Growing miniature fruit trees and non-native plants, even tropical fruit trees, IS possible on your homestead, no matter where you live – and should be!
Miniature Fruit Trees and Non-Native Plants
Raising and preserving fruit, non-native, and off-season plants ensures you and your beloveds will have a well-rounded diet without spending a dime to purchase fresh produce from the supermarket during the winter months – or if a long-term disaster strikes.
If an apocalyptic event happens, the miniature fruit trees and other non-native crops will make excellent barter items and provide essential nutrients, like vitamin C, the body needs to remain healthy and strong.
Growing dwarf fruit trees and non-native plants, such as rice, coffee, and tobacco are also perfect for urban and suburban preppers and folks who are carving out a small homestead.
They can all be grown in pots outdoors during the warm weather months and then covered in plastic to make a mini-hot house, moved either inside the home or into a greenhouse. Closing in a porch makes a great inexpensive winter growing area that is camouflaged from prying eyes during a doomsday disaster.
What is a miniature fruit tree?
It is possible to grow oranges, lemons, tangelos, bananas, dwarf apple trees, and even coffee trees while the snow is heavily falling outside. Miniature fruit trees routinely grow to be about 10 feet tall. Some varieties of dwarf trees only grow to reach about three feet tall, such as dwarf banana trees. Regardless of the ultimate size of the miniature trees, the fruit they produce is normal size!
Genetic engineering is not used to create miniature fruit trees. A rather tried and true old-fashioned technique commonly referred to as grafting is used when creating dwarf trees. A branch of a fruiting tree is grafted into rootstock.
The specific stocks are chosen because of their resistance to disease, drought, how adaptive they are to varying soil types, and because of their general hardiness and size. The miniature trees will only grow as tall as the roots allow, so combining it with a branch from a specific rootstock allows the grower to control the size of the tree.
Miniature fruit trees reach maturity far more quickly than their full-size counterparts. You do not have to wait for up to five years to get a full quality harvest rom a dwarf tree – they bear fruit within one to two years. Nurseries can create custom dwarf trees for customers, even ones which produce more than one type of fruit.
Types of Dwarf Fruit Trees
Growing rice, cotton plants, peanut plants, and tobacco plants in climates where they would not normally thrive can be accomplished in the same manner as growing non-native dwarf fruit trees. You would never see a rice patty flourishing in much of the United States, but it can be done in a container or small plot quite successfully almost anywhere!
Growing rice in multiple containers will provide ample of the long-term storage food favorite for the entire family to enjoy through the winter – and beyond. The containers will need to be taken inside or placed in a greenhouse to grow during the cold weather months. A rice patty can be grown along a marshy area that can be dammed and slightly flooded, especially along a creek line or in a pond overflow area.
Depending upon the hardiness zone you live in, there may be enough time between the first and last frost to raise and harvest a crop of rice in an artificially created patty. Zones six through 10 are typically suited for this type of growing.
Tobacco, peanut, and cotton plants can be grown on a small scale in containers either outside during frost-free months as long as they are moved inside or into a greenhouse before the first frost of fall. Peanuts are a shelf-stable crop which are also an excellent source of protein.
How do you grow dwarf trees, off-season, and non-native plants inside?
The Survivalist Gardener Rick Austin wrote an amazingly detailed how-to book focused on building enclosed porch greenhouses for homesteading and survival purposes. Austin has fresh lettuce and many other garden favorites, growing year around in his secret greenhouse.
Austin said when describing the concept and functionality of his Secret Greenhouse of Survival book:
“Imagine a greenhouse that heats your home in the winter; and heats your water; that grows five times more food per sq. ft. than a hoop house; that provides food for you and your family all year long; where your food grows in three dimensions; where you never have to use fertilizer; where you never have to use pesticide, and where you can grow exotic foods, i.e. citrus or coffee trees in New England; that allows you to start seedlings in the spring; that hides your solar electric system; and that can house your small animals or incubate chickens and ducks.”
Utilizing a Greenhouse
The greenhouse on the homestead operated by Rick Austin and his wife Jane (better known as Survivor Jane) looks just like a porch on a typical home. Not only does the enclosed porch greenhouse prevent any marauders or starving roaming groups from knowing ample food is nearby, it also serves as an alternative heat source for their home.
During his more than three decades of sustainable homesteading, Austin has constructed a multitude of energy efficient buildings. He incorporated all the knowledge he garnered over the years to reduce the energy consumption of his home substantially by using the sustainable greenhouse to reduce heating and water use for the residence.
About 63 percent of a home’s energy consumption comes from heating and water usage. Austin firmly believes you can only make substantial progress towards homestead sustainability if you work to control energy costs first.
The secrete greenhouse utilizes extremely energy efficient glass that has a significant amount of thermal mass built in.
Concrete planters and crushed stone floors further enhance the thermal mass and provide heat to the greenhouse during the night – even when there are subzero temperatures are looming outside. Austin’s greenhouse is located in the hills of Appalachia and has never dipped below 45 degrees at night – without a supplemental heat source.
The passive solar heat generated in the greenhouse not only helps dwarf fruit trees and other non-native plants thrive, it also provides a habitat for small livestock and created passive solar heat and hot water for the home.
The sustainable greenhouse has successfully been used to raise rabbits and to incubate ducklings – and could be used to chicks as well. Setting up the brooders and cages properly will allow for the generation of handy composting material as well.