I'm just starting a thread about my efforts at a "Do Nothing/Know Nothing" type garden. We had a dam put in to make a pond and the area was trampled by the cattle (and fertilized by them) until it was raw bare dirt.
I've tried seeding it a few times but several days of torrential rain keep washing away the seeds and the high winds that came with it blew away the protective straw. Now we're having rain without the wind and it's warmer. We've fenced the cattle out so no more trampling.
We had about 8 ears of ornamental popcorn and Indian corn that I removed the kernels from, and I had saved seeds from different winter squash and pumpkins all winter. I scattered them by throwing them wherever there was bare dirt. Earlier in the year I had scattered herb seeds as well - cilantro, dill, etc.
I plan to mow a path around the pond but let the rest grow, maybe using hedge clippers to cut grass back in various places if it's choking something I like better. I want to try letting weeds grow to see if they can open out the soil and help develop more fertility where it has been compacted from the bulldozer, cattle, and rain. I planted some hazel seedlings along one fence. They are thriving so far.
Also 2 weeping willows and 3 poplars from cuttings for fodder and shade in the future, and as a source of more cuttings to root in other places.
I'm ordering elderberries as well because there are a few areas that seem to stay wet and I hear elder does well in those kinds of places. I put in 5 sweet potato vines on impulse on one steep side to hopefully slow down the erosion and provide cover for the bazillion tadpoles when they leave the pond.
I planted some more clover and KY bluegrass around the pond. Then we had a lot of rain. Most of the clover has sprouted. The bluegrass tends to make you wait, but the areas I seeded a month ago are now showing lots of baby grass plants. I'm hoping the bluegrass can become the more dominant species over the fescue that has toxic endophyte problems. If you read the information on the quail and dove sites, they blame loss of habitat for quail and doves mostly on the fescue - the seeds are toxic and they've been shown to kill the birds that eat them.
Speaking of birds, we have a rather large flock of goldfinches now, also several downy woodpeckers, a handful of nesting pairs of bluebirds and I even saw a painted bunting, tho they are rare in this area. There are wild doves that come eat with the chickens and pigeons, too. I'm thinking that once I get the native grasses established near the pond I may introduce some quail to the area to see if they can thrive here.
I found a mass of gamagrass in the vegetable garden that the previous owner had put there. I dug a lot of the seedlings and put them around the perimeter fence (of the pond, not the garden) on one side (far side from the hazelnut bushes). If you haven't heard of gamagrass, check it out, it's pretty awesome. http://plants.usda.gov/8083.pdf The roots can penetrate 6.5 feet into clay hardpan. They have air channels in them so the plant can even grow in soggy, compacted soil with little air. And it is an excellent forage in areas with rotational grazing (cattle quickly kill it by overgrazing if it is not allowed a rest period to re-grow).
I found a lot of my corn seeds laying on bare soil with a root sticking out but they seemed unable to penetrate the soil. I also found a lot that were split and rotting (we had a frost a little while back). But I did find some that had been buried a little and had sprouted, an inch or more tall. I didn't see any of the squash but I'm confident that some of it is growing out there, just the grass is getting taller and all kinds of other herbs are starting to grow so it's harder to see.
The pond edges were black with masses of tadpoles. After the heavy rain there appear to be far fewer of them. I'm not sure if they are just feeding deeper where I can't see them through the muddy water or if something about the rain and possibly increased turbidity killed off a lot of them. Only about 1/5 of the number we used to see are visible at the pond edge now. But several frogs have taken up residence and I'm finding new egg masses. We can also hear tree frogs in a lot of the mature trees near the pond and even in the barn at the top of the hill.
