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Utah Juniper

 
Jacque Ence
Posts: 14
Location: So Ut 5300ft 14in precip. Hardiness zone 7
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I have an abundance of them. There are four growing where my future forest garden is going to grow. So I have a question. What can I grow around a utah juniper? I find it difficult to find much information on them at all. As I understand it, they produce a compound that prevents germination, and their litter dispells water. Can I correct these simply by planting more mature plants, and removing litter first? Does anyone have a guild plan that would eliminate that issue similar to a black walnut guild? I'm new to permaculture, but I'm already a believer.
 
Dave Burton
pollinator
Posts: 1026
Location: Greater Houston, TX US Hardy:9a Annual Precipitation: 44.78" Wind:13.23mph Temperature:42.5-95F
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Does Utah juniper grow natively to your area? If you can observe what plants grow around them in the wild, this may offer a clue as to what would be appropriate for planting around them. If there are fungi decomposing the Utah Juniper out there, a sample could be collected.
 
Jacque Ence
Posts: 14
Location: So Ut 5300ft 14in precip. Hardiness zone 7
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They're native. The only other things that grow around here are sagebrush, wild rye and wildflowers. Some of the areas that have been cleared for pasture have dead zones where trees once were. Nothing of significant food value grows here, and nothing sprouts under the junipers.
 
Andrew Parker
pollinator
Posts: 514
Location: Salt Lake Valley, Utah, hardiness zone 6b/7a
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Where are you (you don't need to be as specific as exact coordinates) and what elevation do you live at? Do you have water rights?

You might want to consider planting pinyon pine to replace the juniper, unless you are emotionally attached to them. It may take as many as 15+ years before you get a meaningful harvest, but you have to start sometime.
 
Ann Torrence
steward
Posts: 1191
Location: Torrey, UT; 6,840'/2085m; 7.5" precip; 125 frost-free days
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There's a book, Shrubs and Trees of the Southwest Uplands, that describes and ids plants in our region by their communities, including one on the pinon-juniper complex. That will give an idea of what "belongs" and you can search for analogs. Like rugosa rose for the wild rose.

From the reading and old-timers I've talked to, my belief is that before the cattle arrived, the land in my area was much more heavily grassed. The descriptions of the Old Spanish Trail travelers describe 3' high grasses among the sagebrush. Wild potatoes. Camas and sego lily. What we are seeing now is the result of over grazing and water diversion. Going back to a pre-grazing reconstruction adds a lot of possibilities.

That said, getting from here to there is going to take water. Asking a man in these parts how much water you have is like asking how much money have you have in the bank, but what you can do really depends on how much water you can apply for establishment and maintenance. Consider the riparian zone plants, like service berry, Arizona walnut and scrub oak. Analogs to those might be apple, walnut and a mast oak. But they will need some irrigation. I suspect they were much more common along minor draws and ephemeral surface water before the pioneers turned the cattle loose. I'm not talking about recreating a stream; it's actually quite dry on some banks where these things grow, but they are hitting the water table. Which is another question to figure out. We think ours is 6-8' in summer. All of our irrigation effort is going into driving roots down to that resource. Anywhere a Russian olive is growing, I figure is sign of available water resources not too deep.

Have you seen the Groasis water pans? I haven't tried them yet, and I kind of doubt they would get us through the month of June, but I think they might help for the establishment phase to reduce the amount of tending. The other thing you want is to make your planting areas "lumpy" to capture drifting snow. A half ring of rock on the lee side of a plant will trap snow that will melt when the sun hits the rocks. Most of our plants are in shallow basins that slightly block wind and trap any blowing snow.

Haven't read it, but the reviews are good for High and Dry: Gardening with Cold-Hardy Dryland Plants. Might be a good resource to get started.

As for pinions, I ordered a dozen piƱon seedlings from the UIdaho nursery in Moscow. The seedlings were fantastic and are growing ridiculously well where I am getting a bit of water on them every couple weeks. Yeah, it will take forever, but someone will eat those nuts someday.

Do update your profile to give some more details on your elevation, etc. Now that the blessed monsoons have started, it might be possible to get some cover crop (vetch maybe?) going to add some organic material to your soil, but again, that depends on how much water you want to throw at the situation and how long you have until frost.
 
Andrew Parker
pollinator
Posts: 514
Location: Salt Lake Valley, Utah, hardiness zone 6b/7a
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You might consider banana yucca. I saw it grow quite prolifically at Mesa Verde. I live out if its natural range, but I might try to plant it, if I can find a source.

