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Ten acre start
USDA zone 5 sometimes getting colder than what zone 5 is listed as.
My goal is to build a small area where I can live with fruit for myself and my wife as well as guests. Anything excess I'd like to sell and hopefully get enough to cover taxes and other expenses on the land.
Looking for ideas, low maintenance for now. I purchased this piece of land about five miles from where I currently live and have started planting things for when we eventually move there. The land is split up into about five acres wooded that I would like to leave alone, and five acres of open field once used for hay but lately just let to grow wild.
I have a small sickle bar mower that I have been using to knock down the woody growth in the hay field and have started to plant a few things for the future. So far I have planted currants (2), honey berries (9), blueberries (6), cherries (4) and a small patch of garlic and horseradish. Last year the deer ate one of the blueberries down to nothing but it has come back this year to look the best of the blueberries that are planted. The deer either haven't discovered the honey berries or don't care for them at all.
Around the cherries I have dug some small swales to try and keep the cherries dry.
For fall planting this year I have some apricots, plums, and a couple more blueberries. Any help appreciated.
Something that I recommend that you do within the next couple of weeks is 1) mow the fields as low as you can and 2) plant a fall cover crop mix.

This website sells them....


The goal is to improve the fertility of the soil while it's still 'fallow' so that you have a good start for a spring planting. Each species in these mixes serves a different purpose, so have a general idea about what you intend to do with the fields before you choose a mix. Over the winter you can lay out a plan on paper, should you wish to start a forest garden. Since you have time, cover crops are much cheaper than a commercial fertilizer, but not cheaper than 'sludging' the fields. If you don't have any neighbors nearby to offend, you could consider contacting the local sewer company to find out if they sell/give away their sludge. It's cheap regardless, because they need to get rid of it & applying it to fallow fields is sometimes a valid method, but they don't often do that kind of work for free. Basicly, the sludge itself may be free, but the additional labor required to get it onto your fields is not.

But you can't both sludge/manure and cover crop, and one is definately more neighbor friendly than the other.
Cover cropping might also help with the deer, or it might not. The deer do love many types of cover crops, and do your fields no lasting harm, and if they can fill their bellies before they get to your berries, they are less likely to eat them. This doesn't mean that they won't eat them, though. Also, cover cropping will (obviously) improve the available food for deer (and rabbits) in the immediate area, and over time will result in an increase in their numbers. If you are the major food source in the vicinity, they will remember this and you will have increasing problems, unless you know deer hunters and are willing to allow them to hunt your property.

As an alternative, a medium to large sized dog with daily access to the berry fields will definately discourage deer from venturing into that area, because they will smell the urine of a predator and will favor the edges of the cover cropped field to risking entering the domain of a dog. My yard is about 3 arcres large, and covered in white clover. Deer love the clover, and before we had a large 'invisible fence' put in to keep our lab in the yard, the deer would invade almost every night. I'd see them at least twice a week coming home after dark, and I eventually hit one and messed up my truck. Now they seem to have learned the extent of the dog's domain, and deliberate walk around his space to eat the clover in the quarter acre or so that is still outside of his invisible fence. But my dog often likes to stay outside overnight in the summertime, so that might be it also.
I would just let trees grow, will be the most productive way to improve the soil. Cover crops are used in annual crops to hold the soil and improve composition but the grass and trees will do that just fine. Just cut some back when they get in your way. Nitrogen fixing trees/shrubs/native legumes will increase leaf production and biomass growth, if necessary. I like sweet fern, new jersey tea, wild senna, sundial lupine.

Since your location is in a forest, trees are the most productive, so planting edible trees like hickory, walnut (butternut, white walnut), chestnut will give you the most food production.

Under the nut trees can be these understory plants or added to the woodland, Hazelnut, Serviceberry, red mulberry, huckleberry, lowbush blueberry, chokeberry. Propagating your own seed will be the cost effective way to over-plant areas.

With deer they are browsers and less grazers. So giving them a lot of food choices reduces the damage they can do. Also mixing poisonous plants with edible plants can protect each other. (elderberry with serviceberry or spicebush with walnut) Weeds can be your friend with deer if they will eat it. Scything areas where there is inedible deer food will increase the alternatives and give them something else to nibble on thats free for you. I have pokeweed everywhere which has good ecological value, dynamic accumulator, and protects my plants from detection during a lot of the summer growing season. Downsides are if you have an overabundance of deer, you might need to do other things to protect the plants. Over time your trees will grow above the 5' height deer browse from and not need protection.

I've got a fair number of hickories already mixed with evergreens in the forested area. Nearest neighbor is about a half mile away but sludging isn't a real option even though one of the neighbors does this with his fields already. The watering of my eyes and the stench tend to make that less attractive to me. I also might have some concerns about what is in that farms sludge.
I hadn't really thought it through about letting those trees just grow I do know I want to limit where those trees will be and I can do that with the mowing. All good thoughts so far thank you all for the ideas and making me think about what to do.
Anybody else have ideas on this I don't think I mentioned but the elevation across the land only changes about five feet from one end to the other. The front and back both order on roads with the boot shaped treed area. The small building is a shed I have there for storage and the area behind it is fenced off to grow a few things in and try to keep the deer at bay.
Even if you choose to forest your fields, plant cover crops soon and worry about that in the spring. It's a bit late in the season for seedlings to take root well before fall. And if a real forest (as opposed to a designed food forest) is your goal, the Sharma/Miyawak method would be a great way to do it with minimal labor long term.

I think what I am looking for is a food forest in that front five acres, the back five is already woods and I intend to leave it be for the most part.
Just mowing things like the golden rod seems to bring the clover and existing plants into a more active state. I'll have to see about adding more cover crops this year. Everything moves pretty slowly as I am doing this as I have extra cash and without borrowing anything. I've also planted some evergreens for a windbreak from the North and West as well as future privacy.

Potatoes are the only crop rabbits wont eat, my sheep will nibble them tho so deer might, earlies will need less irrigation.

Protect the blueberries with wire until you live there and get a dog agree.

Get pigs/ sheep to add manure and convert native biomass to food. Will need fencing tho. I have Soay sheep and kune kune pigs. They are unattended 4 days out of 7. I use only barbed wire bottom and top line to keep them in. No electric.

Apples and plums might do if cherries will. Gages also.

Coppice/ shred trees for fodder.

Rabbit fence a patch for intensive food patch. Comfrey liquid manure feed.

Transplant tree seedling from wild : native nurse trees.

Acetylsalicylic acid is aspirin. This could be handy too:
Garden Myths: The Good, The Bad and The Unbelievable by Robert Kourik

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