I do have limestone around, for use in the garden. It just never occurred to me to use it on the apple trees.
And creating raised beds around them is a great idea! I had resolved to start planting guilds around both of them. Having the chickens tearing up the grass and fertilizing was the pre-guild step. I can definitely create raised areas for the support plants.
And with 2 goats, and now chickens, I have access to lots of well composted bedding and manure to fill them with.
And hearing your story about the trees in Africa makes me think about how precious a tree actually is, and the great care people in other parts of the world provide them. We have an embarrasment of riches here, indeed.
It makes me want to up my level of care, for sure!
Hi Jason. Welcome! I'm in Bayswater Nova Scotia, just down the shore from you. What part of Halifax are you in? Is that one of the Five Island Lakes behind you?
Looks like a beautiful property! I'm working with existing forest as well, however mostly black spruce here with birch, alder and tamarack.
What's your soil depth like? We have very little and so I'm essentially going to garden on top of the moss and tree roots, mostly adding fruiting shrubs and herbaceous medicinal plants in the understory along with support plants. (Working in large patches, as one of the threads mentioned.)
I may also be able to build up a couple of spots enough to put in a hazel or two or maybe a swamp crabapple. (We're pretty boggy over here.)
My other main strategy is to work along all the sunny edges, making the most of them by putting fruits, nuts or berries there along with helpful guild members... ideally medicinal ones.
I had grand visions at the beginning, just 3 years ago, however things are moving much more slowly. I only realize now that it's actually much better, as everything is integrating in a deeper way.
Keep us posted about what you're doing, including pictures, and how it goes. I also highly recommend walking around and taking a whole set of "before" pictures at this stage.
Thanks so much David for what you mentioned about the compost and apples with scabs!
I'm in Nova Scotia and you can tell how wet and acidic our property is by how well the blueberries are doing just 12 feet from the apple trees.
I never realized it was the damp and acid soil causing the scab! I just dumped a load of almost finished compost under one tree for the chickens to spread and play in.
But I may also try composting into a couple of deeper holes like your Dad did. We're hard pressed to even get a fence post down 2 feet here without hitting granite or shale, but I can probably get a couple of narrow holes dug.
Just chiming in to echo the value of pruning. I've been working with 2 ~ thirty year old apple trees that hadn't been pruned in at least 15 years, maybe 20.
I was quite timid with the first pruning, 2 years ago, mostly taking out a lot of the small branches growing every which way throughout the centre. I didn't notice much of a difference after that round.
In early February this year I was a lot less timid and took out all the branches that were crosding and all the dead and less healthy branches. However, I only did one tree that day and didn't get back to the second one before the weather warmed up.
Now, I'm definitely seeing a difference between the two trees. The one I pruned twice is looking healthier, and the apples so far are bigger and less scabby. I can't wait to do the next round of pruning on both of them!
I also made the small orchard area into chicken pasture in July. They're starting to get a lot of the grass scratched up under the trees (I scatter cracked corn for them where I want the grass gone) and fertilizing the area and eating any bugs they can find. My next step is to dig up the comfrey my neighbors have offered and plant some of that under and around the trees for chopping and mulching, in addition to wood chips.
My biggest challenge is getting to the branches that I can't reach, even with a ladder. These trees are really tall and I'm going to have to get an arborist or a much longer saw!
Hi Ben. Thank you so much for posting here! And for redirecting me to your other thread.
That's a very fascinating analogy with the city and its roads intact. I will keep that in mind and plan to use a lot more whole wood pieces as I build soil than I might have before.
And the statistics about conifer biomass vs tropical forest were stunning! As well as feeding the fungi year round and doling out rainwater over time.
We're very aware on our property that the only soil we have is directly due to fallen trees and moss. I had never heard the term "nurse logs" before! That absolutely makes sense for where and how we see things growing here.
We're very blessed indeed! Thanks for opening my eyes to how much!
You've just added a bunch more species to my list that I didn't know could handle wet conditions! I'm working this winter on some guild designs, so this is great timing!!
