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Growing Cocos nucifera (Coconut) in marginal climates outside the tropical monsoon, in subtropical, Mediterranean type climate, methods used


Maltese coconut project

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I transfer to the light propagators when they develop a shoot which is roughly between 1-4 inches in length or 2.5 - 10cm. The lights are set with a timer for 8 hours and the propagators are placed in a room which has quite lot of natural light but NOT direct sunlight on the boxes 

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I transfer to the light propagators when they develop a shoot which is roughly between 1-4 inches in length or 2.5 - 10cm. The lights are set with a timer for 8 hours and the propagators are placed in a room which has quite lot of natural light but NOT direct sunlight on the boxes 

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What humidity levels are there in the propagator? And did you see any mould or are the seeds looking the same? 

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The best advice I can give after 9 years of experience growing Coconut Palms in a marginal climate for them is:  1.  ONLY stick to varieties that have been shown to have at least a little more cold hardiness/cool weather hardiness than other varieties (these include:  the Mexican Tall, Jamaican Tall, Panama Tall, Green Hawaiian Tall, Indian Tall if available, Maypan Hybrid, Maymex Hybrid, and Green Malayan Dwarf)., 2. ONLY plant them when they are at least 7 ft. to 10 ft. tall in overall height (do not plant any young ones smaller than this height), 3. ONLY plant them from late March to late May in order to give them enough time to get well established before the next winter., and 4. EXPOSE them to at least 3 or 4 nights total of low temps in the 34F to 36F range over the course of a couple of winters, while they are still young and in pots in order to help strengthen them before planting them in the ground .  Also, I would add to this to adequately water them, by keeping them well watered in the late spring, summer, and early fall, and this should be done by at least one deep thorough watering once a week during these seasons, but taper off on the watering in the late fall and throughout the winter to just once every week and a half to 2 weeks, and only on warmer days with highs around 68F to 70F or warmer.  Also, apply a good ALL ORGANIC  granular slow release fertilizer in the 8-4-6 range with all the necessary micronutrients around the root zone of the soil 4 times per year in mid February , mid May, mid August, and mid November, and an ALL ORGANIC  foliar spray in the 4-2-3 range several times per year all over the crown when they are still small enough to reach the crown with the spray from a spray bottle.  I like to use MicroLife Ultimate 8-4-6 with over 70 mnerals and micronutrients for the granular slow release fertilizer, MicroLife Ocean Harvest 4-2-3 as the foliar spray.  This is availabe in nurseries and garden centers in Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana, and online too for ordering.  Also an application of an All Organic Copper Fungicide, like Bonide Copper Fungicide For Organic Gardening at the rate of about 1.5 ounces per gallon of water sprayed onto the crown once, or no more than twice in a chiller winter to help stop/prevent bud rot, is a good idea, but don't use it more than that, so as to not build up a copper toxicity in the palms.  And on any nights that the low temps are predicted to drop below 30F, consider wrapping the trunks and lower part of the crowns with old sheets or blankets until the freezing weather has passed.  And don't trim off any severely freeze injured leaves until after any chance of a frost or freeze has passed, leaving any leaves that still have some green on them for the tree to conduct photosynthesis.  I hope this helps for all of you who are growing Coconut Palms in marginal climates.

John

P.S.  Add All Organic compost at least once or twice per year to the root zone of the palms, as well as All Organic fine shredded hardwood mulch to the root zone at least once or twice per year.  This will help with moisture rentention, and slowing down weed growth around the palms, and it wil help increase beneficial microbial activity in the soil, which will help to increase the soil temps, which is very important in the wintertime.

