Purchase fresh coconut nuts and plant them. – They will grow if you plant them properly as described below.
If you plan on growing a coconut tree, you’d better arm yourself with great patience! It takes up to 7 years of your patience to see some coconuts on your tree!
Cocos nucifera, the coconut palm, is looked upon as a 3-generation tree, feeding the first planter, his/her first offspring, and even his/her grandchildren. Some of these trees, which can grow to a height of 60 to 100 feet, even outlive all three generations! Cocos nucifera (nucifera means nut-bearer), has only one species that includes both the tall and the dwarf coconut tree, but there are many varieties within the same species.
Even though the coconut is considered a common nut, botanically it is classified as a drupe, being the largest of all fruit seeds. The coconut consists of a thin, strong outer layer or skin named the epicarp, the thick fibrous layer named mesocarp, and the dark-brown hard shell named the endocarp that encases the coconut flesh. Just beneath the endocarp is the thin deep brown layer that clings to the white coconut meat named the testa.
The coconut palm is a striking beautiful tree with a tall slender trunk, with almost the same diameter from the base to the top. With its luxurious lace-like fronds, usually about 25-35 of them, it forms an umbrella-alike structure at the tree’s peak. The tree gradually grows taller by forming new fronds that sprout from the top of the tree as the lower fronds die off.
Coconut fruits grow from the center of the fronds, but closer to the trunk (see the picture above). A unique feature of the coconut palm is that each tree blooms amazing 13 times a year, and has all stages of growth all the while, that is from new tiny green nuts to gravid ripened brown nuts that are ready to fall down from the tree.
Some coconut varieties are grown for their higher oil content, while others are liked for their higher sugar content. Most coconut growers prefer the dwarf varieties. Though they lack the “dramatic look” of the tall trees, they are far easier to harvest. The dwarfs, which have a shorter lifespan, about 40-60 years, are also less vulnerable to a yellowing disease that kills many of the tall trees, since ground water scarcely reaches their ‘heights.’
Such are agricultural works; nothing comes without a challenge and a risk. With all its advantages, the dwarf coconut palm also faces destruction from rodents. The nasty crawly creatures climb up the tree trunks and form communities under the protection of the feathery fronds, often bringing a considerable reduction in a farmer’s crop.
The farmers have tried to outwit the rats by putting metal bands around the tree trunks, but these have no effect on the rats that have already colonized in the trees.
How a farmer harvests his/her coconut trees is a matter of choice. On average, trees produce about 60 mature coconuts a year, though some will produce two or three times as many. The easiest method of harvesting [and one that assures fully-ripened coconuts] is to simply allow the ripe nuts to fall to the ground drawn down by gravitational forces.
Alternatively, the farmer employs nimble skilled men to literally climb up to the top of the tree with a machete and cut the ripe nuts down. Still another method, one that requires considerable harvesting skills, is to attach a machete to a long bamboo pole and reach for the ripe nuts while standing on the ground.
This last method often fails to provide accuracy and frequently brings down unripe nuts as well. Hilariously enough, farmers in some countries have been able to train monkeys to gather ripe coconuts!
Before a farmer sends his coconuts to green markets and grocery stores for sale, he removes the thick, fibrous outer husks, making the coconuts easier for the consumer to open. The exception to this rule is young coconuts, which reach market with their outer husk partly cut away. To remove the husk, the farmer pounds the coconut against a spiked wooden post that is firmly secured in the ground.
All coconut varieties are “choosy” about the place they want to live. They cannot survive in very cold climates, and also “do” poorly in temperate zones. Coconuts require the hot, humid weather of the tropical regions which stretch 25 degrees north to 25 degrees south of the equator all around the globe. These are ‘tropical belts’ where the sun shines steadily with plenty of rainfall to fertilize the slow-growing coconut palm.
To begin the growing process, you can purchase a coconut with its husk completely intact. Just like you do to see sprouting of any seeds and legumes, the coconut seed too must be soaked in water, only longer, 2-3 days. Next, prepare a pot that is large enough and deep enough for the coconut by putting big pieces of gravel or stones at the bottom to facilitate good drainage.
Add about 2 inches of sandy soil, and then lay the coconut on the soil with the pointed [or bud end] up. Add more soil until it covers about half the coconut. Then place the pot in a warm place such as a sunny window, near a warm oven, or on a radiator.
The next step is all about patience and devotion. Pour lukewarm water on the coconut husk every day, making sure it does not dry out. The sprouting process is very slow, sometimes taking 6 months or even longer. Until the sprout appears, the coconut is on a ‘nourishment regimen’ from the white meat inside. The water inside the coconut also meets all of the nut’s moisture needs.
For a sprout to appear you must first pierce through one of the soft spots of the coconut’s hard inner shell [they are often called eyes], and then the pierce must finally emerge from the large fibrous outer shell. In about a year, when white roots begin to grow out, the coconut can be planted in a larger container.
Coconuts planted at home are unlikely to thrive or produce a coconut. Today the nuts are a highly cultivated crop, where once they were a source of survival for natives of the tropics, providing the family’s support with only a few trees.
Ever since commercially-planted coconut palms are grown for maximum yield, some farmers have been using commercial fertilizers while others use a different method. With intercropping, an effective method of fertilization and land use, the farmer plants banana trees (or other large crops) among the coconut trees.
After producing its crop, the banana trees are left to decompose, thus creating ideal compost to fertilize the soil for the coconuts.
Note: If you want to plant a coconut that has already sprouted, go ahead and plant it in well-draining soil so that the bottom 2/3 of the coconut are in the soil. Place it in a warm area and water it frequently.
Watch the video at the link below to learn how to grow a coconut palm, step-by-step:
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