I've also realized that just because I need to steer away from putting trees in hugels, it doesn't mean I can't still build some with all the felled wood I've got back there. Then I can cover them & use them for short term plantings while they break down. Then after they've settled, plant the resulting soil with more permanent shrubs and herbaceous perennials down the road.
Yes, keeping the early plantings close to zone 1 will also help me to see if the deer are coming in that close. (They generally don't, but the lovely new grassed areas around the sculptures may be drawing them in!)
Thank you Laura! I've never heard of swamp crab apples and I will definitely check them out along with the resource you mentioned.
I had been hoping to discover some trees that might do just what these crabapples will do with their roots.
I'm a total beginner when it comes to grafting though....you mentioned hazelnuts in your scion list...can they actually be grafted onto a crabapple?
Hi Aaron. There's a whole section at the beginning of Chapter 2 of Gaia's Garden about the Bullock Brothers who reclaimed a wetland that had previously been dyked and farmed. They assert that they vastly increased it's productivity and biodiversity by restoring it.
If you could get a piece of land with just enough high ground for a house & the trees you want, you might actually be able to do more than you think with the lowland.
Thank you so much for taking the time to reply! No apology needed... Michelle's advice was great too.
In reflecting on your post, I'm thinking I'm going to start in the highest, driest areas closer to the house & between the new roads. This year I'm probably just going to plant 1 or 2 guilds and then focus my efforts on building up some areas that I can leave to settle for planting in later years.
The alders are a great idea! I hadn't even thought of that, as there's SO much alder here that our focus has been getting it out not putting it in.
There may be some low places that I can deepen a bit, but I'm really in love with the mossy wet areas and so I won't mess with them too much.
After reading both yours and Michelle's posts, I find myself really leaning toward using the soil depth I do have on the other side of the house for the trees that need it - whether they're in the main "forest" or not - and really making good use of the conditions I have out back with the acid & moisture lovers.
And thank you for the tip about the pears! I didn't know they could handle that. Our neighbor has one that does well here.
I'll keep you posted. = >
I can't answer your question about how long it will take them to break down. But I can say that pine needles will make your garden area more acidic than it already is. You may need to work in some lime or something else to take the acidity down, if you want to grow veggies there.
Hal, I hope you don't mind me asking this question on your thread....but Robert has just partly answered a question I recently posted on another thread about soil depth, mounds and tree planting. I'm hoping you might elaborate Robert! Either in this thread or in my original here:
Robert, you mentioned never to plant trees on a mound that's been created.
I have a 70% black spruce, boreal-type forest, with patches of birch and occasional maples and small alder brush throughout. Labrador tea and cinnamon ferns are the main understory with lots of moss as the main ground cover. (~60" rain/yr, zone 6 a/b, a km from the Atlantic,)
We've been opening up these woods with roads and paths for another project and I was hoping to plant food and medicinal guilds on the newly opened up edges. However....
There's very little soil depth - it ranges from < 6" in the low spots to about 2-3 ft in the high spots - most of which are made up of dead-fall - essentially old hugels, which the spruce like just fine. Or else there's a granite boulder under them! The lowest spots are water-filled for much of the spring, fall and winter, drying almost completely in summer. There's no slope at all across this landscape, it's more like a bowl. And the base of the bowl is mainly shale. Where there is soil, it's sandy clay and in the boggiest spots, it's peat.
I had been looking at enlarging and possibly increasing the height of existing mounds for planting small-ish fruit trees and shrubs. Is this feasible?
I will need to raise them above the soggy bottom of the low areas so their feet aren't wet. I had been guided to think about keeping them 2-4 feet above the water table. In this forest, 4 feet is way higher than I can go, but 2 ft is doable.
I certainly understand what you're saying about the mounds being unstable for trees. So am I better off to fill a low spot with good heavy soil for anchoring roots and then raise it just slightly above the surrounding grade to bring the tree's crown further up and away from the water?
Or rather than thinking of a "mound" for trees, should I be looking at raising a larger area that will become more stable over time?
What I have to work with right now is the heavy clay and shale mix that we're building roads with (it is proving very stable and well draining for the roads) and also an enormous amount of softwood chips created during the road clearing. I'm also willing to wait a couple of years while things settle and decompose.
Hi Michelle. Thank you for taking so much time with your responses and for the pictures too!