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Very good advice.  I have a shorter timeline experience in this field (from September 2019) (though I always try to keep updated and research as much as possible) and I can say I agree with most of the advice you gave here.  Both regarding choosing the most cool resistant and regarding keeping in pots till they exceed 6-7 feet.  And this is because of their narrow ideal temperature range.  This helps moving them south facing for maximum sun when weather starts cooling off but moving them under North facing wall for early morning and late evening sun when hotter months start.  This is because because too much heat causes heat stress and interferes with photosynthesis.  When plants overheat,  the stomata under the leaves will close. This leads to limited gaseous exchange, limited absorption of CO2 through the leaves and therefore limited photosynthesis (the plant ability to build food, sugars using light, water and Carbon Dioxide.) (one has to remember that the more heat doesn't necessarily mean the merrier and that Cocos nucifera are C3 photosynthesis plants which aren't well adapted for scorching temperatures but rather constantly very warm humid climate with very frequent rainfall and cloudy climate) personally I experimented in our area with thermometers in the sun.  When sun temperatures exceed 30 degrees celcius (86 degrees Fahrenheit),  it's ideal to transfer under North facing wall (in our area usually after 20th May) and transfer back to South facing when sun temperatures won't exceed 30 degrees celcius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) (in our area after the 10th of October). Also absolutely agree with fertilizing (personally I use slow release twice a year (agrial NPK + Mg 12 12 17 + 2  which also has micronutrients Boron, Copper, Manganese, Zinc, Molybdenum, Sulphur and Calcium. I also use Midotech gold Slow release NPK 15 9 15 which has iron and magnesium.  I use half dose for each product and use them in conjunction because by luck they happened to have most important micronutrients when combined together.  I also use an only 1/5 recommended dose solution of NPK 22 12 12 with Agrilon microcombi during the warm season every 5 days, again very dilute just 1/5 recommended dosage) during warm months I water very often and well and reduce watering frequency when temperatures cool. I use the underplate as an indicator of when they need watering. Also sometimes I use rabbit manure, it has very good NPK ratios with more Nitrogen ideal for tropical large leaved plants. During heatwaves when temperatures are between 30 degrees celcius (above 86 degrees Fahrenheit) and sometimes reach above 40 degrees celcius (above 104 degrees Fahrenheit) I even water twice daily.  It's important that each individual will discover the ideal time in their specific area when to transfer the seedlings under northern wall (to protect from scorching midday sun in hot months) and opposite in south facing position (ideally also under wall to protect from Northern cold wind).  The only thing I cannot experience from what John said is that I cannot expose them to 34 Fahrenheit -36 degrees (1-2 degrees celcius) Fahrenheit because in my area it never reaches those low although we have longer cools between upper 50 degrees Fahrenheit during daytime and upper 40 s (18-9 degrees celcius) degrees Fahrenheit during night time in January and February.  Also when I take them out of the germination propagators, I slowly acclimatise them early May to the earliest morning sun and slowly work it up till it reaches 3 hours early morning and 3 ours sunset sun. I keep surface of soil with shredded pine mulch to keep the soil surface moist. 

Edited by Maltese coconut project
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14 hours ago, Maltese coconut project said:

Very good advice.  I have a shorter timeline experience in this field (from September 2019) (though I always try to keep updated and research as much as possible) and I can say I agree with most of the advice you gave here.  Both regarding choosing the most cool resistant and regarding keeping in pots till they exceed 6-7 feet.  And this is because of their narrow ideal temperature range.  This helps moving them south facing for maximum sun when weather starts cooling off but moving them under North facing wall for early morning and late evening sun when hotter months start.  This is because because too much heat causes heat stress and interferes with photosynthesis.  When plants overheat,  the stomata under the leaves will close. This leads to limited gaseous exchange, limited absorption of CO2 through the leaves and therefore limited photosynthesis (the plant ability to build food, sugars using light, water and Carbon Dioxide.) (one has to remember that the more heat doesn't necessarily mean the merrier and that Cocos nucifera are C3 photosynthesis plants which aren't well adapted for scorching temperatures but rather constantly very warm humid climate with very frequent rainfall and cloudy climate) personally I experimented in our area with thermometers in the sun.  When sun temperatures exceed 30 degrees celcius (86 degrees Fahrenheit),  it's ideal to transfer under North facing wall (in our area usually after 20th May) and transfer back to South facing when sun temperatures won't exceed 30 degrees celcius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) (in our area after the 10th of October). Also absolutely agree with fertilizing (personally I use slow release twice a year (agrial NPK + Mg 12 12 17 + 2  which also has micronutrients Boron, Copper, Manganese, Zinc, Molybdenum, Sulphur and Calcium. I also use Midotech gold Slow release NPK 15 9 15 which has iron and magnesium.  I use half dose for each product and use them in conjunction because by luck they happened to have most important micronutrients when combined together.  I also use an only 1/5 recommended dose solution of NPK 22 12 12 with Agrilon microcombi during the warm season every 5 days, again very dilute just 1/5 recommended dosage) during warm months I water very often and well and reduce watering frequency when temperatures cool. I use the underplate as an indicator of when they need watering. Also sometimes I use rabbit manure, it has very good NPK ratios with more Nitrogen ideal for tropical large leaved plants. During heatwaves when temperatures are between 30 degrees celcius (above 86 degrees Fahrenheit) and sometimes reach above 40 degrees celcius (above 104 degrees Fahrenheit) I even water twice daily.  It's important that each individual will discover the ideal time in their specific area when to transfer the seedlings under northern wall (to protect from scorching midday sun in hot months) and opposite in south facing position (ideally also under wall to protect from Northern cold wind).  The only thing I cannot experience from what John said is that I cannot expose them to 34 Fahrenheit -36 degrees (1-2 degrees celcius) Fahrenheit because in my area it never reaches those low although we have longer cools between upper 50 degrees Fahrenheit during daytime and upper 40 s (18-9 degrees celcius) degrees Fahrenheit during night time in January and February.  Also when I take them out of the germination propagators, I slowly acclimatise them early May to the earliest morning sun and slowly work it up till it reaches 3 hours early morning and 3 ours sunset sun. I keep surface of soil with shredded pine mulch to keep the soil surface moist. 

