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Russian Olive (& other N fixers) in a Permaculture Orchard setup in Virginia? (to invade or not to i

 
John Athayde
Posts: 21
Location: Charlottesville, Virginia (Zone 7a)
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To invade or not to invade, that is the question....

I’m in zone 7B in Virginia (just outside of Charlottesville in an area called Stony Point).

Looking to do a NAP style setup (from “The Permaculture Orchard) and trying to find the best nitrogen fixers for the area. I was looking at this list for eastern woodlands (http://www.perennialsolutions.org/all-nitrogen-fixers-are-not-created-equal) and was wondering about Russian Olive and Black Alder.

the VA Dept of Forestry lists Russian Olive (and Autumn Olive) as invasive and is pretty anti-planting of it. [Insert whole “if you fix nitrogen, please invade me!” thing here]. Black Alder seems to have been introduced in Colonial times, so it’s quasi-native at this point.

We already have the following moderate to high nitrogen fixers on the property (pretty extensively in both cases)
* black locust
* Autumn Olive

We have some other low volume fixers in the tree and shrub realm, but I’m looking for something that would ideally give me or wildlife an edible yield. This will be going in on an eastern facing slope that is currently an open paddock that hasn’t been browsed for two years (and has pretty good grass cover).

So, QUESTION 1: should we invade with Russian Olive, knowing that it can spread like wildfire? or stick with something a bit more safe/tame/already on the property?

QUESTION 2: We had also discussed doing what I’ll call nAnP, which is using, say, a serviceberry low level between alternating Apple and Pear/Plum/Cherry. Wouldn’t have as much separation benefits as the pure NAP, but gets things tighter together.

Any thoughts/suggestions/berating?

Cheers,
J
 
Bill J Price
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Here is my thought on the invasive Russian and Autumn Olive. Do you intend to keep the area mowed or grazed by livestock? Plants become invasive when we forgot about them or put them in a place on the property that we are not going to tend to on a regular basis. The Russian and Autumn Olive can be good for the soil and can be part of some pretty good food products. So you can decide this one just by deciding if you are going to keep the area where they are growing mowed to limit or stop all suckers from getting a firm hold on the land and then earning that title of "Invasive". If you let them know you have a plan to keep them under control you should be OK. I have had some of that Autumn Olive Jam from Autumn Berry Inspired. Perhaps the DoF needs a jar of this so they know the value this tree can have.

from Facebook - shameless plug for my friends there.
https://www.facebook.com/AutumnBerryInspired
 
Hester Winterbourne
Posts: 119
Location: West Midlands UK (zone 8b)
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I have limited knowledge. But I do have an Eleagnus of some sort in my back garden, it has tiny red berries that the birds love, it's about up the second floor windows, and it hasn't suckered at all. Maybe there are other members of the genus which would do the job and not be so invasive.
 
elle sagenev
Posts: 1267
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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I agree with the first comment. We have an ancient russian olive tree growing at a neighbors house and there is not a single other RO anywhere else to be seen.
 
John Athayde
Posts: 21
Location: Charlottesville, Virginia (Zone 7a)
books forest garden goat
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Thanks guys.

Bill - I do plan to mow/graze the area, so that should handle concerns there. Missed the harvest time last year for the berries but will be doing jam this year. I'd expect to get around 30 gallons from the existing plants on property. There's no law against planting them, but they discourage it, so I could do it if I wanted to.

Hester - I haven't had issues with suckering per se, but the birds do eat and deposit the seeds around and I've found new plants springing up (and growing to 6' bushes within a few years). Easy to chop and drop and keep in line that way. Some of the larger ones are in the 10-12 foot range, which would be ideal with the m111 rootstock apples. This is for Autumn Olive tho.
 
Miles Flansburg
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Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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I guess I have always wondered about this invasive title that is given to some plants.

Some plants are pioneers, some plants where born and bread by mother nature, to come into an area and fix it for mother nature.

I see russian olives as one of these species. They are tough as nails, spread like wildfire to create a fast forest with shade and mulch, feed wildlife, and fix nitrogen.

I see them "invading" areas that might just need to be invaded. Dry worn out farms/grasslands for instance.

(As an example , in Wyoming they are labeled invasive and are being killed by the thousands. If there was a place that needs them it would be Wyoming! Maybe replace some of that "invasive" sagebrush.)

I wonder if they would really become invasive in a well managed ,diverse, permaculture, food forest?
 
