I’ve previously blogged about building a dragon fruit support, these have worked well and I now have a total of four in the yard (one is on a palm tree trunk). I’ve also given a few to friends and relatives since building several is only a little more work than building one.
In this video I cover the materials and tools needed plus the build process itself. It’s a bit long so I sped up parts where I’m using power tools and this also reduced the noise.
The most difficult part is notching the 6×6 post, if anyone has suggestions on making this easier I’d like to hear it. In the meantime, let me know if this was useful.
Back in February I wrote a post about building a dragon fruit support, then posted an update on their growth in June. What I didn’t show at that time is I’ve also planted a few random dragon fruit plants in the yard that are growing up palm trees instead of the supports. I thought they may really like the palm trees since the palms are fibrous and easy to grab onto with the dragon fruit air roots. This has worked well and sparked the idea for this project.
The dragon fruit in the picture above is about seven feet high, one interesting feature to note is the segment length of the last growth. The segments growing on the other supports are at most two or three feet long, the one on this palm tree is about five feet. The disadvantage of this is that the dragon fruit plant will keep climbing the tree and the fruit will be unreachable without a ladder. How about combining the palm tree with a support frame?
This project involves cutting down a palm tree and using it as an upright support for the upper frame like from the other posts. I already have two extra upper support frames built so I won’t cover that here.
The first step is to find a victim, I mean volunteer palm tree. There’s plenty of these at Three Acre Paradise, I planned on thinning the palms out over time as other trees become established. The volunteer needs to be healthy and vertical, as a bonus the one selected is in a place where I need to get some more light through for some new plants. First step is to cut off the upper section, let’s begin by cutting a notch out to control the direction of fall:
Next, start cutting on the opposite side just above the notch. I took a picture of where the cut is then continued cutting until I heard the tree creaking:
And boom! The tree fell exactly where expected. This was an easy one since the tree is very straight and there was no wind. If I wasn’t this confident I’d use some ropes to control the fall and the tractor to push it over.
I cut it a little high knowing that it wouldn’t be clean, one more quick cut and the top is straight and level.
Next is to cut an X into the trunk to set the support top in to. This was a little bit of a challenge, the palm trunk is very fibrous and can’t be knocked out like a hardwood notch. I used the saw to cut as much as possible including at an angle to loosen the remaining pieces.
Once the cuts were made I used a hammer to smash down the remaining fibers.
Next, the cross cut to form an X. Turns out I had to make all the cuts a little deeper than what was done on the first pass. Here’s the result:
Now for the test fit of the support top:
All good! The top sit pretty tight and level but it still needed to be secured better. I used the palm pieces that were cut out as wedges and drove a couple of heavy nails in to make sure it stayed put. The result is very secure, if there is rot or shrinkage over time it should still be OK as the dragon fruit will be draped over the top by then and will be weighing it down.
Here’s a close up of the scraps wedged in:
The final step, planting the dragon fruit around the base. I had four plants that were already rooted so they should grow pretty quickly. I mixed in a lot of Black Kow with the existing soil, this formula has worked well in the past.
Here’s a shot of the whole thing:
I don’t like to waste any material including trees cut down, for palms I cut the trunk into pieces to use as markers for new planting areas. The top will be left to rot in a mulch pile. To cut the trunk I use the tractor to support it off the ground:
Then cut the trunk in to various lengths, between eight inches and two feet.
Besides being great border pieces, they also become home for insects and plants. In this picture they are around a newly planted Jamaican cherry:
I’ve got high hopes for this batch of dragon fruit, besides the palm trunk the location is similarly shaded like the other grouping that is growing well. I’ll post updates of all of them in a couple of months and hopefully there is some flowering by then.
The chain saw I use is a battery powered on by Echo, model CCS-58V4AH. Most of my lawn tools are the battery powered Echo series, they work great except for the pruning saw extension (it’s not recommended for the battery powered model but I tried anyways). I was able to make all the cuts shown in this post on a single battery charge although I do have a second battery for backup.
