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New Project in Existing Open Woodland z 2/3 Alberta

 
Cohan Fulford
Posts: 79
Location: West Central Alberta, Canada
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In spite of the fact that most of my property is still snow covered, I went out for a bit today and worked on an area where I am going to do some kind of food crop planting, not yet sure quite what how it will be- maybe a bit of 'hugelkultur' and maybe some no till planting using heavy mulch and planting into existed woodland soil, some might need a first tilling so that I can get some annual crops in this year.

Still thinking about it, but, I went out and started raking up leaves and tall grass in the area, cutting some overhanging branches etc. I have to decide where/how many of the existing wild shrubs to keep and which will be moved or mowed etc. I don't intend to clear out all of the existing plants,there are many native forbs as well as the woodies. I will have some young poplars to cut down (and yes, I will have suckers forever, but that is already the case on virtually all of my property)..
What you see is an area along the south edge of part of the native forest on our acreage. Running from west to east, this means it runs from the low to higher end of the yard. The area I'm looking at is at the lower end, so not really dry, though not wet on the sunny side of the trees (never all day full sun, but I'm hoping good enough). To the north is an area of mixed/ moslty confierous woodland, which borders on wetland, and south of it is the main part of the yard with houses, sheds, ornamental beds etc and some mature trees scattered around as well, and a full row of mature trees along the south edge of the property, so this area does not get full sun all day, but is one of the sunniest sections on the property.
This zone has parts of an old brush pile- logs, stumps, some soil and smaller woody material, pushed into more or less of a row when some clearing was done for house building/installation quite a few years ago.
Since then native shrubs- roses (acicularis), honeysuckles (dioica and involucrata), raspberries, snowberries (Symphoricarpos),some currants /gooseberries,etc- as well as seedling and sapling trees (spruce, and poplars mostly) have been growing on and among the brush pile. Also, I've also been piling cut saplings there, as well as some branches etc from the bush that were in the way or excess to firewood harvesting, with a view to building a sort of brush fence to keep deer/moose out of the 'civilised' parts of the acreage, so I'd like to build in some kind of fencing eg- high mound at back made higher with a wattle fence and/or using some old wire fence that is around but not high enough for deer, etc...
A further objective of this 'fencing' is to block cold air from the north and trap heat from the sun.

I've realised that this area tends to be warmer, on the south side of the trees, and clear of snow much earlier than out in the open, so I think it should be good for getting some annual vegetables going. Generally things like common root crops and cool weather crops do well here, and beans are generally fine, though due to imperfect sun, a little extra heat should help (plus side is we don't get some early/late frosts in here). Stuff like tomatoes and peppers is always marginal here, so microclimates can't hurt.
Obviously I have a start on hugel beds , if I go that route for part of it, since there is plenty of woody material already there, and more easily found in the bush behind, a good amount of mulch material in leaves and grass that I can rake up in spots that haven't been mowed, and other places on the property I can get some black humus ( an old mound from when the sewage lagoon was put in in the '70's, and I can probably get a fair bit of our clayey loam as well..
If needed, I might also be able to get rotted cow manure and/or old hay/straw from the neighbours...
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Cohan Fulford
Posts: 79
Location: West Central Alberta, Canada
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more pics
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Cohan Fulford
Posts: 79
Location: West Central Alberta, Canada
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Last set for now!
Any thoughts/ideas esp on plants (annual and perennial) that might work in this setting and planting strategies for annual crops for this season very welcome since I am just at the thinking stage, and obviously can't do anything yet at this time of year except rake, move some pieces of wood that aren't frozen in place, and cut down any saplings I want to move.
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Jeff Fountain
Posts: 21
Location: Thompson Manitoba Canada Zone 1b :(
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Thanks for sharing... I'm on similar boreal forest land (6 acres) but I got lucky in that all the land was clear when I acquired it. Unfortunately, I am in zone 1b if I can be successful here, I can grow anywhere.

Poplars... I've heard that if you cut them in spring for a few years they will "starve". My experience concurs. Also they do not like there roots covered too much. So a good covering of sheet mulch or compost will help them be out competed. They break down quickly and are good in huguel beds. They are a little allelopathic (sp?) though that only lasts a year or so.

