Where to Find Sand Pear Trees


Mary wonders where to find sand pear trees like the ones she enjoyed as a child:

“I am in Central Florida (Orlando / Ocoee area) and I currently have Apple, Pear, Mango, Avocado, Lemon, Lime, Tangelo, Red Grapefruit, Starfruit, Blueberries, Grapes (muscadine and seedless), Raspberries, Blackberries, Strawberry, Pineapples, Miracle Fruit, Red and White Mulberries, Fig, Banana, Apricot, Loquat, Florida Peach, Surinam Cherry, Barbados Cherry, Red Navel Orange, Passion Fruit. I’ve had Jackfruit and Goji berry, but I’m afraid they didn’t make it last drought that I didn’t baby them. Most of mine are in containers. I want to get a good Sand Pear like my childhood neighbor had. They were really crisp and crunchy and made the best pear pies and cakes. I can’t seem to find it locally and I don’t know what else to look for. The neighbor called it a Sand Pear or Sandpaper pear. The skin was rough, with a greenish/brown base color with brown spots. Any idea what else it might be called or where I can get a few of these? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.”

Hey… that’s a GREAT selection of fruits, Mary!

Now let’s hunt down some pears for you.

Sand Pear Tree Varieties

Pineapple, Hood, Baldwin, Flordahome and Orient are common pears. In my opinion, Pineapple is the best sand pear of the lot.

There is a very good report here on sand pears in Florida.

Little seems to have changed over the decades.

I planted a range of low-chill Florida pear varieties in my North Florida food forest, including Hood, Baldwin, Orient, Flordahome, Pineapple and Kieffer. All were doing well when I sold the property. I was also trying to figure out where to pack in a Le Conte but never got around to it.

In addition to these named varieties, you can also sometimes find mature, productive pear trees growing on old farms and homesteads.

I once got some scion wood in the spring from a venerable old pear, then grafted it onto one of my named types.

I also grafted pears onto hawthorns.

sand pear trees can be grafted onto other pears and hawthorns

Pears are really easy to graft, so if you ever come across old sand pear trees growing somewhere – fear not – you can take pieces home with you and add those varieties to your own orchard. Most people are happy to share a branch and will be fascinated with your desire to graft their tree onto one of yours. It sounds like mad science stuff, but grafting is easy.

Good sources for sand pear trees in the northern part of the state include Chestnut Hill Tree Farm near Gainesville, Blue Star Nursery in Hawthorne, and Just Fruits and Exotics, located south of Tallahassee in Crawfordville.

Finally, I did a full post not too long ago on pear varieties for the south – check that out here.

And for more ideas on what to plant in a Florida orchard, check out this post.


How to Germinate Jackfruit Seeds


Today we’ll cover how to germinate jackfruit seeds.

First – here’s my video on jackfruit germination:

About Jackfruit

Jackfruit are a very productive tropical tree and a relative of mulberries, breadfruit and figs.

They also are capable of bearing the largest fruit on the planet.

Look at this one!

germinate jackfruit

Image from Sin Chew Daily

The guy on the left is like “TAKE THE PICTURE ALREADY!”

Inside the jackfruit and around the seeds is a delicious, tropical-sweet flesh like nothing else on earth.

sprout jackfruit seed

The trees bear abundantly and require little care to cover you in Jackfruit. Even in South Florida, somewhat outside their normal range, jackfruit can do excellently – as my friends Chuck and Sarah can attest.


But how do you grow your own jackfruit tree?


Let’s germinate some jackfruit seeds, shall we?

How to Germinate Jackfruit Seeds

Germinating jackfruit seeds isn’t hard but you do need to start with fresh seed as the seeds dry out and die quickly.

Obtaining Jackfruit Seeds

You’ll have to find for an ethnic market to obtain jackfruit unless you’re lucky enough to live someplace where jackfruit are regularly grown.

Now you know my favorite source for rare edible plants. Go and hunt.

Open that jackfruit up and save those seeds.

Here’s how my wife opens jackfruit now:

After you’re done munching on delicious jackfruit and cleaning the latex off everything in the kitchen, it’s time to plant the jackfruit seeds.

Jackfruit seeds look like fat beans. If you don’t have time to plant them right away, just set them aside on the counter – they’ll keep for a few days.

