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Putting that fence to good use...

 
Saskia Symens
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books forest garden trees
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(questions in red)

Last year I fenced my garden, as there was too much unwanted traffic going through trampling and eating things (hogs and dogs, chickens and turkeys, rabbits and foxes, the occasional hunter...)

Now I have 125m of rigid fencing next to a quiet country road sitting there doing nothing except growing weeds (sown by birds who sit and shit on the posts) and brambles that are hard to get rid of.
Anyway, I decided to turn the dead high maintenance roadside fence into a living (relatively) low maintenance fence-some-day-to-become-a-forest-fruit-garden 
Actually, I have another 300m of fence on the other side, but my neighbor sprays that part until everything is brown and yellow 2 meters inside my garden, so that's obviously no good for food growing...

I'm dreaming of some small espaliered fruit trees (Can peaches, nectarines, apricots and cherries be trained in that way?), grapes, kiwis, raspberries, and putting all my annual climbers among them as long as the trees don't shade them out (cucurbits, beans, peas) along with some insectary flowers (clematis, honeysuckle...), bulbs, herbs, perennial flowers... Sounds like paradise already...

I just struck a deal with one of my neighbors who has 4 donkeys: I can get a wheelbarrow of fresh donkey manure mixed in with their litter (straw) every day until I cry for mercy, starting tomorrow!

But my-oh-my, with all my dreaming I didn't properly realize what I'm getting myself into: I have more questions than answers...

This is my grand idea (gleaned from a geoff lawton video on making "instant" gardens:
- I mow the grass as short as I can and as close to the fence as I can
- I spread the manure along the fence (how thick?)
- I put on a layer of cardboard (recuperated from local supermarkets) and wet it thoroughly
- I put on a thick layer of spoilt hay (I get that from another neighbor. It's been on a unused loft for twenty odd years and is dusty and rotten. Will that still do? And how thickly do I need to put it on minimally/maximally?)

I wanted to sow white clover on top of the hay but am not sure if this will work. I need some kind of ground cover that can stay in place by the time the hay is gone, either a nitrogen fixer or something edible with flowers for bees, and that I can remove locally or slash down when I need room for other plants. Suggestions?

I also wanted to plant broad beans pretty much immediately for winter cover & extra Nitrogen in little holes in the cardboard, and fruit trees and bushes in November- December. But will the manure not burn the plants?

Would it perhaps be more useful to just pile up the manure, assemble some high carbon material and make one of those superquick compost piles (14 days, 18 days?) that you turn over every couple of days and then use that under the cardboard?

What are your thoughts on this?
 
John Polk
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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If the manure is 'fresh', it will probably be too 'hot' for planting seeds into, plus it will come with its own seeds (from the donkey's feed).  Donkeys have digestion systems like horses do...not very efficient in breaking down all of the bulk they consume...the bulk of what they eat passes out undigested.  I would think that aging it would produce a better end product, but if the straw is more predominate than the manure, adding your fresh grass clippings will add needed nitrogen for a good decomposition.

Ground cover:  The white clover will do both of what you desire.  Being a legume, it will add a lot of nitrogen to your soil, and it is a favorite of the bees.  In many regions, clover is the first crop to flower in abundance, right as the bees are coming out of winter hibernation, when they need a source of nectar!

Wild flowers are also a good source to keep your bees happy and healthy, and they will also attract innumerable butterflies and beneficial insects, and the birds that prey upon them.  Wild flowers deserve a spot in every food forest and home garden.

Early, mid, and late season flowers will keep a large variety of critters around to help you all year long.  Wild flowers are Mother Nature's way of providing for millions of her species.

Good luck.  It won't happen over night, but each day it will get better if you follow Mother Nature's path!  While mankind resides at the top of the food chain, our survival depends on those at the bottom of the food chain, and all of those in between.
 
Jordan Lowery
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stone fruits like peaches and nectarines are best trained as a fan shape in espalier. they are a lot of work to keep up with though as far asp pruning goes. so if you go that route. expect to be out there a lot each winter and summer to keep them in shape.
 
Saskia Symens
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hubert cumberdale wrote:
stone fruits like peaches and nectarines are best trained as a fan shape in espalier. they are a lot of work to keep up with though as far asp pruning goes. so if you go that route. expect to be out there a lot each winter and summer to keep them in shape.


What is "a lot"? I don't mind a couple of afternoons of pruning in mid winter. Same for summer prune.
How often do fans/cordons etc. need to be pruned anyway?
 
Saskia Symens
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Put in my first wheelbarrow of donkey manure this morning. About 50% straw.
New problem; my dogs think it's a delicacy, they now both have donkey poo breaths. Charming! 

I'm starting to think dogs are a real nuisance on a permaculture farm. They will bite the sheep's/goats' ankles, upturn cages, eat manure, chase and eat chickens, play in your newly planted beds, and their waste is noxious!!!

Anybody think different?
Could they be retrained to peacefully lie down next to a fluttering hen?
 
John Polk
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Urban/suburban dogs, if mature, can be hopeless when introduced to the country.
Soo much room, soo much freedom, soo many new toys, & critters to harass.  You have invited them to doggy heaven!  Perhaps you can provide them with their own yard to play in until they acclimate to their new surroundings.  Once they understand that those other critters are a part of the family, they may calm down and respect them.  If not, turn them loose with a 300# boar and watch what happens.