My apologies for taking so long to respond...we had goat trouble last week and had to put one of them down. Very heartbreaking...
I had never thought of my high spots and low spots as swales and berms before! That really gives me a new lens to look through. And hearing about your experience with enlarging the size of the high spots for planting seems very workable here. I was really looking for some kind of a number for how high to raise the crown of any new trees, so thank you for giving the 2-4 ft estimate.
We're lucky, in terms of water, that the property as a whole is fairly flat so no major run off anywhere and the roads Peter has built are serving to create large bordered catchment areas where the low spots will naturally fill. We're making sure not to fill in all the low spots or flatten the woods out too much, so the water will have places to collect near the new trees, but not straight under them.
This winter is definitely time for planning. I have a large hand drawn map that I sketched out using a Google Maps photo on a grid system. I'm planning to start with just a couple of guilds next year, closer to the house and I've been compiling my lists of all the plants suited to this area/zone and their functions so I can start playing "mix & match" with them.
I'll post some pictures in my next message so you can see what it looks like and where I'm starting.
Hi folks. I've waited over a year to ask this question as I've been observing my woods and reading everything I can find on the forums and elsewhere that might help me.
Here's the project:
I had been eyeing our woods out back for permaculture improvements for a while - thinking about food forest to forest medicinals, ramps, etc.
Meanwhile, this past June my husband (a sculptor for over 40 years) took his long held dream of a sculpture park off the back burner, bought a small tractor, took delivery of 8 loads of shale and proceeded to open up said woods with several roads and many ~10-15 ft diameter display areas for sculpture.
His second purchase was a 5" PTO wood chipper and so we merrily spent August and September chipping up much of the cleared brush and leaving the chips in piles in the woods to start decomposing.
I now get to create my dream of a food and medicine forest as the landscaping backdrop to a 5 acre sculpture park.
We have about 15+ acres & we're only working on the front 5 or so. The area I'm working with is about 50% conifer, mostly black spruce, plus some fir and about 15% each birch and larch, and ~2% red maple with tons of small alder throughout.
Labrador Tea and Cinnamon Fern are the main understory. LOTS of moss everywhere. We're in the Acadian Forest, which is technically a mix of Boreal and Carolinian forest types. But our little piece looks pretty Boreal to me!
The ground is fairly uneven, with decomposing trees and stumps providing the high spots and the lowest places filled with water in spring and fall, drying in summer, and spongy soft ground with moss in between. In the high areas we do have small islands of hardwoods establishing.
The biggest issues by far are lack of soil depth and creating drainage. We're on granite, with occasional big boulders here and there. In another 1000 years or so we might have soil!
We're technically in Zone 6a, but more recently feeling like 6b/7. We're very close to the Atlantic so both summers and winters are moderated and we're what Ben Falk calls "hyper-resilient", with rain every month...except for the 6-week drought we had this past summer, which I hope is not the new normal.
Also, we're surrounded by thick woods so we get only 1/3 of the wind speed that the storms bring to the shore just a mile on either side of us.
I now have lots of wonderful sunny edges to work with and massive amounts of wood chips with more to come. And already I can see that the new roads are drying things up in places as the light is getting in.
1) Can I create a good enough base for planting food bearing trees and shrubs in these conditions? And what will that take?
I can certainly get the acid lovers, like blueberries and cranberries to like it there. And the ones that don't mind wet feet like elder. But will creating raised areas allow me to plant nuts or other fruits and berries?
I've read elsewhere on permies that it's not recommended to plant trees into hugels - which I have more than enough wood to make - as this is unstable for them as it breaks down. This has me thinking about what I can do to give them a firm well drained base.
I have ton's of wood chips but, even once they break down, if there's not much heavier soil under them I worry that the mix will be too loose to give the trees something for their roots to dig into. I can put some of the clay/shale mix that we're laying down for the roads at the bottom, with chips over that, which would also provide drainage. Would that help? Or do I need a load of proper soil as a base? (I do also have manure and compost from our two goats that I can use.)
2) How high should I raise the soil surface for the trees/shrubs above the wet areas?