Plants... I recommend cultivars from the university of Saskatchewan; they are on the cutting edge of cold climate fruit production research. They have a number of cherries, apples, and plums that will do well for you. I also recommend hardy kiwi if you have a nice sheltered sunny spot. They taste fantastic! Better than regular kiwi! Saskatoons, haskap, currants, gooseberry and cane berries (raspberries and blackberries) will do real well for you.

I also recommend getting into shiitake mushroom logs. Seems your bush has about the right amount of shade!

I will share some of my experiences over this summer!

Good luck!
 
Cohan Fulford
Posts: 79
Location: West Central Alberta, Canada
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Good to hear from you, Jeff.
1b does sound tough, but I'm sure it's doable. If you haven't already, you should read The Boreal Herbal, written in the Yukon, it's all about native and naturalised plants that are good for food and medicine. I want to start utilising the abundant wild foods more, and planting them in easy to harvest areas too..
I know someone in Hay River, NWT who has a great garden- not PC, but amazing selection of ornamental perennials etc. I'll have to look up Thompson, don't know much about the area.

We do have some pretty productive apples and crabs, and several cherries - I always forget the common name- Prunus tomentosa- you have to be right on top of them to beat the birds to them, though. A couple of sandcherries also, though they are not as productive, at least where they are.
There are a couple of plums that do very little, will have to look into that more and see what I can do about it.
Those are all conventionally planted and have been there for years, but they are doing fine,
We also have quite a few native Saskatoon (Amelanchier alnifolia) but it's really hard to get any of those before the birds do- probably need to net some if I want to harvest.
Wild Raspberries grow anywhere they get a bit of open soil, and throughout the open bush.
I'd like to add honeyberries, but mostly I'd like something other than small fruits- since we already have quite a few- nuts would be nice, though I'm not planting any huge shade trees- enough shade already, I'd like to get the native hazelnut.
Other than that, I'll probably grow some annual crops to make more of an impact on the food supply-- potatoes, carrots, onions, beans, soup peas, quinoa etc. I'd like to find some perennial crops for cold zones that pack a wollop, but can't think of any offhand.. seems like mostly berries and asparagus (which I haven't got yet)..lol Actually, I have to try eating daylily roots- tons of those here, and not my idea of excitement in the ornamental garden.. bet they'd really go crazy in veg garden type soil...
Mushrooms is something I do need to look at- there are tons of wild ones, but I don't know what's edible; I have never been a fan of eating mushrooms (funny for a vegetarian, I know) though one or two I didn't mind. I'll have to try the kinds I could grow and see..

I guess cleared land is a mixed blessing- I'd like more sun in some places, but love my forest areas and very strong native plant community. Of course I wouldn't have enough area for major food production, but I'm not trying to feed a whole family. Did the clearing leave you a windbreak? That can make a huge difference to perennials, especially woodies above the snowline. My dream property would have a field at the front (south) that could be developed and an intact forest behind, or better yet in bowl shape to three sides...lol
 
Jeff Fountain
Posts: 21
Location: Thompson Manitoba Canada Zone 1b :(
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I'm treed in on all sides of the clearing so that is a small blessing. Actually the site was an old saw mill, so I also have Lon's of old wood and chips.

For perennial veg the pickings are few. Of course there is also rhubarb but you know that probably. Cattails are edible, also sun chokes. Spinach readily volunteers. Don't forget chives. I haven't tried day lily, thanks for the suggestion. I'll try it this summer. If you have birch you can make a decent syrup! A bee hive would be nice... I'm experimenting with them this year.

Again, good luck! We don't have the long season or options of our southern friends, but the summer we do have is awesome eh!

Jeff
 
Cohan Fulford
Posts: 79
Location: West Central Alberta, Canada
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Treed all around is a large blessing!..lol We have some large areas of chives, which were planted by my mom and aunt under some of the fruit trees. I tend to forget about them when I am cooking, then one time last year I picked a bunch, and they were like wood! I thought they were good to pick at all times, but clearly not, need to look into it more closely!
Have you tried cattails? I know they were used by natives for all kinds of things. Mostly here they grow by roadsides, not best place for harvesting, but I could probably make a patch on the property..