Next week I’ll show a neat way to propagate plants using a cloner. I’m always open to suggestions for future posts, if you have any ideas or want more detail on anything I’ve done please let me know. Until next time, keep on planting!
When I started Three Acre Paradise one of the ideas was to host events (such as a plant and seed exchange) on the property that would encourage others to work towards similar goals of self sufficiency. Why do this? If we leave it up to corporate farms then we will lose many varieties of vegetables and herbs in favor of those that are easily harvested and store well for shipping. A lot of the best tasting and most nutritious fruits are not machine friendly or preserved easily so we are stuck with growing our own or settling for what the grocery stores will stock. We are also becoming overly dependent on the distribution system, a minor breakdown of any part could cause mass disruption (such as a trucking strike or exorbitant fuel prices). I’m not a doomsday prepper but I see a lot of value in staying connected with one of our most important needs, the fuel that feeds us.
Plant and Seed Exchange
The original plan was to start holding events in 2019 but recently I have met several people who said they wish there was something happening now. In May I started a meetup group for homesteading, the first event was to be a plant and seed exchange to be held here on the property July 1. The attendance turned out to be higher than I originally anticipated, we had a total of around 12 people show up (I expected half that) and had a good variety of plants.
Besides the various potted plants, I set up a table for seedlings and seeds along with supplies for taking them home such as envelopes and markers (seeds aren’t visible here).
What’s the point if you can’t sample some of the goods? Since I grow a lot of peppers there was plenty to share. Nobody was brave enough to try them here but a lot got taken home.
If you are in the Brevard County, Florida area the next exchange will be in September. A date hasn’t been set yet but you can join the meetup group here.
Dragon Fruit Update
The dragon fruit which I originally wrote about here is doing fantastic. Keep in mind these were planted from cuttings around 9 months ago, they have reached the top of the frame and are starting to branch out. The top of the frame is just about six feet tall so the most aggressive plant has grown at about a foot a month, the others are just behind it. I do have a second frame that is doing good, just not as good as this one. The main two differences seem to be that this one is partially shaded and the soil a little dryer.
Here’s another picture of the top where you can see the plants are branching out:
I’d say this has been the fastest growing perennial plant on the property, I do have another one that has exploded in size (Pigeon Pea) but I’ll save that for a future post. The Dragon Fruit has not fruited yet, hopefully this will happen within the next few months.
Fabulous Iced Tea
OK, now for a product pitch. If you made it this far you may as well continue! One of my goals is to stop eating out so much. We love eating from the land but old habits die hard. There’s also the challenge of my job, it requires a lot of travel so I’m on the road and don’t have any alternative but to eat at restaurants.
That being said, I still like to eat breakfast out every morning. Maybe it’s because we don’t have fresh eggs (chickens aren’t laying yet, the last batch got killed last year by dogs). Maybe I don’t like to clean up a mess, more likely it’s a combination of things. One thing I did figure out, since I’m not a coffee drinker I need my morning caffeine in another form which is iced tea. I’ve made iced tea at home but it just never seems to be as good as the tea from the local diner, at least until now.
Yes, it is expensive but so is eating out. There’s several advantages to this over my old method of a tea ball into a pot of water. The tea strainer has tiny holes so the leaves do not leave it (pun intended). It also holds the leaves underwater so they all get to be part of the brewing. The glass is high quality, you can pour boiling hot water right into it. The strainer is easy to remove with it’s chain and hook. The bottom has a nice no slip silicon cushion and the top has a similar one with an opening for the spout.
My formula – 1 tablespoon of black tea leaves, add boiling water to just over the top of the strainer. Let sit for 20 minutes, remove strainer and fill with water to the FORLIFE logo. Add a spoonful of sugar and stir, since it’s still hot it will dissolve quickly. Pour over ice, put remainder in fridge. Viola! I have tea for the day and it tastes great.
This site is supported by referral links, by clicking on a link you help me out even if you don’t buy the product linked to. I appreciate any and all clicks! Hey, click this one for fun!
