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Woodlot soil problems

 
pollinator
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My farm has 5 acres of "forest", in other words it is former farmland, which has been planted full of birch in orderly rows. I had it thinned so that dappled sunlight reaches the soil.

The soil is miserable. It used to be traditionally tilled farmland, lots of clay. There are areas where absolutely nothing grows! A weed here and another there. Large areas covered in moss, but no other shade plants.

I calculated the amount of plant species I could find on the forest floor, and got 8! Talk about biodiversity 🙄.

I have ordered two 40 pound sacks of a good meadow mix plus small seed packets of some 30 different perennials. Meadow plants usually do not need a rich soil. No animals yet so that option is not available.

I really need ideas how to get the soil back alive again.
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To me, that forest floor looks rich with organic matter.

The barren area looks like a septic system. Though from your Small House thread it seems you do not need a septic system.  May I ask what are the pipes, etc for?

Which areas are you wanting to improve?  I would maybe try working on those barren areas.

Are the perennial seeds to start a food forest or a forest garden?

Is the meadow mix for a cover crop?

I feel the best ways to improve soil is with woodchips, compost, and mushrooms.

Do you compost?  Are wood chips available?

I am sorry for so many questions.
 
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If it was tilled farmland that was planted with the birch but still surrounded by other tilled farmland, it makes sense that few understory species have had the opportunity to arrive there and establish. Probably not all of the species in your seed mix will like the conditions but hopefully enough will establish to give your biodiversity a boost. I would add some clovers if not already in the mix as they should do well in your dappled shade.

Wood chips, compost and mushrooms are excellent suggestions. Check out threads about king stropharia mushrooms. I would also add biochar and leaves. All of these additiins should go on the surface, no need to dig them in. Over time the leaf fall from the birches and exudates from the soil mycorrhizae associated with the trees should improve the soil, but if you can add some leaves from a more diverse forested area that would give your soil biota a boost. Even leaves raked and bagged from lawns in town will add valuable leaf mold and possibly some new mycorrhizae that never had the chance to reach your spot.

You might also want to slowly add some more diverse trees to the woodlot. Many birches tend to be relatively short lived (decades rather than centuries) and being a single aged monoculture they may all die within a few years of each other when that time comes. If you would like to keep that area as a woodland in perpetuity it might be a good idea to plant some tree seeds. Your native woodland trees would be adapted to growing up under a leafy canopy. Mostly they should be planted in fall so they get cold stratified in place.
 
Kaarina Kreus
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Anne Miller wrote:To me, that forest floor looks rich with organic matter.

The barren area looks like a septic system. Though from your Small House thread it seems you do not need a septic system.  May I ask what are the pipes, etc for?

Which areas are you wanting to improve?  I would maybe try working on those barren areas.

Are the perennial seeds to start a food forest or a forest garden?

Is the meadow mix for a cover crop?

I feel the best ways to improve soil is with woodchips, compost, and mushrooms.

Do you compost?  Are wood chips available?

I am sorry for so many questions.



Anne, sorry I put in a wrong picture. The pipes are because of the water pump. I was thinking to camouflage them later. This is where I get my clean water.

The problem is, two hectares is an awful lot to tend with woodchips or compost. My little compost just cannot cope.
 
Kaarina Kreus
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Andrea Locke wrote:
Wood chips, compost and mushrooms are excellent suggestions.
I would also add biochar and leaves.

You might also want to slowly add some more diverse trees to the woodlot.



Thanks Andrea,
The area is 5 acres!!! Getting hold of enough compost, wood chips or biochar will take ages or bankrupt me 😄. Plus everything needs to be cartied with a wheelbarrow.
That's why I was thinking about some planting solutions.
 
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I don't have experience with your northern latitude, so hesitate to comment.  It appears you have the problem properly diagnosed.  It is a sunlight issue.  Thinning will help.  Finding plants with a living root that will tolerate shade is a challenge.  Have you considered Subterranean clover?   It is the most shade tolerant clover, will provide nitrogen, and has a good root system to stimulate soil biology.  It does not produce a lot of mass, but is a living mulch selection.

There are a lot of forbs that will grow in these conditions.  Those may help to kickstart the plant lifecycle/progression.  

Potatoes, kale, watercress, squash, and rhubarb all are said to be shade tolerant vegetables.  

According to this paper, wheat and barley, normally selected for full sun, can adapt to shade conditions.  Nature

 
Anne Miller
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I remember reading that you do not have a car and use a bicycle so that does slow down the gathering of free sources of organic matter.

