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Establishing small plants

 
Aljaz Plankl
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Hey all.
Been forest gardening for few years now.
I started with meadow field, lots of strong perenial vegetation.
I garden in temperate climate, Europe, zone 6, and green vegetation is coming back really strong.
This become a problem around young plants, when i'm not at home.
Shading is the most important factor, i need to let as much sun to young plants as possible.
I maintain a garden once a month.
Mulch for the first year is great, but meadow plants are comingf back all the time.
I see now, how important it is to remove perrenial roots of strong meadow plants from planting hole and one meter in diameter.
I would love to plant comfrey, calendula, yarrow and others around new fruiting shrubs, but then i would need to be there every week to cut it down because new plant would be shaded.
Currants are not a problem so much, they can tolerate plant guilds and shade, but others are not so strong with new growth and need plenty of sun.
For me, mulch is the best option right now.
I noticed that fallen leaves are great weeding tool.
So lots of leaf mulch when planting, so i don't need to spend to much time cutting down the weeds or mulch all the time when the season comes.
What's your way?
How do you plant small plants and how you maintain them?
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red currant doesn't have problem with shade in first years
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pawpaw and many others need full sun for good growth
 
Alder Burns
pollinator
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Location: northern California
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I've learned the hard way in more than one setting that it's hard to tuck individual small plants into an established meadow or woodland and have them thrive without a lot of attention. It's much better to establish patches of several plants grouped together. This creates an area of disturbance and mulch large enough to not be so quickly overwhelmed by the surrounding wild plants and their roots. The groups and patches are more efficient to visit, water, fence against critters, etc. Another strategy I use is managed succession. I start out my patches with annual vegetables, and plant the trees and other permanent plants among them. The permanent plants benefit hugely from the additional attention primarily directed at the annuals, and I get a quick and rewarding food yield. Over the next several years I continue to grow more and more shade tolerant annuals until gradually the whole thing succeeds to food forest with trees, shrubs, and perennials....meanwhile the annuals move on to the next patch.
 
Greta Fields
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I am working on this same issue. I saw a YouTube video where an old food forest in, I think Viet Nam, had the small plants along the paths through the trees. Just about everything along the path was an herb or edible or had some purpose. I like that idea myself. It doesn't sound like a "true forest", but it looks wild.
 
Aljaz Plankl
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Alder Burns wrote:I've learned the hard way in more than one setting that it's hard to tuck individual small plants into an established meadow or woodland and have them thrive without a lot of attention. It's much better to establish patches of several plants grouped together. This creates an area of disturbance and mulch large enough to not be so quickly overwhelmed by the surrounding wild plants and their roots.

Yes, been doing it the "wrong" way myself also!
I was trying to make guilds around/under bushes and trees as diverse as possible.
Plants did not outcompete original vegetation.
Another mistake with similar results was planting herbaceous perrenials here and there all over forest garden instead of concentrating on one patch for one year.
Garden is 800m2 and it's not so small when you want to establish herbaceous perrenial layer.
Can't wait for coming fall when planting time comes, will do a lot of planting with new aproach.
Have a good forest gardening time!
 
David Hartley
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One possible suggestion: for plants that are not extremely tenacious nor woody in their main stems...

Wait until they are in flower, but before they set seed, carefully bend them over to the ground without breaking their main stem. Then cover with 10~15cm of mulch. Then plant on top of mulch with desired species.
 
Aljaz Plankl
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Yes, this is good tip.
I always try to do mulch over libing plants, it's much more effective.
Been doing no-dig veggie garden via lasagna method and the best one considering weeds were those where i didn't mow exsisting vegetation.

Ok.
I'm reading Martin Crawfords Creating a forest garden book.
It's great.
Guy has 15+ years of experiences for temperate forest gardens.
Learned a lot from him.