3) How acidic will the softwood chips be and what amendments might I use to sweeten them up? (I will definitely be steering clear of planting anything that likes an alkaline soil!)
4) I've wondered about using willows to dry things up a bit. Has anyone had any experience with that?
I'm very grateful for any and all suggestions!
It's dark here right now, so I've missed the chance to give you some pictures, but I'll try to put some up in the next day or two.
Thanks for asking this question, Zack! And thanks to all for the mushroom info! Most of my chips are a mix of lots of spruce, with some alder and birch. And I had despaired of finding any mushroom that would handle the softwood. I may give the wine caps a try.
I'm working with some not-so-well-drained woods in Zone 6a in Nova Scotia. Similar climate, but mostly softwood and little soil depth.
You might want to check out the book "Integrated Forest Gardening". It's worth it just for the 15 case studies in the back, with 15 complete forest garden guilds including planting diagrams. They focus equally on medicinals, so their guilds might not be as food-focused as you are. I got a lot of ideas for plants from their book.
One of their guilds features a "North Star Cherry" hardy to zone 3 (I think).
Also, I haven't seen elderberry or paw paw mentioned here yet, and both are under-story plants that can handle some shade. I've also heard there are raspberry cultivars out there that will fruit in the shade, too. The authors of the book above show Paw Paw as hardy to Zone 4.
I'm wondering if it might be possible to do some selective limbing of a few of your oak trees, to make some holes in the shade without taking the whole tree down?
And I meant to ask you .... which echinacea are you growing?
Echinacea purpurea is the one most often grown and harvested in N. America right now, but the very experienced herbalists I know always recommend Echinacea angustifolia, as it's much stronger medicine.
E. purpurea is fairly easy to cultivate, which is why herbal supplement companies are all over it. E. angustifolia is a bit harder to germinate, as I've been told (haven't tried yet myself, just ordered my seeds) but a more valuable herb.
Hi Roberto, I'm a bit late to this conversation, but I'm in Nova Scotia and starting out with growing herbs and medicine here as well. We're in Acadian Forest, which is a mix of Boreal and Carolinian forests.
I've been into 2 really inspiring and fabulous books lately that you might find very helpful.
The first is Farming the Woods by Ken Mudge and Steve Gabriel, which has a whole chapter on forest medicinals. The really valuable ones are ginseng, goldenseal, and black cohosh if you have the right conditions for any of them. (The book has a handy ginseng site rating chart!) In Nova Scotia we have dwarf ginseng, and although it might be as medicinal as american ginseng, I don't believe it fetches anywhere near the price. Forest herbs can take years to produce a harvest, though.
The second book is The Boreal Herbal, by Beverly Gray. She's in the Yukon and this books is truly a gem! Plus it's packed full of recipes along with the herbal knowledge. It doesn't have ANY cultivation info, but you will get a really good idea of what grows well in the North and what the traditional native uses were.
As is mentioned in Farming the Woods, it's difficult to grow anything but ginseng on a scale that is profitable if you're selling raw herb products in bulk.
HOWEVER.... reading about what Beverly Gray and others are doing, I'm coming to the conclusion that herbs can be a nice little business if we're also doing consultations and creating value added products such as tinctures, salves, creams, hydrosols, jams, vinegars and anything else we can think up!
And I'm looking way more at selling direct to consumers at farmers markets, etc as I don't have enough space to do bulk product stuff. I might do a small herbal nursery if I can get good at propagating.
Oh, and one last reference....
Look up Richo Cech at Strictly Medicinal Seeds. He's got TONS of medicinal seeds, he ships to Canada and also has written a nice book about medicinal herb growing. Here's the link for that one...
Please keep us posted with what you try and how you get on with things. I'd love to hear all about it!
I picked up a wonderful book this past winter called "Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening" by Peter Burke.
He's created a simple weekly system for growing indoor "soil sprouts". It sounds a lot like what Brenda mentioned above.
They're harvested earlier than micro-greens, but don't require any of the watering of regular sprouts. He grows them on a windowsill - no grow lights required - and makes enough salad with them for a family of 4.
