Growing Manuka Trees from Seed and Cuttings

This post is from a couple of years ago, but remains the most popular one, so I've repeated it for all you newbies.

 

We've been experimenting with growing plants for bees. There are plenty of plants that have flowers that bees love. And lots of lists of good ones too. But we need ones that will produce excellent honey, as well as thrive in our country and climate. And then there is the need to grow quickly enough to make it all worthwhile. Some forest giants produce excellent bee flowers but you need to wait for so long for them to get going (although I do wonder how high a bee likes to fly to get to the flowers - might need to research this too).

The big honey-producing flowering plants in NZ are manuka and kanuka. So this is our first plant experiment.

Manuka seeds in tiny pots

Manuka seeds in tiny pots

Here they are in autumn at the beginning of the year. These ones (microscopic) are from seeds that we collected from manuka and kanuka trees. These little plastic trays are not that great, they all blow around in the winter winds, and break apart from each other. Probably they are best to save if you have a glasshouse operation.

Manuka seedlings starting to grow

Manuka seedlings starting to grow

No glasshouses here though, the outdoor dining table and chairs are covered in potted up seedlings. These ones are from cuttings, they seem to get more growth on than the seeds, but are more time intensive making the cuttings, and there is an amount that conk out before they get to this stage.

Manuka potting station

Manuka potting station

Potting, potting, potting. You do need to continually be on to the potting up - moving them into bigger and bigger pots, before they become too root bound. Good thing it is immensely satisfying then.

Manuka seeds in seed trays

Manuka seeds in seed trays

When we got over the little pots (the first pic) we tried out seed trays. These do work better, but you do need to be vigilant to potting up as their roots all start to get inter-tangled.

manuka seedlings growing fast

manuka seedlings growing fast

Look at this - babies not so long ago, they've got spring-powered rocket juice under them now! Some of them are lovely and bushy too. These are the cuttings (I think, but they have been moved around so much the system has rather lost the history of each plant, so an inconclusive experiment then...)

manuka seedlings shooting away

manuka seedlings shooting away

Isn't this just the most satisfying sight? Growing something from nothing (except quite a lot of sweat). Still got to dig the holes to plant them though, might be busy that day!

 

For more information sign up to collect your free downloadable Pictorial Step-by-Step Guide to Growing Manuka Trees from Seeds.

C4 Sugar in Manuka Honey

C4 Sugar in Manuka Honey

There's been a few problems this year with high C4 sugar readings in manuka honey in the whole industry.

Honey that is exported has to pass a whole raft of tests, including normal food-type tests - does it contain poisons such as tutin, does it contain bacteria, does it contain impurities - plus some special honey tests. And testing for adulteration with sugar is one.

Manuka Honey Fraud

Manuka Honey Fraud

What is manuka honey fraud? Is there fraud that is technically legal? How do we stop manuka honey fraud?

I think the answers are 'complicated', yes, and 'that is the million dollar question that MPI is trying to fix' - see last week's post on the New manuka honey regulations.

To me, simplistically, manuka honey fraud is when honey sellers, either in NZ, or (I would guess more likely) overseas, take honey that is only slightly manuka and try to pass it off as good grade manuka.

There are several ways this might happen:

When to plant manuka trees

When to plant manuka trees

If you've been making manuka seedlings, from seed, then you might have something that looks like this, in your backyard.

And if you saw my previous 'uh oh' post where I let my seedlings rather get away on me and have ended up with over-large trees still in their pots, then you might be wondering whether you could plant your seedlings yet.

Well...normally I'd have said not quite. Still lots of the summer to go, and it can get pretty hot and dry.

What happens after the manuka stops flowering?

What happens after the manuka stops flowering?

This has been a terrible year for manuka. All over New Zealand, it seems, the manuka flowering never really got going, and then stopped. Just like that - a whole honey season is done!

So, what do the bees eat after the manuka stops flowering?

Well, it turns out that bees actually prefer nectar from plants that are not manuka. Sure, they'll go to manuka if they have to, but given the choice, they'll go somewhere else first.

Australian Manuka Honey - is that OK?

Australian Manuka Honey - is that OK?

New Zealand is not the only country that grows manuka. Australia does too.

And in fact Australia has far more varieties of leptospermum than NZ. We have one, leptospermum scoparium, but Australia has 83 types. 83! That's a lot!

And, what's more, Australia 'manuka' honey is antibacterial too. Just as good, maybe better, depending on who you talk to (um, that would be a NZer or an Australian).

