Trees

Midwinter Thaw

I visited our permaculture orchard early this afternoon. We’re having a thaw after a couple of weeks of hard freeze conditions. Last night and this morning, the rain has been plentiful. In the little video posted below, you will see:

  • hybrid plums and black currants and asian persimmon planted on the raised berm,
  • a swale catching melted snow and water running down the slope of the land,
  • black alder (Alnus glutinosa) which I planted in the swales because they tolerate wet conditions and help manage water, fix nitrogen and build soil fertility, provide early pollen to the bees (see those catkins?), provide habitat and food for many creatures, and can easily be coppiced,
  • wild perennial weeds (especially aster and goldenrod last fall) and grasses growing in the swale which stabilize the soil, help water to percolate into the soil, and provide food and habitat for many creatures, and
  • a 3-d deer fence in the background which allows most every animal to sneak into the orchard but is excellent for preventing deer from coming into the orchard and damaging/eating our plantings.

 

 

I, also, found this hardy character growing cheerfully in the rain! We planted plenty of rhubarb last spring once we found that we liked rhubarb mead so much. They are doing well!

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Categories: Climate, Flora, food, Grasses, Herbaceous Plants, Orchard, permaculture, Soil, Strategies, Trees, Water | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

The Honey Hedge

We thought that we’d like to have a visual screen between our farm and a neighboring property. My dog, Ginkgo, watches, diligently, over HER land (her boundaries go, frustratingly, beyond ours.) She can sit near J’s office and look downslope to the southeast, south, and southwest with little obstruction to her view. She watches for any activity and will, enthusiastically, announce the presence of our neighbor, our neighbor’s car, our neighbor’s guests, the buzzards and hawks that fly over the neighbor’s house, the cats in our neighbor’s yard; and, indeed, the neighbor’s Fed Ex deliveries. It, also, means that she can catch, with her sensitive nose; the presence of any delectable contribution to the neighbor’s compost pile. Oye! I thought that a hedge might reduce her easy view (sniff?) of the territory. However, I am, particularly, interested in transforming this area of mowed grass to meadow. This hedge of shrubs and trees will be the eastern edge of that meadow. Once a bit established, additional understory perennials will be planted and, over time with work, the meadow will expand out towards the west.

I decided to begin with, what I’m calling, a honey hedge. The trees and shrubs were picked with consideration for honey bee forage, general pollinator habitat, wildlife, beauty, and form. Some plants were chosen because they could, additionally, provide edibles for us. Plant needs; moisture, light, and soil conditions, were researched and, hopefully, met. I’d like to use successful plants for propagation material. I have little experience with most of these plants and have, yet, to see how they function. Need for adjustments are expected as we grow along. Here is a schematic of the hedge. The top of the page is EAST, with NORTH to the left and SOUTH to the right.

honeyhedge

 

This is a link to a chart that gives a brief description of the trees and shrubs. 

I started with laying out some flags. I had a big load of mushroom compost that was spread to visualize the shape and to mulch the area. I followed with cutting three rows with a single shank subsoiler parallel to the line of the plantings to break up compacted soil and to improve drainage. Then, I designed and marked out the plantings and ordered the plants (Cold Stream Farm and ForestFarm.) I made use of buttonbush and sumac that I had propagated myself. I mulched a portion of the plantings with cardboard and straw. It became clear that I had to protect the tiny plants when I started noticing that they were being nibbled by, I believe, bunnies. Hannah took care of cutting and placing scrap tubing and hardware cloth that we found in the barn around the plants. The following image shows just the beginning of planting. The tubes that you see in the photo are not part of the designed honey hedge. I have many new trees and shrubs planted in other areas that I hope will help our honeybees including Sourgum, American and Littleleaf Linden, Spicebush, Sourwood, BeeBee Trees, Hop Hornbeam, Pussywillow, and brambles to name a few. Now, we just have to wait until spring to see what happens next!

honeyhedge

Categories: Beekeeping, Flora, Gardens, Shrubs, Trees | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Marshmallows!?

Take a gander at all the fluffy marshmallows hanging in our tree. Have you ever seen such a healthy crop of marshmallows?

 

No, of course you haven’t. This is a crop of Wool Sower Galls! Yum!

Here is a closer shot.

oakgall

(Please, click on image once or twice for close-up.) 

 

There is a gall wasp called Callirhytis seminator. The grubs of this wasp secrete a chemical which reacts with that of the oak growth hormone in the spring. The reaction stimulates the formation of the wooly substance around the seed-like structure in which the wasp develops. There are, actually, many small wooly galls joined together to form one larger gall. I went to the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture website for this information. I’m happy to find out that the tree will not be overwhelmed or harmed by this amazing occurrence.

We sliced the gall in half. Here is a picture of the inside of the gall. The gall is tougher than it looks. It is quite substantial. I understand it functions to protect and to nourish the developing wasps. Each “seed” has the potential to produce a wasp.

insidegall

I’ve observed gall activity in the white oaks before. In fact, here is a gall post that I wrote in spring, 2013 .

(A big “Hello!” to Tom of “Feed the Burbs.” (Check them out in the greater Philadelphia area!) Thank you, Tom, for the very gentle nudge to get some marshmallows…I mean…new content up on the blog!)

Categories: Fauna, Flora, Insects, Trees, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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