Elderberries love water , the way Red winged blackbirds love Elderberries, in my wanderings on hunting and foraging trips it is very common to see Elderberry bushes
growing for much of the length of old Beaver dams! The earliest bushes being identified by their greater height! It is/was so UN-remackable that I can easily recognize
the plant from great distances and follow the line of the old dam and estimate if my new find makes a likely place to cross the beaver flooded valley ! Big Al
Success has a Thousand Fathers , Failure is an Orphan
I called Musser Forests, who sell 5 elderberry plants for $10 but they said it's probably too late to plant bare root stock here this spring. So now I'm looking for a local source, and expecting to pay more. Having just moved here I really have no clue where they are growing wild.
Yesterday as I was walking around the pond I saw hundreds of very young toads or frogs hopping out of my way. They must have just finished growing their legs, many still had little tails. I'm so thrilled because with all the rain we get here slugs are a real problem and toads love to eat slugs!
I fenced the pond off partly to allow plants to revegetate the bare dirt around the pond and partly to keep the cattle from fouling the water that they'll be drinking. I kind of felt bad because my older Highland cow gets really hot and likes to soak her feet to cool off and she would have loved to go wading in the pond to cool herself. When it's in the 90s she'll stand just panting and drooling, trying to cool herself. Well, the pond is seeping just enough water that there's a muddy area below the dam in the pasture, and on warm days (got to 88F yesterday) I can see her and some of her friends just standing knee deep in that mud. Around here a lot of the cattle get coccidiosis, a parasite that thrives in moist conditions and one key way they get it is from wading in their drinking ponds - they poop while they are wading then drink the same water. UGH! The muddy area they soak their feet in is way too thick for them to want to drink it, and is next to their water tank so they can drink that instead without leaving their wallow for more than a few minutes.
This is so much better than last year when the cattle had to hike up a hill in the sun to get to the water tank that was at the very far end of the pasture from any cooling shade. Highlands are very long-lived and can keep on producing calves in their 20's, but I thought my 8-year old might keel over from that long walk in the hot sun! This is her in December when she surprised us with a Christmas calf.
The fish truck is coming today! The recommended stockers for KY are bluegills and bass, but my pond is less than 30 feet across, I think too small to fit very many bluegills in, and probably only enough room for 1 or 2 bass. So I'll be buying catfish instead.
For some reason they recommend spraying rotenone on the pond to be stocked and all the area streams (shouldn't it be illegal to put chemicals in streams that will kill ALL the fish for 3-5 days? No wonder native species are disappearing!). I'll be skipping that!
The flyer said I could put 100 channel catfish in an acre pond if I do nothing, 200 if I fertilize it (with chemical fertilizer - ?) or 300 if I'll feed them. I'd like to feed them but not that junk they sell with byproducts in it. I read in the tropics they fed cooked rice to the fish, so I'm wondering if there's a sustainable way to go that route, but also about using some sort of manure to fertilize, maybe soaked in a barrel for awhile to kill off parasites first - would that work? My friend from China said her father raised fish in cages in the river, and fed them leafy vegetables he grew in his garden. I think they were carp but not sure.
We have a seasonal stream here and I've gone several times to collect some baby crayfish to put in the pond. I'm sure there were all kinds of other things in the water that were too small to see, but now the pond is chock full of diving beetles, water boatmen, and dragon flies are starting to breed there. The dragon flies are really exciting - some kinds will eat many hundreds of mosquitoes every day! They are AWESOME predators!
The tadpoles grew very very fast, there's no longer a black edge to the pond, instead there are tiny frogs or toads hopping away with every step I take. I've seen them 100 feet from the pond already, so they're fanning out and hopefully eating lots of tiny slugs so they can grow and eat bigger slugs. I'm still hearing frog mating calls, and still seeing floating flats of frog eggs, so they're not done yet, either. I think the varieties are changing as time goes by.
