Andi Houston

+ Follow
since Dec 02, 2012
Gainesville, FL
Apples and Likes
Apples
Total received
0
In last 30 days
0
Total given
0
Likes
Total received
12
Received in last 30 days
0
Total given
0
Given in last 30 days
0
Forums and Threads
Scavenger Hunt
expand First Scavenger Hunt

Recent posts by Andi Houston

I've been building soil like crazy in my suburban Gainesville yard using deep, deep wood chips, rotted hay, straw, pine needles, some horse and rabbit manure, and lots of cardboard. My yard was light gray sugar sand when we moved in, only a year and a half later I have worms and flowers. The transformation has been crazy. I also introduced as much fungi as possible by bringing home rotten logs from road sides, friends' yards, anywhere where I saw logs with fungal growth. I used the logs to lay out the edges of the beds in my forest garden (on top of the sheet mulching) and then filled those beds with compost. The logs inoculated the sheet mulch to hopefully nudge the area more towards fungal soil from bacterial soil.
5 years ago
I dug trenches, sheetmulched heavily with cardboard and fresh chipped trees, wherever the bermuda grass doesn't come up through it, it just sprawls across the top. I've mostly given up pulling it out, I would spend hours and hours pulling it out and digging it out just to pull it all out again in two weeks. I just keep piling wood chip mulch over top of it and hoping that eventually the other layers will shade/crowd it out.

If you define "weed" as "any plant growing where you don't want it", then GRASS is by far my worst weed.
5 years ago
Thank you all for the excellent suggestions! I think I'm just going to try doing it myself. What's the worst thing that can happen? I don't need a perfect map, just one that I can sketch out ideas on.
5 years ago
I have been on my property for a little over a year. In that year I have made major changes- planted over a dozen trees, moved major features like ponds and rock gardens, demolished existing beds and built new ones, built compost bins, etc. I'm ready to settle down and plan out the layers in the forest gardens a bit more, and do some long-term planning on cash crop areas. The challenge is that I only have a surveyor's map showing the boundaries of the property and an aerial photo from google maps that's at least two years old. I want a detailed landscaping map of the way the property is right now, a "site analysis" like the ones in so many permaculture books, especially like The Edible Ecosystem Teaching Garden by Dave Jacke. I've thought about hiring a landscape designer just to do the landscape map for me. I can fill in all the information, but I don't know how to do the measuring or even what software should be used.

How have you all mapped your property? Did you make the maps yourselves? Did you hire someone? How much did that cost? Who did you hire?

Thank you for any advice!
5 years ago
I am in the enviable position of having a back yard full of established, heavily bearing citrus trees (minneola tangelo, satsuma, hamlin, kumquat, and navel). They are widely-spaced enough to allow light between them and there are some established azaleas and camellias planted in there, too. I have started to add some nectary plants and herb layers but no roots or vines so far, other than what nature has provided. I'm in the perfect area for using sweet potato as a ground cover. I'd love to plant sweet potato and jicama among the trees and let them cover the ground and climb the trees, but what about harvesting them? Citrus trees have shallow roots, you're not even supposed to mulch around them. Right now I am mowing to control the grass. I have asked the local master gardeners and the pro arborist who pruned the trees, none of them have ever tried this.

Will digging sweet potatoes and jicama harm my orange trees?
How far from the trunks should I plant the root layer?
If I plant the root layer out from under the canopy, is this far enough?

These trees are healthy and bear well. I do not want to do anything to endanger these trees! Anyone have experience growing multi-layer guilds with citrus trees?
5 years ago
"Native" around here is defined as "here before the Europeans arrived". It's an arbitrary definition like all the others but at least there's a clear boundary. I think the native vs. exotic thing all comes down to what you want out of your land and how you interpret the principles of permaculture design. For example: when I moved here last year, my suburban property had relatively little bio-diversity and very poor soil. One of my main goals has been to increase diversity in all living things, with a special emphasis on building humus and building soil. One of the first things I did was start planting a butterfly bed full of native plants to "use and value diversity"- there were few butterfly host plants and very few native bee/wasp nectaring plants in my yard, therefore no butterflies and few bees. If I wanted butterflies and bees, I needed to plant not just "butterfly porn" (nectaring plants like buddleia) but hosts for caterpillars... and most of those around here are natives. So I planted milkweeds and cassias and beach sunflowers and ironweed... AND buddleia and parsley and dill. And now there's butterflies, native bees and wasps everywhere. I see new species constantly.