Isaac Bickford
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Location: Okanogan County, WA
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My concern with Russian olive is they seem to do really well in riparian areas in desert areas. They are aggressive enough to outcompete native riparian species (which are of great benefit to wildlife and people), and form a monoculture which uses more water than many of the natives. This can greatly alter the wet period in wetlands, thereby reducing year-round benefit to wildlife. Their rapid spread through suckering and bird-carried seed makes them difficult to keep tame.

If there are wetlands near your property, I would not recommend planting something that aggressive. You might be able to control it's spread on your property, but you can't control it on the next parcel over. It's important to be a good neighbor, even if it means compensating for our neighbors' inattention to their land.
 
siu-yu man
Posts: 99
Location: zone 6a, north america
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what about relocating any autumn olive seedlings you randomly find on the land to the places you want the N-fixers to grow in your orchard?
they're free, so why buy more?

bTW, has anyone tried AO/RO in a RMH or made charcoal/biochar from it?
if so, care to share thoughts on performance?
 
John Athayde
Posts: 21
Location: Charlottesville, Virginia (Zone 7a)
books forest garden goat
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Siu-yu - that's definitely an option. Since they're already here, might as well keep it going.
 
Thomas Partridge
Posts: 130
Location: Zone 7a
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Nice to see people that are close to C'ville like us on here!

As for how invasive it is, I am not sure I would worry too much about that here. I know people around here get problems with Bamboo and Locust, but I have never heard of a person having a problem around here with Russian Olive. I say go for it and keep an eye on it to be on the safe side.
 
John Athayde
Posts: 21
Location: Charlottesville, Virginia (Zone 7a)
books forest garden goat
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Charles -

Yay locals!

We do have both Black Locust (which comes back quick even when cut, so yay for coppice firewood?) and one of the previous owners put rhizomial bamboo across the dam holding back the 0.9 ac pond at the base of our property (which has been contributing to it's deterioration). Leveraging the bamboo for garden supports.

The autumn olive does tend to show up and grow fast along our edges but it's something we can maintain. My bigger concern is being a good neighbor and bringing in something like Russian Olive and then having neighbors get overrun by bird propagation of it. We do also border some very zone-5-type woodlands along a perennial stream (that feeds Flannigan Branch) and want to make sure we're not causing issues there. I haven't seen any Autumn Olive in that area even (and the bushes here are at least 5 years old and effectively self planted from what we've been told), so we're probably safe.

*fingers crossed*
 
George Meljon
Posts: 278
Location: Southern Indiana zone 5b
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John Athayde wrote:To invade or not to invade, that is the question....

I’m in zone 7B in Virginia (just outside of Charlottesville in an area called Stony Point).

Looking to do a NAP style setup (from “The Permaculture Orchard) and trying to find the best nitrogen fixers for the area. I was looking at this list for eastern woodlands (http://www.perennialsolutions.org/all-nitrogen-fixers-are-not-created-equal) and was wondering about Russian Olive and Black Alder.

the VA Dept of Forestry lists Russian Olive (and Autumn Olive) as invasive and is pretty anti-planting of it. [Insert whole “if you fix nitrogen, please invade me!” thing here]. Black Alder seems to have been introduced in Colonial times, so it’s quasi-native at this point.

We already have the following moderate to high nitrogen fixers on the property (pretty extensively in both cases)
* Black Locust
* Autumn Olive

We have some other low volume fixers in the tree and shrub realm, but I’m looking for something that would ideally give me or wildlife an edible yield. This will be going in on an eastern facing slope that is currently an open paddock that hasn’t been browsed for two years (and has pretty good grass cover).

So, QUESTION 1: should we invade with Russian Olive, knowing that it can spread like wildfire? or stick with something a bit more safe/tame/already on the property?

QUESTION 2: We had also discussed doing what I’ll call nAnP, which is using, say, a serviceberry low level between alternating Apple and Pear/Plum/Cherry. Wouldn’t have as much separation benefits as the pure NAP, but gets things tighter together.

Any thoughts/suggestions/berating?

Cheers,
J



I don't know on question 2, but question 1 prompts me to show you Eric Toensmeiers site on N fixers, native and non native, high N to low N. http://www.perennialsolutions.org/all-nitrogen-fixers-are-not-created-equal
His point about non-edible N fixers is that they are supporting what should be good tasting stuff anyway. Plus, if you can use high N species, you can plant less of them in favor of better tasting stuff.
 
2017 Appropriate Technology Course at Wheaton Labs http://richsoil.com/pdc
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