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Would you rather have a blank slate or an overgrown mess?

 
gardener
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Would you rather start with a 5 acre hayfield that has not been sprayed and is a blank slate to lay things out how you want or a 5 acre orchard that was abandoned 50 years ago and is so overgrown with weeds and brush that you can barely tell it was an orchard?
 
master steward
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God help me, but the overgrown orchard sounds like more fun.
 
Matt McSpadden
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The more I think about this, the harder it is to decide. I REALLY like the idea of putting things exactly where I want, because 50 years ago, they may not have laid it out the best way. At the same time, starting with something is really nice too. If you could get them cleaned up and pruned, most of the trees (presuming they are a long lived one like apples) would still be able to produce.

I think I would go with the overgrown mess.
 
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If I could have just a little bit of cleared space to park a truck and get started, I LOVE the idea of all the wood chips, firewood, timber and basic resources that comes with an overgrown lot!

Though I have to admit that I have a hard time cutting trees in the first place and I am drawn to the blank slate.

I am going to have to go with the overgrown orchard.

Eric
 
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There is always a bit of 'it depends' (climate, soil, financial situation....). I think I'd go for the overgrown mess too.

It might be a bit more work, to work out what is already there, but who knows what exciting plants will be hidden in the undergrowth? Any trees that are better removed are a resource for wood and branches for projects and hugel for example. Lots of biomass to redistribute to feed the soil.

Thinking about it some more - I'm actually doing both! At home I started with an overgrazed sheep field (not quite a hayfield that would have been way better!) and I've borrowed an overgrown walled garden which has several orchard trees in the jungle of undergrowth!

My borrowed garden
 
Matt McSpadden
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Nancy Reading wrote:I've borrowed an overgrown walled garden which has several orchard trees in the jungle of undergrowth!



Any relation to Mary Lennox? ;)
Staff note (Nancy Reading) :

Not as far as I'm aware !

 
master gardener
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I'm going the opposite of many of my prior ones. I tend to prefer things that I have done rather than things that I have not done.

I have 'improved' several properties that were overgrown and not taken care of. I never have tried to take old agricultural land or a field and tried to restore some ecological value to it. I would rather go with a blank slate. I think it would be an interesting opportunity to make something unique. If something already exists, I try my darndest to incorporate as much as the existing stuff as possible.
 
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I'm one with an overgrown mess, and my oh my can I see the draw of a clean slate.  Thus far, though (five years in, most work done with hand tools) I still think the grass lichen/moss is greener on the wild side.

Despite the sheer size of the task of bringing this snarled landscape into order; despite the claustrophobia, the sweat, strain and injury; despite the feeling that you are trying to empty the ocean with a five-gallon bucket.

Despite all of that, these untouched places are worlds unto themselves, and fairly rare, in this age of paving paradise for parking lots. Like Nancy said, there is much discovery to be had of the life already there, even if at first glance the decay is more prominent. I have learned a lot about forest ecology, going the slow route backwards. I like to think the life I help build and foster here, will be better for it, long after I'm gone.  
 
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I have been in both situations, except the overgrown lot had not been an orchard.

I would much rather have the blank slate as the overgrown lot was a lot of work and the only time I have had poison ivy.

The ideal situation is the property we have now.

Mother nature created lots of tree guilds and the deer have created lots of paths to walk on.
 
pollinator
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Last year we had to make a similar choice, and we went with the (mostly) blank slate.
In the question offered here, I would be more drawn to the old orchard, but the "old" option we considered just had 60' willows, questionable ashes, far too many yuccas and a bunch of trumpet vines.
 
master gardener
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I'd rather have the overgrown mess. Mostly because it is rewarding to reach back through time and receive the message that whoever planted those trees sent forth. What did they like and value? How did they do things? And what's survived of their intent? And also, there's at least a certainty of biomass that will make nice mulch and compost even if you end up cutting most of it.
 
pollinator
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Easy answer over grown orchard.  I can easily remove 50 year old trees but growing them again in my lifetime is impossible.
 
master steward
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Since I'm already way too familiar with the "overgrown mess" version, I think I'd like to try the blank slate if I may?
 
pollinator
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Blank slate.  Given how my brain and body work its the better choice for me.
 
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