Wednesday, July 12, 2006

How to Plant a Coconut Tree

Coconuts are highly invasive and are thus very easy to grow. They travel through the open ocean and have the ability to sprout on shores hundreds of miles away from where they were grown. They are very hardy. Getting them to grow is almost as simple as placing a seed where you want a tree to grow.

Here on Saipan, people dispose of their extra coconuts by throwing them in a pile in their backyard. It only takes a few months for that pile of coconuts to turn into a stand of coconut saplings. They grow quite easily and they grow very fast.

If you want to do a coconut planting, I recommend using a combination of coconut seeds and saplings. With the seeds, the first thing you have to do is to make sure that they are viable. You do this by shaking the coconut seed. If you hear water, the seed is viable. If you don't hear water, the seed is dead.

Take your viable coconut seed and dig a small hole in the sand. It doesn't need to be deep. You can even use you hands if you want. Find the largest of the three lobes and face it towards the sky. Place the coconut into the hole lying on its side, just like if it had fallen from a tree, and cover about 2/3 of the husk with soil or sand.

If you are planting saplings, follow pretty much the same procedure, but dig a deeper hole to accomadate the roots. Also, if you are using saplings, make sure that when you first remove them from where they were originally growing that you do not damage the roots.

The seed should start sprouting within a month. If it doesn't sprout within two months, you've got a dud. Grab another seed and repeat the procedure.

For our planting on Beach Road we planted our coconuts in groups of three, four, or five spaced out about every 20 feet. We did this for a variety of reasons. Not all of the coconuts will survive and some will be duds. Some will also be washed away by the ocean. We wanted to plant enough to ensure that at least some of them survive. Planting them in groups will also cut down on the effects of wind during storm events.

We planted saplings and seeds grouped together. We do not know whether the saplings or the seeds will have a higher success rate, so we wanted to spread out the risk. The seeds have everything they need to grow for their first few months contained inside the husk, but since the saplings are already growing, you can be assured that they are viable. Only time will tell which method is more successful.

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