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How to grow a nutmeg tree from seed

Myristica fragrans, more commonly known as nutmeg, is an attractive evergreen tree native to the Spice Islands. Nutmeg trees are prized for the yellow-skinned oval fruits they produce. When ripe, the fruit splits to reveal a hard brown kernel covered in lacy red aril, which is dried and used to make the spices nutmeg and mace, respectively. Nutmeg trees can be cultivated from seed in U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zones 10 and 11.

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  1. Collect two to three healthy nutmeg seeds that have recently fallen from their parent tree. Avoid choosing old, lightweight seeds that rattle when you shake them; these seeds are too dried out to germinate successfully.

  2. Cover your planting area with 3 inches of equal parts peat moss, perlite and well-rotted compost. Work the amendments into the soil to a depth of at least 4 inches using a garden tiller, shovel or hand trowel. Push the collected fresh nutmeg seeds into the amended soil to a depth of no more than 2 inches. Allow 1 foot of space between each seed.

  3. Erect a 50 per cent shade cloth over the planted nutmeg seeds to prevent them from receiving too much direct sunlight. Position the shade cloth 2 feet above the ground. Reposition the cloth as the nutmeg grows, keeping it approximately 2 feet above the top of the plant. Shade your tree for the first six to seven years of growth, after which the tree can receive unfiltered sunlight.

  4. Water the newly planted nutmeg seeds to encourage them to germinate. Continue to provide your nutmeg with supplemental irrigation as often as needed to keep the soil evenly moist.

  5. Begin a regular fertilisation schedule for the nutmeg tree in the spring of its second year of growth. Fertilise the tree with a granular, slow-release 16-16-16 fertiliser, applied according to package directions. Add a second application of fertiliser in late July. Repeat the twice-yearly fertiliser applications annually to stimulate healthy, hardy growth.

  6. Prune damaged, diseased or dead branches from the tree in the spring, if needed. Remove the tree's lower branches during spring pruning for a more attractive growing form and easier access to seeds and fruit. Remove shoots growing from the base of the trunk as soon as they're noticed, regardless of the season.

  7. Tip

    Pull any weeds that spring up around your nutmeg. If you fail to eliminate weeds near your tree, they will use moisture and nutrients that should be going to the nutmeg. Not all of the nutmeg seeds you plant will germinate successfully. If no seeds germinate, start the process over from the beginning. If more than the desired number of seeds germinate successfully, weed out the weakest seedlings.

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Things You'll Need

  • 2 to 3 fresh nutmeg seeds
  • Peat moss
  • Perlite
  • Well-rotted compost
  • Garden tiller, shovel or hand trowel
  • 50-percent shade cloth
  • 16-16-16 fertiliser
  • Loppers

About the Author

Megan Mattingly-Arthur has been writing professionally since 1998. She has contributed to various publications, including "Teen Voices" and "Positive Teens" magazines, as well as a book, "The Young Writer's Guide to Getting Published." Mattingly-Arthur is studying travel and tourism through Penn Foster Career School.

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