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New garden plot has a giant stump, need planting ideas

 
John Wilson
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Our church community garden was going to expand in an orderly fashion, but there were some underground wires. Instead of the regular sized plot, my new plot is 40' (east to west) by 8.5' (north to south). There is also a giant 4 ft. diameter stump, 12 feet from the west edge of the plot.

I want to work with the stump and plant around it. My first thought was hugelkultur, so I bought some bags of dirt and some compost and quickly discovered that three bags of dirt hardly did anything. I filled in a concave part of the stump to the south that was starting to rot out, and planted a few peppers in the dirt. I tried to fill in a mouse hole, but the mouse is back, and has already chopped down one of the pepper plants.

Anyway, I realized that I'm not going to be able to get enough dirt to bury this stump. And it's a nice place to sit while you're working on the garden in the middle of the day anyway. So instead, I would like to mimic the natural environment of the stump as much as possible.

The current natural microclimate of the stump is a row of tall grass on the outer edge. Inside that ring of grass there is some moss and smaller plants, then another ring of tall grass growing right next to and around the stump. Then there is a layer of bark, and then some of the grass has gotten up under the bark and is growing between the stump and the bark. The stump has a wide variety of mushrooms, at least 3 or 4 distinct species. And some moss. The whole tree area is teeming with life, and I would like to mimic that to some extent.

Not sure how to go about it though. I could surround it with pepper plants, and then leave the natural grass, bark, moss, mushrooms etc. alone. Or I could plant cucumbers along the outside and try to get them to climb up the stump. Or I could strip all of the mushrooms, bark, grass, etc off, compost all of it, and then just plant around the stump. Sometimes I think that's what makes the most sense, since I won't have very much actual garden space (since a good chunk of the plot will be taken up by the path I'll need to create inside the plot itself. (Because of various reasons, the whole 40x8.5 foot plot will be entirely fenced in, separately from the other garden plots.))

Although stripping the stump and planting around it makes a certain kind of sense, but also seems rather barren when I compare that to the vast micro-environment that is present in and around the stump at the moment.

I have the following questions:

1. What do I do with the stump? (removing it is probably not an option)
2. What do I do about the mouse? Keep filling in his hole and hope he gets discouraged?
3. How do I put in my corn and tomatoes so that they don't shade the other plants for a big chunk of the day? Do I just stagger everything so the tallest plants are in the north part of the garden, tapering down to the smaller plants on the south side?

So far, I have planted dwarf peas on the three foot fence on the south side. The north side fence has not been put in yet (they are going to till the plot this weekend, and then put the fence up.) Along the north fence, I have approximately 20 giant sunflowers I was going to put in, and then in a week or two plant some pole beans, with the idea that the beans will climb up the sunflowers. Then, the aforementioned pepper plants along part of the stump.

Zone 4-5ish. I'm not new to gardening, I'm still on the beginner side of the intermediate spectrum though. And I am definitely new to permaculture and the idea of gardening with the local environment you find yourself in.
 
Casie Becker
pollinator
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Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
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forest garden urban
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John Wilson wrote:

1. What do I do with the stump? (removing it is probably not an option)
2. What do I do about the mouse? Keep filling in his hole and hope he gets discouraged?
3. How do I put in my corn and tomatoes so that they don't shade the other plants for a big chunk of the day? Do I just stagger everything so the tallest plants are in the north part of the garden, tapering down to the smaller plants on the south side?

Zone 4-5ish. I'm not new to gardening, I'm still on the beginner side of the intermediate spectrum though.


I'm probably close to the same skill level as yourself, as far as gardening goes, but I have access to someone with far more experience than myself. I'm going to take my best shot at your three questions

1. Can you drill holes, fracture with a hatchet, or in some other fashion make the stump more permeable to amendments? Since you suggest you wouldn't be able to cover it as a hugelculture, I would be trying to speed it's decomposition. To that end, the more nitrogen you can get in contact with the wood, the faster it will break down. Blood meal and urine are both readily available sources of high nitrogen content.

2. Which leads into your second question. I think you've actually got a good strategy. If you go the route of my first question, I think both those smells might be unpleasant enough to drive the mouse away. Hot pepper sprinkled around the area is also a possible solution. Capsaicin is just as painful to them as it is to us.

3 This can depend on your area. I think you've got a good grasp on the general concept. In my area we sometimes find it beneficial to arrange plants according to the shade they need. We use the taller, more sun resistant plants to help shade the more tender ones from the afternoon sun. With that in mind, our planting arrangements are based on the east west axis. Considerations like these are why it helps to include some basic geographic information in your public profile.

Hopefully this is some help to you.
 
Nicole Alderman
pollinator
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Location: Pacific Northwest
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duck forest garden hugelkultur
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I had a much smaller stump that I turned into an herb spiral (http://www.permies.com/t/44289/projects/Herbal-Hugel-Spiral-Randomness). Since it's pretty hard to find enough matter to get the center of the spiral up that high, I was happy to utilize the stump. I don't have a before picture of the stump, but here's the first progress picture I took:

And here it is finished:



I don't know if an herb spiral is the right use for your stump, especially as it's so large, but it's an idea. Or you could build a little wall around it to hold up the dirt and surround it with dirt to plant in and help with the decomposition.

Another thing I've done with stumps on my property is grow blackberries up and over them. A lot of berries in our area like to grow in the reminents of tree stumps (currents, blackberries, red huckleberries, salmonberries, thimbleberries--with the red huckleberries on the top and the cane berries at the base). If you can, like Casie Becker suggested, hack out some areas, you can add soil there and plant some shallow rooted berries, like strawberries or blueberries or huckleberries (I don't know what you're climate is, so I don't know what plants grow best there).

As for the mouse...well, there are mouse traps...I don't know what repels mice other than mint.

My toddler just woke up, so I've got to go now!
 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1592
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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What about building your compost heap over it? The warmth, nutrients and moisture will all help speed up its break down. Also, a few good bonfires on that spot will burn a lot of the stump out down to below ground level - especially if you remove some soil first.

Alternatively, remove the stump. Ask around your community to see if someone has a stump grinder that can lend you for the day. For a church project they might be willing to do it for free.
 
Ben Zumeta
Posts: 157
Location: Redwood Country, Zone 9, 60" rain/yr,
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dog duck hugelkultur
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I am doing kiwi and grapes up along my redwood stumps (8-15' thick and 10-50ft high).
 
Scott Strough
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Location: Oklahoma
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Michael Cox wrote:What about building your compost heap over it? The warmth, nutrients and moisture will all help speed up its break down.
I am trying that this year on my cottonwood stump.
 
Mike Turner
Posts: 318
Location: Upstate SC
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I've used a boring bit to drill out the center or to enlarge the naturally occurring rotted out hollow at the center of the stump, and filled the resulting hollow with soil to turn the stump into a planter.
 
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