I’ve got some more good comparisons coming in future posts, many of these are around seed starting. Since they are just being started I’m not showing anything yet, I’d rather make the first post about each once there’s some results to show. In addition, I’ll be posting a series about my chicken coop build and improvements, it’s still a work in progress as I want to add a run and garden near it but the main coop is pretty complete. I’m always open to new ideas, if you have a suggestion for a comparison let me know.
If you are in the Brevard County or central Florida area consider joining the meetup. If you aren’t interested in exchanging through a group and would like to just trade one on one get in touch. Keep on sharing!
If you’ve never heard of or seen a dragon fruit (pitaya) then you don’t know what you are missing. This unique fruit tastes great and is really easy to grow in the right climate, here in Florida it does quite well. I was introduced to the fruit about a year ago at a farmers market, we purchased a few to take home and I was hooked. The fruit can be cut open and the insides scooped out with a spoon to eat directly or used in a recipe. Once mine produce fruit I’m going to experiment making a drink from it.
Building a Support
Dragon fruit plants must be supported as they grow and can get quite heavy, up to hundreds of pounds. Typical frames are built around 5 or 6 feet tall to allow easy access for harvesting. For my build I chose to use 8 foot tall 6×6 lumber as the upright support and buried it in the ground around 30 inches resulting in a 5 1/2 foot height. The branches of the support are made from 2×6 lumber and are 6 feet wide total. To save a little money I purchase 12 foot long pieces and cut them in half.
I built these frames in late October 2017 and planted the dragon fruit in early November. First step in prepping the 6×6 uprights was to cut 5 1/2 deep notches in the top to accommodate the 2×6 branches. Here’s a picture of just getting started, notice the saw can only cut a couple of inches deep.
Here’s a picture of the tops cut as far as I can with the hand held circular saw.
Once those cuts were complete, I used a reciprocating saw with a long blade to complete the cut all the way through the wood.
A hammer and chisel made it easy to bust out the unwanted parts and clean up the cut area.
When I took these pictures I had no idea they would end up in a blog post so there’s not as many as I would like. The next step is to notch the 2×6 pieces in the middle so they fit together then they will be placed in the cutout just made. I also cut the ends at an angle and gave them a curve (used a paint can for template) to give it some flair. Here they are assembled.
A closer view of the end detail. Nothing too fancy.
And a closer look at the top of the support.
I now added some 2×4 supports diagonally across the support arms. This assembly was not secured to the upright posts, they are heavy enough to just be placed on top once the 6×6 post is buried in the ground. If all goes well these will support the plant as it grows up and through (top view).
I built a total of two of these and placed them in opposite corners of the property. This is a strategy I use with a lot of plantings, spread them around in case one area has better conditions and as a backup in case the other gets sick or dies. Here is a view of the installed support in the back area.
Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures right after planting. When planting I dug out a hole for each cutting and filled it with a combination cow manure and compost along with the cutting. I then placed mulch around the whole thing to keep weeds down and help lock in moisture, but kept the mulch from directly contacting the cuttings or post. The cuttings were all bought off Craigslist from two different people so I would get some variety.
Here’s their growth after just a little over 4 months after planting. It took them about 30-45 days to get rooted and begin sprouting so most of what you see here actually happened in the last 2-3 months.
All cuttings were single stems so everything else is new. I’m pretty impressed with the rate of growth, especially considering they have only been in during late fall to late winter. We’ve had a few cold days and maybe two below freezing but otherwise it’s been pretty mild so that has probably helped. Here’s a picture to see how high they have grown.
As you can see they’ve more than doubled in height, at this rate they may be through the top in another 4-5 months? In any case I’ll post an update in about another 4 months. Here’s one more picture so you can see the height at a different angle.
So far I am happy with the support system but it really isn’t doing much yet. It seems very strong and stable and I didn’t use any concrete to hold the base in place, the 6×6 post has a lot of weight so that may help. If it turns out to work really well I’ll probably build two more and at that time I’ll create detailed plans for anyone else that wants to use the same design.