Matthew McCoul

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since Jul 03, 2014
I've spent my life back and forth between rural farmer, suburbanite, and suburban gardener.

I like to help people who think lettuce grows on trees learn about food and plants.

I like off the wall harebrained plans and utilizing the little-known or little-used.
Southeast Michigan
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Recent posts by Matthew McCoul

Let's talk seaberry!

I'm in Zone 5b michigan, looking for unique edibles attuned to the kind of cold we get, and seaberry seems like a great tough option for food and nitrogen at the same time.

I've come to understand there are a LOT of varieties of seaberry. One Green World has some ~15 varieties at a glance. I'm feeling a little overwhelmed choosing the right ones for my design without more information, so I'm wondering if anybody here has experience with some of these varieties.

I'm looking for a handful of varieties to fill 2 distinct niches in our site.

One: large bushy, vigorous varieties for nitrogen fixation in our hedge. Good fruit flavor and production are a bonus but not a requirement here.

Two: compact (4-8ft), productive varieties with high fruit quality for a berry bush area. Flavor, fruit size and sweetness are key here, though some tartness and even a tart variety with exceptional flavor are both fine. At least a majority of them should have a flavor suited for fresh eating.

Thanks in advance! Really looking forward to hearing your experiences.
2 years ago
I'm designing a simple guild for under a friend's mature standard (20ft+) apple trees. The trees are not picked for any purpose outside occasional snacking and that's unlikely to change.

It's family Property, so the whole family including his suburban-gone-rural parents have to approve of the design.

Some goals for the project are:
-low maintenance (friend, friend's parents)
-aesthetically pleasing  (friend, friend's parents)
-support tree health (me)
-easily propagated plants (friend, me)
-simplicity (friend, me)
-low cost (all)

Right now, I've got chives at the drip line, comfrey within the drip line, ligularia for a shade tolerant beautification, and I'm considering something to replace the grass for the pathways.

Any suggestions?
3 years ago
Sort of a sepecific question, does anyone know if there's information on the average amount of leaf litter produced by different trees and shrubs?

Curious regarding different parts of a set-and-forget soil building method, this is just one of a thousand questions that go into it, but it's one i'm having trouble finding data on
4 years ago

Craig Dobbelyu wrote:I have two siberian pea shrubs that are 5 years old and roughly eight feet tall and about 6 feet wide in full sun.  They produce a few ounces of viable seeds yearly.  If you want them to be used in any sort of feed capacity, I would say that you would need more than a few plants.  I recently started a hundred or so seedlings in order to make a feed hedge for the future.  They are easy to grow from seed and are very hardy.   They grow pretty fast and don't need any attention.  The flowers are nice and attract many pollinators in the early spring.  

Maybe start with a few plants and then use them to produce seeds for later propagation if they work out for you and you needs.

They've got ample food already. My question is basically whether the peas are edible to them. No good planting toxic plants around my ducks. Even if the trees don't produce an appreciable crop of seeds, they're mostly there for nitrogen in the first place.
4 years ago
That's a good start. Thanks for including a reference too!

Anyone have a second opinion?
4 years ago
Hey folks, I'm considering growing a few redbud and siberian pea as coppices for nitrogen fixation and to a lesser extent food.

We've got ducks. Does anyone know if they can/willl eat the fallen/low to the ground peas from these? They've already got ample food from wandering our near to 2 acres so this wouldn't be a major or forced part of their diet, but more food couldn't hurt.
4 years ago
So, we've got 19 ducks right now, roughly 7 weeks old.

They mostly free range around our 2 acre property in zone 5 MI, but they're very adamant about going back into our garage at night, where we raised them.
We'd like to build them a duck house near our roughly 70 by 70 pond, and get them out of the garage.
We were considering just letting them free range outside with no house at all, because that was very successful for a small orchard in our area. I guess predator pressure here is quite low.
But those ducks were just for looks, and we want to know roughly where the eggs will be.

What sort of factors are important when designing a duck house?
What materials can be used? We've got sheet metal, cord wood, cob, cinder block, bottles, urbanite, field stone, straw, and broken brick.
Does it have to be locked up tight like I see online? With fences going down into the ground a foot?
What will we need to do to convince them to sleep there instead of our garage? I've heard stories of people building elaborate houses that the ducks never go in

Any info you can share with us on making a good home for our ducks is greatly appreciated.
4 years ago
I guess I'll backtrack with a little more premise lol.

I was looking for information about a few common permaculture plants and thought "There should be a wiki about these. There probably is already"

After some googling turns out there are several permaculture wikis that cover plants among other things, though none had the info I was looking for.
One of them was the "Permies wiki". I went to check it out, and this is what I found.

Doesn't seem to be any content on several of the categories, including plants. Is my computer loading it wrong? Am I in the wrong place/misconstruing the purpose of the wiki/other confusion?
Thanks everbody, there's a wealth of information here. I'd never heard of meadowsweet, or several of the other suggestions.

Looks like I have a lot of reading to do.

And you're probably right, stress has a lot to do with it. Regrettably, I don't see that changing in the very short term
Eventually though part of the stress comes from doing this now that will lead to those changes in the long run
4 years ago
Is my computer not loading things correctly, or is the Permies wiki basically empty? I went on for the first time today, went to "plants" and to "permaculture" under the categories. Both blank.

Curious because I do a lot of reading across the internet about what plants do what, and there's no reason not to update a Wiki while I go