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Mistakes I've made, mistakes you've made... let's learn from one another  RSS feed

 
Adam DeGraff
Posts: 1
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Hi there. I've been lurking around these parts for a while now and wanted to say hi. My wife and I are in the process of transforming our house + 5 acres into a food forest. Actually, we are just starting.... again. Truth be told, we owned past properties where we made a go at this. I was thinking how grateful I am for our past mistakes and what they have taught us. No doubt there will be more, but I wanted to share a few, out loud, and ask that you might do the same. You don't have to give me a laundry list, but maybe even your top two mistakes.

Here are mine:

1) To BIG!!! I start too big and burn out trying to do too much at once. This leads to that overwhelmed feeling. Too many trees. Too much land. (our 165 acre farm is gorgeous, but it is way more suited to a Joel Salatin style operation than a homsteading/permaculture operation.... but it sure is putty www.AdamViolin.com/farm ) I recently heard a music sales guru say, "we tend to over estimate what we can do in a year and underestimate what we can do in 10 years." I'm sure the quote wasn't exactly like that, but Derek Sivers is the one who said it in case you care.

2) Design systems that are too complex and require too much work. When we read "One Straw Rebellion," I am reminded that the best systems work "despite" our input of labor, not because of them. Yes, there's work to be done, but really, for me, if it costs a lot of money, requires huge machinery, or takes a tremendous amount of time, effort, or labor, it's probably the wrong direction. The other day, I wanted to knock down a poison ivy patch. I instinctively reached for my string trimmer. Turned out I had lent it to a friend 2 years ago and couldn't find it. So, instead, I grabbed my still-sharp scythe. The poison ivy was gone in less time than I it would have taken me to try to start my trimmer. (Not to mention the absolute pleasure it was to scythe.) So I am now looking for more and more systems that are "stick and blade" or Joe Jenkins' "it's not waste." Simple is just better IMO.

So, what have YOU learned? What are the mistakes you've made that you'd like to share? I'm very interested to hear.

Thanks!
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9742
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
184
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Depending too much on the "good years" which are very rare in my climate and not planning enough for alternating flood or drought, which is more "normal" for this region.

Planting seeds too close together.

 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
pollinator
Posts: 1422
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
17
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Growing stuff we don’t eat – just because it will grow. We have finally learned to grow ONLY those things we will eat a lot of; even if it means that we have less variety in the garden. If we are only going to eat three eggplants and one serving of okra then skip it – grow more potatoes or corn or whatever you will eat.

Planting peach trees – in my area I cannot find a single example of a peach that grows without SOME sort of insect or fungus control. They may grow somewhere else without assistance but here they are a magnet for bad stuff in my garden. Peach tree removed and other plants/trees are doing well on their own.
 
Leila Rich
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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I mistakenly thought that disease wouldn't be an issue with my healthy soil and plants, but this year I got bad late blight.
I bagged up my tomato plants, but it had already spread to the potatoes. That made me really nervous as the things are everywhere and I can't imagine getting them all out. I chopped off the haulms and aside from a few tubers turning to stinking mush, they're ok and have resprouted.
I don't plan to dig all the potatoes and contain them and I'll go on pretty much as before, but feeling lucky that the I dodged the NZ Potato Famine!
Just a heads-up that despite doing everything as 'right' as possible, some things are pretty much out of our control.
And I would think twice next time before letting spuds free-range. On a related note, another mistake is never growing enough potatoes.
 
Fred Morgan
steward
Posts: 979
Location: Northern Zone, Costa Rica - 200 to 300 meters Tropical Humid Rainforest
15
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Jeanine Gurley wrote:Growing stuff we don’t eat – just because it will grow. We have finally learned to grow ONLY those things we will eat a lot of; even if it means that we have less variety in the garden. If we are only going to eat three eggplants and one serving of okra then skip it – grow more potatoes or corn or whatever you will eat.

Planting peach trees – in my area I cannot find a single example of a peach that grows without SOME sort of insect or fungus control. They may grow somewhere else without assistance but here they are a magnet for bad stuff in my garden. Peach tree removed and other plants/trees are doing well on their own.


