Jamin Grey

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since Sep 15, 2018
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Recent posts by Jamin Grey

Not a "cover crop", but come spring, you could plant tomato plants (started indoors several weeks before the last frost) - tomatoes and garlic (and tomatoes and onions) do very well together, as the tomatoes provide shade preventing grass from growing (after getting large enough - will require weeding for the first two months), and the garlic will ward off bugs from the tomatoes (you'll still have to worry about field mice, or else plant so much that both you and them get their share of tomatoes). In my limited experience, the shade from the tomatoes (after growing large enough) prevented new weeds from growing, but the size of the already-in-existence onions didn't seem affected by the shade - I would suspect garlic would do similarly well, but can't be sure.

You could also lay cardboard down where you don't have anything planted, and after planting the garlic (but before it sprouts) put several inches of woodchips over everything (including the garlic, which will push up through the woodchips (but not through cardboard!)).
Some weeds will still work up through the woodchips (but not the cardboard), though, so some weeding is inevitable, but it's be easier to pull them up, I find.
5 months ago

raven ranson wrote:airwells are a big part of what we do.  This has proven most useful with fruit trees.  48 trees out of 50 survive with a small airwell, and 1 out of 25 survived without.  Planted at the same time, in the same soil, three years ago.  The larger the airwell, the more the tree thrives.

Thank you for that link, I never heard of these!

How do you make your particular air wells? Just piles of rocks nearby? How much rock?

What do you mean your airwells are "planted"?

Encouraging plants to capture their own dew has been the easiest way so far.

And, uh, how do you encourage plants to do that?

Apologies for the hundred-question interrogation - this seems important to my specific situation.
5 months ago

S Bengi wrote:This year I harvest my 1st bitter orange. Harvesting figs and 'orange-relative' fruit makes me feel happy.

How did it taste?

Did the tree have thorns on it? Were the thorns a nuisance?
5 months ago
@Mike Jay: You might even try bending it over and burying it in loose dirt; some people in very cold climates do that.

I'm not worried about the fig surviving, but if I could give it just enough of a boost to not need to dieback at all, that would be a sweet bonus.

Moreso I'm wondering about the trees that would survive but won't produce: e.g. if I got pomegranates.
Same with sweet cherry trees - if I can give them a few degrees improvement, they might behave better.
5 months ago

S Bengi wrote:They die back to about 18inches (1.5 foot).
I throw a old chainlink gate over mines in the winter (1st snow). It bends the fig plant down to the dirt, others even add some leaf litter/stone/straw.
Come spring (April 15th-last frost), remove the weights and it will naturally correct its orientation in a month and then resume growth.

Some years I just let it winter prune to 18inches, other years I protect the Chicago hardy fig. But I always get to harvest and eat some fresh figs.

By "winter prune to 18 inches", do you mean it dies back to that naturally, and self-prunes, or do you prune the dead branches off come spring?

Even after protecting the tree multiple years in a row, is it still able to bend down smoothly enough? Or do you eventually need to let it die back, to grow a new more flexible trunk?

I'm fairly confident the figs I planted (Chicago hardy, and another species nearly as cold-hardy) will do fine after the first year; I was just wondering if there's some long-term microclimate benefit I could give them without too much cost or labor, or that might permit me to plant some trees from warmer zones.

For the really warmer zones, I'll have to do as J Anders suggests, and build a fruit wall / greenhouse combo. But for trees I can *almost* plant, only a zone away...?
5 months ago

J Anders wrote:Why won't a full wall work at that particular location? Would a small greenhouse work? Clear plastic pipe over the trunk might make the difference? Anything you can do to make a micro climate would help.

Two concerns:
1) A greenhouse or wall seems like substantial cost and sweat for a single tree, based on the spacing of the trees in that area. That'd absolutely make sense in a different context, which I'd love to explore in the future when I build a greenhouse, but I'd at that point try to maximize the benefit of the wall or greenhouse. e.g. build a greenhouse and layout the plants around it, vs plant trees arbitrarily and then trying to build a wall or greenhouse.
2) There would be some aesthetic concerns - my trees are visible from the road, about 400ft away, and having a bunch of trees look normal, and then having a weird structure over one or two trees seemingly at random wouldn't really fly.

I was hoping that maybe by just improving the soil temperature around the roots (which would be cost-efficient and not noticeably "odd"), the whole tree would benefit. But I guess that's just wishful thinking on my part?

