By Mindy McIntosh-Shetter
This year I have made a commitment to be more hyper-local in my food choices.
I have decided not to eat anything out of season that I have not canned or frozen and I will not eat anything exotic that I have not grown myself.
But when I made this personal commitment I did not think about one of my favorite fruits and that is the pomegranate.
Pomegranates are not that difficult to grow and actual do well indoors since they are self-pollinating. They can be started from seed or cuttings without much trouble and require only the basic equipment needed for any type of plant.
They can even tolerate a few nights of below 32 F degrees but it is always a good idea to move indoor when the temperatures dip into the low 40s F degrees.
To start pomegranates from seed requires a little work and patience. First remove the seeds from the pomegranate and eat a few during the process. I know what you are thinking, this is about growing pomegranates but everyone needs the energy to continue through this process. Once the seeds are removed spread out the seeds in a single layer onto a paper plate and let dry for two to three days. This drying will prevent the flesh around the seed from rotting in the soil.
Once the seeds have dried out plant two to three of them in a 5-inch pot that is filled with an all-purpose soil and cover with Â¼-inch of soil mixture. Water the pot until moisture comes out the bottom drainage hole. Then place in a plastic bag and seal or tie up. Place in a warm room and away from direct sunlight. Check once a week to make sure the soil does not dry out. Continue to check for up to six weeks or until green sprouts appear.
Once the sprouts appear, remove from the plastic bag and place in a brightly lit area. Continue to water the seedlings to prevent the soil from drying out. When the plants are 3-inches in height, cut the two weakest seedlings with scissors even with the soil level and begin a fertilizing program.
Using half-strength fertilizer, begin to fertilize every two weeks. Place outside after the danger of a frost has passed and move back indoor in the fall before the first frost. Transplant the seedling during the second spring after its germination.
To keep the pomegranate at a workable size, prune in the winter. Some pomegranates can reach 30-feet in height so this is a very important component to pomegranate production. Start pruning a pomegranate when it is about 2-feet in height. Cut the stem down to soil level this will encourage the plant to send up shoots for the plants survival.
Keep four to five shoots equally spread around the stem. Remove all other shoots and for the first three years cut the tips off the remaining branches. Pomegranates produce their fruits at the end of their branches so pruning the ends encourages additional side branches on the main shoots which equates out to mean more fruit.
Do not waste these cutting but instead start more pomegranates. This can be done easily. Simply take cuttings that are twelve to 20-inches in length and dip into rooting hormone. Place 2/3 of the stem into a container full of all-purpose potting soil, keep the soil moist, and wait. This type of propagation produces more “true” plants than from seed propagation.
Pests and plant diseases are mostly non-existent. Minor leaf and fruit spot is common along with some foliar damage from white flies, thrips, mealybugs and scale insects. But the most unique pest that one may find is the occasional deer that has found a taste snack that consists of pomegranate leaves.
So until we blog again, hyper-local is the way to go if you want to watch your food grow. It is simple to do and requires a little time, but it will be well worth it when picking time comes around.