in poor conditions. Especially if they’re genetically diverse, you’re likely to get something. For tiny seeds like in brassicas, definitely 1,000 would be helpful.

Ya, depending on your goals. If the seeds are already reasonably well acclimated to your environment then it doesn’t take a lot. But things like this where we’re asking for the best of the best of what plants have to offer we just need a large quantity to win the quantity game. It’d be nice to find the few varieties of each plant that grow without watering here in utah somehow :slight_smile:

It also makes a difference how much space you’re dealing with. For a small back yard or an apartment balcony, 1000 seeds would be serious overkill.

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I have adapted to that problem in a couple ways.

I normally do not plant in seed trays. I am big on direct sowing. However, since I get a higher success rate from trays, I sometimes use trays when I have smaller number of seeds on a variety. I think of it as a way to increase chance I can get that variety incorporated in my landrace asap and also produce higher quantity of seed for next year’s planting.

Also, I have been buying more garden type vegetables at the grocery stores that contain viable seeds. I regularly eat sweet peppers, cantaloupe, honey dew, and tomatoes and save seeds from them. Since I eat this food so regularly and collect seed so regularly, I have decided that it’s worth it to not worry about CMS on these crops because I get vast benefit from my regular collection of seed.

I have maybe 500 bell pepper seeds drying on a table as I write this. I planted thousands of sweet pepper seeds last weekend in a space that can handle maybe 30 to 50 plants tops.

Lol, this is nuts.

Ya I do the same thing with trays. That’s kinda my point. 1000 :slight_smile: might be overkill, but this year I had plenty of muskmelon seeds so I planted about 20-30 seeds per area I want them. I’d prepare 6 to 12" of space and then put tons of seeds there. The best 1 or 2 i’ll let live, and we’ll see which one wins out in each spot. I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I only had a few. I ended up using probably 200-300 muskmelon seeds for the 12 that I want to grow this year. 200-300 seeds is nothing when you’re saving them yourself, and I’m hoping that in the long term planting 5 or 6 in a spot is plenty, but when you’re just starting it’s a numbers game.

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The funny thing is that “nuts” often works. Who would have thought that a metal wire could create light? Nuts. Who would have thought to use heat for cooling? Nuts. Our whole society is built on the accomplishments of people everyone thought were nuts.


I use greenhouse 1020 trays with 72 cell inserts because I am not big enough to use other systems but need to plant larger numbers of plants when dealing with a first grow of any given new plant or new seed source.

However the actual number of seeds used and planted in the 72 cell 1020 tray is 144 seeds as I plant two seeds per cell as insurance against poor germination rates. If I had confidence in having my own grown fresh seed I could try one seed per cell but with a very first grow out of a batch of seeds not of my own grow I would always be using approximately 150 seeds to do one single 1020 tray.

72 seedlings might sound like a lot but then factor in a very first grow of an unfamiliar plant in my garden system. Using the Kajari Melon in the first post as an example. That original batch of 150 seeds would result in plants where 72 were culled before transplanting leaving one healthiest seedling per cell, and sometimes I do get two dud seeds resulting in empty cells, and the final number of plants would be somewhere in the 30’s range that may survive and start to thrive and then be able to produce enough seed on my first grow of it to have enough seed security to then trial different direct seeding methods to determine what works best in my garden system.

With commercial retail seed packets, I usually will be luck to get a plant or two to come to fruition and provide seed collection, so retail packet seed to me is just a gateway into the food plant. I have to put in a years extra work to get enough seed to then be able to use it properly in the second year.


I want you to know that I love how you put this, and I’m going to print it out and put it on my door. :smiley:

A few updates on the Kajari Melons growing with no watering. The few food related plants I had time and space to start this season other than planting out blackberry bushes along the fence I grew from root cuttings.

I see the first baby melon, lets see how well they develop and ripen when getting no watering outside of what the mulch layer has captured from past rain.

Too hard to see? Here is a close up.

Now it may not be the first, the vines on the ground may be hiding a lot more, I just didn’t see them yet when walking by the patch on my morning routine looking for anything needing attention in the gardens.

There’s a French seed grower who grows without watering his plants in one of Européen hottest dry pockets. He’s been STUN ning for 18 years i believe.
If someone is interested and knows french this is his site.

Was super curiois to read up on it, but could you doubke check the link. It keeps telling me it does not exist?

Simone. Thank you for remarking.

I’ve edited a working link in my previous post now.

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