My son and I planted (by digging holes and putting in individual seeds this time, not throwing them but we put them in the bare spots) 2 kinds of sunflowers in the bare spots. Then, walking across the lawn I saw a whole patch of sunflowers coming up right through the thick grass from where the chicken feed had spilled. So now I'm wondering if the moisture the grass holds in helps the seeds germinate and whether a fast-growing plant like sunflowers could compete well with grass in a field. Maybe I should have thrown more seeds! We bought a 50 lb bag of the oil sunflower seeds so I think I'll toss some of those out there as well. It should be easy to tell which kind come up because the kids picked the giant kind for the seeds we planted.
It turns out sunflowers, corn, etc. grow better in a healthy thriving lawn than on bare ground that's been exposed too long! I think between it drying out too fast, with too few plants to hold the moisture and humidity and the loss of fertility from it being exposed all winter, it's too rough a place for pampered seeds to be able to make it. I saw corn sprouting and growing and a few squash plants but then two weeks without rain was enough to make them disappear. The clover shriveled too, tho I think it will recover when it rains again, it just needs time to grow deeper roots.
Meanwhile, in the lawn where our chick tractor is (to protect the mother hen so she doesn't get killed like our other mother hens all did) the dropped sunflower seeds are sprouting and growing despite the competition from all the grass, which is thick and fast-growing. If I could get DH to stop mowing there I wonder if those sunflower plants would mature and make good heads, even with all the grass around them.
The tadpoles in the pond are thriving, we're seeing tons of small frogs and toads leaving the water, still with tail stubs attached. Now there are some fluorescent green ones, with the full set of legs but still with tails. I guess they'll leave soon. Lots of dragonflies are breeding there, too. Lately I'm seeing them coming out of the water and shedding their skins to their adult forms.
Well, here in Kansas sunflowers compete very well with grass!!! So, yes, I would say if the sunflowers were not mowed down they would do very well in your lawn.
All plants like to be pampered: the American Plum I planted in our yard is 3 feet tall, while the ones I planted in a rough area are 18 inches tall. I planted them all from the same bundle on the same day.
The corn isn't growing well. I think they didn't save enough of the topsoil and then it lost too much fertility sitting all winter without cover. Compare the corn by the pond:
To the corn where the pigs spent the winter (but I must say this corn is really exceptionally fast-growing for the area, many farms' corn is much smaller than this!)
Some of the sunflowers we planted have sprouted. We've had good rain and the ones that came up a week ago are almost a foot high now. Some of them are supposed to be 15 feet tall at maturity, but that area is like a wind tunnel so I'm not sure if they'll be able to stay up. We're hoping they'll give us some shade - that dam is a pleasant place to be except for it getting hot in the full sun.
I had thrown extra/old vegetable seeds around in the area but this is the only one I can spot that grew. A nice swiss chard.
I ordered a bunch of seeds for pond verge plants. Of those, sagittaria or arrowhead was supposed to be the easiest to grow from seed. They've just started showing up. Once they sprout they grow pretty fast. The plants have two forms, an emergent (out of the water) form and a submerged form, and they look quite a bit different. I thought I'd get the "arrowhead" leaves but mine are rounded, but this form has pretty white flowers so that's cool. I hope they spread.
You can see the submerged forms on either side of that stump I threw in. The stump is for the minnows to spawn under - they like to stick their eggs to the underside of floating wood. I've started seeing baby minnows in the pond. Once you know to look for them you can start to see them everywhere! Since I've only found a few dead fish and haven't seen any of the minnows or catfish I put in the pond since I released them, finding minnow fry was a huge relief - the pond *can* support fish and they must just be staying in the deeper part where I can't see them.
& another shot of the sagittaria
The grass is filling in nicely along most of the disturbed area. Here you can see the difference between where I fenced the cattle out and where they've been trampling/grazing what was trying to grow.
So we finally needed to mow our path.
But the slope going down to the pond is still suffering increasing erosion. There are plants trying to grow there, but that is pure subsoil so they're having trouble making much growth and the clay dries to rock-hard between rainstorms. The plants just wait until the next rain then try growing some more.
I found this growing. I think it may be millet. I've never grown it before, and have no idea where the seed came from!