Jonathan,

Here where I live is considerably further south than you with much more intense tropical/subtropical sun (27.64 degrees N Latitude), and my Coconut Palms thrive in the intense summer heat and sun with daily high temps of 92F to 100F.  I keep my palms out in full all day sun exposed to at least 12 to 14 hours of sun all day long, and they literally LOVE IT AND THRIVE under those conditions, so I don't understand you protecting yours from more intense summer sun and summer heat of 86F and higher.  I have even seen pics of large mature producing Coconut Palms by the thousands cultivated along the coast of the Arabian Peninsula, on the Arabian Sea, where the sun and temperatures can be extremely intense all summer long.  

As far as exposing them to the near freezing temps, like I do with mine when they are still in pots before planting them in the ground, I would suggest exposing yours to about 8 to 10 nights of your coldest wintertime temps while they are still in pots over the course of two winters prior to planting them in the ground, in order to help strengthen them for survival once they are in the ground.

John

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Try to experiment with just a few seedlings of the same age for the next summer (in your area in Corpus Christi try it from May to October) and put a few under a North facing 1 storey high wall and the rest south facing and see which one works which ones will grow best, I have done that experiment in 2020 and you'll be really surprised (keep other factors all in check, watering etc in a similar manner to the south facing ones to have a fairly balanced experiment). Regarding exposing them to cool temperatures, I simply keep the ones which are close to 3 feet high or bigger all winter out in a south facing position with their backs protected by a south facing and east facing wall corner. But then again we don't have freezing temperatures in my area due to being small islands but rather longer cools. I will show you my experiment from May to October 2021. Three photo comparisons of the same three biggest ones one in 26th May 2021, second 3 rd August 2021 and third 11th September 2021 and lastly 8th October 2021 just before moving them to South facing 

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Correction, the photos got jumbled up not in sequence. From Top to bottom September, October, May and August. 

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Also in September I will start moving them forward because the sunrise and sunset sun start decreasing as it gets closer to September Equinox therefore that will be a kind of transition time where I don't leave the pots almost touching the wall but kind of bring them near the middle to take more sunrise and sunset sun. We also have to remember that young coconut palms will be more vulnerable than older bigger ones 

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Regarding the adult coconut in Saudi Arabia you're talking about adult not seedlings.  Check this link regarding Photosynthetic characteristics of Coconut palm. When I translated it in lux the result was that seedlings don't need more than 60,000 LUX of light for maximum photosynthesis and around 75,000 Lux for adult trees. That equates to roughly 7.30am - 8am sun without clouds. Let's remember that coconut palms usually grow in tropical monsoon where there is lots of rain and cloud cover. Also seedlings might be under canopy of larger trees at first till they grow out of it.  Coconut palms love some sun but since they are C3 photosynthesis plants (just like the rest of the 85% of the plant kingdom) when they are exposed to heat stress, the stomata under the leaves will close to prevent water loss through transpiration, therefore gaseous exchange through stomata will be limited and Carbon Dioxide cannot enter the leaf for photosynthesis therefore less building of sugars and less fuel for growth. Check out this link and pdf regarding coconut photosynthesis characteristics https://cocos.sljol.info/articles/abstract/10.4038/cocos.v11i0.2149/

