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plan(t)s for old electric pole  RSS feed

 
robert campbell
Posts: 31
Location: coastal oregon
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Hello-

My power line is now buried and I was able to keep the utility pole which used to support it.  I can't accurately say how tall it is but I am sure my 20' extension ladder could not reach the top.

I'm trying to think of how to best utilize this strange garden feature.  It is actually next to a small apple tree, with relatively clear ground below it. 

I suppose in nature a crag like this would be used as nesting for birds.  Indeed, I could easily hang bird/bat/butterfly houses.  I suppose raptors would like a platform on the top but with my chickens, I am not sure I want to attract them. 

Growing hops was my first thought, but I already grow about the quantity I can use on the side of my barn.  Kiwi?  Clematis?  I am located in Coastal Oregon, just inland enough in a river valley where mild-moderate freezes do occur (rarely below 20, often below 32). 

If there were something which needed no support at all (no line or trellis connected to the pole) that would be excellent.
 
Jami McBride
gardener
Posts: 1948
Location: PNW Oregon
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Due to the chemical treatment on these poles I would grow anything edible.

However, have you considered wisteria?  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wisteria  Beautiful coverage for spring, summer and fall, then interesting vines in the winter.
 
Dave Boehnlein
Posts: 294
Location: Orcas Island, WA
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As much as you may want to make use of that pole, it might also make sense to remove/dispose of it. If it is continuing to leach creosote into your yard it may be more of a liability than it's worth. From what I've seen of creosote logs they seem like they must leach throughout their useful life, especially on hot days.

If you decide to keep it I think wisteria is a great idea. If there is an apple nearby it will fix nitrogen for it (and anything else in the area).

I probably wouldn't put a food crop on it since the harvest will be a pain in the butt (given that your 20' ladder doesn't reach the top)!

Dave
 
robert campbell
Posts: 31
Location: coastal oregon
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As I understand the dangers of pressure-treated wood, tests seem to show that the leaching does not generally spread more than a couple inches away from the wood itself.  Better safe than sorry, sure...  but in any case if I were to grow anything up it, it would probably be from a raised bed off to side of the base. 

Hops are simple enough to harvest from tall heights when the trellises are run up on a pulley-type arrangement (like a flagpole).  Just lower the lines and harvest on the ground.

Food crops weren't my only thought though;  something for pollinators and birds to enjoy.  Wisteria, I had thought grows up so high and then wants to spread laterally.  So I am wondering about vines which will just go straight up and branch minimally. 

Thanks for any additional thoughts.
 
Dave Boehnlein
Posts: 294
Location: Orcas Island, WA
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mantid wrote:
As I understand the dangers of pressure-treated wood, tests seem to show that the leaching does not generally spread more than a couple inches away from the wood itself. 


Hmm...this would be worthy of further research. The amount of rain you must get in Coastal Oregon makes me think it must leach like crazy.

Anyway, if you want to plant something for pollinators, I would suggest a fall blooming clematis. Bees love them and they bloom at a time of year where there aren't a lot of other flowers. This helps to beef up the bee's larder a bit before winter. We plant a lot of fall bloomers to help strengthen our hives. The bees need all the help they can get these days. We've got a clematis planted to create a shady covering of vegetation over our root cellar. It started blooming in mid-September and is still going. I think it is Clematis paniculata, but I'm not sure. As a bonus it is fragrant as well!

Good luck!

Dave
 
Dave Miller
pollinator
Posts: 416
Location: Zone 8b: SW Washington
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If you have kids, how about making a zip line?  I made one in our yard, it is a lot of fun.  But to be safe your yard needs to have some slope in order for it to work.

I have an old power pole in my yard (that I dragged from a neighbor's yard) for my bat house.  It has gotten some use.  I used a small torch to burn off most of the creosote before placing the bat house.

I have another one as well which supports a corner of a tree house.  I have clematis and climbing hydrangea growing on it.  I live in SW Washington state.

Another idea I've had for attracting birds is to put up a wire/cable and attach nesting gourds to it, something like this:


Kind of ugly but the birds would love it.  Perhaps a design challenge could be to make such a setup not so ugly, perhaps by growing a vine down the wire.  The nice thing about using a cable is you can lower one end to access all of the gourds for maintenance.
 