Don’t put them in the fridge!

Jackfruit have very little tolerance for cold and you may kill the seeds. If you need to keep them for a week or more, put the seeds in some moist soil or with a damp paper towel. They may rot or sprout if you leave them for too long, so it’s better to plant quickly.

Planting Jackfruit Seeds


You can plant jackfruit seeds in pots, but direct-seeding jackfruit also works quite well.

If you use pots, make sure you pick deeper ones. Jackfruit like to send roots down fast and deep and will rapidly outgrow a small pot.

Here’s a video where I plant jackfruit seeds right in the ground:

They grew well, then I thinned the cluster of sprouts down to one tree. It’s been less than a year and that tree is about 3′ tall now.

Plant your seeds 2″ deep and wait. It will take a month or two for them to come up. Be patient and keep them watered. Before planting, I often soak seeds in water overnight in case they’ve dried out a bit. It seems to help.

Jackfruit come up with long, thin green shoots that resolve into two little leaves at the top.

My friend Amanda had this one come up in her compost heap – it’s a good example:

Jackfruit seed sprout

Remember: jackfruit do much better in the ground than they do in pots. Get them in the ground once they’re a decent size and get them growing with lots of compost.

How Long Does it Take a Jackfruit to Bear from Seed?

Some sites will say it takes years and years for a jackfruit to bear from seed but this isn’t necessarily correct. The tree in our yard apparently started bearing at about 5 years of age. Your mileage may vary.

Jackfruit grow quickly and like water, fertile soil and plenty of sun. Light frosts may kill young trees but older trees can take some cold.

I cover the potential for growing jackfruit outside their range in my book Push the Zone: The Good Guide to Growing Tropical Plants Beyond the Tropics.

So – what are you waiting for? Go ye out and germinate jackfruit seeds!


Lethal Yellowing


After much scientific chopping with a machete, I believe this tree was dying from lethal yellowing.

There are weevils that lay eggs in the center of palm trees, then the developing larvae tunnel the tree to death. In this case, there were no weevils. The symptoms also look to me like the dreaded lethal yellowing.

Lethal Yellowing

Lethal yellowing is a disease of palms which swept through South Florida decades ago and took out many of the iconic palms lining roads and parks.

According to Infogalactic:

“There is a direct connection between green lawns and the spread of lethal yellowing in Florida. Even so-called ‘resistant cultivars’ such as the Malayan Dwarf or the Maypan hybrid between that dwarf and the Panama Tall were never claimed to have a 100% immunity.The nymphs of the planthoppers develop on roots of grasses, hence the areas of grass in the vicinity of palm trees is connected with the spread of this phytoplasma disease. The problem arose as a direct result of using coconut and date palms for ornamental and landscaping purposes in lawns, golf courses and gardens together with these grasses. When these two important food palms were grown in traditional ways (without grasses) in plantations and along the shores, the palm groves weren’t noticeably affected by lethal yellowing. There is no evidence that disease can be spread when instruments used to cut an infected palm are then used to cut or trim a healthy one. Seed transmission has never been demonstrated, although the phytoplasma can be found in coconut seednuts, but phytosanitary quarantine procedures that prevent movement of coconut seed, seedlings and mature palms out of an LY epidemic area should be applied to grasses and other plants that may be carrying infected vectors.”

See – there’s another reason not to keep your yard nice!

The symptoms exhibited by this unfortunately coconut palm mesh with what I read at UF about lethal yellowing disease:

“As foliage discoloration advances up through the crown (canopy), the spear (youngest) leaf collapses and hangs down in the crown. This indicates the apical meristem (bud or growing point of the palm) has died.

For most palm species, including coconuts, death of the apical meristem usually occurs when one-half to two-thirds of the crown has become yellow or brown. However, for Phoenix species and Borassus flabellifer, spear leaf collapse and death of the apical meristem occurs when one-third or less of the crown has become discolored (Figure 15). For Adonidia and Veitchia, the spear is usually unaffected until after all other leaves have died.

Once this spear leaf breaks off or falls from the crown, it is not readily apparent that the apical meristem (bud) has died.

Eventually, the entire crown of the palm withers and topples, leaving a bare trunk standing. Infected palms usually die within 3 to 5 months after the first appearance of symptoms.”