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Hello everyone.. I wish to ask whether we can gather date which coconut cultivars and varieties are most cool tolerant vs most cool sensitive. In my experience of just roughly three varieties, Indian Coconut palms were the most cool tolerant ,, Nicaraguan ones in the middle and Philippines green tall (from Dutch greenhouses) the most cool sensitive.. But I wish to gather more data on other varieties. May I ask for your experiences and opinions regarding other cultivars? Thank you in advance

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This is an amazing thread thank you all for sharing all this info.

I will try on North California following all the recommendations posted here.

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On 1/30/2022 at 6:07 AM, Maltese coconut project said:

Hello everyone.. I wish to ask whether we can gather date which coconut cultivars and varieties are most cool tolerant vs most cool sensitive. In my experience of just roughly three varieties, Indian Coconut palms were the most cool tolerant ,, Nicaraguan ones in the middle and Philippines green tall (from Dutch greenhouses) the most cool sensitive.. But I wish to gather more data on other varieties. May I ask for your experiences and opinions regarding other cultivars? Thank you in advance

Good question.  An actual thorough listing in both categories, cold/cool weather tolerant, and those not cold/cool weather tolerant should be made.  As far as the cold/cool weather tolerant ones that I know of they are in order of tolerance:  1. Indian Talls from north central India, 2. Mexican Talls from the Gulf Coast of Mexico from Matamoros and the areas just south of there, 3. the Jamaican Talls from Central Florida, 4. the Panama Talls also from Central or South Central Florida, 5. the Maypan Hybrids from Central, or South Central Florida, 6. the Green Hawaiian Talls from higher elevations in Hawaii than where the Golden Hawaiian Talls are grown, and 7. the Green Malayan Dwarfs from Central, or South Central Florida.  There is also a variety, I believe a Tall variety from the area just inland from Hong Kong, that I think would probably be about as cold/cool hardy as the Indian and Mexican Talls, but I don't know much at all about it, nor how available it would be to any of you who live outside the U.S., in countries where you might be able to get a sprouted nut sent to you without extreme restrictions and interference from your government, like we have here in the U.S., which is why it is impossible for us to get any Indian Talls here in the U.S.  As far as the least cold/cool hardy, 1. the Yellow Malayan Dwarf, and 2. the Golden Malayan Dwarf.  I have heard conflicting things about the Fiji Dwarf, from it being one of, if not the least cold hardy variety, to it having a decent degree of cold/cool hardiness.  Since it is from an uber tropical region of the South Pacific, I would tend to believe it is likely the least cold hardy variety, but is supposedly 100% resistanct to Lethal Yellowing, so for those of you who live in areas where it never gets below 32F, this might be a good variety for you to consider.  I hope this helps, and I hope there are others here in the forum who have a lot more experience with other varieties who can add to this list.

John

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Thanks kindly for the gathered data that you sent.  Regarding China coconut I read somewhere that they are found in Hainan Island.  What is really interesting is that genetically speaking most of the cool resistant ones (except for the Panama tall. Also note that the Panama tall seems to be marked differently in Purple) are descendants of the Indian coconut. These are screenshots regarding genetic study by Bee F. Gunn. Here's also the link to the article https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0021143

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file.pdf

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On 8/2/2021 at 9:12 AM, Maltese coconut project said:

Update 2nd August 2021, location Attard, Malta 

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These coconuts seem much smaller to me than the usual ones. Have you found these nuts on the internet or in any shop in Malta? If you found them on the internet could you pass me the link, thanks?

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They aren't small but are dehusked, the typical way you find them in the supermarket. Usually I choose the medium sized dehusked ones.. They germinate best. I also germinated smaller ones successfully. But gigantic ones are mostly unviable or produce deformed embryo. I buy these from Lidl Supermarket chain 

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  • 2 months later...

