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Mulching a "forest garden" hedgerow

 
Dean Moriarty
Posts: 106
Location: Danville, KY (Zone 6b)
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I'm in the planning stages for planting about 750 trees/seedlings this coming March to start several long hedgerows on my farm.  Well, technically it's a hedgerow to the NRCS who is paying for the trees, but I'm treating it as a start to my larger plan of a forest garden. 

I am now trying to figure out how I'll mulch all these trees.  I was originally planning to use wood chips and bark chips, just whatever I can get relatively cheap and close by.  But now I'm thinking maybe I'll just use straw, which is how I've mulched other trees in the past, and although they've only been on my property for a year they all did pretty well despite a long hot and dry summer here in Kentucky.

My trees and shrubs are things like pecan, chestnut, pawpaw, sugar maple, wild plum, elderberry, hazelnut, serviceberry, nannyberry, blackberry, and others. 

If you have recommendations, I'd love to hear them.  I'm particularly inteested to hear from people that have gone through something similar with the quantities I'm working with, because whatever I do I need it to be reasonably low maintenance since it will be quite a few trees in a large area to keep healthy through this first year.  I do this all on my own, so it's got to remain a one man task.
 
mark carter
Posts: 3
Location: mid-michigan
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Austrian winter peas, or other living mulch to eliminate weeds and build soil fertility. Not bad to eat. Less of a problem with mice and voles with live mulch, a lot less work to install. I had to use cages to protect trees until there above the browes line for deer. Peas fix nitragen does wonders for my trees, feeds soil life. Good luck.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Sounds like a great start Dean,
How old are those pawpaw trees? pawpaw tree leaves tend to sunburn the first two years, they start in nature as an understory tree, shaded until they grow tall enough to reach sunlight.
pawpaw trees are pollenated by flies, the flowers have an odor that attracts blue bottle and other species of flies so they can be pollenated.
 
Tracy Wandling
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Location: Cortes Island, British Columbia. Zone: 8ish Lat: 50; Rainfall: 50" ish; sand and rocks; well water
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I like the idea of growing your own mulch/green manure. A mix of things that will add to the fertility and organic input. Annuals and perennials that can be chop-and-dropped as mulch, but will regrown to be cut again. Also, having some plants that grow tall to act as 'nurse' plants for the more sensitive small trees might work well. Just don't cut those down around the trees that need more sheltering. I don't know what grows well in your area, but your regional seed catalogs should have some mixes to suggest. And if they are too pricey, you can always find cheaper ways to get seed - feed stores, bird seed, and the bulk section of a grocery store are often suggested as good places to get cheap seed. Mix them all together and broadcast around your trees.

Sounds like an amazing project. Good luck!
 
Dean Moriarty
Posts: 106
Location: Danville, KY (Zone 6b)
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mark carter wrote:Austrian winter peas, or other living mulch to eliminate weeds and build soil fertility. Not bad to eat. Less of a problem with mice and voles with live mulch, a lot less work to install. I had to use cages to protect trees until there above the browes line for deer. Peas fix nitragen does wonders for my trees, feeds soil life. Good luck.


Thanks Mark.  I will do some more research on field peas as a living mulch, but while I have your attention, I'll just ask a few questions.  My plan was to do a one time till on the strips of land where the trees will go in, would I just broadcast spread those seeds (mixed with something else like a cereal rye?) in the Spring?  Are there any negatives to this strategy I should be aware of?  Will these plants steal water or any other inputs from the trees and shrubs?  And last, will this approach work as well for low growing shrubs as it does with taller growing trees?

I'm buying over $1000 in trees, so I would like to do this successfully the first time. 

Thanks again!
 
Bob Hall
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I use old hay, I lay it 8 to 12 inches deep and it last for six months. The soil has really improved using the hay, I have some YouTube videos on it if you care to watch. https://youtu.be/Zkvv1UpjhJk is a tour of the food forest. This video shows how we put down the hay https://youtu.be/RibWqnRyubg. Hope that helps, it has made a big difference for us and we get hay given to us, no farmer wants old hay but for us its perfect.
 
Dean Moriarty
Posts: 106
Location: Danville, KY (Zone 6b)
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:Sounds like a great start Dean,
How old are those pawpaw trees? pawpaw tree leaves tend to sunburn the first two years, they start in nature as an understory tree, shaded until they grow tall enough to reach sunlight.
pawpaw trees are pollenated by flies, the flowers have an odor that attracts blue bottle and other species of flies so they can be pollenated.