Trying to improve 5 acres will take a lot of organic matter.

The bags of leaves that Andrea suggest would be the resource that I would feel is easiest available.  Maybe every time you go to town maybe one bag could be brought back.

This is a neat idea for a bike trailer:

https://permies.com/t/48773/Bicycle-trailer-based-ladder

These threads might offer some suggestions:

https://permies.com/t/178414/advice-initial-steps-building-soil

https://permies.com/t/76498/biology-soil

I would also look at what resources are available locally.

Anyone that cuts trees like an arborist has the potential to offer and deliver free wood chips.

Does your local landfill offer any kind of organic matter free?

Restaurants for free veggie scraps, coffee shops for free coffee grounds, and/or mushroom growers for free mushroom compost?

Best wishes for your future endeavors.
 
Kaarina Kreus
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Anne ❤ thank you for the links!!
I was able to get 7 truckloads of leaves and 2 truckloads of horse manure free of charge this autumn. They skip the dump charges and I get free organic material.

But I used all of it for my veggie garden. Vegetables I need next summer, the woodlot can be done more slowly.

You and others are right, this birch monoculture needs other trees!

Actually, did you notice the HUGE amount of wood cuttings lying around? I have been cleaning them all summer - have impressive twig fences around the lot - but some areas look like I had just been lazily sitting in a sun chair with a book all summer 😄
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What if you plant the area with something(s) that just produces biomass like crazy, and then after harvesting concentrate all of that biomass on one part of the area to build soil? Then, when the soil building has been "kickstarted" in that part, you move on to another. I think if you try to improve the whole two hectares in one go, you might well break both your wheelbarrow and your back. Little by little seems more doable.

As for biochar, with a good-sized trench and some of those branches on your pictures, you could probably make a good start at least. Not enough for all that land, obviously, but for a part of it. Also, a nice thing with the trench method is that it doesn't really feel like "work", but more like having a big fire for fun. Especially if you invite some other people to join you...

Some ideas for stuff to plant for biomass (may or may not work in your climate, what part of Finland are you in?)
-Maples! Mainly thinking about Acer platanoides. Usually nice soil under maple trees due to the large quantity of leaves, they grow fast and can be easily propagated by seed. You could go to a place where there are some maples, gather lots of seeds and scatter them around randomly. Then after they have improved the soil, if you don't want a maple forest, you could cut them and make biochar, wood chips, firewood or whatever. Okay, it would probably turn into an inpromptu maple coppice after cutting, but well...
-Shrub willows (Salix sp.) Grow quickly, rot quickly, easy to propagate (cuttings), almost certainly grow somewhere near you already. Will grow in any soil. Might be a pain to get rid of once you don't want them anymore, though.
-Linden (Tilia sp.) Supposedly the leaves are extra good for soil building (wherever I read that...) No hugely quick propagation methods (layering is easiest) so might not be practical for large areas, more like one here and one there. Beautiful trees, edible and good for pollinators too!
-Hops (Humulus lupulus) Don't know exactly how much biomass they would produce, but if they like the place I bet it's a lot. I've seen feral hop colonies in places that have some similarities with yours (old farmland with trees, wet, flat) and they do very well. Also, it seems they like growing over heaps of branches, so if you want to leave some branches on the ground to decompose, hops might make a nice living layer on top and add some finer material to the pile. They might also increase moisture retention in the pile to speed decomposition.
 
Anne Miller
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Speaking of biomass, compost can be made into a microbial biomass.

This can be done by making compost tea. It is easy to take some compost and put it in a container with water and add some microbe-feeding nutrients, like molasses.

As Eino suggests use this on small patches.

For some interesting reading:

https://permies.com/t/8171/composting/fermented-weed-soup-compost-tea

https://permies.com/t/185538/composting/Liquid-fertilizer-Compost-Compost-tea
 
Andrea Locke
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Yes, there is absolutely no reason why you cannot just do a little at a time. What you have already planned is really good and given time, even if you only do that and let the natural leaf fall and woody debris decompose I think you will see a difference.  The other suggestions are things you can add to it if you have the time and opportunity. I do biochar in a cookie tin in my woodstove, a little bit at a time, using branches that I gather on the property. In a couple of weeks I have a bucket full. If you can make a little bonfire outside with friends you would make more. And even a grocery bag of leaves from a healthy forest gathered now and then will inoculate good mycorrhizae and add a little leaf mold. I dont know if you are near the ocean but I always bring a grocery size bag of dead eelgrass or algae if I am there at a time of year when beach spawning fish eggs are not present. (And I am trying to improve eroded sandy soil on 38 acres, starting with a 5 acre area.) Your birch trees seem to be doing fine in the pictures so there does not seem to be any urgency to make these changes. Just a little bit at a time.
 