Water hyacinth, duckweed, and some of the other floating plants are invasive, and since this pond drains to a creek that goes to the Kentucky River I didn't want to introduce anything that was potentially invasive, but I did want something covering part of the water surface. So I went to the pet store and got some water lily bulbs - the kind that is dried out and you put it in the water and hope for the best. Out of 4, this is the only one that's grown so far. I'm thrilled to see it's variegated and colorful! Hopefully it's winter-hardy and will spread.
Renate, I read your whole pond chronicle. Your pond looks a lot like mine did. It started out with bare dirt around it. It went through the same stages you describe and finally became healthy, full of water dogs, water snakes and a million Mountain Chorus Frogs, which sing ROUNDS that are beautiful.
Then I got a "bathtub" hole in one end, probably from a crayfish tunnel. The water drained out. Now my problem is to clean out the silt and patch the hole with clay and/or wallowing pigs like Sepp Holzer did. I'll probably pound the clay by hand. Bentonite clay is too expensive, but works if you have shale rock, like in the Bluegrass.
I would NEVER plant Ky 31, which the nature groups call one of the worst artificial species ever introduced into the environment.
I planted Louisiana iris, Yelllow Flag, and Siberian iris and hibiscus. I want some Japanese iris. The arrowleaf did not take hold.
I want to try GOLDFISH in this other pond, which is deep enough. I have friends with a goldfish, which attracts Blue Herons. Blue Herons love water dogs too
Your cattle are awesome. I always wanted bison though. Bison did used to run in Kentucky mountains.
I hope you report back on the quail. They will kill all those slugs.
Renate, I meant to add, I read corn won't come up without help: It is the one plant which evolved with man.
Some might, but your doves will eat most of it.
IU am presently growing miniature corn from Canada....not popcorn. I never saw it before last year.
It may be what people used to call "pocket corn"? You ate the whole thing, husk and all, an Indian woman in Ky. told me.
This Canadian stuff is real tiny, so maybe the kernels WILL come up by themselves.
Have you tried the seed balls? The clay/ soil covering is supposed to protect the seeds from being eaten and encourage growth when the right moisture needs are met. I have been thinking of doing this in pasture areas and on my hugel bed to see how each does. You may also want to look at more water edibles like lotus, watercress, to possibly feed you and your fish... I know you can use duck weed to feed your fish and could use the smaller pond to grow it in and transfer as needed so the fish don't just clean you out. It is supposed to be 40% protein. I think you can also do the black solider fly, that could also supplement your chicken feed if you had them. And though I think the poo feeding practice is kinda gross, in the wild there has to be a balence when the geese flock to the ponds to nest, so maybe attracting geese and ducks to your pond might help? Better that its wild poo eh? Nice to see what you are doing, I think the do nothing way is ultimately the way to go. We just need to figure out when to do nothing, in our doings....
The seed balls idea sounds interesting! No need for the seeds to wait for rain lately, tho, we're getting record rainfall - 7.5 inches in just June, they said one of the top 10 rainiest Junes on record. "Pocket corn" sounds interesting too. Around here people sell a "painted mountain" heirloom corn that I guess is pretty easy to grow.
Every time I go down to the pond I see more arrowhead plants appearing. Other names are "duck-potato" "wapato" and "katniss" (see, Hunger Games reference there!) It makes edible tubers that are supposed to be pretty good if well-cooked (bitter if under-cooked). A few of the plants are growing big flower stalks now. I can't wait to see them bloom but the buds haven't even started to swell yet so I guess I've got to wait a bit.
Another plant that is starting to appear from the seeds I got from Prairie Moon is Sweet Flag. It also is a Native American edible. This is not the iris plant, it's a grass with a weird looking seedhead/flower. It's also called sweet grass, but there are other plants with both of those names. I had to look it up because I was afraid it was cattails (also edible but from what I hear they'd just fill up the whole pond). The visiting ducks could have brought in cattail seeds but I'm hoping it's sweet flag. They're too small to tell yet.
