Dan D. Lyons

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since Feb 08, 2011
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Recent posts by Dan D. Lyons

Hi, all of the previous posters have given you some good advice. As an experienced orchardist, let me throw in my 2 cents.  If you are on a small lot in suburbia, I would definitely avoid anything that can propagate onto, over, under or across to your neighbors property. So that eliminates black locust and comfrey. A seeding type comfrey can get extremely invasive and over time so can black locust. You can do a non seeding type comfrey but for now lets do something quick and easy. You are on the right path though thinking about a beneficial planting to augment your apple tree. Depending on your zone and to add a quick fix for the short term (this growing season), the very first thing is to put some mulch in a ring of about a 3' radius around your apple tree and about 4-6" thick. Use what you can, grass, hay, wood chips but get something down as a welcome mat for worms and nematodes to start working your subsoil. Next, I would consider planting a ring of giant sunflowers under that mulch around your tender apple tree to give it some much needed shade from the coming July/August sun. I know it says to plant the apple tree in full sun, but please trust me on this one, I have had lots of experience killing young trees by baking them in the sun Once your sunflowers are about 1ft tall, then plant a planting of pole beans/bush beans intermixed in the spaces around the sunflowers and apple tree. The pole beans will use the sunflowers (that are now about 2-3'' when the beans are sprouting) as a natural lattice and also quickly add nitrogen to the soil and give you an edible crop. The birds will give you some very rich 'guano' fertilizer when they show up to eat those mature sunflower seeds. You can even save a few of the sunflowers and beans to use as seeds for next year .  This planting will look very nice a be a good conversation piece in suburbia. After harvest you have a ton of biomass (leaves and stalks) to mulch your apple tree with. Then in the fall you could go with a more perennial companion planting to accomplish the same thing that your sunflower/pole bean guild did but on a longer term basis, many of the things Tel Jetson mentioned in his post to you.

This is my version of the "Three Sisters Guild" that I have used very successfully on several fruit trees.  It was a guild planting popularly used by some of the plains Indian tribes but instead of an apple tree they used squash plants and instead of sunflowers, they used corn:)
7 years ago
Plant it all right away!  The best laid plans will....so in the event something dies, you can replant it again.

Also the whole idea of inter-plantings or 'guilds' is not to create competitions but to create mutually beneficial plant/insect/bird/tree relationships. For example, a planting of peas or beans around your tree will add nitrogen to the soil and the tree provides a scaffold for a place the beans can grow. Also the bean foliage can protect a young tree from getting too much sun.  Mix in a few sunflowers to create biomass and perhaps a dill plant to attract beneficial insects, now we are off and running.

7 years ago
Would it be possible and easier for you to dig those existing trees up, build your swales and then replace your trees along the swale where you would like them? Right now may not be a good time but you could pull that off in the fall after the trees go dormant. Maybe an idea.
7 years ago
Hi, in construction cedar is used as a rot resistant material that can be placed on direct ground contact and not rot which might suggest there is some chemical in the wood that does not allow it to break down (unlike other softer woods) with soil contact. In the house, cedar has traditionally been used as a natural pesticide (eg cedar lined closets, cedar moth balls). Underneath live cedar trees it is difficult to get anything to grow and is known to emit an allelopathic toxin or a 'natural herbicide' that prohibits growth of other plants. Having said this some people think using cedar in raised beds will stunt the growth of plants that are placed inside them for the reasons previously mentioned. However, does cedar continue releasing allelopaths long after the wood has been cut down and dried in a kiln?  And if it does, is it enough to stunt or kill the little growies in your raised bed?  I have no idea but for your sake I hope it works fine. I just don't like raised beds for various other reasons , personal preferences that's all.

Good question.
7 years ago
I wanted to write a brief description of the similarities and differences of honey locust (herein referred to as HL) and Black Locusts (herein referred to as BL)...feel free to add something as needed. Please excuse the grammar and wording, its late and I need bed!