Yep. That’s what happens.

How I Plan to Deal with Lethal Yellowing

Unfortunately, there’s not a foolproof cure for the disease. UF admits as much, even in giving a treatment plan:

“Chemical control of LY is achieved by application of the antibiotic oxytetracycline HCl (often referred to as OTC) administered to palms by liquid injection into the trunk

As a therapeutic measure, systemic treatment on a 4-month treatment schedule should begin as early in symptom expression as possible. Symptomatic palms with >25% discolored leaves should be removed, since they are unlikely to respond to OTC treatment. For susceptible Phoenix species, if the apical meristem (bud) is already dead, the palm will not respond to OTC treatment.

The antibiotic can also be used preventively to protect palms when LY is known to occur in the area. The amount recommended depends on the size of the treated palm. Always follow directions for use on the label.

The one question often asked regarding OTC injections concerns the length of time one must continue to inject. Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer. The antibiotic does not necessarily kill the phytoplasma but simply reduces or suppresses the phytoplasma population in the palm to a level that is no longer harmful, allowing resumption of normal growth of the palm. If injections are stopped, it is possible the phytoplasma will begin to increase once again and symptoms will reappear on the palm. Alternatively, if the disease is still active in the area, the unprotected palm could be re-infected with the phytoplasma.

Disease management via control of planthopper populations is insufficient to justify repeated insecticide applications in landscapes. Planthoppers are flying insects, and they also can be blown around by wind.

Use of host palm resistance represents the most practical long-term solution for LY control.”

There are varieties here in Central America that are being tested for lethal yellowing resistance.

For now, I am cutting down infected specimens…


…and I am planting more coconuts around this property. Coconuts out in the wild and on the beaches don’t seem to be dying all that much, even as the ones around houses are.

Hollywood Blvd in Hollywood, Florida, used to be lined with Jamaican King palm trees – a large, beautiful coconut palm.

Lethal yellowing killed many of them and then, in 1989, the news went out that the trees would be replaced with a hybrid royal palm:

“On Wednesday, city commissioners agreed to spend $247,000 to plant 233 Maypan palms on the beach and 30 royal palms on Hollywood Boulevard.

“If we`re going to have a Hollywood, we`ve got to have royal palms on Hollywood Boulevard,“ City Commissioner John Williams said.

Hundreds of Jamaican tall coconut palms already are planted on the beach, and about 200 royal palms line Hollywood Boulevard from Young Circle to the Intracoastal Waterway.

But some of the existing trees have been harmed by fungus and lethal yellowing disease, as well as improper pruning by city employees, said Jerry Behrmann, who owns Key Lime Landscape Nursery and was hired to plant the new palms.

Behrmann said he expected to begin the beach plantings within two weeks, but was not sure how soon the trees would be planted on the boulevard.

The Maypans, a hybrid created to resist lethal yellowing, will stand about 20 feet high, or about 10 feet shorter than the Jamaican talls on the beach. The new royal palms, about 20 feet tall, will be dwarfed by the old 60- to 70-foot palms that dot the boulevard.”

The Boulevard is beautiful now thanks to those palms, but I can imagine how much more tropical it would have looked with those towering coconut palms.

All gone, thanks to lethal yellowing.

“Blight comes at you fast,” as the insurance company says, right?


Gardening in Shells and Mango Propagation


I’ve got two questions from a reader I’ll answer today today: gardening in shells and mango propagation. Let’s jump in!

Deniz writes:

Hope you and your family feel much better since the car accident. It has finally rained today after weeks of drought, I hope it rains in the tropics soon too. I had questions about starting my own mango trees. What do you things is the easiest method to start from seed and can mangoes also be grown from cuttings? I am also planning on making a food forest with mango as the main large tree, the only problem is that that soil was infilled with shells to about a depth of two feet, what would be a easier method to grow trees in this substrate then digging it all up and replacing? The sediment that it produces is white and does not retain water and contain any organic matter. In the summer weeds grow all of the garden except for this area, and this area is the only area large enough to make a food forest as I have a small yard.”

Let’s attack mango propagation first:

Mango Propagation

Growing Mangoes from Seed

Mangoes are very easy to grow from seed.