As a side note, Will Rogers once said "If there are no dogs in Heaven, when I die, I want to go where they all went."
 
A Philipsen
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Location: OR - Willamette Valley
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New problem; my dogs think it's a delicacy, they now both have donkey poo breaths. Charming!  grin
Aaahahahaha.  Sorry, it's funny because I had a Mastiff that would do that all the time and then, re-deposit it outside the horse's field, but it didn't smell like horse-poo any more...  My best advice for the dogs, is make a space that you can confine them outside, and make it big enough that if you have to leave them in it for a whole day at a time, they don't go stir-crazy.  It at least gives you a way to work with other critters without their interference and you can let them out when you can give them more attention for training.  It's hard to think of dogs as livestock, but I actually like mine better now that she has been assigned a job (pest control) and a place (tied to the doghouse if the chickens are out and I'm not there).
 
Saskia Symens
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Thx John & Gracie

Yeah, I can't be there all the time to retrain them, so a fenced park just for them is a good solution. They will watch the other inhabitants run around and get used to them without being able to turn them into toys or snacks... That's the first step. Then when I let them out, I can do an in depth training session and see how that goes. With the goats they did alright actually. The Sheltie was afraid of them, LOL, and the Hovawart went for it, but the billy goat gave her a good head butt (I heard her yelping from the kitchen. Since then she keeps a respectful distance )
 
Brenda Groth
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my garden has a fence around it and some arbors, I'm growing 8 varieties of raspberry, blackberries, morning glories (annual), melons, squash, cucumbers, kiwi, grapes, cl roses, clematis, currants etc ON the fence and using it to provide a windbreak to my garden..there are some areas that the fence protects things like wild plums, hazelnuts, blueberries, juneberries, serviceberries, gooseberries, honeyberries, etc.

I am a huge "lattice" fence lover..I have lattice all over in my property
 
Peter Ingot
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saskia wrote:
(questions in red)

Now I have 125m of rigid fencing next to a quiet country road sitting there doing nothing except growing weeds (sown by birds who sit and shit on the posts) and brambles that are hard to get rid of.

Your neighbour's donkeys may be able to help with this. Donkeys have a more goatlike diet than horses especially in winter when grass is scarce and will eat brambles and scrub when hungry so they might suppress the brambles before you start planting (but move them on before you plant your fruit trees) . Running tethers perhaps?  I'm assuming you currently don't have anything valuable they might trample or eat right next to the fence.

I wanted to sow white clover on top of the hay but am not sure if this will work. I need some kind of ground cover that can stay in place by the time the hay is gone, either a nitrogen fixer or something edible with flowers for bees, and that I can remove locally or slash down when I need room for other plants. Suggestions?

I think this might turn rather messy. If there are lots of lush weeds and brambles, soil nitrogen is probably already quite high. I don't think clover would be happy growing on fresh manure, cardboard and mouldy hay mulch on top of decaying weeds. It's a grassland plant that likes low nitrogen.

I also wanted to plant broad beans pretty much immediately for winter cover & extra Nitrogen in little holes in the cardboard, and fruit trees and bushes in November- December. But will the manure not burn the plants?


Give time for the weeds to  die before you make too many holes in the mulch. I would put most energy into the trees and shrubs as they are most likely to succeed.  Maybe wild strawberries for ground cover? Transplants will do better than seeds  in such a sheet mulch system I think. Best to compost the manure if you can. You can sometimes get away with a light top dressing of fresh donkey manure, but too much will scorch plants.
 
Brenda Groth
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Location: North Central Michigan
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i have a lot of wooden perimeter fencing and lattice garden fencing and all of it grows something on it.

i have grapes and ornamental vines up 6' fences and arbors, I have kiwi and grapes and climbing roses and ornamental vines over several other arbors and lattice fences, and I also grow my brambles up a 48' long section of lattice fence .

my garden also has lattice fence that is used as a windbreak for wild plum, hazelnuts and blueberry plants..and these grow ornamentals and vine crops up them in the summertime.

on the outside north of my lattice fence and picket fences east side, i grow jerusalem artichokes..they make a lovely screen and windbreak..

hollyhocks also love fences as it helps them to stand up straight...and you can eat them
 
Saskia Symens
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Thx pignut for the feedback. You think the trees will be able to stand the manure come transplanting time (november)? In fact you're saying I could have done this without manure? It's true brambles are a huge success here  , and nettles in some patches, another nitrogen lover...
The donkey solution would be good if I had donkeys: my terrain is really too small to keep them. And I don't want to buy in extra straw and hay... I might try a couple of pygmy goats...

Brenda Groth wrote:
my garden has a fence around it and some arbors, I'm growing 8 varieties of raspberry, blackberries, morning glories (annual), melons, squash, cucumbers, kiwi, grapes, cl roses, clematis, currants etc ON the fence and using it to provide a windbreak to my garden..there are some areas that the fence protects things like wild plums, hazelnuts, blueberries, juneberries, serviceberries, gooseberries, honeyberries, etc.


I think I can grow most of these once there is some shade from the trees. Any berries and currants in full sun die here, except the darn brambles, of course . The annual cucurbits should do well even without protection. Heat loving climbing beans also... I think pignut is right and I should make trees and shrubs the first priority...

Thank you both!
 
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