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Hi Kaarina, does the lack of growth happening in the entire wood lot or more in the center of it? Usually the "edges" have more diversity and the plants receive more sunlight. If it's the whole area, has you done any soil analysis to find out the possible causes? It is too compact? Low in organic matters? pH too low as indicated by moss growth?

Also what do you plan on the woodlot? Do you want it clear of other trees and bushes for easy logging later on? Or do you want it to evolve into a secondary forests with many native species? If five acres are too big to tackle, then starting from the edge would be easier, taking one bite at a time.
 
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I think it would be worth checking the soil PH.  
 
Kaarina Kreus
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May Lotito wrote:Hi Kaarina, does the lack of growth happening in the entire wood lot or more in the center of it? Also what do you plan on the woodlot?



May, The area is full of birch which have been reaching up like crazy to get a chance at their place in the sun. It had been planted too tight, and every tree just sprung up to reach the sun.

After we thinned it, it is pretty sunny because the trees only have foliage high up! All trees have huge stems with a bunch of foliage on the top - not very natural for birch... You and others are right, this birch monoculture needs other trees!

Of course, it is sunnier at the southern side, but now the whole area gets dappled sunshine.

My long term plan is to keep sheep on this forest/meadow. Maybe 3-4 years from now. But as it is now, it is a pitiful pasture 🙄

Please, bear with me, I am still cleaning all the branches left by the foresters. Priority was the orchard and vegetable gardens.
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Kaarina Kreus
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Eino Kenttä wrote: I think if you try to improve the whole two hectares (five acres) in one go, you might well break both your wheelbarrow and your back. Little by little seems more doable.

- biochar
-Maples! Acer platanoides
-Shrub willows (Salix sp.)
-Linden (Tilia sp.)
-Hops (Humulus lupulus)



Eino kiitos thanks ❤
Very good advice.  Also, You and others are right, this birch monoculture needs other trees!
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I wouldn't clean up all the branches in all areas.  Birch rots very quickly compared to most trees and will become good soil.  I would leave them alone except in a small area that I started improving.  I would pick an area you want to plant on and do one of two things.  I would try to get more manure and leaves and put down 4 or 6 inches covering as much area as I had material for, or I would take all the branches from a small area, make a layer of them, add a layer of manure and leaves, another layer of tree branches, another layer of manure and leaves, etc.  and make small hugel mounds that you could plant with biomass producing plants.  Then I would chop that biomass up and add it right back on.

5 acres is a big area.  I would break it into sections of about 20 feet by 20 feet and just work to really fix that little area before I moved on to the next.  Each area that you can get productive will produce biomass that you can use to improve it even more and at the same time, you will have productive areas you can plant.  You can grow a lot of food, for both the soil and future animals, in a 20'x20' area, and it won't be long before that is a 20'x100' area, and on and on.  It may be overwhelming if you tried to do the whole thing, but if you do a small section at a time, it's easier, and it's easy to see progress.
 
Kaarina Kreus
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Trace Oswald wrote:I wouldn't clean up all the branches in all areas.  Birch rots very quickly compared to most trees
5 acres is a big area.  I would break it into sections.  It may be overwhelming if you tried to do the whole thing, but if you do a small section at a time, it's easier, and it's easy to see progress.



Trace thank you. ❤

A brilliant idea!  A couple of hugels or hugel mountains is pretty doable even though I have to do it manually. And the future sheep or goats will like it.

I have ordered some 10 different trees and about 25 different bushes to plant into this thinned birch forest. But there are "super" plants which grow a very large root system: comfrey and rye thrive here.  I need to find more species.
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Andrea Locke
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Kaarina Kreus wrote:[

My long term plan is to keep sheep on this forest/meadow.