I have a query.  I wish to ask something to individuals living in areas with cool but non freezing winters similar to the Southern Mediterranean and California. In your experiences and opinions what is the number one killer during winter for coconut palms in those non freezing temperatures? Cool wind or having the soil too wet? Thank you in advance for answers 

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  • 1 month later...

The only coconut palm specimen that survived outdoors this winter (and with help of a huge transparent plastic bag that acted as a mini greenhouse). This winter was exceptionally cooler in the Mediterranean. The mistakes that I suspect are the following: 1) In summer I put the specimens under North facing wall for early morning and late evening sun only.. This really boosted very beautiful and quick growth but on the downside they weren't exposed to extreme summer heat stress and therefore the leaves grew bigger but thinner, with thinner waxy cuticle, shorter palisade cells and greener. On the arrival of winter, the cold dry wind (never freezing temperatures here) killed the plants since the leaves possibly where more delicate. 2) my second mistake was not to experiment with specimens on different areas both last summer and in winter, possibly I should have put a few in the more sheltered from wind (though less sunny) garden area. I am sad to say I am almost restarting from near scratch but lessons thought. We will try again differently. 

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3 hours ago, Maltese coconut project said:

The only coconut palm specimen that survived outdoors this winter (and with help of a huge transparent plastic bag that acted as a mini greenhouse). This winter was exceptionally cooler in the Mediterranean. The mistakes that I suspect are the following: 1) In summer I put the specimens under North facing wall for early morning and late evening sun only.. This really boosted very beautiful and quick growth but on the downside they weren't exposed to extreme summer heat stress and therefore the leaves grew bigger but thinner, with thinner waxy cuticle, shorter palisade cells and greener. On the arrival of winter, the cold dry wind (never freezing temperatures here) killed the plants since the leaves possibly where more delicate. 2) my second mistake was not to experiment with specimens on different areas both last summer and in winter, possibly I should have put a few in the more sheltered from wind (though less sunny) garden area. I am sad to say I am almost restarting from near scratch but lessons thought. We will try again differently. 

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Correct. If you can South facing and let the leaflets burn. They coco will acclimate and the new leaflets won't burn as badly 

5 year high 42.2C/108F (07/06/2018)--5 year low 4.6C/40.3F (1/19/2023)--Lowest recent/current winter: 4.6C/40.3F (1/19/2023)

 

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Seems like I don't have any other option.. I used to like the vigorous growth under a North facing wall in summer but that produces beautiful but weaker leafs when cold wind starts hitting 

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53 minutes ago, Maltese coconut project said:

Seems like I don't have any other option.. I used to like the vigorous growth under a North facing wall in summer but that produces beautiful but weaker leafs when cold wind starts hitting 

Exactly. 

 

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5 year high 42.2C/108F (07/06/2018)--5 year low 4.6C/40.3F (1/19/2023)--Lowest recent/current winter: 4.6C/40.3F (1/19/2023)

 

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3 minutes ago, GottmitAlex said:

Exactly. 

 

Probably it's the only option for anyone attempting to grow them with subtropical winter 

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5 year high 42.2C/108F (07/06/2018)--5 year low 4.6C/40.3F (1/19/2023)--Lowest recent/current winter: 4.6C/40.3F (1/19/2023)

 

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Very beautiful coconut palms. What are the lowest temperatures in the coldest months daytime vs night time temperatures in your area and how long is the duration of the coldest temperatures? And average humidity day vs night time? Thank you in advance for reply 

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Pushing out a third new frond thus far in 2022 in Phoenix, AZ. Started to pick up on growth in april. We are getting ready for 110 degree weather forecasted this weekend.  

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Very beautiful specimen there. I also wish to ask you regarding the coldest temperature during the coldest month daytime and night time. I am asking because online data tends to be misleading.. Thank you in advance 

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I wish to ask both of you two other questions.. How old and how tall are those specimens? And does it do cold wind during the cold months? I also assume that everyone keeps their coconut palms on South facing position. Thank you in advance for your reply 

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  • 3 weeks later...

