Tube-packs are for courier purposes only

Winter is a perfect time to start your lucerne tree germination process and we have received a lot of interest and new orders. Recently a new client asked,

“Should I first plant my lucerne tree seeds into tube-packs (after seeing images on our blog and as an option in our ordering form) before then potting my seedlings into potting bags?”

Here’s my response ~

We only use tube-packs to courier clients our little lucerne trees so as to provide light-weight packaging, to reduce volumetric weight and therefore lower courier costs. A tube-pack has very little space for root growth. 

We recommend clients germinate their own seeds in a seed bed or seed tray (in a warm or sheltered spot) and then transplant these little seedlings straight into 1-litre potting bags.  It is not recommended to plant your seedlings into small tube-packs first because you want them to grow to 30-40cm tall in their potting bags, so that they are strong enough to go out into your lands, and their roots need space to grow in the bag.  You can view our step-by-step germination and potting out seedling instructions here.

Just look at the length of the roots on this seedling — as much root growth as stem growth! Remember that a lucerne tree grows a deep tap root that can go up to 10m deep, so its natural desire is to go down deep!

Potting bags can be ordered online or purchased at your local nursery or agricultural supplier. When selecting your potting bag, choose tall bags rather than short wide bags so that those roots have space to grow in. Potting bags are cheap – only about R1 per bag.

When a client receives his little seedlings in tube-packs, he must then immediately transplant these seedlings into 1-litre potting bags. Remember that lucerne trees generally do not like to have their roots disturbed and so follow our step-by-step transplant instructions exactly and keep the soil around the roots intact when transplanting them. You can view these instructions here.

Although it is winter here in South Africa, and plant growth is slow, it is good to start now. Order your seeds and seedlings by filling in the contact form on our Orders page. Your seeds will have a head-start while kept sheltered, and by spring, when soil temperatures begin to warm, they will begin their real growth and should be tall enough and ready to plant out by summer. We do not have any trees in bags in stock at the moment. All our trees and seedlings are R15 per tree regardless of size or packaging.

Happy Farming!

Inoculant is NOT needed

A new client recently wrote to ask me,

“Can I plant my lucerne tree seeds without bacterial legume inoculant, or do I get nothing at all?”

Simple answer ~ You do NOT need inoculant for seeds to germinate. Germination is completely successful without any inoculant. Your seed contains everything it needs within its body to germinate given the right conditions – water and warmth – and will develop into seedlings with almost nothing extra required.

Inoculant is added to ensure that legumes’ (nitrogen-fixing plants) roots will have the necessary bacteria present to help develop nitrogen-fixing nodules on their roots. And because most healthy soils contain natural rhizobia, it is NOT necessary to add inoculant to your seed germination process as the plant and bacteria naturally occuring in the soil will do their magic and form the symbiotic relationship that will cause the roots to form nitrogen-fixing nodules. I wrote about this process here –Lucerne trees’ nitrogen-fixing nodules.

Should you wish to purchase and add inoculant to your seed germination, please read this post I wrote here – What, Why and How to Inoculate for Rhizobia.

Follow our tried and tested germination instructions by reading all our information, step-by-step process and photos this page – Seeds. We will begin to germinate our lucerne tree seeds now, during autumn. Seeds will germinate and grow slowly through winter and we will have loads of little seedlings come spring. Order your seeds today.

Happy Farming!

Chipping Lucerne Trees YouTube Video

Lucerne trees are evergreen and provide wonderful, nutritious feed year-round. In our latest Lucerne Tree Farm YouTube video, Myles demonstrates how he uses chipped lucerne tree branches and mixes the chipped green material with hammer-milled wheat straw, molasses and salt to form exceptional, nutritious feed for our livestock.

It is March, and we are in our dry season and our summer grazing has dried up in the late summer heat. We especially use chipped lucerne trees during droughts and when summer or winter grazing is finished. However, Myles regularly prunes his many camps of mature lucerne trees and chip these cuttings for excellent cattle and sheep feed. Cutting and pruning these branches for chipping forms part of our lucerne tree management as these trees love to be grazed and pruned, and they bounce back with vigorous leaf and branch growth within 50 days and develop dense foliage, creating even more food. Because the lucerne tree is evergreen, it provides nutritious green feed year-round. You can read about pruning here.