Now, I also plant LOTS of exotics... I've planted a dozen kinds of fruit trees alone. I see it as a question of balance, and if I am looking at natural ecosystems for my inspiration, then I am looking at mixtures of native and exotic plants... but mostly natives.

5 years ago
I'm in Gainesville, FL. My husband is very into building with bamboo, so much so that we've cleared a space in our suburban "back 40" to grow some big clumping bamboos. Our local botanical gardens has an extensive bamboo collection and they sell harvested canes for $1-$2 for 5'-9' pieces so for the past year we've just been driving down there and buying a dozen at a time. Bamboo is so incredibly useful!
5 years ago
Most of the large trees in my 8b/9a forest garden are mature citrus trees. Since citrus trees have shallow roots and pawpaws have deep long roots, I'm thinking this might be a good understory tree. Has anyone tried growing pawpaws near citrus? Do they like being together? Near the citrus trees are mature azaleas, rabbiteye blueberries, and camellias.
5 years ago
I am so excited to see this thread! I'm in Gainesville and started to convert my suburban 1/3rd acre when we moved in just a year ago.

I was lucky, this property already had 11 established citrus trees when we moved in, along with more than a dozen elderly heritage camellias. The rest of the yard was basically weeds, bermuda grass, and pale gray sugar sand. The citrus bore well this past fall/winter, but now that they've been pruned and fertilized for the first time in a decade I expect them to bear like crazy. In the past year I've planted plums, figs, peaches, strawberry guavas, pineapple guavas, fuyu persimmons, a bunch of pomegranates, rabbiteye blueberries, dozens of native perennials, and probably as many annual food and insectary plants. I'm interested in medicinal herbs as a possible source of income down the road, so I also have an extensive herb garden.

To improve the soil I have added as much mulch and organic material as I could get my hands on. I've probably added 30 cubic yards of organic material already. Every kind of animal manure I can find, free chipped tree trimmings from the power company, purchased compost, spoiled hay, shredded paper from my office, piles and piles of newspaper and cardboard out of dumpsters. Deep, deep sheet mulching. No tilling. The sand just swallows it. But in just one year I can already see an incredible change. I pulled back the hay mulch from one of my zone 1 beds a few weeks ago to plant cantaloupes and saw EARTHWORMS. I had never seen earthworms in the soil before. I danced! Sheet mulching right before each hurricane worked really, really well for me. I have a ton of progress photos on my blog.

If you're looking for more drought-tolerant annual legumes, give Jackson Wonder butterbeans a try. I grew them last year and they produced from June to January with zero additional water after they were established. They were munched on by skipper caterpillars, but they only ate the leaves not the beans, and they still produced constantly. I get mine from Southern Exposure seeds last year and this year, but hopefully I'll be able to save some seeds for planting this time around. Last year we ate them all!

Nick, you have really inspired me to make a master list like this for what I've already planted as well as a "wish list" for what I still want to add. It's wonderful to see so many Floridians here!
5 years ago
The concept of "soils with lots of fungus=forest" and "soils with lots of bacteria=field" was a real eye-opener for me. I have planted a (tiny) food forest in my front yard on top of a weed-filled sand pit. I have sheet-mulched about 1000 square feet so far and planted about a dozen species of plants in it so far. After reading about the fungal forest soils in Edible Forest Gardens, now I bring home every fungus-covered rotten log I come across. I'm using cut branches and logs to edge my beds and paths, too. This has many benefits:

It's free.
It's beautiful.
The logs provide habitat for predators like lizards, scorpions, spiders, and ground beetles.
As the wood breaks down, it adds humus to the soil.
The wood in contact with the soil hopefully means that I am introducing a wide variety of fungi.
I'm saving the city tax dollars by claiming wood they would otherwise have to pick up and dispose of.

Hopefully by this fall the wood borders will be directly producing food by adding shiitake plugs. We'll see!


5 years ago