Dave Boehnlein
Posts: 294
Location: Orcas Island, WA
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I agree that it seems like an ideal spot for a bat house. The guano would collect at the base where you could harvest it for use or just leave it to fertilize the nearby plants.

Cheers!

Dave
 
Kathleen Sanderson
Posts: 995
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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If you are in coastal Oregon, I've seen ivy growing up trees and power/phone poles (where it wasn't removed) to great heights.  If you could fasten a wire shape up there someplace, you could make an oversized ivy topiary!

Kathleen
 
Dave Miller
pollinator
Posts: 416
Location: Zone 8b: SW Washington
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Kathleen Sanderson wrote:
If you are in coastal Oregon, I've seen ivy growing up trees and power/phone poles (where it wasn't removed) to great heights.  If you could fasten a wire shape up there someplace, you could make an oversized ivy topiary!

Kathleen
If you do use ivy, please do not use English Ivy (Hedera helix).  It is a nasty invasive plant which can spread via seed (birds) if allowed to grow tall.  See http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2008/10/nonnative_english_ivy_is_poiso.html or just google "English Ivy".
 
robert campbell
Posts: 31
Location: coastal oregon
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These are great ideas folks, thanks!

I think I will do something like post a few birdhouses/bathouses/butterfly houses up it (I'll look into this... for example, will birds eat nesting butterflies?  Do birds like several birdhouses in the same location?  Do bats?  etc) and then grow a perennial pollinator/hummingbird attractor (like clematis) on it.  If you like, please keep the ideas coming!  In any case, I'll aim to post some photos this spring/summer as it comes into its own.

FWIW, I do live in "coastal oregon" in that I am 10 miles from the ocean.  However, I am in a river valley that has its own bizarre weather.  Its a lot colder here in winter and a lot hotter in summer than on the coast.  We do get freezes and it gets hot and dry (for a couple weeks), neither of which happen on "the coast".  I am realizing that its better for me to research gardening in Missoula, Montana which is hundreds of miles away than it is to study gardens in Newport, OR which is 30 miles away.
 
Gwen Lynn
Posts: 736
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I don't know about adult butterflies, however, I have seen a female cardinal feeding on monarch butterfly caterpillars. I know...they are supposedly poisonous. I had planted some ornamental milkweed. It's a little different than wild milkweed. I had 8 plants in a flower bed and at least 10 caterpillars on each plant. Every day, a few caterpillars were missing & I couldn't figure it out, there were no chrysalis.

One day I was in the pool and this cardinal lands on the side of the pool next to the flower bed. So I watch this cardinal hunt the caterpillars, she got one & I chased her off. After that, I put netting over the plants so the rest of the caterpillars could hatch! The only thing I could guess it that the milkweed I was growing wasn't very poisonous. Or maybe it just doesn't bother the birds? I dunno. It's still kind of a mystery to me. 
 
Leah Sattler
Posts: 2603
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I like the bird house idea. I have seen lots of happy trumpet vine on power poles also. I really enjoy hummingbirds so that is what comes to mind to me.

gwen - when something is deemed  "poisonous" I figure it should be noted that probably had a narrow field of observation. maybe it was found to be poisonous to something......but it is impossible to note the effects on all species....or lack there of.  things  come to mind like poison ivy and poke weed and all the warnings that "tomatoes plants are in the nightshade family and are toxic". all of which my goats eat happily with no ill affects ....... 
 
Dave Boehnlein
Posts: 294
Location: Orcas Island, WA
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mantid wrote:
I think I will do something like post a few birdhouses/bathouses/butterfly houses up it


Sounds good. Most bat house designs I've seen allow guano to fall out the bottom so you'll want to put the bat houses below the birdhouses.

Good luck!

Dave
 
paul wheaton
master steward
Posts: 22367
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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If it were me, I would remove it and get the toxins off my land.  Much like what Dave mentioned. 

The counter had to do with pressure treated wood.  We're not talking about pressure treated wood, we're talking about creosote (or worse). 

Although, on the point of pressure treated wood - I would work at getting that off of my property too - but I wouldn't be in as much of a hurry. 

But .... that's just me ..... and what I would do if I had this pole on my property. 

 
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