We use Tandem 13.5 HP Chipper or Titon Pro 14 HP petrol mulcher, but any domestic petrol chipper will do as lucerne tree wood is soft when freshly cut. Freshly chipped lucerne tree cutting smells like candy floss and is full of sugar! If sealed while wet, it will easily ferment and can provide kuilvoer.

Here’s our supplementary feed mix recipe:

  • 10% crushed mealies
  • 10% molasses
  • 5% feed lime
  • 5% coarse salt

You can read all about chipping here.

We still have lucerne trees in individual potting bags, right on size to plant straight out into your lands. Please pop over to our Orders page to place an order with us.

Happy Farming!

End of season lucerne tree stocks

All our trees in tube-packs are either sold out or potted out into our 1-litre potting bags. Because lucerne trees’ roots grow so fast, we cannot keep them in either the tube-packs or potting bags indefinitely.

Our trees in 1-litre potting bags are about 20-30cm tall, almost ready to be planted out into the land. Stocks are limited, so please order as soon as possible so that you can plant your trees in this late summer season.

Happy farming!

What, Why and How to Inoculate for Rhizobia

Recently a reader asked me to explain the reason for inoculation of lucerne tree seeds. The lucerne tree is a part of the legume family, similar to peas and beans, and can fix nitrogen in the soil through special rhizobia nodules that form on their roots. These nodules can take nitrogen from the air and change it into forms that plants can use – a huge benefit of planting these trees.

What is rhizobia?

Rhizobium are a group of highly specialized bacterial microbes that live in the soil and “infect” legume plant roots which then form nodules. This is not harmful, but a symbiotic (a mutually beneficial) relationship. To see exactly how this occurs, here is an excellent YouTube video The Basics Behind Rhizobia Bacteria.

Why do legumes and lucerne trees need rhizobia?

These rhizobia nodules on the roots help the plant fix nitrogen gas (N2) from the atmosphere turning it into a more readily useful form of nitrogen. This nitrogen is exported from the nodules and used for growth in the plant. Read more – Wikipedia. Below you can see the little rhizobia nodules that have already formed on the roots of our young lucerne tree seedlings.

What is inoculation?

The process of soil inoculation involves taking specific microbes found naturally among the billions of organisms in the soil and incorporating them into the soil, or applying them directly on seeds or plant roots. Adding soil inoculants like mycorrhizae will help ensure that your plants grow in healthy soil that provides them ready access to nutrients. You can read the full article – The Benefits Of Using Soil Inoculants and Microbes In The Garden.

How to apply the inoculant?

The simplest method is to add a pinch of inoculant to the water after you have soaked your seeds in a bowl of hot water overnight. Remember 2 things — 1. You only need a little inoculant and 2. plant the seeds within 24 hours or the inoculant will no longer be active. We recommend you soak your lucerne tree seeds overnight in hot tap water. The next morning, when the water is now cool, stir the recommended amount of inoculant in the water and leave the seeds to soak for about an hour. Do NOT put the inoculant in the hot water as the heat will kill the organisms. You can watch a YouTube video of an inoculation process here.

To inoculate your seeds we recommend the Groundnut & Cowpea Group Inoculant which contains Bradyrhyzobium sp. (Vigna) bacteria, a bacterial legume inoculant. We do NOT supply inoculant, but you can order a packet from your local agricultural supplier. Once your trees establish rhizobia, they will automatically ‘infect’ your soils with this bacteria and your trees and their seeds will not require any additional inoculant. Store your inoculant in a cool and dark place.

Remember — Do NOT add any nitrogen-rich fertilizer or manure when you plant your young trees. This added nitrogen will prevent your saplings’ roots from developing and forming their rhizobia nodules and nitrogen can burn their sensitive feeder roots at this stage. We always add compost and about 50g of rock phosphorous  into our holes when we plant out our trees. Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for plants works with plants in the nitrogen cycle. With time and larger sized plants, and with mycorrhiza fungi inoculation and efficient nitrogen fixation, your lucerne trees will be able to make phosphorus that’s already in the soil available. You can read more here –

Order your seeds today!