So, almost starting near scratch,  this is my oldest coconut alive. Still small. But growing rapidly. This time I plan to leave it south facing to produce thicker,, waxier leaves with less stomata.. Also possibly it builds more glucose before the cool season comes again. Currently we have warm temperatures.. Also on the rooftop, night time temperatures are warmer. I have a question regarding watering when the daytime temperatures drop below 70 degrees Fahrenheit or 21 degrees celcius.. What does anyone growing Cocos in the subtropical areas do in the cooler months? Thank you in advance 

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  • 3 weeks later...

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5 year high 42.2C/108F (07/06/2018)--5 year low 4.6C/40.3F (1/19/2023)--Lowest recent/current winter: 4.6C/40.3F (1/19/2023)

 

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On 6/6/2022 at 3:15 PM, ando.wsu said:

Pushing out a third new frond thus far in 2022 in Phoenix, AZ. Started to pick up on growth in april. We are getting ready for 110 degree weather forecasted this weekend.  

EC9D0108-7A6A-4ED5-89F5-7EFBBB1487DB.jpeg

 

On 6/6/2022 at 8:39 AM, GottmitAlex said:

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2 hours ago, GottmitAlex said:

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Which tips do you suggest for winter? Thank you in advance, regards Jonathan 

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A heat lamp (incandescent, the ones used for chickens) pointed at the meristem.

 

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5 year high 42.2C/108F (07/06/2018)--5 year low 4.6C/40.3F (1/19/2023)--Lowest recent/current winter: 4.6C/40.3F (1/19/2023)

 

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And regarding watering tips for winter? Just bare minimum just to avoid a total dry? Thank you in advance, regards Jonathan 

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3 minutes ago, Maltese coconut project said:

And regarding watering tips for winter? Just bare minimum just to avoid a total dry? Thank you in advance, regards Jonathan 

Exactly. Keep it to a minimum. Watering during the "warmest" time of of the day.  (Once every three, four days)

5 year high 42.2C/108F (07/06/2018)--5 year low 4.6C/40.3F (1/19/2023)--Lowest recent/current winter: 4.6C/40.3F (1/19/2023)

 

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Thanks, I will try to always check the first two inches for moisture and use a soil moisture meter as well. I will also make sure I use a substrate that drains fast.. Thank you for the tips, regards Jonathan 

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  • 4 weeks later...
21 hours ago, Maltese coconut project said:

My coconut experiment at the moment 

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A caption for each photo with some explanation on what we see would be amazing!

previously known as ego

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At the moment those are the present temperatures in Malta. Currently I am not using any artificial heating. Just transparent clear plastic storage boxes with a litter tray and a bottle of water for humidity.  Under the litter tray is another tray filled with gravel and an aquarium under gravel heating cable which is currently switched off due to being in summer therefore not needing it.  This time I am not going to submerge the heating cable in water not to create exaggerated humidity to avoid fungi. Also the larger ones planted I kept them in south facing position even in summer.  I used to transfer them under North facing wall from late May to early October before. Keeping under North facing wall in hottest months used to help them grow faster but then I discovered that that technique reduced winter survival. This is probably due to a number of factors including: shadier areas promote larger, softer leaves with more stomata (pores).  These type of leaves are more prone to burn faster during winter chilling winds (we never have freezing temperatures in my area but long cool winter yes practically from beginning of December till late April). Hopefully the always south facing position will increase their survival rates 

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Also another factor is that plants happen to produce more abscisic acid when exposed to drier,  strong UV , saltier or colder conditions.. Therefore exposing the plants more to UV stress in summer could improve also winter survivability. Keeping the plants in moderate conditions all year round (such as indoors) reduce outdoor survivability 

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  • 2 months later...

Update of the Maltese coconut project experiment, this time they were all kept south facing all summer.  Late October and temperatures are still relatively warm with 26 degrees celcius (78 degrees Fahrenheit) in the shade and 36 degrees celcius (96 degrees Fahrenheit) in the sun. Hopefully the new building to the west and north west significantly shields North Western winds but unfortunately the building to the north has been demolished and will take some time through winter to build high again.  New spears are still growing at the moment. Currently I am giving Potassium nitrate, calcium nitrate,, magnesium sulfate, micronutrients and NPK 3-11-38. In November I will tail off fertilisers with significant amount of Nitrogen and keep the NPK 3-11-38, Magnesium sulfate and micronutrients only to keep them as cool resistant as possible 

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Edited by Maltese coconut project
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