QUESTION: I found eight young persimmon trees growing among 10-year-old planted pines on a plantation in southern Louisiana. I want to nurture these persimmons, so what's the best fertilizer? Also, what month do they start to ripen, and at what age do they begin to produce fruit? - Bobby W.
ANSWER: You might have struck gold, or fools gold, depending on precisely what you've found.
For more than 30 years I've hunted whitetails across the length and breadth of their North American range, and I have yet to find a stronger deer attractant than ripe persimmons. But not all persimmon trees are alike.
The good news: Persimmons are easy to grow and have few pests.
According to Bob Wallace of Chestnut Hill Tree Farm in Florida, American persimmons bear fruit in October and November in the Deep South.
For fertilizer, he recommends a balanced 10-10-10 with minor elements.
Now the bad news: Persimmons are dioecious, meaning an individual plant could be either male or female.
Only the female plants bear fruit, and Wallace says it takes four to eight years for a female to reach fruit-bearing age. Prior to that there is no way to tell which sex a tree is.
If the ones you located are the same age as the pines (10 years) and are bearing fruit, you're all set. If not, they're probably males.
If you want guaranteed fruit, Wallace suggests planting grafted nursery stock, or if you have the expertise, grafting wild trees with budwood taken from a tree that is already in production.
You can graft them over to either American persimmons or oriental persimmons - the deer like both types of fruit.
For more info: www.chestnuthilltreefarm.com