...would clear plastic pipe over the trunk help? That's a possibility. I've never seen or heard of clear plastic pipe for any size larger than 1/2". Branches would be pretty low, though - I'd imagine once the tree grows some, the lowest branch would be only 3-4 feet off the ground.
It'd have to come in two halves, so I could take it off in summer, I guess? And heat would escape through the top of it... But that'd certainly beat wrapping the trees every winter, convenience-wise. Would it actually benefit anything? What kind of pipes are you thinking of?
5 months ago
@J Anders: Thanks for the link to the Fruit Walls. I've heard a little about those before, but that link went into much more detail and was very interesting! The serpentine walls in particular caught my eye.

Building a full wall won't work in that particular location; I guess I'm looking for something easier and cheaper that can help the trees that *almost* make it by not quite - the figs (which merely dieback), and maybe pomegranates.

At some point, I'll want to build a full greenhouse, and I strongly suspect lemons and other citrus will have to wait for that. =(...

@Mike Jay: I actually don't know if my *ground* freezes , but we certainly get below-freezing temperatures, averaging around 10° in January, and sometimes dipping quite a bit lower. The lowest I've experienced here after multiple years is -5° or so, but the historic record was something like -15°.

I would suspect the raised wooden beds (with bottoms open to the ground) are likely a degree or two colder than the surrounding ground, just because of potential wind-flow around them. Haven't ever measured it though.

What do you mean by "a backstop of cement"? Also, how could I use the heat of the earth?

My fig trees - like most my trees - have multiple t-posts about a foot away from them, so they can be supported using the "stanford tie" method. Most then have chicken wire wrapped around the tree (about a foot radius away) from t-post to t-post to keep deer off.
My "solution" for the figs this first year, just to ensure the plants survive since they were just planted, was to wrap the chicken wire, and up over the tree, with a plastic drop cloth, and to fill the chicken wire and up over the young 3'-4' tree with leaves. However, part of my issue is low maintenance.

I don't want to do this every year - it's only to protect it for it's first winter. I'll let it just die back in future winters. But.... if there is some "permanent" solution that doesn't add yet another annual task to my tasklist, I want to put in that labor - if financially cheap. I rather spend sweat than money, but prefer spending neither, and enjoy putting in up-front labor that provides long-term no-maintenance benefits.
Even if I can just raise the temp by 5°, that seems a worthwhile improvement, and if a particularly horrendous winter comes by, may mean the difference between life and death of some trees.

(I already mulch the trees, and have spiral white trunk-guards on them - which I check every year to make sure they aren't constricting them or accidentally holding in moisture)
5 months ago
I read that after a tree is three years old or so, it can survive colder temperatures. How true is that?

Does this mean, if I can get a Zone 8 tree to survive the first two winters in my Zone 6A, by creating a temporary micro-climate around it, it might be able to survive on its own in the third winter?
Obviously that's not a guarantee, but am I thinking about this the wrong way?
5 months ago
Hi, first post.

I'm in Missouri, in zone 6A, and I've planted two figs a few weeks ago, which I'm sure will be doing an annual dieback + regrow, but will otherwise be fine (unless we get a particularly bad winter - then they might die entirely). It'd be nice if I can keep their temperature such that they don't need to dieback at all, though.

Further, I also see that there are species of pomegranate (Wonderful Pomegranate, and Red Russian) that can kinda-sorta-almost grow in Zone 7 (again, I'm in zone 6A).

I was wondering how I might create a microclimate around those trees (my existing two figs, and the two imaginary pomegranates that I don't have but would like), to give them a boost and help them survive and thrive. My "tree area" isn't anywhere near a building or stone wall to plant against.

I was thinking, what if I poured some flat-ish concrete bricks (as thermal mass), with black coloration (to absorb more sunlight), and lay it down around the trees? They'd be sloped to catch and run water towards the trunk.

This was what I was thinking:

How many degrees (Fahrenheit) do you think that might raise the temperature during winter?
I understand it doesn't actually generate heat, but absorbs heat during day and and releases it during night, "averaging" out the heat. I'm just trying to get a ballpark estimate to know what I can and cannot plant.

But what about when they get covered by snow? Yes, they'll melt the snow most times, but what if it snows enough that it remains covered for the next day or two, or on particularly cloudy days, so the bricks aren't able to absorb sunlight, creating a single extra-cold night or two? Is two hyper cold nights enough to a kill a tree, or does it require a longer period of extreme cold for a tree to die?

It'd be great if I was even able to plant some lemons too (and oranges and limes and kittens and jelly beans...), which are more like zone 9. For citrus trees, what if I also wrapped their 2-4 t-posts surrounding them a foot away in a plastic drop cloth, to create a temporary "greenhouse" over them, just for the first two or three years?
(Note: Meyer's lemon won't cut it. I need a more sour lemon species)

If you were in my Zone 6A, how would you experiment with growing citrus fruit outdoors? Year-round, outdoors, I mean. Planting in a pot and bringing it in every year is not what I'm after.
5 months ago