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.



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!


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


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.


(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.


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

10 Jujubes

I first saw and tasted jujube while walking the orchards of Edible Landscaping in Virginia. It was in the fall and the fruits were sweet, a bit dry and, definitely, intriguing. That was years ago and, finally, I get to plant some of my own. I like that jujubes have low maintenance requirements and that they would be adding diversity to our orchard. I am wondering if our climate may be a bit humid for best fruit but I’m going to give it a shot. I planned for the orchard to have three jujube trees in it. At this moment, I have ten jujube trees in the house. Hmmm.

I did some searching to learn more about jujubes before completing the design for the orchard and planting. I came across Frank Meyer’s video which was very informative. I discovered that he sold the bare root rootstock and scion wood for jujube. This allows great variety and a great price. There was a minimum order, so, I ended up with 10 rootstock and 10 varieties of scion wood. It looks like the jujube website is under construction but calling for information and ordering is a good option.

My rootstock and scion wood came perfectly packed, moist, healthy, labeled, and with instructions to plant after risk for freezing. So, I potted the rootstock as quickly as possible and brought them into the space which was an old bathroom (a renovation story for some other time…) I kept the scion wood from drying out and cool until I could graft soon thereafter.

My first grafting experience was with the Backyard Fruit Growers grafting workshop a couple years ago. You can buy apple and pear rootstock for a few dollars, choose varieties from loads of scion wood collected by the membership, and learn to graft from the experts. I was able to do 7/7 successful apple and pear grafts after that experience. Backyard Fruit Growers have their next grafting workshop on Saturday; March 28, 2015. There is a session for the public and a session for the membership. It is well-worth becoming a member if you live not too far from the Lancaster area.

Since it is a couple of years since that workshop, I decided I needed to review grafting techniques. I was fortunate to find a video specific to grafting jujubes. I sharpened my knife, got some parafilm grafting tape, a Sharpie and tape for labeling, and I went to work.

Here is a photo of potted rootstock with labeled scion wood to be grafted on to that rootstock. I tried to find good matches between the diameters of the rootstock and scion wood to make the best grafts. The varieties of scion wood that I have are: Sherwood, GA866, Don Polenski, Honey Jar, Shuimen, Sugarcane, Redlands4, ShanxLi, Li2, and Li.



I used the Whip and Tongue grafting method which is appropriate for a dormant jujube or one that is just coming out of dormancy. Here is a photo of the completed grafts waiting for warmer weather to get into the ground.


I am not very experienced as a grafter but I need 3 out of 10 to take. I feel pretty confident I can get there. With luck, all 10 will take and I will plant more jujubes about the yard and share with friends and neighbors. We’ll see! Now, we just need some warm weather!


I did not experience as much success as I had hoped with the jujubes. However, I did learn very useful things from the effort.

The grafts took quite some time to leaf out and I wanted to get the three into the orchard. I chose three that looked promising and planted them into the orchard. Unfortunately, those grafts failed but the seedlings remain healthy. The central stem with the green tape is the failed graft. You can see the branches from the seedling plant are growing well. Each of the three plants in the orchard are shaped this way. The two main branches will give me the base on to which I can graft new scionwood. I have two spaces on each plant and each plant will get two different varieties of jujube.


I planted the extra 7 plants outside our main garden in a holding place. 5 grafts took. I gave one of those to a friend. From these remaining plants, I discovered that if you don’t prune suckers and branches below a graft early enough, they take away all that the graft needs. The growth of the seedling jujube plant can be very vigorous. The graft can, then, fail when you prune the suckers at a late stage.

I, also, discovered that bunnies do, indeed, love to chew the bark off of young trees in the fall. It was fortunate that I saw this. I was procrastinating in protecting the trees in the orchard, wondering if it was really necessary. When I saw this, it was a real kick in the butt. I got to work in the orchard to put some kind of guard around each of the trees and they have stayed intact.


I’m hoping to give you another update about these jujubes in the summer. I’m not going to give up yet!





Categories: Flora, Orchard, Trees | Tags: , | 2 Comments

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