How to Grow A Moringa Tree in Your Garden
Have you recently heard of Moringa and wondered whether you could grow your own natural multi-vitamin tree in your back yard?
My mother did exactly this 12 years ago and it changed my life.
This fast-growing, drought resistant tree can reach up to 3 meters in its first year!
If you're thinking of growing a Moringa Tree in your garden, below is a step-by-step of all the information you will need to know! Growing it is just half the battle, then you need to harvest your tree.
6 Simple Steps to Grow Your Own Moringa Tree
Find a sunny place.
Make square holes in the ground (10-20 inches deep).
Fill the holes with loose soil.
Plant the seed 3/4 an inch deep.
Water the surrounding soil (but not too much, otherwise the seeds may rot).
Within 1-2 weeks the Moringa sprigs will emerge from the ground!
Moringa oleifera is native to the himalayas and grows best in direct sunlight with altitudes under 1640 feet. Moringa is sometimes considered the "Never Die Tree" because it can grow well in harsh conditions; however it thrives in tropical and subtropical climates with sandy and dry soil. Places like Florida, Navada or California provide great soil and an excellent climate! If you are ready to start growing your own Moringa tree you can do so with either seeds or fresh cuttings.
While it can tolerate a wide range of soil conditions, Moringa plants typically prefer sandy, loamy soil. They have also done well in desert climate with clay loam soil, however a slightly acidic (pH. 6.3-7.0), well-drained sandy soil is optimal.
Rainfall is required between 10" and 118" annually. In waterlogged soil the roots have a tenancy to rot so in areas of heavy rainfall its best to plant the trees on small hills to encourage water run off.
Optimal temperatures for Moringa trees range from 77-95 deg Fahrenheit, however the tree can survive a light frost and can tolerate up to 118 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade. Typically is shouldn't get below 50 deg Fahrenheit. Moringa can withstand a little chilly weather, but three continuous days of freezing will kill the plant.
In the U.S. it is recommended to plant Moringa between May and September, however the best time to plant Moringa is in the spring. The summer is also fine but your Moringa tree will not mature as well as the trees planted in the spring.
While Moringa can potentially grown year round in the right climate, it is deciduous and will therefore lose its leaves and go dormant with the change of seasons. If you live in a location with a mild winter like Florida or California, the leaves will fall when the first chill arrives and stop producing new leaves until the spring. This usually happens around November but it also depends on how aggressive or mild the winter is that year. It's possible that the leaves will stay green and not fall through a mild winter but they usually won't produce much. New growth will happen around March or April once the weather warms up.
If Moringa trees are grown indoors with plenty of light or in a controlled environment (such as a greenhouse), the tree will grown all year round.
There really is not an ideal region in the U.S. for growing Moringa year-round, but you can produce quite a bit for 6 to 9 months of the year.
Seeds vs Cuttings
Growing Moringa With Seeds
Growing a Moringa tree from seeds makes a much stronger plant versus growing from a cutting.
When purchasing Moring seeds make sure to get good mature seeds that are less than a year old.
Moringa seeds have no dormancy period, so they can be planted as soon as they are mature and they will retain the ability to germinate for up to one year. Older seeds will only have spotty germination.
Moringa seeds should be soaked for at least 24 hours before planting. Once the seeds are ready, prepare a planting pit. Fill it with a combination of topsoil and compost or manure before planting seeds. When planting, the seeds should be about ¾ an inch below the surface, and not any deeper. Planting too deep causes the base of the radical to dry out, which could affect the first stem emerging from the seed.
You should keep the seeds and soil continually moist during and after germination. Once the seeds sprout, which should be in about 3 to 7 days, you may ease off on the watering. Once the sprouts reach a foot high you can water even less.
Moringa trees can grow as much as 10-20 feet in ONE growing season!
If you initially plant the seeds indoors then wait for the sprout to reach a few inches before transporting to a pot about a gallon in size or larger, or plant in the ground in a sunny spot. Moringa will always thrive better in the ground.
Intensive Seed Planting Method
Intensive growing is simply planting many Moringa seeds in a limited amount of space, usually in a raised bed planter above ground.
This could be in an area of 2 to 8 square feet — or 4 feet wide and 60 feet long, if you have the space.
If you prefer a small planter, you could use a simple window sill planter, 8 inches deep and 24 inches wide.
