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Sean O'Brien


Fascinating article, but I did have a couple questions.

What are some of the disadvantages of smaller trees? I would assume that tightly-pruned crowns would make it harder for the fruits to grow. How were pests kept away from the ground-creeping varieties? How were the fruits kept off of the wet ground?



I imagine a great deal of rain pooling at the bottom of the trenches during summer rains. Wouldn't this kill the trees?



Fantastic article. It has left me wondering about soil types in the areas where these technologies were successfully implemented.

Soils in trenches must have been free draining at the very least.

Oliver Drerup


I am very interested in Russian horticulture and want to thank you for making this valuable information available.

I have worked in residential construction in Russia (Tver Region) and was struck by the horticultural practice and plant selection employed by the Transport and Highway Departments in the Region. It appears to me that the plant material and maintenance regime required to sustain safe and attractive highway verges and medians is much better thought through in Russia than where I make my home in Ontario, Canada. Russia seems to rely less on chemical interventions and the byways look better and requires less investment.

I want to encourage you to research this aspect of Russian horticulture and share what they know with the world. Roadway planting is a major expense and should be much better designed for low intensity maintenance, particularly in colder climates. I have attempted to research this area a bit and find good information difficult to locate. Many thanks for your consideration of this issue and thank you again for your excellent work.

Graham Ford


Another brilliant article, Kris. Thank you!



I wonder if this could be used for other plants like peppers which can die off if the temperature goes below 50 Deg F.? This does almost sound like a larger version of a Walipini

George Kabourakis


Very interesting! I am wondering if some of those practices, mainly the trenches' agriculture could have an implementation as protected agriculture for hot arid climate as it is considered to be the case in mediterranean/south european countries because of climate change. If there are thoughts/ information about that it would be interesting to read them.



Oliver, I'm interested in roadside planting. Here in NYS, there is heavy use of RoundUp and tractor mowing. What is better?

John Dziki


I would check on this again. I remember this coming up as one of the great Soviet Potemkin village lies of Stalin Agricultural Collectivism.

John Dziki


About my previous post. The fruit in cold was based on this quack’s ideas. https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/12/trofim-lysenko-soviet-union-russia/548786/

Kris De Decker


@ John Dziki

Good you mention this. But the methods described in my article were developed before Lysenko rose to power. The creeping culture is based on selective breeding (as your source notices, before the 1930s the Soviet Union had the best genetics community in the world) and pruning, not grafting or "vernalization" as promoted by Lysenko.

The creeping culture is still applied to apple trees (which is why I managed to publish an image of it) and growing fruits in trenches and pit greenhouses has been proven to work. See for instance this video of a citrus grower in Nebraska or this scientific paper about trench cultivation in Nepal:



The two sources on which most my article is based date from the early 1950s, when Lysenko's influence had waned. Still, a term like "progressive frost-hardening" reminds of Lysenko (although what is meant here is actually selective breeding) and the figures about the production of citrus may be exaggerated (I have not been able to verify this, and I welcome all additional information).

Kris De Decker


@ John Dziki

In fact, going back through my notes, I see that I actually forgot to add a source to the references, and which confirms the acreage that is mentioned by the French paper.

Katkoff, V. "The Soviet Citrus Industry." Southern Economic Journal (1952): 374-380. https://www.jstor.org/stable/1054452?seq=1

Full version here: https://sci-hub.tw/https://www.jstor.org/stable/1054452?seq=1

It's written in English.

And see also this book, page 151: https://archive.org/details/surveyofsovietru05voli/page/n3/mode/2up

Kris De Decker


@ Jude

Here's an extra quote from the French article, concerning the trench culture:

"Once the trench is dug, the bottom is loosened to a depth of 25-30 cm. The surface soil is 'smoked' with farmyard manure at the rate of 40-50 kg per foot. Each trench has a drainage device."

I'm not sure how the drainage actually worked, but it was part of the system.

@ Sean

I only remember reading about pests when the two types of creeping crowns were discussed. The original method actually had the fruits touch the ground, which was prone to pests. So a variant was developed in which this did not happen.

Kris De Decker


More comments at Hackernews: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22887931

DJ Chtisti


Are these techniques still employed today ?

John Dziki


Still has to be filed under not practical or useful information though it is fascinating. The article about using stone walls in Europe was more useful. I read the sci-fi series 1632 and am always looking for things like this.

joel LeGrand


I know a Lady who had a square pit greenhouse for house plants in 1965. I am looking into using the method in your article in zone 8 for citrus,pineapple,banana & maybe nightshade plants, if there is enough room. Great article! Thanks.

vicente luis cucala


Gracias por este trabajo de investigación.

A lo largo y ancho del mundo se encuentran cultivos sorprendentes, que solo son posibles a la necesidad o la obstinación humana.

En las isla de Lanzarote, España, es posible el cultivo de la vid y de otros cultivos a pozas o defensas y las practicas que se aplican.


Vicente Cucala,

Josh S.


Great article!

Dave Bross


This may be VERY important info in the near future. We're headed into a Grand Solar Minimum, an event every 400 years that leads to much colder climate everywhere for a while.

For those not familiar, Curtis Stone is a young Canadian market gardener who has been very generous with all the info that made his operation work well, and most of it is up on Youtube. Here's his video looking into what's coming weather-wise:


Also....many thanks for this article. Excellent work!



Concerning the selection for cold hardiness and Lyssenko, there is a guy in France, Poots, that tried and succeeded in selecting tomatoes and many other vegetables to drought.
I am using his seeds and they do work (I cultivated leek without any watering after plantation during the driest summer ever reoorded here.
I think you can explain the fact that he succeded by selection of certain characters (there is a great variety of them in the seeds we buy if they are not hybrid). He was carefull to start from old varieties, some of them coming from St petersburg depository. But another explanation is epigenetics and that is something that was not known a few decades ago.




I'm from the former Soviet Union. And I'd like to say that more than half of tech info in soviet magazines, newspapers, and books had a very small relation to reality. I never saw a grapefruit till 90th. Inventors got their patents and even got some money for inventions, but most of that inventions were buried in tables of bureaucrats. Because from Stalin's times we knew very clearly: Western goods are better and we should copy-paste it, as Chinese do nowadays.



I wish I could buy the dwarf citrus seeds robust to cold area



Can you grow winter vegetables in climates that are too cold in winter for it using these methods?

Michael Saalfeld


Some ten years ago I came across reports that similar methods for growing citrus were used in Hungary in the communist era. I wrote about this in an old citrus growers forum post which I called 'The Communist Oranges of Hungary. Still available at http://citrusgrowersstatic.chez.com/web/viewtopic7897.php
The pictures were adapted from a publication in Hungarian shown at
Apparently 'Magyar narancs' (Hungarian Oranges) is still used in Hungary as an expression meaning 'an impossible task' or 'a stupid enterprise which will doubtless fail'!

Grant Scarboro


Perhaps this can be used in western countries to grow oil palms? If so, a lot of deforestation might be prevented.

kris de decker


Some interesting comments & extra info @ metafilter https://www.metafilter.com/194457/Citrus-broadly-speaking



okay, but where can I buy a few seeds of tiny creeping frost-hardened citrus, because I really, *really* want one now?




I have a question about this way to cultivate citrus plants:

-how do they deal with rainwater, because i can imagine that in Switzerland for example where there is sometimes lots of rain, the tranches could simply get full of whater, or be to humid for the trees....

Thanks a lot for this very inspiring article and I would be happy to hear from you,


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