Take seeds right from fresh fruit and don’t allow them to dry out. Plant them an inch or two deep in potting soil or compost and keep them watered. It usually takes about a month from them to germinate. Years ago when I started my first mango from seed, I read that if the pit sends up multiple sprouts, it will produce “true to type.” If it sends up a single shoot, it’s a wildcard.

Some sites recommend cutting open the husk of a mango seed and just planting the embryo. This may increase your germination rates but I haven’t found it necessary. If you do open it up, you can see whether it’s polyembryonic or monoembyronic, i.e. a multiple or single-shoot type. The polyembryonic seeds have multiple sections inside them.

If it’s a single-shoot seedling you get, don’t worry. It will likely give you fruit, but if you want a specific type of fruit, you’ll have to graft to make sure you get that.

Fortunately, mangoes are very easy to graft. My grafting video demonstrates multiple easy methods, and there are more online.

This page has a lot on mango propagation, plus grafting.

Growing Mangoes from Cuttings

Mangoes are not normally grown from cuttings.

Seedlings or grafting would be my recommendation, though from rumors on the ‘net some people have apparently rooted them from cuttings.

I tried air-layering my Grandpa’s mango tree without luck and eventually gave up. That’s a more forgiving method than cuttings and if it didn’t work, well, I just don’t want to bother. Seeds it is!

Gardening on Shells

The shell fill sounds like the problem with many gardens in the Florida Keys. High pH, no water retention, almost zero organic matter.

According to UF:

“On our type of lime rock fill soils, with high pH, minor elements will become insoluble in water. This is of concern since unless something is dissolved in water, it cannot be absorbed by plant roots, even though it may be present in the soil in high levels. With the addition of organic matter such as composted plant materials, mulch or leaf litter, the soil pH can be lowered. Over time, the area with added organic matter can be fertilized with minor elements. The elements will stay soluble and plants will produce healthy vigorous growth and happiness for you.”

I’m a member of Steve Solomon’s Soils and Health Group on Yahoo so I sent your question on gardening in shells by them for more insight.

Russel Lopez wrote back:

“I’m not familiar with mango trees, but I don’t think I would go to all the trouble of digging out substrate, unless you have access to heavy equipment and lots of good fill to replace it with. You would essentially be making a pot in the ground.”

He then linked to this article, which notes:

“Early studies of tree roots from the 1930s, often working in easy-to-dig loess soils, presented an image of trees with deep roots and root architecture that mimicked the structure of the top of the tree. The idea of a deeply-rooted tree became embedded as the typical root system for all trees. Later work on urban trees that were planted in more compacted soils more often found very shallow, horizontal root systems. Urban foresters have successfully spent a lot of energy trying to make people understand that tree roots have a basically horizontal orientation, to the point that even many tree professionals now believe that deep roots in trees are a myth. The truth lies somewhere in between deep roots and shallow roots.”

I have read that gardeners in the Keys will hack holes right into the compacted lime rock and shell mix, fill with some soil, then plant. The trees survive and thrive.
I would make a hole a few times the size of the root ball, put in some local earth, then plant. Mulch, keep it watered, and see what happens. Trees are very resilient. If you don’t have rock beneath, the roots should find what they need. Watch for pH issues, though. If the leaves yellow, I recommend adding some sulfur as well.
You can also foliar feed with compost tea and/or a balanced fertilizer containing micronutrients. Steve Solomon recommended Dyna-Gro to me but I haven’t had the chance to try it yet.
Good luck and send me updates! I would love to hear how your mangoes grow.

Pear Varieties for the South: What Will Grow?


Back at the beginning of 2014 I posted my survival plant profile on pears, covering pear varieties for the south, and specifically North Florida.

Since then, I received some good comments on varieties that work and don’t work for gardeners. It’s high time to revisit pears!

Pear Varieties for the southErik writes:

“Supposedly the “Chinese white pear” (Bai li) cultivars Tsu Li (which is really ancient and supposedly good but quite slow to bear) and Ya Li (which need to be planted together, as they bloom earlier than even the pyrifolia Asians [“apple pears”]) will both fruit with only 450 chill hours and are fireblight resistant.

