I just moved in to a NEW house on a "new" lot. It's 5 acres that at one time was farm land about 100+ years ago. Was then farmed for it's trees and they just dumped a crap load of pine trees that are clumped together all over the place with yukky vines and overgrowth through the trees. You can't even see sunlight through the woods. It's a mess.
So there was a pre-plotted amount of land when we moved in, but we wanted more of the 5 acres to work with and cut down a LOT of the trees, now there are MANY stumps in the ground. We got 6 chickens and 2 ducks and for a while they were free roaming all over the yard eating ticks and such which was great (until they got a little too adventurous and started visiting all the surrounding neighbors), so now they're in an area fenced with poultry netting that we move around along with a chicken cooptractor. We also got 2 nigerian dwarf goats that were supposed to help with all the brush mentioned above, but they don't do what we actually needed and are now just fertilizer paid for through what we have to buy in goat food and hay (subsidized eating).
So with that information and the fact that I know NOTHING much about gardening, but know that I want to go the self sustaining, permie way...We have red clay/sandish soil. I guess the good thing about it is that it hasn't been "farmed" nor touched in a long time and other than our lot for the house...the 2 acres that we just cut trees from are relatively new. So WHAT DO I DO WITH IT? How do I start turning my stumpy pine tree yard into a lush edible forest? Good News!!! The chickens have spent several months in that area fertilizing it.
Thanks for any help you all can provide. I'm a sponge at this point!!
Welcome to Permies, JoAnn, it sounds like an excellent piece of dirt.
I suppose the first thing now that some of the pine trees are out of the way is to decide what to replace them with -- pecans? hazelnuts? apples? cherries? Probably a good selection of all of those and more. With 5 acres, you can get full-sized trees and not have to try to wedge in dwarf or semi-dwarf trees into a small space. Most of your full size trees are planted in orchards on 30' centers, so get the map of your property out and move some coins or buttons around on it to get an idea of where you want to put your trees. Keep in mind what they will be shading when they grow to full size, and where you want to have open spaces that you can use to plant annual vegetables.
As far as where to buy trees, the home stores usually have a good selection as well as lots of mail order places. I have ordered from Willis Orchard Company and would give them a good recommendation.
Thanks John!!! We DO want lots of fruit and nut trees...whatever we can grow successfully here in Central Virginia. I guess what I need to know before anything is how to start with the soil I have? What can I do to prepare it so that when I do plant trees or other crops, they will have a fighting chance. Can I leave these pine tree stumps in the ground and plant around them? With that...It's REALLY HARD to dig in the ground at all because of all the vines and all that were in the woods and even after cutting a lot of the trees down (still a lot more out there that I'd like to thin out) I have stumps and underground vines. In a perfect world where money is no object, I'd just bury all of that with topsoil and plant above it all. But in the world I live in, I have to dig in the viney mess. Are there any good "companion" crops that I can plant around the tree stumps to help out with them rotting and whatever they may be giving to the soil that other crops may need more of, etc. I am soaking up all the info I come across, but I still don't know enough to make good decisions. Also...WHEN should I start planting these trees and other crops? Early Spring?
The good news is you really don't have to do anything. If it's been growing pine trees and is overgrown with undergrowth (or is that undergrown with overgrowth?), then the soil is going to be fine. Leave the stumps to rot and they will provide nutrients to your new trees. Just chop&drop the pines, the brush, the vines, just hack it down and plant right into it. If you feel you must use the tiller, you can run it in a small circle where you are going to plant a tree and it might further chop up anything that might want to resprout, but even that is not necessary.
We talk so much here on Permies about how to remediate pieces of land that are unhealthy, but if you can't see the sunlight through the woods, that means it's a very healthy ecosystem. Congratulations.
You've also lucked out on timing, because now is the time to be ordering bare root trees and putting them in. You want to have them in the ground before they start to bloom and leaf out.
That's a relief!!! So yeah...the trees and vines and whatever stuff that covers the ground is SO THICK that you get tangled if you try to go through. I don't want to till, I want to keep whatever system is underground natural so that it will feed whatever system I can create. I love that it's been untouched where we've cut the trees down. The chickens and goats have been scratching and pulling on and around all the stumps and vines while fertilizing the areas. Plus the straw I use for bedding is spread all over as I clean out their areas. So I guess you can say we've been naturally composting since we moved in in March. Good to know that so far, without knowing much, we've been doing ok for our land.
Now about those trees, if I were to go to our local nursery/tree farm...what should I ask for to know that I'm getting the right thing to start with? What are "bare foot" trees?
Bare root trees = Young saplings that have been dug up, their roots washed, and packed into a plastic bag with sawdust or peat so they can be shipped and sold easier. They are quite dormant when this is done. This is also a very common way to sell roses.
JoAnn McCoy wrote:
Now about those trees, if I were to go to our local nursery/tree farm...what should I ask for to know that I'm getting the right thing to start with?
Ask if they are local to the area. If they are, you won't likely be in for a nasty surprise like you would when a mail order tree from Timbuktu fails to thrive.
Ask if it is self-pollinating. Some trees, apples especially, need to be planted with a different variety of the same species to get pollinated well and give a good yield. I have my pears planted near my neighbor's ornamental flowering pear. That tree has LOADS of flowers and pollen for my fruiting pear trees. People also plant crabapples in apple orchards for the same reason; one crabapple can flower enough to pollinate a dozen regular apples nearby.
If you are mail ordering, pay attention to the chill requirement. Most deciduous fruit trees need a certain number of winter chill hours to get the winter rest they need. We run around 1000 chill hours in my part of Georgia, which is great for all apples out there, but it can be on the low side for some cherries. Up where you are, you probably get at least 1200 chill hours. Here is more information from Clemson on chill hour requirements.
And if you have a low spot on your property that stays wet all the time, maybe you want to consider one of my favorite, the bald cypress. I know they would do well in your area, I have seen them used in Washington, DC as landscape trees along the Potomac.
We homesteaded in "pine bush" in Georgia for a few years too. The pines were actually easy to deal with, because they usually won't "coppice" or sprout from the stumps or roots. I would frequently plant a new tree next to a pine stump, knowing that as the stump decayed, the new trees roots can follow the deep channels left behind. But a significant portion of our woods was hardwoods also, particularly sweetgum, which is a vigorous sprouter and very hard to deal with. Eventually I resorted to two years of overlapped carpets to smother the shoots out, section by section.
Aside from firewood, wild mushrooms, and a few other minor yields, the woods also provided compost and mulch. I would dig out rotten logs and stumps and pile this up, and urinate on it for a while and it made the best potting soil! And I would just take a wheelbarrow and a pitchfork out and gather up whatever I needed for mulch, from a gradually enlarging perimeter all around the garden. Since pine ecosystems at least occasionally burn with ground fires, I don't think periodically harvesting some mulch this way is detrimental to the forest......