Yes, the early herdsmen impacted the natural grasses heavily. To their credit, they did recognize their error, often too late for many grasses and the Native Americans in the area who ate the wild grains. Many formed cooperatives and tried to manage the range but pirate herds in the late 1800's and the introduction of cheat grass finished off the remaining natural grasses. Pinyon-juniper stands and sagebrush expanded into what had previously been dominated by grassland. It has been difficult to reestablish the natural grasslands because no one really knows what it was composed of. They have surveyed fenced pioneer-era graveyards to get some clues.

Singleleaf Pinyon Pine (P. monophylla) has larger nuts but you may be taking a chance planting it, if you are outside its natural range.
 
Adam Klaus
author
gardener
Posts: 946
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
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Living in a juniper region myself, I have reluctantly and belatedly come to the conclusion that junipers are directly antogonistic to most every desirable plant we would want to see. Yes, junipers are better for the environment than barren desert, but from what I understand, they are basically a climax species, not a phase in a succession of species.

You are correct that their roots excrete toxic compounds that are harmful to other nearby plants. Is there anywhere without juniper that you could garden? If not, I would cut the junipers at waist height, and use a tractor to push out their root stumps. Even with that drastic measure taken, I expect it will take several years for the compounds in the soil to dissipate, and a healthy soil microbiology to develop.

I could write much more, but am on a tablet, so it's a bit torturous to write. If this discussion picks up steam, or you have other questions, I will try to check back in and contribute more.

Again, I must emphasize that I always wanted to find a positive spin on the junipers, but a decade of farming in their midst has convinced me otherwise.
 
Jacque Ence
Posts: 14
Location: So Ut 5300ft 14in precip. Hardiness zone 7
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We do have water actually; Close to 4 acre feet. We're up on a plateau overlooking a river valley. Being on the west side of Pinevalley Mountain, the storms roll in and stick to us like glue. We get plenty of water, but most of it rolls off. We also have a canal that was dug by the power company five decades ago that rolls through the property. It has created an unintentional swale. I don't have legal access to the creek water, but it has created the perfect soil for a forest garden on the lower elevation behind it. It's mostly grasses back there. I plan to add pecan, pinyon, and pistachio guilds. There is plenty of room to plant around the junipers, I was just hoping I could make use of what's there. They are awfully hardy trees. That being said they make great firewood, and will be replaced if I can't use them.
Our temps stay between 30-90f, but we get snaps as high as 110f, and as low as 0f. Our frost free days, on a very cold year, are about 120, but I've lived there most my life and I can tell you it's closer to 150. We have irises and the occasional cliffrose that don't seem to be bothered by the junipers, but mostly the trees are used by wildlife. Our soil can be a problem. We have caliche at about 12 inches down for a depth of 24 inches. The old timers call the area a rock garden. Every year new rocks surface in the garden. I'm ok with that. I can use them to shore up our swales.
Any suggestions on tree guilds that would be well suited for our area? I've read that mulberries can negate the effects of the black walnut. Does anyone have any experience with these planted near Junipers? It's probably a completely different compound, but I'm curious.
 
Ann Torrence
steward
Posts: 1191
Location: Torrey, UT; 6,840'/2085m; 7.5" precip; 125 frost-free days
110
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I would consider keeping the junipers for shade/wind protection for starting the new trees if it works with the design. It's not like if you rip them out today your problems in the soil will go away tomorrow, so if you kept them for a year to protect the new stuff, it might give them an edge. Unless they are just absolutely in the wrong place. 100+ is brutal to a new tree trying to put roots down.

You might have good luck with peaches there. It's a bit sketchy here but we have another 1500' on you. As for guilds, what are your overall goals for the project? How big? And do you want to raise animal fodder in it as well as people food?
 
Jacque Ence
Posts: 14
Location: So Ut 5300ft 14in precip. Hardiness zone 7
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Peaches do very well here. There are several existing orchards on the plateau, but none have taken a permaculture approach. The junipers are pretty well spread out, and you're absolutely right about leaving them for shelter. I've seen Pinyons take up residence in the shade of a juniper. Perhaps I can use the juniper's as temporary shelter for them until they're established. I suppose an added bonus of the juniper, is their deep tap root that has already broken up the caliche. We only have half an acre of well watered soil behind the creek, but we're open to everything. Animal fodder is on my list. We've got a couple acres of sparse pasture that we're going to use on rotation, but the more variety they have the less likely the critters are to overgraze. We're going to plant bamboo in swaths along the fence, hopefully providing extra forage and some shelter. A neighbor is already growing some with great success. We plan to re-landscape over time, which will give us about 2 acres of growable land. There are wild willows along the creek, some of which I'll keep after reading about their use as animal fodder. The ones that I remove I will bury huglekulture style. This year I'm just evaluating water flow through the property during monsoon season, and our winter storms. I hope that makes me more prepared to plant come spring.
 
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