Check out this report

6 Mistakes I've made with my manuka seedlings (and are you making them too?)

6 Mistakes I've made with my manuka seedlings (and are you making them too?)

I've made about 2000 manuka seedlings in the last couple of years. Purely in the interests of science, and experimentation of course. I don't actually have anywhere to plant them.

And they have been growing pretty well too. But 2 years on, some of them are taller than me.

And the flaws in the system are starting to show.

So, what mistakes have I made? (and are you making these mistakes too?). Here they are:

2017 Honey Harvest in NZ

2017 Honey Harvest in NZ

It's been a terrible summer for honey!

First off, all the beekeepers thought that the season was just late. You know, like "it'll be here any minute, ... any minute now...". 

Now it's looking like it's been and done. 

It's not over yet, and who knows, it might all zing back into life. I notice that my apple tree has blossoms! Silly thing thinks it's spring again. Blossoms AND apples. And my magnolia, that flowered in October, has got flowers again. So, clearly there is some confusion in the weather department.

But on the whole, the honey industry thinks that it is over.

Are you making these 3 deadly mistakes with your new bee business?

Are you making these 3 deadly mistakes with your new bee business?

So you are thinking of starting a new bee business?

The time is now, the manuka gold rush is on, people are making huge profits from the recent crazy demand for our special manuka honey, and you want in?

Great! You're not alone. And I believe it is definitely possible to reap the benefits of the amazing medicinal properties of manuka honey, and the worldwide demand for it.

But are you making these 3 deadly mistakes in your planning? If you can figure these out in advance, and still make your proposition look worthwhile, you will be ahead of the game, and have a chance of making it all work.

So what are these mistakes?

Beehive Thefts

Beehive Thefts

There's been a rash of beehive thefts lately.

The price of manuka honey is soaring at the moment. So the bee industry is growing like crazy with lots of new beekeepers coming in to the industry to try and take advantage of the honey rush.

And this means the value of beehives is increasing too. A 2 box hive used to cost around $700 a couple of years ago, now its above $1000.

When anything becomes too valuable too fast, this is also an opportunity for less scrupulous people to take advantage also. Hence the increase in beehive thefts.

Where are the bee thefts from?

The medicinal benefits of honey

The medicinal benefits of honey

10 ways honey works medically

Here's a fun fact I have just read: That the root of the word medicine is medu which also means mead, that lovely honey drink. Not sure quite how true that is, I can't follow the links far enough back on the interwebs, but wouldn't that be a cool connection?

Because, the thing is, honey is an amazing medicine, and has been for millennia. Manuka honey is particularly special, but manuka honey has only been around for a century and a half. Other honey has lots of medicinal benefits too.

How do bees make honey?

How do bees make honey?

How do the bees turn nectar into honey?

Honey has some amazing health and keeping qualities that have been specifically created by the bees. So how do they do it?

In a nutshell (well, in a honey comb), they collect nectar, add enzymes which change it chemically, and remove excess water, then store it in honey comb. That sounds easy, right?

Let's look at the steps that happen on the way to the finished product:

The Honey Flow is On!

The Honey Flow is On!

Spring has sprung, the grass is riz. I wonder where the beesies is?

Out collecting nectar, that's where.

Spring is the flowering time for a lot of plants. Some flower through summer, some in autumn. But spring is the first. And spring is manuka flowering season.

All the manuka round our home (Auckland) is starting to flower. The manuka further north, in Northland will have nearly done it's flowering (and word on the street is that it wasn't great this year - too wet, washed the nectar away, and made it hard for the bees to get out flying about too). Manuka further south will still be gearing up. Budding up.

So, it's important to manage the hives so the bees are ready and raring to go. Like anything, get 3 beekeepers together and you'll get 13 different strategies. And there aren't any easy rules.

How to make a $1mill in your first year beekeeping

How to make a $1mill in your first year beekeeping

There's a honey rush on. Do you want to be part of it?

Here's the formula: Get 1000 hives in your first year. Each hive makes say 25kg of honey. Good manuka honey is selling for lots these days, let's say $40/kg to average out the great and the just good grades of manuka. So, let's see: 1000 hives x 25kg honey x $40/kg = $1mill. That's $1,000,000. In just one year. That's a lot of zeros.

Next year will be more of course. You will be a gazillionaire.

Easy, right?

Yes. And no.