I have had grocery Ya Li and am not impressed–crisp, watery, no flavor (that is also my opinion of most of the larger, pyrifolia types which someone must like because they are more expensive than aromatic, buttery European pears that taste like pears).

However I found a delicious way to treat firm Boscs that also works with low flavor sand/oriental pears and Ya Li is to poach them in flavored syrup. The bland ones actually keep their shape better than good European types (turn a Seckel glut into pear butter instead). The flavor comes from the syrup rather than the pear, but hey, it works. (The French mostly use sweetened wine, but even stale coffee. In [Polish] Chicago, I can get blackcurrant juice or syrup and mostly use that. Vanilla and ginger blend nicely with most pears, even the aromatic ones that are mostly high chill and killed by fireblight.).

“Warren” is often recommended as a moderately low chill (NW FL and north), fireblight resistant European sort similar to Bartlett, but I don’t have personal experience with it. Poached pears with vanilla ice cream may not be an option if the something hits the fan, but is nice in nicer times.”

And Carl responds:

“I have a lot of pear trees in Northwest Florida that are mostly grafted over pears I purchased in box stores or in flea markets. I pick varieties that were either developed in the deep south by normal people or were found after many years did quite well.

Best fresh eating pears and fire blight resistant so far for me are: southern bartlett (From abbreville, la) golden boy from Just Fruits and Exotics, and the Asian pear Olton Broussard from an old shipment to a nursery labeled oriental pear. Kieffers and Orient pears for cooking/salads and for pollinating the olton broussards.

There are many new pears that I am trying out at the moment that are said to be very good. But the three I mention are about as sure of thing as there can be in the south. The olton broussard may not fruit in zone 9 or during extremely warm winters in zone 8b.

The hood is another good but early pear that is disease resistant and very low chill. It was university developed unlike the other eating pears that I mentioned see http://tandeecal.com/page10.htm southern pear interest group.”

Pear Varieties for the South

There are some nice field reports on pear varieties for the south on the link Carl provided. I recommend checking them out.

For North Florida University of Florida recommends:









The range of those pears probably goes a good bit farther north. For south of Gainesville, the only three pears recommended are:




Le Conte grows in North Florida and is apparently an excellent pear; however, it’s not as disease resistant as some varieties.

When I visited the Orange County extension office in Orlando to film my video on fruit trees for Florida, I noticed that the Pineapple pear was the only tree that was thriving. However, the trees were planted in a hot field.

I believe they would have done much better in a mulch-rich environment with a variety of other species, food-forest style.

Here’s that video:

In my North Florida food forest I grew Florda Home, Pineapple, Hood, Kieffer, Baldwin and other recommended pear varieties for the south, plus grafted branches onto some of them from an old productive pear tree growing in Gainesville of unknown variety. (You can learn basic grafting – it’s easy! – with my film Get Grafting!, available for a donation of any amount here.)

Get_Grafting_PreviewPeople often don’t realize how far south you can grow pears.

It is good to see people having success. Don’t overlook pear trees – try some on your homestead!

Imagine homemade pear pie, pear sauce, canned pears, pear salsa… eating them fresh and sun-warmed from the tree. I never knew how good pears really were until I grew my own trees. Store-bought pears are a pale imitation of ripe fruit from the tree.


*Pear image courtesy Dave Minogue. CC license.


How to Germinate Coffee Beans


Check out my new video on how to germinate coffee beans:

Coffee beans take a month or more to germinate. These took over three months to sprout, but the tray dried out at least once, so it might have been faster in better conditions.

Here is how to germinate coffee beans in two steps.

And here – pin this nice graphic to Pinterest!


Now – let’s germinate coffee beans.

Step 1: Get Fresh Coffee Beans

I would guess the reason most coffee beans do not sprout is because they are too old. Or because they were roasted. Obviously, roasted coffee beans are dead. Make them into coffee instead.

Coffee, like many tropical trees and some plants, has seeds that lose viability quickly. Papaya is another example, as are avocados.

Finding fresh coffee beans is a task if you live outside the tropics. I bought multiple sets of coffee seeds online from seedman.com and had 0% germination. They were likely too old.

If you can’t get fresh and living coffee beans, you may have to do what I did a few years ago and buy your own coffee tree, then let that fruit.

You can find them on Amazon, which is pretty darned cool.

