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Problem area needs solution

Posts: 151
Location: Madison, AL
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I am hoping the collective permie brains here can help me find a solution for a few difficult spots. This is the first one, and by far the easiest to describe.

My rear fenceline backs up to a large tract of woods. I don't own the woods, but I keep the area clear of large shrubs and trees for about 20' back -- my septic field ends at the fence and I don't need big trees putting their roots in it. I planted blackberries and blueberries along the fence 3 years ago, which are native here, and can tolerate the 50/50 sun and shade and the competition from trees. In fact, I have wild blueberries growing back under the trees. I got a good crop this year, then the drought came along. 3 weeks of hot temperatures and no rain is not an unusual occurrence here, so anything I plant needs to be able to take that kind of drought stress and these should, but I think the big trees back there sucked up all the available water. It looks like I lost about half of each of my shrubs. Even the creeping charlie, virginia creeper and poison ivy died. (The young redbud trees, surprisingly, did not.)

So... what do I plant back there? This is a real dry shade condition under competition, with compacted, eroded acidic soil that is a silty clay loam. I have a large swale that funnels some water back that way, so during the winter when we get most of our rain it may get wet for an extra day or two. 50% sun here is nearly full sun compared to a lot of climates. It also gets more sun in the winter back there. And I have rampaging hordes of squirrels and rabbits and slugs (as well as many other critters.)

This is probably a great location for herbs like rosemary, but I already have tons of herbs, and it is far enough away from the house that I don't want to do annuals there, even if I found annuals that can survive. Shrubs are okay, but I don't want trees near my septic lines.

The only ideas I have so far are asparagus and artichokes. Artichokes they won't survive a tough winter here (zone 7b), but this is a somewhat sheltered spot and we don't often really get a 7B winter. Online everyone says they need a lot a water but I know for a fact they grow and produce along the rail road tracks in Melbourne, Australia, which gets a lot less yearly rainfall than we do. Asparagus may not tolerate the acidity and compacted soil, and the rabbits will probably love them to death.

Any other ideas out there?

Companion Planting Guide by World Permaculture Association
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