Not sure if this belongs here or in critters, but I'd rather solicit the input of plant fanatics first.
I just moved onto a beautiful 5 ac parcel with lots of mature wild cherry trees, but is otherwise mown grass in the understory. I'd like to keep goats and am considering how to best develop palatable pasture. Leadplant is a very appealing option, but I worry that if I start with that the deer will destroy it before it gets well established.
Do you recommend I start with something else first for a year or two? What are your recommendations?
Wild Cherry - Most farmers treat this like the plague. The wilted leaves can be deadly. I would not worry about it, but you will probably hear or read about it if you start introducing animals. If you rotate your pasture, it will not be an issue because your animals won't be starving.
We have homesteaded chickens, turkeys, rabbits, milk cows, milk goats, and sheep on a 2 acre and then a 5 acre property. I got rid of everything but the chickens. I am to the place now, that I will not put animals back on my property until I have an infrastructure that allows rotational grazing (I just don't have time to set it up in this season). It is the kindest things to do to animals. It is the best thing for the land. The land literally comes to life when you rotationally graze.
Although they deal in larger land, the things Joel Salatin and Greg Judy teach really do apply to small acres or even yards. Start with a small number of animals (below your county average per acre) and rotate heavily, your land will tell you what will grow and thrive there. You will not have to plant a single seed of anything. After a year of quality rotation, your land will tell you what grows well there.
I do have a farmer friend with a large farm. He planted around 50 or so acres in eastern gammagrass. He waited a year for the grass to establish. He now rotates his cattle daily through the field. He is very pleased with his decision. It is not polyculture anything, but his land is much healthier than the other farmers that only serve their cattle grass that is 2 inches tall.
I tried to grow Lead Plants, not for forage, but for nitrogen fixing. I didn't fence them in and rabbits ate them to the ground before they were established. They never recovered well enough to survive the winter. I only had a few; if I had planted dozens, or hundreds, maybe the rabbits would have grown tired of them and moved on to something else. As it was, they ate the six that I had. Maybe I'll try again some time, but for now I'm sticking with clover and black locust for nitrogen. If rabbits like Lead Plant, I'm guessing deer would also, so some kind of protection for the first year might be a good idea.
So I left, I came home, and I ate some pie. And then I read this tiny ad:
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