I purchased 2-yr old seedlings from the Kentucky forestry department.  I've heard of this sun damage on pawpaw, and I'm hoping that by buying the 2-yr old plants I will have better success.  Also, since they are so cheap from the forestry department, I ordered almost double what I need.  I have a wooded acre in the front of my house that is just all natural, and I'm planning on putting my excess in there to see how they fare.  If the field plants die but the ones in the woods live, I may take some and move them out the following year after they are more mature.  But I'm hoping to not have to do this, since it would be a heck of a lot more work.
 
Michelle Bisson
Posts: 185
Location: Quebec, Canada
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I love learning about other peoples project for food forest hedgerows.  It is such a great way to maximize land use while leaving the interior space for other uses, ex. pasture land, food crops, even some grassy areas in front yards or back yards.

Please continue to share about your story and do take lots of pictures to share with us in the spring. 

Every time I drive by the farmlands in our area, I imagine what it would be like if along the fence line of every field there were food forest hedgerows, just like you described.  Just doing this, our landscape would be so very different and our region could be self sufficient for fruits

====
So we are working on our own property....

This summer we planted a 125 food forest hedgerow of sea buckthorn (seaberry).  There are many reasons on why we have only one fruit tree species in the hedgerows. One can read about the why's in my thread (see below for link) where I am sharing our story.  We will fill the ground layer of our sea buckthorn with many perennial edible herbaceous plants and some of our annual vegetables.  We started with hundreds of strawberry transplants this summer. Eventually we will have a polyculture of plants as the ground cover.  Our situation is very unique and many stacking functions reasons went into the decision making for this type of hedgerow for us.

Once our house is build and the septic system is in place, we plan to plant a hedgerow of mixed fruit trees on the outside of septic field on three sides like you describe doing.  Of course they will have to be planted far enough away from the septic field.

Go Permaculture Food Forest - our suburban permaculture journey

 
mark carter
Posts: 3
Location: mid-michigan
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Dean Moriarty wrote:
mark carter wrote:Austrian winter peas, or other living mulch to eliminate weeds and build soil fertility. Not bad to eat. Less of a problem with mice and voles with live mulch, a lot less work to install. I had to use cages to protect trees until there above the browes line for deer. Peas fix nitragen does wonders for my trees, feeds soil life. Good luck.


Thanks Mark.  I will do some more research on field peas as a living mulch, but while I have your attention, I'll just ask a few questions.  My plan was to do a one time till on the strips of land where the trees will go in, would I just broadcast spread those seeds (mixed with something else like a cereal rye?) in the Spring?  Are there any negatives to this strategy I should be aware of?  Will these plants steal water or any other inputs from the trees and shrubs?  And last, will this approach work as well for low growing shrubs as it does with taller growing trees?

I'm buying over $1000 in trees, so I would like to do this successfully the first time. 
Its better to establish the mulch ahead of time to suppres weeds, however you could try buckwheat and do a chop & drop around your trees. Add other mulch as needed until trees or shrubs are established. Also can under sow peas thru your mulch, the peas collect dew that helps keeps the mulch moist. May want to try an expirmental plot first to refine your system, its not just money but time. Good luck.
Thanks again!
 
duane hennon
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Location: western pennsylvania zone 5/a
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you should get some ideas from this



Permaculture farm update on The Farmer's Grove
 
Marco Banks
Posts: 374
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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What is your primary goal?  Weed suppression?  Moisture retention?  Soil building?

Black plastic would be very easy to work with if your goal is weed suppression.  If you contour the land a little bit, it can also serve the function of channeling the water toward your trees. 

Wood chips are great for moisture retention.  Any bio-mass will serve this purpose --- hay, straw, other chop and dropped plants.  Over the long term, wood chips are a fantastic component for soil building and creatig worm habitat.  Chips are also a great way to jump-start the fungal network in the soil.

A green cover crop will do a bit of the first two functions (weed suppression & moisture retention), but the primary benefit will be soil building and nitrogen fixation (if you choose the right seeds and inoculate them with the correct bacterial inoculant).  Plant a multi-species cocktail of 20 or more different kinds of seeds.  Then you can chop and drop it when it gets a couple of feet high.  I plant a cover crop in my orchard every fall and then drop it once it gets about 4 feet tall (around March 1).  All those roots remain in the ground to feed the soil food web, while the chopped biomass remains on the soil surface, usually till the following fall when I plant a new cover crop.  During the summers, vining crops cover the ground and shade the soil.

Of the three, plastic is easy to put down.  Planting a cover crop is also pretty easy.  Hauling all those wood chips is a LOT of work, but well worth it.

Perhaps you could experiment with all three (or other kinds of mulch) and see how your trees respond.
 
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