March 21, 2021

Taming the Wild Side

One thing I have learned over the years, is that just because I "tame" an area, doesn't mean it stays tamed. Gardens, for example. They can look neat and lovely at the beginning of the summer, but by the end of the season, the battle with the weeds has been lost, and you wonder if you can still find the tomato plants. I have the same problem with other areas, such as my herb beds, elderberries, rugosa roses, and forest garden hedgerows. Once a year these areas get tidied, and that's usually when I take pictures! After that, they seem a lost cause. 

I've often thought that if all I had to do was the garden, or my herb beds, or my hedgerows, then they'd be beautiful. They'd be perfect. As it is, I have many things to do: garden, goats, pasture, house, harvest, food preservation, and whatever projects we're working on. In reality, things gets done as best we can even though it doesn't often look like it.

Earlier this month, we were discussing where to plant some apple and quince trees that we bought. We decided on the front yard for the apple trees, but unfortunately, the best place would take quite a bit of work to conquer. There was also the question of an old pecan tree that shades both front yard and the top of the garden.

The top of the garden. There's a fence in there!

This thicket is marked "wind break" on our master plan. Here's what it looked like several years ago, when we fenced the garden.  

June 2014

For awhile I had my compost worm bed up there, and later a bed of comfrey. Occasionally, I would cut shrubs down to feed the goats, but over the years it grew into a wild mess.

March 2021

Ligustrum, seedling oaks, honeysuckle, wild roses, blackberries, saw briars, and poison ivy are part of the take over, along with things I haven't identified. And every year they creep out a little further toward the garden on one side of the fence and into the front yard on the other. 

As we discussed a plan, we had to ask what should be done about the old pecan tree. It never produces much in the way of pecans and shades part of the garden. It would shade any fruit trees we wanted to plant there too. The other thing about older trees, is that they become problematic if allowed to get too big. They need to be cut while the chain saw can manage them, and while the wood is still fairly healthy. Old rotted trees are dangerous trees, plus it's a waste of wood.

I cleared out the shrubs and undergrowth around the tree.

View from the garden.

Then, Dan took off the tree branches on the garden side of the tree. 

Felling trees can be unpredictable, so Dan removed
the weight on the side we didn't want it to fall toward.

The next day he took it down.

A good size for the chain saw and the wood is healthy.

Our front yard.

What a gap it left in the skyline! It makes us a little sad, actually.

However, it will be put to good use as firewood, and the branches will be chipped for mulch and smoker wood. We'll plant two new apple trees and a crabapple here, in the front yard. 

On the garden side, we're pulling roots to get ready to plant Chinese quince seedlings. 

Back on the garden side.

Two baby Chinese quince trees planted and mulching begun.

Chinese quince

Eventually, they will create a new treed skyline. Said to grow 15 to 20 feet in height, it will be a shorter treeline than the 50 to 60 foot pecan. For now, I'll continue covering the area with a cardboard/wood chip mulch. Either this fall or next spring, we'll sow a diverse ground cover here. Hopefully, this area won't revert back to the wild side too badly. 


Cockeyed Jo said...

If you leave it bare too long Mother Nature will fill it in for you.

Leigh said...

Jo, ain't that the truth.

Rosalea said...

A lot of work done so far, and much more to process the wood. Yes, Mother Nature is very good at filling in bare spots! What a lovely promise those little trees hold for the future!

daisy g said...

I'm sure you're relieved to have that done. I use cardboard wherever I don't want grass and weeds to grow. Mulch over the top keeps it weed-free!

Enjoy your new perspective!

Leigh said...

Rosalea, I hope so! Mother Nature also loves diversity, although most of us would call her efforts "weeds." :)

Daisy, cardboard and woodchips has served me well. It pretty much kept wiregrass out of my garden aisles for almost two years! It needs to be re-done now, but it helped a lot.

Cederq said...

Chinese quince, what kind of tree is it? A Hardwood? Any edible fruit or nuts?

Leigh said...

Here's what Oikos Trees (where I bought the seedlings) says about it,

"Small tree produces soft-pink flowers with the largest quince- up to 3 lbs. The bark flakes off the trunk producing a lovely “mosaic” effect. The fruit has many uses, one of which is mixing with ginger and drinking as a beverage. In its native China the fragrant fruit is used for candy and the hard wood is used for picture frames. Fruit quality is different than the common quince but is used in the same way -for a jelling agent and addition to juice mixes."

I think it will take a few years to get fruit, so I plan to experiment! I have no idea about how hard or soft the wood is.

Leigh said...

I take that back, the description says hard wood.

Mama Pea said...

