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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Food Forest Dreaming

Plans and more plans.  I'm sure this isn't the final plan, either.  But, still, good entertainment while I am still house bound with this dastardly cold.

Year One, of course, we have a lot to do, and probably not enough time or money to do things with, so going to start with a few fruit trees and a small, sunny garden (orange areas).  Also, going to need to observe the shady (blue) area cast by mature trees directly to the west of that area.  Not sure what to do with it yet; however, hoping a year of observation will help.  Everything will need to be planted on raised beds due to the 50-60 inches of rain that we get a year, so in addition to the raised beds for the garden and the first fruit trees, will also build the raised berms for additional trees and beds and cover crop them with a variety of clovers and bush beans.

For the trees, I am envisioning
  • Remove top soil where the trees will be
  • Dig shallow trench - 1-2 feet deep
  • Fill trench with thin branches, wood chips, and trench soil
  • Build mound up about 2 ft tall and 5-6 feet wide
  • Replace topsoil
  • Plant to cover crop
  • When planting trees, put card board around them and mulch
  • Put tree protectors
  • Stake for the first year

Year 1 - Shape Beds & Plant 9 fruit trees
First Year Trees to include all of our favorites, as it will take 2-4 years for them to begin producing. 
Apple - Fuji September Wonder - Semi-Dwarf - Ripens Sept
Nectarine - Hardired - Standard - August
Apricot - Goldcot - Dwarf - Early July
Apple - Royal Gala - Semi-Dwarf - Late August
Peach - Carolina Belle - Standard - Mid August
Pear - Moonglow - Standard - Mid August
Apple - Golden Delicious - Semi-Dwarf - Late Sept
Pear - Red Sensation - Standard - Ripens Late August
Apricot - Wilson Delicious - Standard - Ripens Early July

Still need to research what guilds well with these trees.  If possible, year one, build all the beds that need to be built using tractor so don't need to bring the tractor in again.  The sunny (orange) areas will continue to be the yearly vegetable garden.



Year Two, continue adding trees, but also add berry bushes to the various trees to begin rounding out their guilds.  Continue to chop and drop cover crops and to add mulch.

Still not sure what to do with the shady area.  After year 4 or so, it will get shade from both the East and the West.  Not sure what to do with it.  Could that become a plant propagation area?  Also, perhaps there will be enough sunlight for greens - lettuces, spinach, cabbage, kale, bok choi and the like.  Do I see snails and slugs in my future?  Hopefully an army of Robins will move in and keep the place slug free.

The sunny beds (orange) to the North are 15 feet long - almost 200 feet.  And then the fence line - that will be mostly sun for the first several years, with the lower Eastern side eventually getting more shade.  Should be enough for a home garden.  Not so sure about enough for a market garden.  The shade beds in between where future trees will go will be sunny places to plant on while waiting for trees.  Even the tree berms can be planted to row crops during this time.

Year 2 - Add 8 More Trees



Year Three still adding lots of trees.  But the plan gets more fuzzy as we look out over time...

Year 3 - 8 More Trees

Year 4 - First trees should be producing; Add 8 more trees
A decision in years 4 - 5 will need to be made concerning adding the last two rows of trees.  If I don't add them, will there be enough sunlight to continue growing row crops there?

Year 5 - First 2 sets of trees should be producing - Add 6 more trees.

Year 6 - Many trees should be producing; Add the last of the main trees

Year 7 - Most trees producing; add additional trees to fill in gaps

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Deciduous Magnola?

Fuzzy Buds on a multi-stemmed large shrub or small tree.
Not the best photograph that I ever took; however, my phone just did not want to focus on something that was already fuzzy looking.  These fuzzy buds are about the size of the first joint of my thumb.  I am hoping that they are one of the signs of spring mentioned at igarden.com.au - a deciduous magnolia.  Some photos of deciduous magnolias in bloom can be found at http://conradartglassgardens.blogspot.com/p/an-example-of-using-magnolias-in.html.  The timing appears to be right - fattening buds in mid-January, ready to burst forth ahead of leaves in February.  The size of the buds are right.  The look of the bark.  I can't pin-point a cultivar, but it seems to be saying "Deciduous Magnolia" to me.  ... If it is a deciduous magnolia, then even though its location is most inopportune for us humans, I think that  it will have to take precedence, and stand her ground.  ... I cannot wait for the delightful surprises that this Spring holds for us.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

An Unlimmeted Source of Mulch?

I can envision a nice layer of mulch around these trees -
perhaps contained by a decorative border.
Can it be? Do dreams really do come true?  The 'Boro collects leaves, tree trimmings, and trims trees along the highways and byways - and turns it all into mulch - which is made available for free, yes, free to the residents.  AND, it is right on the way home from work.  Somehow, I am envisioning stopping by there every Friday on the way home, to load up my truck with wonderful stuff.  True, I cannot immediately use it for filling garden beds; however, I can see garden pathways 10 or more inches deep with mulch - the bottom layers composting in place and turning into worm-filled soil.  And alternating chicken pens being topped off with mulch to increase sanitation, and, again, to produce more soil.  And thick walking trails of mulch (first swept and cleared of Evil Thorns) through our little forest.  Besides becoming lovely pathways or chicken run flooring, or garden and fruit tree mulching - they become part of the solution to too much water.  (Ah, ironic that just a few short years ago I was pining for rain...)

I had been thinking of purchasing a chipper for my husband for his birthday, but I was reluctant, because I really want those one inch weed saplings and branches to build trellises and tomato cages in my garden - I didn't want to use such a valuable resource to make mulch.  I hemmed and hawed and finally decided that we just were not going to be able to afford it this year.  We could afford a really good chain saw or a chipper.  Chain saw won.  Not that buying a chain saw isn't exciting (I eventually want a lightweight one for my very own), but I was feeling a little blue about not being able to make my own mulch, and certainly not being able to afford buying as much commercial mulch as I need to enhance 3 or so acres.  But, as I've said before, I am amazingly blessed, and the right thing always presents itself when I need it most.  As our daughters remind me, dreams do come true.

When one considers just how many raised beds that I will eventually need,
then one might understand the joy at finding an unlimited, free supply of glorious mulch.
For each raised bed
  • Thick layer of cardboard, shredded bills, 
    waste paper on the very bottom to smother existing vegetation
  • 5" of mulch on top of the cardboard and paper
  • 15" of dirt (some of it from the excavated paths)
  • 2" of mulch on the top of the bed
  • 15" of mulch in the path
I will do the math when I actually have a garden plan, but even for one 3 ft long bed with a path on one side, one can see that I will need more than just a few bags of mulch from Lowes.   And, yes, yes, I have a tractor to help me do this.  Happy New Year - and - Let the dreaming begin!