I'm reading Gene Logsdon's "All Flesh is Grass" and he said millet just shows up in his pastures sometimes, so I'm still thinking that's what I'm seeing near the pond (he's in Ohio, one state above mine). It's pretty fascinating what comes up when protected from grazing compared to the other side of the fence. Some of these plants I think would just get eaten before I ever noticed them in the pasture but inside the pond fence they can mature.
I think a key aspect to "do-nothing gardening" is choosing species that are very well-suited to the area they're planted. Edible water plants on the edges of a pond are a prime example of a very easy and sustainable food plant. That's pretty cool. Makes me think I should find some Jerusalem Artichokes and plant them in the area as well. Except I don't care for eating them, but I do like pork and I hear pigs enjoy eating them...
Renate / Eva, I couldn't get seed balls to work with large seeds like corn because the balls cracked. The Canadian corn looks like miniature painted corn, but it is not popcorn.
You might try peaches around the pond. I once saw peaches hanging over water .... later I read how people use water to keep fruit trees warm, so maybe that's why, but I have seen peach trees loaded with fruit near water. Hazel nuts like water too, and make pretty bushes.
I am attaching a photo of one of my ponds. it is six feet deep on the near end and only 3 feet on the far end. It stayed full about 8 years, then went dry. I have to patch it and re-fill it.
I sure hope you got the banks of your pond seeded well, or the dirt will sure slide down into the pond and silt it up.
I never had any problem with invasive species in the ponds here, other than vandals, pot growers and other bad neighbors.
Some Sweet Flag came up but did not become invasive.
I have yellow swamp iris, water loving hibiscus and purple Louisiana iris, if you want some.
I have elderberries, but I never collected them. I wonder if you could germinate your own bushes???
Do not put trees too close to the pond or they will drink it up, they say.
Hey Renate -
Looking good!!! You mentioned willow, which I love and we have around our pond, but never even close to the dam much less on it as it'll compromise the integrity.
We put in a smaller pond this winter, at the top of a hill and planted cow peas and aspen strawberries which in VA are perennial with a great root stock that'll stop erosion. I also put in tons of vinca minor, which is an evergreen here and within a year will blanket the major runoff part which is rutted from runoff and filling the pond with nothing but silt & mud.
On our older pond we populated with catfish, brim and large mouth bass - we don't feed them, but waited until the second summer when plenty of growth had sprung up for the brim to hid in. We don't fertilize or add anything. The 1 thing that has made a difference is a fountain to ensure the water moves which stops algae and aerates the water.
Please keep posting those pics - really nice!
What I hoped was sweet flag is, I'm pretty sure, cattails. The kids want to let them stay, but I'm so afraid of them taking over - on the other hand they are a highly edible wild food... The seeds must have either ridden in on the wild ducks or blown in on the wind.
The sagittaria is blooming, in a big way. The leaves are staying round. I am now finding some that have arrow shaped leaves coming up in the water. Not sure what's going on there. The flowers are sagittaria shaped, 3 petals, etc. but much smaller than I was expecting, the petals are the size of millet seeds.
The corn, all of a foot high, is tassling and making ears. Tiny ears.
The sunflowers are growing tall but I doubt if they'll make it to 15 feet high. I think the ground is just too infertile to support that kind of rapid growth.
This weed is great at colonizing bare clay subsoil, hopefully the roots are as large as the top part, which will add a lot of carbon to the clay and support better plants in the future.
I am finding some of these, I hope they are coneflowers. I planted some coneflower seeds but this is the first sign of any of them not having been washed away when it was bare dirt.