I tried his method myself and it was very, very easy and I liked having larger greens than just the small alfalfa sprouts I was doing before with water. I tried clover, radish and sunflower sprouts with his method and they were great. And I didn't have any trouble with them not being crisp, despite being in the main room with our wood-stove.
I got the book just as my cold-frame was getting into action, so I only did a couple of rounds, but I plan to use it much more extensively this winter.
Also, if you have any kind of protected outdoor growing area, here in Canada both mizuna and corn salad (mache) are super hardy spring/fall greens. The mizuna grows fast, and the corn salad is v...e...r...y slow to get going, and both are tasty.
I'm halfway through her book Braiding Sweetgrass, and I'm enjoying it SO much! The stories are real with a touching depth that never gets "preachy".
I come from a science background myself (B.SC. in Molecular Genetics) and I went into science because of a sense of wonder about biology and life, and I gradually had that stamped out through working in medical research.
Now that I've come full circle myself, into sacred plant medicine, permaculture and listening to the beings of the land where I garden, I'm really, really appreciating the bridge that Robin builds between these 2 ways of knowing. It's giving me permission to use both, without making my science brain "bad", as I might have done before.
Also, I recently heard Robin interviewed by Krista Tippett in the "On Being" podcast. Here is the link to that interview...
I'm in Nova Scotia on the Atlantic, and we're having a cool, wet and foggy spring/summer so far and slugs are our MAJOR problem here. I'm only in year 3 of my garden and did my first sheet mulch last fall. I did a layer of seaweed, topped with about 2-3 inches of composted goat shed bedding topped with straw.
I avoided sheet mulching the year before because I was freaked out about the slugs myself. So this spring, as the weather started to warm up, I pulled the straw off several of the beds and let them sit bare for Apr/May and those have been fairly slug free so far. I only had a small amount of weeding to do leaving them uncovered. I'm still in seeding mode, since it's been so cool, so it remains to be seen what gets eaten.
As an added measure, I'm about to put wooden 2x6 edges on most of the beds (I only have about 7, each around 3'x 6' or less) and I'll be running copper mesh around the inside and to the top of each board. I get it in a roll from Lee Valley Tools here. I've been told by neighbors that copper mesh is pretty effective...gives slugs a small charge not unlike the charged wire solution mentioned above.
It's really great to know that stevia does well in New England, Jenna. Here in Nova Scotia we're in a similar zone to Boston.
And thanks for all the info Deb! I haven't started my seeds yet and now I'll start WAY more than I was going to originally.
The stevia we use at home is New Roots Stevia Powder Concentrate and it doesn't seem to have any of the bitterness or aftertaste if used sparingly. As an alternative, especially for baking, we also use xylitol- a sugar made from birch syrup that is low glycemic index & great for teeth.
I'm about to try growing stevia for the first time this year. We already use it extensively at home. When it's ready, I'm also planning to make my extract using vegetable glycerin rather than alcohol. I've made other herbal "glycerites" before, which are essentially non-alcoholic versions of tinctures - lemon balm makes the most wonderful tasting glycerite!
Alder, I'd love to know how your glycerin extract turns out!
Burra, that might solve the problem of your extract making everything taste alcoholy...
I've been enjoying the thread here and seeing what others are up to and where, so I thought I'd chime in.
I'm in Bayswater, way out on the tip of the Aspotogan Peninsula....that piece of land that sits between St. Margaret's Bay and Mahone Bay. I've been here almost 3 years with my partner who has had the property for over 20 years.
My veggie garden is going into it's third season, but I only really turned my mind to permaculture last year. I took a 3-month apprenticeship in sacred plant medicine last summer and then ran around when I got home tincturing everything I could find.
I'm hoping to create lots of edible and medicinal permaculture plantings, with a bit of food forest here and there. Our 20 acres is over half boggy softwood forest so I'm looking into what I can grow there, and also how I might mimic the succession process to create some additional soil depth closer to the house. If anyone out there has been working with boggy woods I'd love to hear what you've been doing.
I've had my nose in the fabulous book "Farming the Woods" by Mudge & Gabriel for a month now and the possibilities are very exciting.
I'm hoping we'll get to hear back again from those in the thread who hadn't found their "place" yet.
Are you here yet? Where did you land?