In this case, I would recommend planting some comfrey. I was hesitating to recommend it without knowing what your goals for the area were, because it can be spread very quickly and is almost impossible to eradicate. But if you are going to use the area for sheep, they can graze on comfrey. I actually have to fence off some comfrey from my goats and chickens to make sure I always have some to replant as they have been known to eat it right down to the ground and then the chickens scratch up the roots, if I leave it too long in one area. For improving your soil, it is one of the best things you could plant. The roots will dig deep and loosen the soil, bringing up nutrients, the leaves can be chopped and dropped in place and will quickly decompose and add nutrients and organic matter. You can start small with a few root pieces and from that quickly propagate new comfrey plants.

The other thing is that if you can subdivide the sheep grazing/browsing area into several smaller areas where they can feed intensively and move them frequently they will improve the soil and its feed production more than if you give them access to the whole area.
 
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What Trace said!  Particularly about choosing a patch that's a manageable size to do a good job on. Then build on success.

"Industrial" tree plantations are commonly planted with a close spacing as the intention is for them to grow tall, straight and fast. From what I've read about the industry, going back to thin them is a normal practice. What you have doesn't really qualify as a "forest", but by adding back understory plants, you can transition it. The book Braiding Sweetgrass has a section which talks about how the trees will return to old farmland, but the understory plants take much longer as they are often things like spring bulbs which can easily take years to flower. Hopefully, you can help Mother Nature out. Forest soil is often not deep the way plains soil is, but leaf mold keeps it healthy usually, once it's established.

Dead wood on the ground is a great way to improve soil and many insects will make their homes in it. Burying some of it is a great way to get a lot of carbon back in the soil - most of Earth's soil that has been tilled, is low in carbon. My high raised beds all have punky wood in the bottom.

Are earthworms native in your ecosystem? They have a lot of good microbes in their guts that they will poop out if you create a habitat they can survive in.
 
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I might use some of the felled birch to make raised beds out in the middle of the space. Use these as focal points. Put some compost in these raised beds to improve their fertility. Plant comfrey and Siberian pea shrub in these beds. Put lots of seeds in and use these as nursery areas, producing plants to distribute into the broader woods.

This lets you make a ‘small’ effort that can produce large returns. Do not try to do everything at once, it just doesn’t work without limitless funds.

I’m working with twenty acres, but using less than one to start propagating starts for distribution across the broader space.
 
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Jay Angler wrote:
"Industrial" tree plantations are commonly planted with a close spacing as the intention is for them to grow tall, straight and fast.What you have doesn't really qualify as a "forest"



I fully agree. But that is what I got. I searched for a farm 5 years! This filled all the critical points of being accessible without a car, having a river , being in a good growing area (IIA) and being within my budget. So I accepted the military parade of birches 😄

I am asking for help because I see that this birch monoculture is not healthy. And as I plan it to become a lamb pasture in a couple of years, I NEED HELP
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Kaarina Kreus wrote:

May Lotito wrote:Hi Kaarina, does the lack of growth happening in the entire wood lot or more in the center of it? Also what do you plan on the woodlot?



May, The area is full of birch which have been reaching up like crazy to get a chance at their place in the sun. It had been planted too tight, and every tree just sprung up to reach the sun.

After we thinned it, it is pretty sunny because the trees only have foliage high up! All trees have huge stems with a bunch of foliage on the top - not very natural for birch... You and others are right, this birch monoculture needs other trees!

Of course, it is sunnier at the southern side, but now the whole area gets dappled sunshine.

My long term plan is to keep sheep on this forest/meadow. Maybe 3-4 years from now. But as it is now, it is a pitiful pasture 🙄

Please, bear with me, I am still cleaning all the branches left by the foresters. Priority was the orchard and vegetable gardens.



I'm glad you mentioned animals because that's where my mind went. If you're not familiar with the concept of 'bale grazing' it's a way to introduce seed and organic matter to a site while also feeding animals. It's often done either in winter months when there's no green forage available for grazing or on poor site in need of restoration. You'd of course need to truck in hay but that would be feeding your animals. In exchange you get seeds dispersed from the hay along with their manure, urine and impact. You'd rotate them regularly to disperse the impact and nutrients, etc.

Also, as I think has been mentioned, if you'd like to graze you'll need to continue to thin the woods. I'd imagine your target is similar to ours here in Vermont USA - about 50% canopy cover. And depending on how deeply rooted those trees are, it may actually make sense to keep clumps of trees and clear patches in between to create a more savannah type ecosystem. There's pros and cons to both, but I think you coudl create interesting gradients of sun and shaded woods as an alternative to just thinning the entire stand evenly.

It looks like you've found a lovely place to make a life!
 
