We've been experimenting a lot this year with growing food trees for the bees. The most obvious plant to grow, in NZ anyway, is manuka - Leptospermum scoparium. Manuka honey has many healing and health benefits, is the most delicious I think, and also is highly sought after (so sells for a premium).
I've posted before about our efforts
Growing Manuka Trees from seeds and cuttings
but here is an update with what we have learned since then.
1. Cuttings go much faster than seeds
2. Cuttings are best in spring to get maximum growth in one seasonal cycle, although our autumn ones worked pretty well - they're the big ones at the back (conveniently obscured by the nikau frond)
3. Cuttings take a bit of effort at the beginning
4. Seeds are really easy to begin
5. Seeds need warm for them to germinate
6. Seeds are more effort in the long run because you have to pot up a few times, and a bit annoying (yaarrrrgh!) when there are differing sizes of seedlings in the seed trays. Thanks to Bee Grandad for his patience with all the big and little ones.
7. We've moved our baby plants to a semi shaded area - previously they were in full sun, and they started getting a bit stressed as summer progressed. They're doing much better now.
8. You don't want to put them in too big a pot, we've gone up to PB2s as ideal, before you plant - too big a hole to dig then
9. When planting we think we will dig a small but deep hole using a auger. Note I haven't tried this yet, and its looking like this first experimental batch will be about 3000 seedlings, so it might get old really quickly. Dipping boxes might seem like a walk in the park compared to this! Also, exactly WHERE is a moot point at this time, 3000 trees needs some serious real estate. Might have to jam them in to Bee Man's already full bush. Don't really want to leave the big ones another year because then they
be stressed. Or me, one or the other...
10. Planting really needs to happen as soon as it starts to be consistently wet in autumn I think, which will give them maybe 9 months before they hit the hot summer. Typically you would be planting somewhere where there is no watering supply.
Manuka is well adapted to being off on its own, colonising the bare and barren soil, it is a classic nursery crop - nursery for all those other baby trees that happen afterwards I guess. But in the wild the plants start as seed then the tiniest seedlings, so sticking plants straight in needs some strategising. Their lovely fine needle leaves fall on the ground and create excellent mulch, so they enrich the soil for the next generation of forest giants that come along naturally. Or so I read, and it seems plausible.