BL and HL are both thorny trees however BL doesn't generally have thorns on the trunks of older trees whereas HL has LONG thorns on the trunk and branches, regardless of age. Young BL trees will have trunk AND branch thorns (generally less than 1") but spaced farther apart than HL. Sometimes HL can appear from a distance as being 'hairy' with thorns, perhaps because they are.  When it comes to LONG, nasty thorns, that is the HL. Long, nasty tire popping, barefoot throbbing thorns= HONEY LOCUST! HL has long sharp thorns on the trunk AND branches on trees of all ages. HL has a darker, smoother bark (similar to that of a young cherry) whereas BL has a light tan colored bark on young trees turning a darker gray and more grooved (hackberryish) as the tree matures. Both HL and BL have seed pods.  BL seed pods are smaller, generally less that 7" and are nearly identical to Mimosa tree (silk tree) pods and also resemble eastern redbud pods.   Honey locust also have seed pods but they are distinctly longer pods like Catawba or Kentucky coffee tree and are oftentimes greater than 12" and often curl in a spiral shape.  The seeds pods of honey locust are often used as "sweet feed" for livestock and a sedating treat for that cow or goat who doesn't like to be milked. HL, BL, eastern redbud and Mimosa tree are all legumes and N fixers however HL and BL are in the family acacia, whereas eastern redbud and Mimosa are not. HL and BL have roots that are more similar to rhizomes (like a giant Bermuda grass!) and sucker profusely (like a giant Bermuda grass!) when cut or when the soil around them is disturbed. Many states consider both the HL and the BL as an invasive specie.

The flowers of BL are extremely popular with bees and produce a very sweet, aromatic honey.

As a side note, the Mimosa tree (Silk tree) attracts hummingbirds better than any other plant on earth! Here at the farm we have counted 8 different hummingbirds in our Mimosa tree at one time.

7 years ago
I 2nd the vote for edible flowers!  They are fantastic mixed into a pancake batter for BL fritters or dried for a tasty mid-winter tea.  I've experimented with coppicing some BL here and if you coppice them, the will sucker profusely and not exactly where you want them.  I light thinning or pollarding for fuelwood seems to send out less suckers than a wholesale coppicing. BL is like creeping comfrey and osage orange, handle it with care or it can become VERY invasive.

I think some posters are referring to honey locust when they think long, sharp thorns. Black locusts don't generally have thorns on the trunk especially on older trees. Younger trees will have trunk thorns of less than 1". Honey locust has a darker, smoother bark and they have long sharp thorn on the trunk and branches. Honey locust also have much bigger seed pods that are long and sometimes curly.  The seeds pods of honey locust are often used as "sweet feed" for livestock and a sedating treat for that cow or goat who doesn't like to be milked.
7 years ago
Well, its been my experience that most historic bred varieties of tomato needs water and a decent amount of it.  I only have experience with growing a handful of varieties of heirlooms and only augment with occasional watering to supplement our 35" of rainfall.  However my neighbor who has about 5 acres of tomatoes under organic cultivation is constantly watering  (it seems) with drippers. Minded he is farming a more traditional monocrop plow/plant/furrow, water water water method, he does use only organic methods and keeps a cover crop on in the winter months to retain moisture/build soil. I was simply suggesting a phased-in approach to Paul's hugelkultur beds. Starting initially with drought tolerant veggies for the first couple of years until the subsoil wood is fully soaked and moisture laden and perhaps then moving on the others veggies that require more moisture.
7 years ago
Thank you for not nitpicking and I never implied that it was In fact I don't think a ground cherry is a nightshade either.
7 years ago
Just a thought so don't be hating on me  ....instead of all the inputs of time/water resources in trying to raise that big fancy beefsteak or Cherokee purple, maybe shooting for something a bit more drought tolerant (ground cherries, tomatillos, bush cherry tomatoes) for the first year or two until your hugel bed builds up the needed subsoil moisture might be an option.
7 years ago
OK I have read that your not to compost with hemlock. But here on my 10 acre slice of heaven, hemlock is growing EVERYWHERE. It is an outstanding biomass producer, maybe second only to kudzu or bamboo.  So just for the hell of it I starting chopping and dropping it around some mulberry and apple trees. Well, those trees are doing great, perhaps better than the other trees composted with different goodies. Has anyone every had negative results with hemlock compost? (Hemlock the "poisonous" plant, not the tree). In 5 years am I going to have a Frankenmulberry that looks pleasing to the eye but fatal to the taste?
7 years ago