Happy farming!

Seedlings available!

Spring has sprung and our lucerne tree nursery is bursting with freshly potted new lucerne tree seedlings and trees!

We have potted out small lucerne trees in individual 1-litre potting bags to grow to 30-40cm in their bags before being planted out, and we have seedlings in their nifty tube-packs ready to be couriered to clients all across South Africa at very economical rates due to their low volumetric weight.

These tube-packed trees need to be transplanted into 1-litre potting bags once they arrive, and so we recommend clients have their potting bags and well-drained soil mix in place before they order their little trees. They will need about 3-4 months to grow up to 30-40cm tall and then they can be planted in summer this year.

Because lucerne trees’ roots grow so fast, these trees in tube-packs have a very limited time before they need to be transplanted into bigger potting bags. We therefore have limited stocks in season and will place any unclaimed or unsold tube-pack trees into potting bags after about 1 month.

Now is the perfect time to order your trees. Fill in the contact form on our Orders page, and we will send you all the information and details you need to start your lucerne tree farming.

What can go wrong when transplanting seedlings?

We transplant our newly germinated lucerne tree seedlings on an almost a daily basis with almost 100% success rate.

We provide clients receiving their couriered tube-packed lucerne tree seedlings our detailed step-by-step instructions. These are the methods we successfully use and trust that they will have similar success, but this is not always the case.

So, what can cause a transplant seedling to wither and die?

The most common problem with almost all transplant issues is disturbance or damage to the seedling roots.

Disturbance to the roots may occur by ~

  • removing the soil from around the seedling roots – breaking or shaking the soil off the roots
  • pulling up the seedling from its soil and stripping the soil off its roots
  • bruising the roots and/ or tender stem with heavy-handed methods
  • allowing the soil around the roots to dry out
  • over-watering
  • using a water-logged, soggy soil in the potting bags

With this in mind, we have updated our transplant instructions. Instead of first filling your potting bag, wetting it and then using a dibber to make a hole in the soil, we recommend you rather put your seedling with all its soil still around the roots into an empty potting bag and then gently fill it with soil around the plant. This is to avoid disturbing the tube-pack soil by trying to squeeze it into the hole in the potting bag soil.

How to avoid these mistakes?

  • First wet the soil in the tube-packs. This will ensure that the soil stays packed around the roots and will not easily fall apart or off the seedling’s roots.
  • Use a sharp blade to cut open the tube-packs vertically, both along the front and back. This will allow you to gently ease out the soil pack without disturbing the soil. DO NOT pull the seedling up out of the tube-pack!
  • Cradle the seedling in your hand and avoid rough movements that may break the soil apart.
  • Gently ease the seedling into the potting bag, being sure not to knock or bump it so that the soil pack remains on the roots.
  • Gently fill the potting bag around the seedling.
  • Firm the soil gently around the seedling so that there are no air pockets or empty spaces in the bag. Be firm but gentle.
  • Water the potting bag very well straight away.
  • Check your potting bag soil for moisture by sticking your finger into the soil to see if it is still damp before watering. Remember that these trees hate to sit in soggy wet soil for long periods. Rather water with a light spray more regularly than soak the bags under heavy irrigation.
  • Look out for snails! They can cause a lot of damage to young seedlings. Take action and put down snail bait around your potting bags.
  • Watch out for birds that may snack on the delicious young leaves. Place shadecloth over your trees to protect them.

We are confident of your success if you follow our tried and tested methods. Please feel free to call or email us for any advice or click here to Order.

Happy farming!

Feeding Sheep Lucerne Tree Branches

In this short video filmed on the Lucerne Tree Farm in the Klein Karoo, Western Cape, South Africa, you can see our Dorper sheep eagerly graze the pruned lucerne tree branches thrown onto the ground in their current grazing camp. Within just a few minutes, they nibbled off and stripped the branches bare. (Note–Dried lucerne tree branches make an amazing fire starter or kindling!)

Lucerne trees provide year-round grazing as a living, ever-green, vertical haystack, with nutritious feed for cattle, sheep, goats and horses, game and other grazing animals. You can read all about the lucerne trees here.