I got mine from a rare plant nursery booth at a plant show in North Florida. It bloomed and fruited within a year.


Smaller plants can take a couple of years. Pick the ripe coffee cherries, take out the fresh beans, then move on to step two.

Note: some places sell un-roasted coffee beans. Chances are these will be too dry to plant, but you could try anyhow.

Step 2: Plant the Beans and Wait

Coffee beans take their time to come up.

It’s a good idea to provide bottom heat if your temperatures are below 70. I used an inexpensive heat mat like this one.

As the trees usually start producing fruit in October and through December, fresh beans will be hard to grow in a temperate region of the Northern Hemisphere without some extra heat.

I would plant a seed tray of beans in North Florida in the winter and put the tray onto a large baking tray, then put a little water in the tray and set the entire thing on a heat mat in my office until the seeds emerged. Then, if it’s still cold outside, you’ll need some grow lights to keep them from getting spindly and dying. If outdoor conditions have warmed up, move them on to a sunny porch; or, if not, put them next to a window where they can get sunlight.

Little coffee seedlings transplant easily and will grow quickly. They like plenty of fertility, so give them compost and a dilute fertilizer solution to make them happy. I was also able to germinate coffee beans in my greenhouse during the winter in little pots. They like warmth.


If your coffee trees are grown from early on in full sun, they’ll be able to handle full sun. Just be careful not to take them from a shady location to full sun right away or they’ll burn badly and may die.

How Long Do Coffee Trees Take to Bear?

From seed, you should start getting blooms and fruit in three years. As the coffee trees grow bigger you’ll get a lot more yield. The estimate on what it takes to feed an average annual coffee habit is 25 trees.

That will keep you running – however, just having a couple of trees will make you a decent amount of coffee for fun.


Finally, if you’d like to learn more on growing coffee and other caffeine sources, check out my no-nonsense booklet The Survival Gardener’s Guide to Growing Your Own Caffeine.

TheSurvivalGuidetoGrowingCaffeineFIXsmHave fun – it’s not hard to germinate coffee beans and I’ve done it many times now.


Stumping Avocadoes


I linked to this article on “stumping avocados” in yesterday’s post, but it’s worth linking further here:


“If you drive through Southern California and look at the hillsides where avocados are grown,  you will see acres of white stumps.  These are the avocados that have been cut down and painted to protect the trees from sun damage.   The stumps take less water while they regrow,  and will produce beautiful avocados again in about 3 years.  Sometimes we graft a different variety to the stump and when it grows back it produces that variety of avocado.  I’ll write more about that at a different time.

We have stumped several times over the years. Taking acres of avocado trees  out of production for several years is a challenge financially,  but it also helps to save water and is considered a good practice in avocado farming” (click here to keep reading)


Rejuvenating or grafting an unproductive tree is often a better investment of time than removing it and replanting. Think of the root system of a mature tree – it can reach for dozens of feet beneath the ground. A baby tree takes a lot of time to get established.

Though stumping an avocado tree is drastic, if it’s working for commercial producers, it’s worth trying. Check out the pictures on the article – it’s fascinating.


Reviving Old Mango Trees


This is fascinating – look how much you can cut!

Pollarding can also be done with avocado trees.

Additionally, I used the method to keep a sweetgum tree small in order to use it as a living trellis for yams.

It takes some faith to cut back a huge tree, but it seems as if it works well with mangoes. The orchard density on our current property is quite high so I have been researching ways of decreasing the canopy size and making harvests easier. This looks like a good option, plus I get wood I can use for charcoal.


Maintaining a Banana Grove


I let everything get away from me in the banana grove but I’m now starting to catch up.

We got a lot done this last Saturday and I filmed more so you can see how I’m cleaning and thinning out the many banana “stools” on our property.

Bananas are usually a heavily sprayed and fertilized crop but I’m managing them organically. I need to gather a lot more cow manure, plus maybe some seaweed and other materials. There are so many banana clumps to care for that it’s hard to get enough fertilizer to them.


Buying 10-10-10 and throwing a few handfuls to each stool would be easy.

Getting piles of manure isn’t.

There is a goat research facility up in the mountains – maybe I should go over there and see if I can get a few loads of manure.

There’s a thought!

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