Jonathan Ander

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since Sep 11, 2011
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Recent posts by Jonathan Ander

I'm using a 2-wire trellis (one wire at 30", one at 72") with a wood frame. My seed starting attempts were a total failure this year, so I wasn't able to get any hyssop growing under it. I probably got some of the pruning wrong, but at least half of the wire has vines on it.
My understanding was that scarlet runner beans are a perennial in the south. Could be wrong, my wife did the research on that one. Any suggestions for other perennial groundcovers or vines that would work well with grapes?
Groundnuts require digging to harvest - not a good choice with the grape vines.
I'm in North Texas, zone 7D or 8 depending on who you believe. Dallas area, heavy black clay soil that's probably pH 8-ish.

We have about 100' of south-facing fence and 30-40' of west-facing fence in our back yard. Solid wood fence, built less than a year ago. I don't want things growing right on the fence (allegedly will make it rot out a lot sooner due to moisture)... but I want to use that vertical space!

I have a general layout for the back yard constructed, and am dedicating approximately 3' of space along the edges of that fence line to vines. I'd like to have muscadine grapes inter-planted with scarlet runner beans. The beans will help boost the soil quality (reducing fertilization needs) and attract pollinators, as well as being a second food crop in the same space.

The standard layout I'm seeing for grapes & muscadines seems to involve 4x4 or 6x6 treated wood posts, about 6' high (I can go a bit higher due to yard layout, but need to keep it in reach), with one, or at most, two wires strung between them for the vines to grow on, and one grape vine every 20' or so.

This is what everyone's doing it, so I'm sure there are good reasons to do so... buuuuuuut.... has anyone tried putting more wires on to get a denser (if potentially less productive per square foot of leaf structure)? Co-planting runner beans (or any other vines) like I'm doing?

This seems like it'd also be more likely to shade out/discourage grass and other such "weeds" from growing at the ground-to-one-foot level under the vines (there will be sun there). Or should I plan on a ground-cover type plant?

There has got to be a better, more multi-function & multi-crop method of doing grapes/muscadines than the mono-crop type approach that seems to be "the way". Any experience?

If this is the wrong forum, please move the post.
We had to raise the pH of the land, so I got lime distributed and disced it in over the front 2/3(ish) of the property (open areas). Last night I hooked up the box blade on the rented tractor, and determined that (even with it tilted to one side) it will not work for digging swales.... so tractor box blade is apparently out.
8 years ago
Our land (NE TX, variable rainfall, zone 7/ has historically been used for cattle grazing. We have a huge crop of wooly croton (better known locally as "stinkweed"). I'd say by biomass it outgrows the grass, and it has little use aside from seeds that are edible by ground birds (none appear to be in the area going by sightings, game camera pictures, etc).


"When these plants are abundant, they are generally associated with soil disturbance, lack of soil cover or overgrazing."

Our soil is very sandy (on top of a red clay base), and mostly compacted by the cows... so this fits. The local ag extension agent doesn't seem to know what kind of soil conditions it likes, what would outcompete it, or how to deal with it without involving herbicide.

The people we bought the land from only got it 4 years ago (they sold ~1/3 of their property), and say that they were told the soil needed to be limed. Lime increases the PH, which indicates that the soil is probably very acid (soil tests pending). I've researched liming, and it looks like distributing lime involves tilling the entire area that's being limed. That's a lot of work and a lot of soil disturbance.

We distributed a lot of clover seed last fall, and basically none of it took. We also tried planting some radish, okra, turnips, etc., and none of them took. The only edibles we've seen are a wild persimmon tree and some blackberry brambles.

1) What plants can be used to increase the pH of the soil and improve its quality?
2) What useful pioneer plants are likely to do well in the same conditions that stinkweed does?
3) Should we "give up" and just lime the soil?
4) Should we wait on swales until after the soil has been improved some? My concern is that we might put swales in and then have to till through them to distribute lime if we can't find a natural solution.

8 years ago
We just got a shipment of about 200 tree seeds from Lawyer Nursery, plus a bunch of Elaeagnus Commutata seeds for our hedge.

We were told the elaeagnus seeds would need to be stratified... isn't stratification basically just simulating being in the ground over the winter (cold, with a bit of moisture in the soil)?

It seems like if we put the Elaeagnus seeds in the ground now, they'll still get 2-3 months of cold weather + moisture, like, you know, they were real seeds in the ground instead of the fridge.

Any experience with this, and with planting before winter vs. stratifying?
8 years ago
The forested area on our land has quite a few small (<12') cedar trees growing up. We are not interested in cedar for the timber value, and we both have a degree of allergic reaction to it. We're going to wipe them all out. It can survive plenty of other palces.

The fact that it's growing in multiple areas (including very near mature trees) indicates that there is some sort of ecological niche or favorable conditions for it. What should we introduce to replace it that could also take advantage of those conditions?

The mature trees around it are bois d'arc, oak, and some others that we have not identified yet (deciduous, not many leaves left).

Something with a use as food for people or animals would be great.

Zone 7, north Texas (100+ summers, rarely below 20*F in winter)
8 years ago

We're planning to put in brush dams this winter. The scary thing about brush dams is you can have a "blow-out" if the first flood is a really big one, bringing all the brush downstream where you don't necessarily want it - in our case probably right in the middle of our driveway. I'm hoping we'll get a few smaller floods first so the brush dams can get nice and packed in and collect some soil and - I hope - grow some plants.

I'm not expecting them to stop the water and collect soil...just slow it down. That brings up another point, though... if we could get something to grow in the drainage areas leading to the creekbed (which are dry maybe half the year), that would also help with water take-up, and would slow its travel down. Would some type of reed be suitable? I think it may be hard to find a plant that will grow in an area that's under a few inches of running water part of the time and is dry the rest of the time...

We weren't building swales at the time, just moving dirt. We were working on a hillside that is Milton silty clay loam (Mtd3) and it was compacted enough that the claw was needed to break up the ground. Each bucket full was dropped to the side; later we moved the earth elsewhere. Unless the soil was very moist there really wasn't a problem with it sticking in the bucket.

Thanks for clarifying.

I will see what's available for rent... hopefully I can find a Bobcat with a dozer blade or something.
8 years ago
What was your experience with using a bucket? My concern with a bucket vs an angled dozer blade would be that dirt would build up into the bucket, instead of naturally being pushed to the side to form the berm on the downhill side.
9 years ago

I don't think the swails will prevent flooding, but they would help retain water on your land after a rain or a flood.

If they slow it down, that will help prevent the flooding by giving the "downstream" area more time to go down and clear out.

Here's an article about building swales with a bulldozer:


Sounds to me like a berm that keeps the excessive water off of your property might solve the flooding issue.

I'm thinking of putting some brush dams in the creekbed/drainage areas right where they enter our property as another way to slow it down.

Ponds may come at a later date... swales and trees first.
9 years ago