Sowing Mesquite Seeds: How And When To Plant Mesquite Seeds
The first thing to do when starting to plant mesquite seeds is to decide which type of seed you want to sow. There are two types of seeds – seedlings and adults.
Seedling plants have very small leaves and flowers but they will eventually become larger plants with full grown leaves and flowers. Adult plants have large leaves and flowers but they don’t produce any new seedlings. You can choose whether or not to plant seedlings into the ground or if you wish to plant them directly into pots.
In order to determine which type of seed you want to sow, look at the size of your soil. If it’s sandy then chances are that you’ll want to plant seeds into sand rather than planting them directly in the ground.
If it’s loamy, then chances are that you’ll want to plant seeds into clay rather than planting them directly in the ground. Soil type plays a big role in determining what kind of seedlings you’ll get.
If you’re planning on planting seedlings into the ground, there are several things you need to consider before deciding where to place your seedlings. First off, make sure that all of your seedlings have access to water so they don’t dry out too quickly.
Seedlings can easily dry out, wither, and die so make sure they have plenty of water. Second, make sure that the soil isn’t too crowded with other plants. Seedlings need all the sunlight they can get so if the space is limited then other plants might choke out your seedlings. Finally, make sure that the area you’re planning on planting in won’t become a pool of mud during heavy rain or a dried out dustbowl during drought seasons.
If you’re planning on planting adult plants then you’re going to need a pot. The bigger the pot the better but make sure you don’t put a small plant in a pot that’s too big because it will only stunt its growth.
Place some soil in the bottom of the pot and place the plant at the same depth that it was in the ground. Gently pat soil around the plant and add more soil until the plant is slightly lower than the top of the pot. Water the plant and place it in an area that gets full sun.
Sowing mesquite seeds directly in the ground requires that the area get a lot of sun. It also requires well drained soil so make sure the area doesn’t flood during heavy rain storms.
Planting seeds in pots requires a pot, soil, water, sunlight, and something to cut the seed pod open so the seed comes out.
When planting any type of seed there are many things that can go wrong. Most of the time seeds will fail to sprout or rot from being in contact with to much water.
Other times birds, rodents, and insects will gobble them up. Never plant more than you need because you’ll end up wasting a lot of seeds.
You can enhance your chances of successfully sowing mesquite seeds by keeping the soil around the seed moist but not drenched. You can use a mister to spray the soil without having to worry about over-watering.
You can also place a sheet of plastic over the area and weight it down with rocks to keep the ground moist.
After the seeds have sprouted you’ll need to thin out the seedlings because they require a lot of sunlight. Use your finger or a small stick to gently push the seedlings over into the soil.
The seedlings will die but this is actually good because it makes more room for the others to receive more sunlight.
Green Deane’s “Itemized” Outdoors: More Detailed Planting Information
Mesquite (Prosopis juliflora)
Other Names: Honey Mesquite, Gum Mesquite, Vera Blanca Mesquite
USDA Hardiness Zones: (view map)
Temperature: Hot most places. Thrives in southern states such as Florida and the Gulf states.
Can tolerate temperatures below 0°F.
Sunlight: Full sun or partial sun.
Sowing Season: Early Spring, late Summer or early Fall.
Seed Depth: 1/4-1/2 inch deep.
Seed Spacing: 2-3 feet apart.
Days to Germination: 10-30 days.
Days to Maturity: 3 months after sprouts appear above ground.
How to Grow Mesquite Trees from Seeds
Mesquites are pretty easy to grow from seed. They are particularly easy to grow from seed if you have a source of mature Mesquite pods, though you can also collect the seeds when they fall off on the ground.
Soak the seeds in water for one day and then drain them off. Fill an 8 inch pot with a mix of 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 fine sand and 1/3 soil.
Place two to four seeds every inch and a half. Water the soil and keep it damp (not wet). The seeds should begin to sprout in ten days to three weeks. Transplant them into a sunny location after all chance of frost has passed, leaving about 15 feet between them. If you are going to use a container, make sure that it is no deeper than 3 times the width of the seedling’s root ball.
If you cannot get the seeds, try sprouting them. Cut open the seed and soak it in water for twenty four hours.
The white embryo should begin to grow. You can place it on some damp soil and it should begin to sprout.