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We have clay soil here, and pretty much same scenario, We hope to fence off a perimeter, and release goats to help clear the light forest.
 
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As it has been said, leaving some branches on the ground is really good for biodiversity, especially insects, mushrooms, other microorganisms and even birds. In times the birds will also bring other plant species from further away (through seeds in their poop or in their plumage), so I would maybe think of ways to attract them around (planting some bushes with berries maybe?). If you are surrounded by big fields this could be a nice refuge for them.

Also, here in Canada, the natural succession of plants in a forest starts with trees that are intolerant to shadow (like birches) and then trees that are tolerant start growing under them (like pruch, fir and spruce). So maybe you could plant a few of those species under you birches? Coniferous trees would attract their own microorganisms and mushrooms. That might not be the best for a pasture though, but since you have 5 acres maybe part of it could have more coniferous trees. These trees also provide shelter year-round for some fauna (birds, hares, deers, etc.) that would also bring along other species of plants and diversify your ecosystem!

Lastly, if your land has been used as conventionnal farmland, the soil might be fairly compacted (especially with a lot of clay). A good "passive" way to decompact it, might be to plant species that have deep and big roots. Earthworms are also good at decompacting soils but they need some organic matter (other solutions have touch on that).

Hope this gives you some ideas!
 
Trace Oswald
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Kaarina Kreus wrote:

A couple of hugels or hugel mountains is pretty doable even though I have to do it manually.

...

I fully agree. But that is what I got. I searched for a farm 5 years! This filled all the critical points of being accessible without a car, having a river , being in a good growing area (IIA) and being within my budget. So I accepted the military parade of birches 😄

I am asking for help because I see that this birch monoculture is not healthy. And as I plan it to become a lamb pasture in a couple of years, I NEED HELP



When I make hugel type structures, I don't make mine large as is commonly recommended here.  I don't find a 7 foot structure as useful as smaller ones.  All of mine are done by hand, but that isn't hard at all if you make smaller ones.
I actually think it's enjoyable work, much like my small dams.  I really enjoy working at them a little at a time and watching them grow and change.

I think your place sounds awesome.  I also agree with others that said you may need to thin the trees even more.  If you decide to do that, I would do it the same way, one small area at a time.  I would also thin areas more than they would need to be in some places, and when I removed the birch trees, put a different type of tree in it's place.  For instance, I would remove birch trees in a grid of say 6 trees by 6 trees, and then in the middle of the grid, put in one apple tree and some support bushes around it in the newly cleared area.  Just a thought.
 
Kaarina Kreus
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Peter Ellis wrote:I might use some of the felled birch to make raised beds out in the middle of the space.
This lets you make a ‘small’ effort that can produce large returns. Do not try to do everything at once, it just doesn’t work without limitless funds.
.


Peter thank you ❤. An exellent idea. The forest is really flat - that would give it some contour. Goat love it, but even sheep like an undulating terrain.  I can easily bring some soil with a barrowheel.
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Kaarina Kreus
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I got 7 truckloads of leaves and two of horse manure. Free of charge.
But I used all of it for my veggie gardens.
Maybe next year I can scurry them to my birch forest...
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The piles
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Veggie garden after I cleared it
Veggie garden after I cleared it
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Veggie garden after 7 truckloads of leaves an 2 of manure
Veggie garden after 7 truckloads of leaves an 2 of manure
 
Kaarina Kreus
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Lyam Pelletier wrote:As it has been said, leaving some branches on the ground is really good for noofivrrsity

if your land has been used as conventionnal farmland, the soil might be fairly compacted (especially with a lot of clay). A good "passive" way to decompact it, might be to plant species that have large root systems:



Lyam thank you ❤
I have dragged all the branches into a twig fence. It is a veritable Manhattan for all kinds of birds, hedgejogd and insects. In the spring as I was clearing the orchard area  I understood it. I had made about 100 meters of the twig fence, when a grouse startet trotting along it. She found a suitable part and made her nest there!

I am trying to make a list of big-root plants. Comfrey, rye, buckwheat...
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Finished!
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Halfway through clearing
Halfway through clearing
 
Lyam Pelletier
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Kaarina Kreus wrote:
I have dragged all the branches into a twig fence. It is a veritable Manhattan for all kinds of birds, hedgejogd and insects. In the spring as I was clearing the orchard area  I understood it. I had made about 100 meters of the twig fence, when a grouse startet trotting along it. She found a suitable part and made her nest there!



That's awesome!!


