Susanna Pitussi

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since Feb 01, 2016
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forest garden goat
In 2015 I started my permaculture project, forest garden & herb farm on the South Shore in Nova Scotia. Looking into what I can grow in our ~20 acres of boggy black spruce or how I can create some extra soil thickness for more options. Focusing on sustainability, biodiversity, harmony and good medicine.
Nova Scotia, Canada, Zone 6a, Rain ~60"
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Recent posts by Susanna Pitussi

Thanks so much for this David!

I do have limestone around, for use in the garden. It just never occurred to me to use it on the apple trees.

And creating raised beds around them is a great idea! I had resolved to start planting guilds around both of them. Having the chickens tearing up the grass and fertilizing was the pre-guild step. I can definitely create raised areas for the support plants.

And with 2 goats, and now chickens, I have access to lots of well composted bedding and manure to fill them with.

And hearing your story about the trees in Africa makes me think about how precious a tree actually is, and the great care people in other parts of the world provide them. We have an embarrasment of riches here, indeed.
It makes me want to up my level of care, for sure!
1 year ago
Hi Jason. Welcome! I'm in Bayswater Nova Scotia, just down the shore from you. What part of Halifax are you in? Is that one of the Five Island Lakes behind you?

Looks like a beautiful property! I'm working with existing forest as well, however mostly black spruce here with birch, alder and tamarack.

What's your soil depth like? We have very little and so I'm essentially going to garden on top of the moss and tree roots, mostly adding fruiting shrubs and herbaceous medicinal plants in the understory along with support plants. (Working in large patches, as one of the threads mentioned.)

I may also be able to build up a couple of spots enough to put in a hazel or two or maybe a swamp crabapple. (We're pretty boggy over here.)

My other main strategy is to work along all the sunny edges, making the most of them by putting fruits, nuts or berries there along with helpful guild members... ideally medicinal ones.

I had grand visions at the beginning, just 3 years ago, however things are moving much more slowly. I only realize now that it's actually much better, as everything is integrating in a deeper way.

Keep us posted about what you're doing, including pictures, and how it goes. I also highly recommend walking around and taking a whole set of "before" pictures at this stage.
Thanks so much David for what you mentioned about the compost and apples with scabs!

I'm in Nova Scotia and you can tell how wet and acidic our property is by how well the blueberries are doing just 12 feet from the apple trees.

I never realized it was the damp and acid soil causing the scab! I just dumped a load of almost finished compost under one tree for the chickens to spread and play in.

But I may also try composting into a couple of deeper holes like your Dad did. We're hard pressed to even get a fence post down 2 feet here without hitting granite or shale, but I can probably get a couple of narrow holes dug.
1 year ago
Just chiming in to echo the value of pruning. I've been working with 2 ~ thirty year old apple trees that hadn't been pruned in at least 15 years, maybe 20.

I was quite timid with the first pruning, 2 years ago, mostly taking out a lot of the small branches growing every which way throughout the centre. I didn't notice much of a difference after that round.

In early February this year I was a lot less timid and took out all the branches that were crosding and all the dead and less healthy branches. However, I only did one tree that day and didn't get back to the second one before the weather warmed up.

Now, I'm definitely seeing a difference between the two trees. The one I pruned twice is looking healthier, and the apples so far are bigger and less scabby. I can't wait to do the next round of pruning on both of them!

I also made the small orchard area into chicken pasture in July. They're starting to get a lot of the grass scratched up under the trees (I scatter cracked corn for them where I want the grass gone) and fertilizing the area and eating any bugs they can find. My next step is to dig up the comfrey my neighbors have offered and plant some of that under and around the trees for chopping and mulching, in addition to wood chips.

My biggest challenge is getting to the branches that I can't reach, even with a ladder. These trees are really tall and I'm going to have to get an arborist or a much longer saw!
1 year ago
Hi Ben. Thank you so much for posting here! And for redirecting me to your other thread.

That's a very fascinating analogy with the city and its roads intact. I will keep that in mind and plan to use a lot more whole wood pieces as I build soil than I might have before.

And the statistics about conifer biomass vs tropical forest were stunning! As well as feeding the fungi year round and doling out rainwater over time.

We're very aware on our property that the only soil we have is directly due to fallen trees and moss. I had never heard the term "nurse logs" before! That absolutely makes sense for where and how we see things growing here.

We're very blessed indeed! Thanks for opening my eyes to how much!
2 years ago
I've been thinking about guild plants today and I've realized that I need to think about this area as a food forest in miniature.

Our stunning lack of soil depth kind of makes this food forest almost like a bonsai version of a full sized one!

This is helping me to visualize it and choose less towering overstory trees and understory shrubs that will better suit this landscape.
2 years ago
How high do you generally build your hugels Laura?

I'm thinking you have pretty similar rainfall amounts to us in Seattle. We get ~60" annually in this part of Nova Scotia, spread across the year.

The woody bottom layers should stay pretty wet. But how often do you find you need to hand water the top? (in an average summer, for example)

And do the shrubs get established fairly quickly, getting roots down into the wet layers, or does it take a while?

And the Terra Cotta pots are a great idea!
2 years ago
So, I don't even need to wait for hugels to fully breakdown before planting smaller, permanent items.

I had been wondering whether small shrubs could handle the shifting and settling in their root systems. That's great news!

2 years ago
Thanks for clarifying Laura.

You've just added a bunch more species to my list that I didn't know could handle wet conditions! I'm working this winter on some guild designs, so this is great timing!!

I've also realized that just because I need to steer away from putting trees in hugels, it doesn't mean I can't still build some with all the felled wood I've got back there. Then I can cover them & use them for short term plantings while they break down. Then after they've settled, plant the resulting soil with more permanent shrubs and  herbaceous perennials down the road.
2 years ago
Yes, keeping the early plantings close to zone 1 will also help me to see if the deer are coming in that close. (They generally don't, but the lovely new grassed areas around the sculptures may be drawing them in!)

Thank you Laura! I've never heard of swamp crab apples and I will definitely check them out along with the resource you mentioned.

I had been hoping to discover some trees that might do just what these crabapples will do with their roots.

I'm a total beginner when it comes to grafting mentioned hazelnuts in your scion list...can they actually be grafted onto a crabapple?
2 years ago