Fill the planter with good soil and compost, and place Moringa seeds spaced 1 to 2 inches apart, then cover with an inch of organic potting soil. Wait for the seeds to sprout a few inches and then transport to a larger planter or your outdoor garden.
Growing Moringa from Cuttings
If growing Moringa from a cutting, use a hard mature stem (not a green stem). Cuttings should be 18in to 60in long and 4in thick. They can be planted directly or planted in sacks in the nursery.
When planting directly, plant the cuttings in light, sandy soil. Plant one-third of the length in the ground (i.e., if the cutting is 60in long, plant it 20in deep). Do not over water; if the soil is too heavy or wet, the roots may rot. When the cuttings are planted in the nursery, the root system is slow to develop. Add phosphorus to the soil if possible to encourage root development. Cuttings planted in a nursery can be out-planted after 2 or 3 months.
Spacing for Multiple Trees
If you plan on planting multiple Moringa trees in a spread out field, it is suggested to space the trees about 10 feet apart.
This will provide the trees with adequate sun and ensure sufficient space when harvesting the pods. These pods can be used for harvesting more Moringa (or seed oil extraction if you have the proper machines). Please note you should never harvest the trees for both the pods and the leaf, as that will stress the tree. It is best to decide what resource you want — leaf or pod — and harvest just that.
Moringa is drought-tolerant, so you do not need to water it as much as you would other plants. If you see a young tree wilting in high heat, you should give it some water.
Research has shown that young plants that are deprived of water in their early growth period become far more drought-tolerant when they become full-grown plants.
The leaves turn yellow from too much water.
If you let your Moringa tree grow freely it will grow very tall.
If you wish to keep your Moring plants small and easy to harvest then let the Moringa grow for a month or two, and then harvest the shoots 8 inches above ground. Wait till the Moringa grows back another 8 inches, and harvest again. Moringa will grow tall very quickly so it's important to harvest the shoots frequently or use a pinching technique to create a more bushy tree.
Pinching (For a Bushier Moringa Tree)
When the seedlings reach 24 inches it is recommended to pinch (trim) the terminal growing tip 4 inches from the top. Since the terminal growth is tender, this can be done using fingers, shears or a knife blade. After a week, new (secondary) branches will begin to appear below the cut. Once these new branches reach 8 inches cut them back to 4 inches.
Tertiary branches will appear at the fresh cuts, and these should also be pinched in the same manner. This pinching, done four times before the flowers appear (when the tree is about three months old), will encourage the tree to become bushy and produce many easily reachable pods. If the pinching is not done, the tree has a tendency to shoot up vertically and grow tall, like a mast, with sparse flowers and few fruits found only at the very top.
During its first year, a Moringa tree will grow up to five meters in height and produce flowers and fruit. Depending on temperature and soil conditions, Moringa will grow anywhere from 10 to 20 feet a year.
Left alone, the tree can eventually reach 40 ft in height with a trunk 12 inches wide; however, the tree can be annually cut back to 40 inches from the ground. The tree will quickly recover and produce leaves and pods within easy reach. Within three years a tree will yield 400-600 pods annually and a mature tree can produce up to 1,600 pods.
What to Feed Your Moringa Tree
Compost tea is is excellent food for your Moringa tree because it fertilizes the soil with the appropriate bacteria that breaks down the organic matter in the soil so that the plant can better absorb the minerals. You should always include organic compost, worm castings or a kelp-based product.
Avoid chemical fertilizers, as they destroy microbial activity in the soil.
Pure minerals, such as the sea mineral concentrate Grow Pal, Potassium Sulfate and Wollastonite (a naturally occurring mineral source of silicon), are also acceptable.
Once your Moringa tree is just a few months old you can start harvesting the leaves and add them to your salads, make a delicious tea, or turn them into a superfood powder that can be added to smoothies, soups and many other dishes.
How many trees should you plant?
This is a difficult question to answer because it depends on how you start to grow it and what you want to use the Moring tree for. If you want to use the fresh leaves to add to your salads then 1 tree is plenty. If you want to turn it into a superfood powder then you may want to plant anywhere from 2-10 trees. If you have only 1 mature Moringa tree and it's a few years old it will probably suffice to make Moringa powder for you and your family.
Enjoy your "Tree of Life"!