There are birch around for sure, though they tend to have quite short lived trunks- lots of dead material out there, which has helped me with firewood even though a lot is too rotten. I'll have to look into the details of tapping..
Bees are a bit much for me..lol- as I've grown up I've managed to calm down from my youthful panic when they are flying around me outdoors, but actually tending them I think is not going to happen...lol

It would be interesting to know how your summer compares to ours- we have a strong climatic influence from the mountains and pacific air systems- though we are still about an hour's drive from the actual foothills (the biome starts at about a half hour's drive, but the serious hills themselves are a bit farther) so our summers, while still pleasant, can be significantly cooler from areas farther east, and nights are cool all summer- even Edmonton, much farther north than us, has a notably warmer summer, and places like Winnipeg are much warmer and often drier than us in summer, but also more steadily cold in winter: we have similar winter lows, but we get the coldest temps for far fewer days.
My friend in Hay River, interestingly, so much farther north, but also farther from the mts, has a warmer drier summer than us also.
 
Jeff Fountain
Posts: 21
Location: Thompson Manitoba Canada Zone 1b :(
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It may be slightly warmer than your area here in Thompson, but the winter here is extremely cold, in fact Thompson is the coldest city in Canada.

I have not tried Cattails but I have drank Labrador and rose hip tea. I may try the Cattails this summer. The chives you grabbed we're the flower stems and not the leaves. The leaves never go woody (that I know of).

Do you have any sea buckthorn? I am interested in how it does and what the berries taste like.
 
Cohan Fulford
Posts: 79
Location: West Central Alberta, Canada
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Huh- I s'pose could have been some flower stems mixed in, though I didn't pick the actual flowers....

Rose hips we have by the millions- which is what you'd need for jelly, they have so little flesh- and don't want to do the all sugar kind. We also have rugosa type garden roses which are also very tough and have much larger hips, could be good for something..

Fireweed (Epilopbium angustifolium-now called Chameirion) and Cowparsnip (Heracleaum lanatum) are both also supposed to be good as spring vegetables; Also Hedysarum alpinum (forget the common name-it's a tallish pink flowered non vining pea plant) supposed to have roots good to eat. It's inmy area but not on my land, need to get a patch going- though I'll need to do lots of them or I'll feel bad harvesting, as its a nice looking plant...lol-- same for the above, but they are more immediately common, but still I'd prob want to get some going on enhanced looser soil so they grow faster. Lots of other natives too- esp for greens, though a few other roots etc. Again, the Boreal Herbal is a great reference- for one thing she not only lists the plants, but actually tells you what to do with them..

I have not got sea buckthorn yet. As you prob know, it's non-native though naturalised/invasive in some places- I've seen it at Gull Lake- about 40 miles or so from here. There are some large stands of it in the park near the beach. I took seeds once, but haven't got them planted. I really liked the taste of the berries, though it was probably after frost when I tasted- almost a tropical flavour to me, like mango-ey... You'd want a space they can spread a bit- without overwhelming anything. I'm thinking of an area they can spread into our treeline on the road side (I'm guessing once they are under the spruces they will lose vigour in the shade, but don't know that for a fact) and would be stopped by mowing on the other side.
 
Cohan Fulford
Posts: 79
Location: West Central Alberta, Canada
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We've also been discussing some great plants on this thread:
http://www.permies.com/t/40/15747/permaculture/Polar-permaculture#187049
 
Cohan Fulford
Posts: 79
Location: West Central Alberta, Canada
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Another thread where we are discussing various potential crops:
https://www.permies.com/t/23030/forest-garden/menu

Most recently I mentioned caraway- common here as a garden escape around farmyards etc; grown originally here for seed, the roots are also supposed to be edible, and young leaves as well... will be trying it- we have lots which I've mostly just been trying to control as it is a foreign invasive, and we have a lot of native plants here... if it's worthwhile, I'll probably want to grow some in a spot with looser soil so its easier to harvest..
 
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