I've seen raccoon foot prints near the water. I believe this may be raccoon scat. It's full of blackberry seeds from a patch around 200 yards away. I wondered if the raccoon was eating our chickens (one will just disappear every now and then) but I saw a fox yesterday and I'm pretty sure that's the real culprit. In the foreground notice the foxtail seedhead. Some see this as a nuisance grass because the awns are sharp and get lodged in places in a splinter-like way in animals fur where you can't see it until it gets infected and swells up. BUT it's excellent food for tiny birds like the goldfinches we see frequently by the pond, or our newest project, button quail.
The gamagrass is surviving, tho not growing as towering-tall as the plants in the original location, tho one does have a seedhead.
This is the distinctive seedhead of the plant - some of them are almost a foot long and nearly as thick as a pencil. Sorry my photo came out a little blurry.
There are around 15-20 frogs living near the edge of the pond, and a whole flock of goldfinches that come daily to feast on the different seeds. I think there are around 15 kinds of grass including timothy, fescue, bluegrass, and sweet grass as well as desirable plants like chicory that serve as seed reservoirs for the pasture where the seedheads may get mowed or eaten by the cattle before they mature. I can see schools of minnows flowing around the edges of the pond, and I only hope the catfish I put in there are still alive somewhere in the murky depths.
Not coneflowers, looks like mullein which is a pioneer (and medicinal) also known as cowboy toilet paper. If the leaves are soft and velvety it is a pretty positive identifier. They get big and are great for remediation and a powerful antihistamine.
Chris, we were both wrong - it bloomed and was black eyed susan!
I found an actual ear of corn on one of those tiny corn plants. A tiny ear of corn, LOL! It had even made kernels, but not a lot of food value in the amount it made.
The sunflowers maxxed out at around 5 feet, a far cry from the 15 feet the package said, but they did make seeds, which a noisy flock of goldfinches happily shared with their fledglings. They were too cute for me to mind their "theft". The plants around the pond are towering now, mostly around 4 feet but some higher than that. My trees are swallowed up in them but they are still there and look ok. I'm hoping it means the roots have penetrated that packed subsoil clay that was brought out when the pond was dug so that next year we can have more grass/clover there, but it may take several years. I learned my lesson, tho, to MOW before the stems get too fibrous, at least around the trees! Nothing but a bulldozer could get through them now!
The strap-leaved plants at the pond border were cattails. One made a seed head. I tried to pull some but they just broke off, but I fed a bunch to the pigs and they liked them pretty well.
The plants I thought were sagittaria, well, *may* be, but then some real sagittaria started coming up, the kind with the arrow shaped leaves. I'm not sure which is what I planted. They're both attractive and interesting, so I guess it doesn't matter.
Coneflowers (pink ones) also have one leaf that sticks up higher than the others. The leaves are not fuzzy like this black eyed susan, however.
Your pond sounds wonderful. I am glad you have goldfinches, since I never see them here anymore.
I found a vine in town of "ground nut". Ground nut grows around the Jenkins Lake and on the banks of the Ky. river. You can eat the root tubers or the little "beans" or nutlets that form on the plant as seeds. If you want some, I could go back and pick some. It's a real pretty vine on a fence3, or it might spread and cover other plants around your pond.
I planted them on my porch railing and they were not invasive there.
Ok. I also have purple Louisiana iris, Yelllow Flag iris and pond Hibiscus, if you want any flowers around your pond. The Flags will grow right in the water's edge.
p.s. I will pick some groundnut seeds when I am in town Saturday, and if you decide you want some, just let me know.
I've been growing a groundcover bamboo on my dam to control erosion and their rhizomes form a dense underground mat that strengthens the integrity of the dam. Unlike the roots of dicot plants such as willows, bamboo rhizomes don't get thicker with age so they can't form channels through the dam when they eventually die and rot away. In late winter when the pasture grasses have been mostly eaten down by my livestock, I will let them graze the down top growth of the bamboo, which then grows back in the spring. I'm growing the 10 ft high Hibanobambusa transquillans on the back slope of the dam and the 2 ft high Pleioblastus viridistriatus on the lake side of the dam where years of wave action has caused some erosion at the water line.