Funny, I was going to say not growing what grows easily and learning to eat it. Getting there though. I have bananas, plantains, mangos, star fruit, avocados, yuca, bunching onions, squash (combo type, good green and mature), papa chinas, tropical spinach, sweet potatoes, okra, etc. all growing without help. Being from the north, we wanted cole crops, tomatoes, lettuce, etc. Guess what doesn't grow. I am learning to go with the flow and work a lot less hard.

By the way, during the Voyage of the Beagle, Darwin wrote about huge expanses of peaches around Argentina, seems they naturalized. I don't know anything about it now, though. Peaches are native to China. Thankfully, there is a Mango down here that tastes like the best peach you have ever had, and it is huge!
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
10
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all really good information.

know your nursery stock, I have bought so many "potted" trees and didn't realize that the roots were crap on them and they died, or the grafts were lousy..although many of the companies replaced them, the replacements weren't much better..so make sure you get good solid roots and grafts when you buy your trees..and other nursery stock as well.

If you have the room you can always grow a few things that you don't eat, as it is wonderful to be able to give or sell it..if it grows really well on your property..so I'm not totally sure about that..but there are some things on my property that I don't especially care for, but it grows nearly wild and I CAN EAT IT..seeing as how right now our $ are very low and we will be eating things that we might not particularly care for, but are nutritious and edible..I don't care for dandelion greens for example..esp if they are cooked, but I ate some yesterday cause they are nutritious and free and we have not much money...so sometimes you make do with what is there even if it isn't your favorite..a similar thing with Jerusalem Artichokes here, they grow on their own and I don't care for the flatulance, but they are tasty and fillling and free.

(if anyone knows how to get rid of the flatulance let me know)

Be careful not to plant things that grow big too close together or too close to your house..I see so so so many people having to cut down things that are ruining their homes cause they planted too close !

Make sure you plant things with the ability to harvest them..like I wouldn't plant a blackberry patch under an apple tree..ouch..a food forest garden generally you plant 7 layers, but make sure those layers still give you access to your harvests.

be careful not to spend too much money on things you might be able to get for free ! I remember one time my BIL coming up so proud of a flat of Canadian Hemlock babies he bought (for a fortune) and wanted to introduce us and my in laws to them..and I walked him out front to a 35 foot tall tree and told him..Canadian Hemlocks grow here for free....also you often can get seeds or plants or babies from neighbors, just ask..and if you buy OPEN POLLINATED you can also save your seed from year to year if your crop is successful
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9742
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
184
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Gas from Jerusalem Artichokes means you are not able to digest the inulin which they have instead of starch. Apparently some people are more sensitive to this than others. I don't recall suffering any remarkable gastric effects from eating them, but do not like them. They don't seem to grow well here anyway....
 
Matt Smith
Posts: 181
Location: Central Ohio, Zone 6A - High water table, heavy clay.
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Holy crap, where do I start?

I've been on my little 7.5 acres for two and a half years thus far, and almost every thing I've tried has resulted in some form of highly educational failure.

1) Get a soil test. You'll waste untold amounts of time and money if you have to work backwards from results to find your starting point.

2) Diversity is more important than quantity. Chances are, not every type of tree, shrub, and plant is going to thrive on your land (or under your hand). If you try a little of everything at first, you'll quickly determine those things that grow well where you are, and those which you do well with. You can then double-down on those things.

3) Play Darwin. My full-time gig means I don't have nearly enough time to baby each organism through it's entire life cycle. I've come to greatly appreciate those plants which can survive a decent amount of neglect and still come back swinging. That hardiness of whichever type (cold, draught, etc.) will serve it well in the years to come.

4) Observe your surroundings. I am still a greenhorn when it comes to reading nature's handwriting, but I've already been able to learn a tremendous amount about my own property and what goes on here by simply paying attention to what I see happening around me. The more you know about what happens naturally on "your" land, the better you'll be able to help the process along.


5) Learn/Ask questions. I'm fortunate to have a well-stocked and expanding reference library, but a lot of mistakes can be avoided by doing your homework first and asking the right questions. Somebody knows well how to do all of this stuff... there's no sense in trying to reinvent the wheel.
 
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