Once you have the tree growing, be careful of how much water you give it. They can be easily overwatered if you are not paying attention to them.
It is best to let the soil dry out some between waterings. Fertilize with a little nitrogen, though they won’t really need a whole lot of it.
Harvest the seeds when they are dry. Store them in airtight jars and keep them in a dark place.
Green Deane’s “Itemized” Outdoors: More on Growing Mesquite
There are several species of mesquites and they grow in several climate zones but their basic needs are the same.
They do best in poor dry soil and can even grow well in sandy soil, though they prefer loam. They thrive in dry areas.
Mesquite trees can grow in the same geographic area as pine trees but they provide different benefits.
The most common use for Mesquites is for eating, usually the beans that come from the pods that split open when ripe. The beans are used like dried beans in cooking.
They can be eaten either green (when they are young) or dry (when they are mature). People also harvest the wood for firewood and charcoal and the bark and leaves can be used for fodder.
Mesquites start producing beans in as little as three years, though you should leave them in the ground for a year so that they can mature enough to produce more. You shouldn’t pick every pod though, about 10% to 15% of them need to stay on so that the tree will continue to produce more.
There are several types of mesquites, some with sweeter or richer flavored beans than others. The more common types are the honey, catclaw, and the velvet.
The velvet bean is a popular type that is also grown in plantations in Australia. The honey mesquite produces pods that are green when immature and turn brown when they’re ready to be picked. They have a sweet flavor and are the most commonly used for food. Catclaw has a flavor like chocolate and is used mainly for livestock fodder.
You can get the beans out of the pods by rubbing them between your hands, or thumping on a hard surface and then picking out the individual beans. The thump method is a little messy and you might get some of the pods dirt in the beans but it’s faster.
Other types of mesquites have different pod characteristics and different pod flavorings. They can range from sweet to tart.
Pods can be eaten green or dried. You can even make them into paste or mash.
The beans of the velvet bean mesquite are used as a substitute for chocolate. The Cahuilla Indians of the Southwest used them to make a celebratory drink they called posole.
They’re not too high in nutrients but have a good source of starch and are high in calcium, phosphorus, and iron. Pods are also high in calcium, phosphorus, and iron.
The honey mesquite is more widely available in the US than other types of mesquite. It’s native to Mexico and the southern half of the US.
It grows rapidly and is extremely hardy. The beans are used in barbeque sauce and add a nice flavor when mixed with other wood types like apple or cherry.
The catclaw is another type that has barbeque potential though it is a little more bitter. It’s also called the bee tree because the native Pueblo people hunted bees under them and ate the honey.
The tamarisk or salt cedar is a different species of mesquite that grows along the banks of rivers in desert areas. The beans aren’t as popular as other types but you can use them in cooking just the same.
They grow in a tighter pattern than other types of mesquite trees.
The leaves, twigs, and bark all have medicinal uses for humans and animals. The Tohono O’Odham people make a tea from the twigs that is used to reduce fevers and aid in childbirth.
It is also boiled into a bath for rheumatism. The Chiricahua drank an infusion of the leaves for stomachaches.
The brittle wood can be used to make tools, the pods can be cooked and eaten like peas, beans can be shelled and used like common beans, the leaves can be used for weaving and thatching of roofs, even the bark can be harvested.
The honey mesquite is a very important tree in the desert. People have relied on it for food, medicine, tools, and other resources since time immemorial.
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Sources & references used in this article:
Emergence of honey mesquite seedlings relative to planting depth and soil temperature. by CJ Scifres, JH Brock – Rangeland Ecology & Management …, 1972 – journals.uair.arizona.edu
Afterripening in curly mesquite seeds. by AE Ralowicz, CF Mancino – Rangeland Ecology & …, 1992 – journals.uair.arizona.edu
Moisture-temperature interrelations in germination and early seedling development of mesquite by CJ Scifres, JH Brock – Journal of Range Management, 1969 – JSTOR
Merriam kangaroo rat a factor in mesquite propagation on southern Arizona range lands. by HG Reynolds, GE Glendening – Rangeland Ecology & …, 1949 – journals.uair.arizona.edu
Removal of mesquite seeds by small rodents in the Monte desert, Argentina by CM Campos, SM Giannoni, P Taraborelli… – Journal of Arid …, 2007 – Elsevier