For ease, animals normally graze directly off the trees, which we prune regularly to maintain them at a grazing height of about 1.5m tall. As fast-growing trees, we often have long branches we have to prune and these we use for feed.

Sheep grazing directly off Lucerne trees.

This method of feeding cut lucerne tree branches simply thrown on the ground to our sheep “kills 2 birds with one stone” in that we provide quick, efficient and easy feed as well as manage our lucerne tree-height in our lucerne tree camps.

Normally, to maximize the amount of feed we can obtain from each tree, we put our cut branches through our Tandem 13.5 HP chipper. Chipping provides the maximum yields from lucerne trees as the twigs and branches are very soft and palatable and add to the fiber in the grazing diet.

Our effective domestic-use Tandem 13.5 HP chipper

You can view all our posts on chipping on our website – Chipped Food

With Spring soon approaching, this is a good time to place an Order for seeds or seedlings. We have germinated seeds and will have seedlings that we can courier to you anywhere in South Africa in our tube-packaging. Contact us using the contact form on our Orders page for a quote or to place an order.

We trust that you and your loved ones remain safe and in good health. Happy Farming!

Ordering and Covid-19 Restrictions

We are taking orders and we are delivering lucerne trees and seeds using PostNet, door-to-door courier services or registered mail to South African clients and lucerne tree seeds (not trees due to import regulations) with registered mail to international countries.

Please note that registered mail deliveries to international countries may take slightly longer than normal to arrive due to international mail hub backlogs caused by Covid-19 restrictions.  

Keep safe and healthy!

Trees in Tubes ~ Transplant Successfully!

We have created new tube packaging to make transplanting young lucerne trees couriered across South Africa much more successful.  Please read our updated transplant recommendations below.

Little lucerne tree seedlings ready to be potted into 1-litre potting bags

These little seedlings have been germinated and immediately potted into their tubes with our potting soil.  When they are about 6cm-10cm tall, they are strong enough to be transported.  Each little tree in its soil weighs about 150 grams, making courier costs far less expensive.

This tube method is far more successful than couriering bare-rooted trees as we have done previously. The soil in the tubes means that we do not disturb the roots by putting them into bare-rooted packaging. Our clients can transplant them with all their soil on their roots directly into potting bags, also preventing any disturbance to the trees’ roots. As these little trees have been growing in their tubes, there is no immediate rush to transplant them, however, they should be watered and kept protected until ready to transplant into potting bags.

When transplanting these little trees into potting bags, you will need ~20200207_085847

  1. a Stanley knife or sharp blade to cut open the tube plastic packaging.
  2. 1-litre potting bags – taller rather than wider bags – empty
  3. Mix of well-drained potting soil & sand with no compost or manure.

The goal of transplanting successfully is not to disturb the roots or expose them to air or drying out. 

How to transplant your trees into their potting bags UPDATED ~ Note that we recommend you rather put your seedling into an empty potting bag and then fill it with soil around the plant because some clients have found that squeezing the tube-pack soil into the hole disturbed the soil around the roots of the seedling.


  1. First, ensure that all the soil in the tube packaging is wet and well-watered before you start.
  2. Now lay your seedlings in tubes flat and slice each tube package along the length of the plastic .
  3. Carefully lift the tree with all the soil still clumped around the roots out of the packaging.  When the soil is moist it will stay clumped around the roots.  Do not shake or break the soil off the roots.
  4. Place the seedling with all its soil around its roots into the empty potting bag and gently add potting soil around the roots and up to the tree’s stem.
  5. Firm the soil around the transplanted tree making sure that there are no air gaps in the soil.
  6. Water the soil in the potting bags very well. Check regularly by sticking your finger into the potting bag to feel if the soil is damp and water lightly when needed.  Do not over-water your seedlings.

These little lucerne trees are still too small to go directly into your lands.  They should be potted into their 1-litre bags to grow out to at least 30cm tall saplings before being planted into your lands.  These potted trees will settle in well over winter if kept in a sheltered spot where they are protected from any frosts and icy winds. An area covered with some shade cloth will be perfect.

Please fill in the contact form on our Orders page and we will email you a quote or invoice or answer any questions you may have.

Keep safe and healthy during the lockdown.