One tip that was mentioned above when creating perennial ground cover layers.
In any one area (say a minimum of 3-4m2) don't try to mix more than a few different perennial/ground cover species.
If you do, then what is likely to happen is that because there are very small areas of individual species, some of these will get swamped by other species unless you put in a lot of effort to prevent it. - Martin Crawford

Haha, this was happening to me a lot.
Trying to make guild of many species and then none really had power to grow and original vegetation came back.
 
Michael Cox
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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I've noticed similar issues too, where I have tried to stick a new plant into an existing meadow.

Plants with a small area of disturbance just don't do well. More recently I have mulched a largish area around each tree/new plant and had much more success both getting plants established and keeping the worst of the weeds from swamping things (we have an evil bindweed problem that will tangle a small fruit tree and pull it down to earth).
 
Jessica Robertson
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We started a 1 acre food forest in London Ontario last spring (www.londonfoodforest.blogspot.ca) and have had similar issues. It is in public park land that has been left unmowed for the last decade. There are a number of trees that have established themselves there in that time (manitoba maple, black walnut, hackberry) and several old apple trees left over from an orchard that was there in the 60's. We did spot mulching around the new shrubs and trees we put in and then sheet mulched a larger area where we planted strawberries and violets to try and establish them as a ground cover. Horsetail and milkweed came in quite strong after that and now grasses are moving back in. I am ok with the horsetail and milkweed as they meet our native edible and medicinal criteria but the grasses are problematic.

Interestingly, those strawberry plants that received extra care and wood mulch throughout the summer are smaller than those surrounded by grass. The ones surrounded in grass seem to doing alright but I am guessing likely won't fruit with the shade and competition.

I didn't expect the sheet mulch to last more than a year but thought it would help the plants establish themselves. I think we need a longer term solution for the new area we will be planting this fall however. This is a public site with limited volunteer labour. There is concern about volunteer burnout and disengagement by the community if there is not visible progress and success. I am considering plastic mulch or landscape fabric and then poking holes in it for the ground cover plants. We would have to make sure that an area of ground around each plant is cleared of roots so they don't find their way up through the hole. The plastic mulch would do a better job of killing the competition but wouldn't let water through... we also have limited grant money to purchase materials like those. Have any of you used either method?

David Hartley, what is the benefit of this over 'chop and drop'? Why does leaving the plant intact help suppress it? We have been doing chop and drop around existing plants and using it as mulch.
 
David Hartley
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A plant is generally at its weakest when in flower and producing seed; making it an ideal time of attack (before seed have set)... If the plant is bent over (lodged) without breaking its stems, many will continue to try to grow laterally; but under thick mulch, will suffer to their own death... This is not true for all plants, but for many... Being already in a weakened state, they will fail to break through a thick mulch... Instead they will end up contributing to the mulch, returning there biomass to the soil... Their undisturbed root system will aid in the establishment of the new plants as they grow down through the mulch and into the soil below.
 
Greta Fields
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I heard a good trick -- one man said to put 12-inch pieces of boards around a small tree or plant that you are attempting to grow in high weeds.
I plan to use this method to try to add persimmons and shellbark hickory, which will be one-foot high trees that I get from a state nursery.
I am attaching a photo where I added a small plant and it worked. This is celandine wood poppy, which grows well here probably because it is on the edge of woods, and it naturally grows well in humus.
this always works best for me -- to try to fit a small plant into the woods where it would naturally grow well. I have been able to add Bleeding Heart, which Pfeiffer planted along the edges of the woods among the May apples. it is really hard to fit something back into an environment, so I look for a hole and think, what would grow in that hole? The poppies fill holes.
You ought to see this field in August -- it has weeds over my head, yet the poppies survive there.
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Aljaz Plankl
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Jessica, probalby tender plants for ground cover in your case are not good option.
If it's not tended regulary then canopy and dense planting of fruit bushes below are the way to go, plus hardy herbs like sage, mint, lemon balm etc are a good option for ground covers as they grow fast and can handle quite a lot of competion.
Also when doing the ground cover planting it's best to start small, tend it and then move on when it's established.
I was also worried about grass and unplanted places, but i'm not any more.
If i can't tend it it's better that it's stays unplanted.
 
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