Kaarina Kreus wrote:
I am trying to make a list of big-root plants. Comfrey, rye, buckwheat...



I don't know which ones would work in your climate but on top of my head, I'd say dandelions, willows and daikon radish. Other types of radish or root vegetables are recommended in a garden but their wild equivalent should work too. Maybe look into edible wild plants from your area and those which are recommended for root-harvesting might be a good fit (should they like clay)!
 
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If you have a forestry industry in your region, your government webpage might provide resources for woodlot owners. You should be able to find resources about ecosites/ecoregions in your area that have been studied. Certain trees are pioneer species and other trees are climax species. A good thing to do would be to figure out what your forest may have looked like before this happened, figure out what climax species would be growing there, source some local seeds for them and spread them around your woodlot and hope that some of them germinate! This is much cheaper than buying saplings and it will be possible with your bike, as seeds are very tiny.. and they can be free when you go on hikes!!

As an example, where I am in Canada, the forest is called the Wabanaki-Acadian Temperate forest. It is divided into many different forest types which have different types of vegetation that characterize them, from the overstory canopy to the shrub layer. They are labeled based on their tolerance to shade, whether they are hardwood or softwood, whether they are dry or floodplain, etc. There is much to learn about how land and vegetation is qualified and quantified and it is a beautiful journey to learn it all and steward the land back to a more natural ecosystem!!

This is what our resources look like for my area: https://novascotia.ca/natr/forestry/veg-types/

Have fun trying to figure our your forest classification! Walk around any trails near you and see if you can collect some seeds for shade tolerant and shade intolerant trees, then you can spread the shade tolerant ones between the birches and the intolerant ones at the outskirts of the birch clusters.

Sending love on this mission!!
 
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This place sounds great!
I noticed something that looked like a very small pond.
What if you dug small ponds, and used the removed soil on your hugel mounds?
Spike the pond with duckweed, azolla, cattails and/or water hyacinth.
Add fishies or tadpoles for mosquitoe control.
You can harvest the aquatic plants for biomass or just let the pond gradually fill itself in.
 
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There have been some excellent suggestions on this thread and a few that I have mixed feelings about.

I am passionate about cultivating native plants in natural and semi-natural locations, such as your woodland, and so I would be hesitant about planting large amounts of non-native plants if they are likely to spread.

Comfrey has been mentioned a lot. It is a powerful plant and I would never be without it in a vegetable garden. I would be cautious about introducing it in quantity to your woodland, however. As others have mentioned, it is almost impossible to eradicate. At the very least, I would select a sterile strain such as Bocking 14. Alternatively, there may be a native comfrey that you could use (and which will have natural "predators").

Rye and buckwheat have also been mentioned and I am sure they would make fantastic forage for your future sheep. I would also urge that you consider native, perennial grasses. There may be some that are found among the indigenous birch woodland in your area and which will establish themselves quite easily. These will have the added benefit of supporting native wildlife and plant communities - although they might not be as high-sugar as the ryegrasses.

In my pasture, the areas with the most organic matter are those adjacent to the woodland. We have some mature oak trees on one of our boundaries that have been dropping their leaves for the past 200 or more years. Even with regular hay cutting this has left topsoil with 8.1% organic matter. I mention this because deciduous trees, with time, will create rich soil. Soil with lots of leaf fall tends to be quite acidic (ours is 5.7pH by the trees) but this can be remedied if required with a little application of lime - and many plants don't mind (or even prefer) slightly acidic soil.

I'm not sure of which other deciduous trees you will have growing, natively, in your area, but planting a mixture of those (even if it means thinning a few more birch, later) will result in a more diverse woodland and likely bolster the mycelium too (as some fungi prefer to form symbiotes with certain species). Beech seems to smother, rather than promote, an understory, but oak, rowan, hawthorn, Acers and many others (in my climate, at least) often show very healthy grasses, mosses and ferns growing beneath them.

I mention the last few things as, with time, the trees in your woodland will increase the organic matter, decompact the soil and improve it without you needing to intervene. This might not create suitable pasture for your sheep in the next 5 years but, if the inputs you are buying or the work you are planning feels daunting - or life pulls you in another direction - the untouched area of woodland will be improving itself all the while.

As always, everyone has different opinions and values about how they do/would use land. I tend to prefer a native, nature-first approach and I've tried to present a few options with that in mind.

Whatever approach you take, please do share the journey and the results with us. Good luck.
 
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