Husband and I were talking and planning just yesterday on what clearing and taking down of biggish trees we want and need to do this spring hopefully before everything leafs out. Sometimes I think we're silly to fight against Mother Nature but we wouldn't be able to raise animals or grow food in the ground if we didn't work to "change" the land from its natural state. Your project shared in this post was a big one but it perhaps wouldn't look that way to someone who hasn't done it. When we're in the midst of such a task I think of the real pioneers who moved westward across our country and settled in truly untamed land. Makes me realize how easy we have it on our little homesteads today. It just doesn't always feel that way at the end of some days! ;o)

Florida Farm Girl said...

I'm curious about the quince. I've always seen them just as ornamental shrubs with only an occasional fruit on them. Is there a specific variety that you use or some way of cultivating them for the fruit? I think they're beautiful.

tpals said...

What a massive job just clearing the shrubbery must have been.

Michelle said...

I'm glad to know I'm not the only one struggling with "wilding"! Drier areas probably don't have such fast regrowth, but things grow lushly here, too – especially invasive Himalayan blackberries, Scotch broom, thistles, and tansy, along with grasses and various 'weeds.'

Leigh said...

Mama Pea, very good points. I think the appeal of permaculture stems from people recognizing that nature has a way and that we're better off if we cooperate with that! I think of the early pioneers sometimes too, and look where we are now! Unfortunately, we've lost so much thanks to modernism. I just hope what Dan and I put back makes the land better in some form or another.

Sue, this kind of quince does produce fruit, and apparently quite abundantly. It's considered somewhat astringent, but used in beverages and for gelling. I got it from Oikos Trees, website here.

Michelle, I suspect we have similar problems, but with vegetation differences! It's trying to understand an appropriate balance of plants that's challenging. And I'm not sure I've come close to figuring it out yet!

Fiona said...

I always marvel at growth and recovery with fences, our new fences are sporting a lot of new growth. Your plans continue to give me hope that we will get more of our overgrown areas back under control. Keep safe and God Bless.

Mike Yukon said...

There's never a shortage of work to do on a homestead.

Leigh said...

Fiona, it always seems to be a losing battle. I find myself hoping that if we can just plant the right groupings of plants, they'll be happy that way.

Mike, that's exactly right!

Susan said...

That is a lot of work! However, your future plantings sound wonderful - and it's always better to have light in your garden and fruit trees!

Ed said...

I am always a little envious of Amish gardens which are always immaculate even in the fall. But I also realize they have a lot of labor to tap to keep it that way.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Leigh, taking down a tree like that can be an internal struggle. The important thing is that you did a cost/benefit analysis (and it is not as if you are wasting the tree. If it helps, you could plant another pecan somewhere less critical to fill the existential gap.

Tom and Sue said...

Hey Leigh,
Each area of the country has its own "Wild to Tame"! Here in Hawaii it is 2600 types of Palms,including Coconut Palms,Ferns and Running vines as ground cover. But here nothing is native to the "Big Island". Everything was brought by The ocean, wind, birds or man.
But that means we do not have Snakes or poisonous Spiders. We only have stinging Centipede. And the only Predators we have are the Hawaii Hawk and Owl, Mongoose and Rats. And there has never been a case of RABIES in the whole state.
As we never have a frost, The weeds can grow all year long. So it is a never ending battle!

Leigh said...

Susan, it is, but the alternative is a jungle! LOL. If I can get the rest of the area mulched well, that should give us a couple of years to get other things established. At least I hope so!

Ed, I know what you mean. That's the benefit of having a large extended family plus a community that makes social events out of work like this. Few of the rest of us have that.

TB, well, yes, we're trying to establish new pecan trees. I think that's part of the comfort I take, even though I know intellectually that cutting it was the wisest choice. So far we've planted five more trees to replace it! All fruit trees, but I like those numbers. :)

Tom! Good to hear from you all! So many benefits to a beautiful state like Hawaii, but the year-round weeds are something else! I agree, each area has its own challenges, but also its own beauty.

wyomingheart said...

I really understand how heart breaking it is to cut down such a great tree, and I understand the total reality of giving back the energy in new growth . We are in much the same situation here, as we are planting 10 new fruit trees in front of the old barn, and there is a very large, old cedar tree that should be cut down, due to the cedar galls won’t let the apple trees prosper... it’s something that I won’t be doing this year, because the apple trees are just developing, but something we will have to do before next spring. Great post, Leigh, and I am happy to know that some of that tree might make it on Dans saw mill! Have an awesome week!

Leigh said...

Wyomingheart, ten new fruit trees for one cedar is a great trade off! It's a shame the cedar has galls, but those old trees always seem more prone to disease and pest problems.

Chris said...

Seeing this reminds me to plant some of the fruit trees I have. My problem is making the flat land for them to grow on! Which I use felled trees to help me with, by making terraces. Anyway, great to see your plans unfolding.

Leigh said...

Chris, now is a good time for you to be planting trees! We have better luck with fall plantings of bushes and trees, but most nurseries want to send things in the spring. Then they require a lot of watering to help them get established. So far so good for spring rain, but no telling what summer will bring.