• Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

establishing food forest in damp soil area.

 
Colin Skelly
Posts: 18
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hello all, My name is Colin and I have recently aquired 5 acres 45 minutes north of seattle. There is an area that I would like to develop a food forest where part of the area is pretty wet with poor drainage, a little standing water. My thoughts where to put in swales on contour with hugle beds to provide a better draining environment to establish a food forest.


Currently much of this area is covered with creeping buttercup, hymalayan black berry, alder, cedar, fir , cotton wood. I have had difficulty controlling the black berry and buttercup in the past at other locations. I will have lots of wood chips available and thought that sheet mulching and a good layer of the chips might be a good idea to help keep the creeping buttercup and blackberry from over competing with the food forest. I am new to permaculture so maybe I a have been brain washed to think that these "weeds" would even be a problem. I haven't tested the soil yet, but maybe since these 2 plants are thriving here (the land has been vacant for more than 20 years), that would tell me about the soil conditions.

Another idea that I had was to plant cover crops to compete with the buttercup.

In addition to installing the swales, hugle beds I will look into install 1 or more small ponds into the system to harvest the rain water from the driveway and pole building that are going in this spring.

I would really appreciate any advice.

Thank you
Colin

 
Tristan Vitali
Posts: 297
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
34
cat dog duck food preservation forest garden fungi solar trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I wouldn't think they'd be much of a problem (blackberry / buttercup) when establishing a food forest as long as you can get in there with a ditch scythe twice a year and use them for chop and drop mulching (the woody materials will be especially good fungus food for a forest soil). This will eventually tire out their energy stores anyway, weakening them dramatically and bringing them under much better control while providing benefit to the soil and keeping other more insidious "weeds" from taking hold. Black berry being productive, as it were, you might want to even keep a patch or two along the edges of the food forest after it's established If your berries aren't as good as cultivated varieties, just replace some with the variety of choice - if they're growing there wild, the cultivated varieties will likely do well too.

The big problem is likely going to be the wetness - facing the same issue here on the other coast. Do you have heavy clay soil or is there another reason for the poor drainage? That soggy soil might slow the growth or even drown some of the trees you're putting into the forest, allowing what shouldn't be an issue maybe appear to be one (soggy-soil loving blackberry canes seeming to overpower/out compete a drainage loving apple or cherry, for example). If the trees are raised up into hugelbeds/mounds, they'll likely do far better over the short and medium term, allowing them to establish and keeping them more vigorous so you wont have to worry about competition problems so much.

It's generally better to plant a forest into an area already naturally on its way to being a forest than to try to plant one in a hayfield so you should have a leg up on getting things going already. Add to that an abundance of available water (how did Paul put it? naturally sub-irrigated land) and you're well ahead of the game.
 
Paul Cereghino
gardener
Posts: 855
Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
15
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Nettles, salmonberry, evergreen huckleberry, mushrooms (using both alder and cottonwood.. oysters are easy), fiddleheads, willow for medicine and baskets, miner's lettuce, lapsana, cascara for medicine. If you are growing in a forest, shade, frost, and cold ground will affect your production as much as poor drainage. Mike Dolan at Burnt Ridge Nursery has grafted apple scions to native crab apple root stock. Please don't do bad things to our remaining wetlands... we've lost so many, lots of down logs for salamanders, be gentle and careful. Get to know your water level over time, and learn to identify redoximorphic features. The Himalayan blackberry produce nice fruit (in no shortage regionally but under harvested). It would take a monumental effort to waylay the Ranunculus, and it is fierce ground competition,and spreads rapidly into mulched areas. One other poster reported that the wild European musk strawberry competed well. Blackberry will get shaded out over time... 45m makes you Skagit or Stilly?
 
Colin Skelly
Posts: 18
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks for the responses Paul and Tristan. I am going to wait to do any major earthworks until next year. I am still in the planning and observing phase. I am pretty new to permaculture, and I am hooked. I am grateful for the plant recommendations and the nursery referral. I have ordered from rain tree but haven't heard of Burnt Ridge. I just ordered their catalog and it looks like they have a lot of the types of plants I have been reading about for a permaculture system. Paul do you know of any other nursery or seed suppliers further north. I am in north Snohomish county, on the Pillchuck River. Oh and no worries about destroying our dwindling wetlands. The area I am looking at for the food forest isn't quite a wet lands. There is just a small section of it that is lower than the rest where the water gathers after a heavy rain. Possibly a good spot to build a pond and enlarge the habitat for any water loving critters in the area.

Like I said I am in the planning phase and love all the info I get here at Permies.

Thank you very much!!!
Colin
 
Renate Howard
pollinator
Posts: 755
Location: zone 6b
9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Phone Burnt Ridge and talk to the owner. He's very knowledgable and will give you a lot of solid info (if you don't catch him when he's really busy!). I've ordered from them for years and their bare-root plants are very good quality (tho the plug-grown trees never thrived).

My neighbors swore on the ability of willows to suck the moisture out of soggy areas and keep the soil much drier when it rains.
 
Colin Skelly
Posts: 18
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
That's interesting about the Willow. I was planning on adding some to the property so I would have a source of rooting hormone to help with new cuttings.



 
Paul Cereghino
gardener
Posts: 855
Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
15
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
For native stock, look into Fourth Corner Nurseries. Here's my list: http://www.stewardshipinstitute.info/wiki/index.php?title=Seeds_and_nurseries
Another up your way is cloud mountain https://www.cloudmountainfarmcenter.org/

If you are actually on the middle Pilchuck mainstem, it is a priority for chinook recovery, and you could get a bunch of GOV cost share to do floodplain restoration and planting. https://salishsearestoration.org/wiki/Pilchuck_River_Watershed

Good luck.

 
  • Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic