Heinrich Kegeldank

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since Sep 10, 2015
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Southeast US Zone 8b
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Recent posts by Heinrich Kegeldank

I recall reading about somebody who interplanted ginseng in his orchard. He planted it in the shade beneath his fruit trees one row a year until he was planting and harvesting a row of ginseng every year.
6 years ago
I work on new construction jobsites. The builders here will just throw sod on top of compacted clay with all the paint, broken concrete, and other trash still sitting on the ground. Even the best builders I've seen have barren wasteland around a house being built. You can't avoid it when hiring contractors and building a house to code these days. Laying sod down just doesn't fix these problems. Chances are, your lawn will not be healthy for a couple years because of this.

Yet even on the nastiest jobsites there are thistles growing in cracks, or patches of clover on the edges of gravel. There are plants that will grow in the worst conditions, and they will pave the way for prettier and more delicate plants. You have to let them grow though. Sure, you can till buckets of manure into the soil and your grass will probably grow, but in my opinion it's just easier (and cheaper) to let nature do its thing. There's a thread on this lawn forum about alternatives to grass lawns, and there are a few low-maintenance, mow-friendly suggestions. I can't recall them off the top of my head but if you aren't attached to the idea of a uniform grass lawn, you should go searching. I'm not a big lawn guy so I just let the clover and dandelion grow. If you're into lawns maybe you'd be more interested in creeping thyme?
6 years ago
Added to my reading list!
7 years ago
Off the top of my head, there are a few permaculture options for helping combat pests. Have you looked into companion planting/interplanting multiple crops in the same bed(s)? Some companion crops help with certain pests while others just grow better together. I don't know if it's an option since you are leasing your land and don't have much open space, but planting certain herbs near your crops can keep insect pests away and/or create a home for pest predators.
8 years ago
That's a healthy list of plants already! What's the climate in his area? If I were in this situation I would use clovers, birdsfoot trefoil, alliums, and dandelion/chicory as ground covers. Russian comfrey would make a nice "chop and drop" companion since it's less likely to take over your entire orchard than standard comfrey. It's not very scientific, but I would choose a bunch of herbs and wildflowers to spread across the space you have left. It might be best to avoid things like mint and catnip that will overtake everything else even in full shade.

As far as pest control goes the goal in companion planting is really to complete an ecosystem where all pests are surrounded by their natural predators. If you have various plants of various heights all mingling among your trees and shrubs, you will accomplish just that. Having different flowers that bloom throughout the year will help with pollination, too. Unless you're growing vegetables or only a few tree guilds it isn't necessary to carefully pick out which species generally repel specific pests.

8 years ago
Just when the flowers start forming is the most beneficial time to cut it down. If it's an annual and you'd like it to be there next year, you might want to let it go to seed once. Some plants tolerate being hacked down multiple times better than others. Perennials might tolerate being cut down a couple times per year, but they will also eventually need to go to seed so they can repopulate.
8 years ago

Tyler Ludens wrote:Keep in mind fruit, especially apples, grown from seed might not be fresh eating quality, but might be ok for making hard cider.

If you want predictably edible fruit, you might want to invest in known cultivars of fruit, which can be expensive per tree ($30 for instance, per tree).

For general information about growing a food forest, I can't too highly recommend Geoff Lawton's Food Forest DVD.

I appreciate your suggestion to use known cultivars, but I'm not a picky eater at all and I love experimentation. It isn't about the price although that certainly makes it worthwhile. If I gather many seeds from several types of apples, pears or whatever, I will have a diverse and unique collection of fruits since every fruit tree will be a genetic reroll of its parents' genes. I might not be able to guarantee that a certain percentage of my apples are cider or storing apples but then worst case scenario is the local bird population booms and I'm left with some decent firewood. Even very bad apples can still make good vinegar. If I'm planting 15 apple trees and only 3 produce "viable" fruit and make it to full maturity, wouldn't the trees still be producing enough apples for their share of the diet of 4 people? In other words, anything more than 20% success becomes excess to be sold or given away. Even then, any failure just invites another form of profit. I could leave plenty of fruit for the wildlife and coppice a few trees for firewood. I'll still have several types of other fruit/nut trees, then berry bushes and everything else. I'm aiming for a lush, fertile forest the just happens to contain a bunch of food-producing plants. If half the food turns out not to be human food I'll still be very happy.

Steve Farmer wrote:

Heinrich Kegeldank wrote:If I had to establish a 2-acre food forest with all kinds of plants, would it be best to plant everything right into the ground?

It depends.

I can't plant directly into the ground because of these things:

- lizards, rabbits & goats will eat the young trees
- there is not enough rainfall and the plot is 20 mins drive from where I live
- the seeds I plant do much better with assistance (on wet paper towels in a plastic tub in the sun, checked every day)
- some seeds have low germination rate. I could plant 3 seeds in a location but some locations would get 3 trees and some zero

Another problem I don't have but you might is frost killing young trees that aren't in pots inside over winter.

I could plant more seeds directly in the final spot to try to fight these problems but experience tells me the lizards would eat them all, and anyway I would have to water them every day when they are young.

Your conditions are different so you might be ok. Why not plant some directly in the ground but also plant some in pots as an insurance?

I don't plan to start planting until I live on-site with at least a dog and another person. That should keep some animals away. I like the idea of starting some insurance plants in pots and I'll probably end up doing that.
8 years ago
If I had to establish a 2-acre food forest with all kinds of plants, would it be best to plant everything right into the ground? Fruit trees not breeding true is not a problem for planting from seed. Taking into account germination rates and casualties I was thinking I might need twice as much initial seed as planned survivors. The problem I see happening is having "bald spots" where trees and shrubs just don't take off. Can I mitigate this by starting trees in pots so I can guarantee I transplant an established plant into the ground? It seems like more work and space. Could it be easiest just to plant maybe three germinated apple seeds in every desired apple tree spot? Seeds being cheap, any plants in the same bunch that survive the first few months would eventually harmlessly graft together, right? The soil would already be in the process of being conditioned with living mulches, green manures, and a bucket of the amazing Paul Stamets' MycoGrow. No specific property has been singled out so there's space left in the plans for swales or other earthworks.

I ask because I'm coming up with a plan on behalf of a group. I'm tasked with finding the cheapest way to establish a food forest. Our goal (more like an ideal) is to be able to feed at least four people off the food forest (excluding annual vegetable beds) within 10 years of growth. That's more of a production quota than a mission statement; we would probably end up selling/trading/sharing a lot of it if we did make that much food. If you have any experience or insight to contribute, it would be very much appreciated. We plan to include fruit, nut, and nitrogen-fixing trees as well as a variety of understory shrubs. We will carefully broadcast an even greater variety of ground-level herbs the following year to give the saplings time to grow a canopy and build root systems before risking overcrowding and overcompetition from thousands of supportive "weeds."
8 years ago
When coming up with plans for my future homestead, coppicing black locust seemed like the obvious solution to a frequent problem. A fast-growing tree with high-BTU wood, and it gives my bees food early in the year and my livestock an ever-present source of high-protein green shoots? On top of that, it fixes nitrogen for other plants? I don't think any other frequently coppiced/pollarded tree stacks as many functions. With its nitrogen fixation and light shading, I plan to utilize my firewood copse to plant a variety of shallow-root herbs and "wild" edibles as a sort of auxiliary food forest.

I don't know about making a business venture out of it, but I definitely see the potential for self-sufficiency and sharing resources. Don't be discouraged if you can't make a major profit; if you harvest enough wood just to be able to share with your neighbors then you've already accomplished something meaningful that might reap non-monetary rewards. That being said, I know black locust also has a major importance in the fence-post and other markets. You may be able to make a successful business if you look at more than just firewood.
8 years ago

Russell Olson wrote:Dandelions, purslane, and mallow would have to be additions too. depending on your tastes garlic chives might be a good one, although the smell of crushed garlic chives might be a bit much for a lawn, same with mint I suppose.

Speak for yourself, I'd love to roll around in some mint...
8 years ago