19 May 2023

How to grow coconut trees

Learning how to grow coconut trees was a very important lesson for us because of our commitment to replacing the scrub brush we were removing with something as good as or better.  The very hardy brush we took out is nearly inpenetrable without a machete to clear a path; and it blocked much of the breezes off, and the view of, the sea.

Our main landscape ingredients at False Bluff continue to be palm trees, sea grapes, swamp lilies, and zoysia grass.  We've written about all of these things a lot here.  Breeze, view, a comfortable walk, and flowers everywhere are now a part of the experience.  Besides, the salt in those lovely breezes off the Caribbean kills most everything else.

So far we've planted hundreds - if not thousands - of coconut palms and the planting continues.  When we began planting baby coconut trees we bought them in Bluefields and boated them to False Bluff.  Little did we know how simple it would turn out to be to grow our own.  Waiting for the seed to sprout is the hardest part.  

Here's what's involved in the process:  

  • Wait until a ripe coconut falls to the ground - but be sure you're not under the tree when that happens.
  • Pick the coconut up off the ground and carry it to another piece of ground of your choice.
  • Put the coconut down in this spot you've selected.  Place it either at random or in a line as shown below.  Over the years we've gone all out in the effort to grow lots of baby coconut trees and "orderly" has proven to be our best solution.
  • Wait until the coconut sprouts.  It's just a seed after all.  Waiting is the hard part.  You can tell when the coconut has sprouted when it looks like what's shown in the second photo.  Truthfully you can tell as soon as the leaf appears but we've found that waiting until the sprout is about four feet tall is a better indication the young plant will survive.
  • Pick the sprouted coconut up off the ground.  Just kidding.  Actually you can't just pick it up because at this point it's put down roots - so you have to dig  to get the baby tree to release its hold on the earth.
  • Using the sprouted part as a handle, carry the now-a-tree coconut to another piece of ground...again, a place of your choice.  This time choose a spot where you want it to continue growing for a long long time so it can make more coconuts and so it can keep this process going.  Plant it either by itself or as part of a clump...in which you'll need more than one baby tree.  I'm partial to clumps of coconut trees myself.  They're lovely to look at and create really nice hammock homes.
Since the coconut has stiff roots sticking out of the bottom you can't just drop it like you did before it had roots.  So dig a hole deep enough to bury the roots and a bit more so that most of the seed is also buried.  

Once the coconut is secure in the hole, its new home, fill the hole around the seed with the sandy dirt which is prevalent where most coconuts grow...and simply walk away.  

Nature will take care of the rest of the process almost every time.

PS...The sprouted coconut shown immediately above is not planted deep enough; but most of the coconuts in the first photo are now trees that are producing their own coconuts.