February 9, 2022

Forest Garden Update: What I've Been Planting

Here's another update from my winter outdoor project list. Besides swales, I'm working on my forest garden. (Planning pictures and lists are here). I started planting in September, but except for the pawpaws, I haven't made a blog record yet. This post is to rectify that! 

I started by transplanting seedlings that I found elsewhere on the property.

Pecan seedling. I've also been planting these in
our woods, like the pawpaws and persimmons.

The first of two transplanted redbuds. Besides edible flowers, redbuds are
nitrogen fixers. It's mulched with chop and drop from nearby crepe myrtles.

Also, I scattered redbud seed pods everywhere. This spring, I
have 10 more seedlings coming from our state forestry service.

In my research, I learned that strawberries can be part of oak tree guilds. So I bordered off an area beneath two mature oaks for a strawberry bed.

Oak guild strawberry bed, with 1st transplants in the ground.
In addition to strawberries, I also planted garlic in the bed.

As an experiment, I tried an idea from Bill Mollison. Instead of a swale, I dug a pit in the center of the bed for capturing water.

That is, I dug as much as the oak roots would let me.

Once dug, the pit is filled with wood chips.
The pairs of bricks are my stepping stones.

I don't know how well the pit will work, but it's not a spot for a swale. 

A couple months later, the strawberry plants and garlic
were doing well and tucked in with a layer of oak leaves. 

The last of my transplants was my potted golden seal.
I also ordered more roots to expand my golden seal bed.

Here's what I mail ordered.

Wild ginger.
Hostas. These started off well and then got munched
down, probably by skunks. Will they survive? Unknown.

One of two spice bushes, before it dropped its leaves. I marked all
my plantings with stones or bricks, so I'll know where to find them!

Here's another mulberry (which I now know I can propagate with cuttings). It's dormant now, but beginning to bud.


Next, I planted honeyberries (haskap). These were pretty much just sticks with roots when I planted them. Even now, I'm wondering if they're alive.

Scraping away the outer bark with my
thumbnail reveals it's green and still alive!

Haskap are primarily found in colder regions, but these varieties are said to do well in my USDA growing zone, so we'll see. They may require a little pampering the first several years, but if I can get them established, it will be worth it.

And here's my map, so I can remember where everything is planted. 

The fuzzy green circles are the mature oaks.

Some people start with beautifully planned out designs, but I couldn't visualize it. So my choice of planting places has been pretty haphazard intuitive. The pear tree (like the hostas) has disappeared, so I suspect its tender leaves were devoured by a skunk. I'll know for sure this spring. If they have survived, I'll give them a little fencing to protect them.

That's my progress so far. I think I'll add a path next. This spring, I'll have more to plant, including adding some annuals into the mix. Looking forward to that!


Mama Pea said...

So nice to see some green and (to be) growing things! Skunks munching on your plants! Ooops, guess there's a need to discourage those little buggers, too!

daisy g said...

Love the idea of digging the hole instead of a swale. That could be very helpful in certain situations.

You've been busy! I like how you mark your plants with the brick. Very clever.

Leigh said...

Mama Pea, skunks, deer, slugs - all pesty munchers!

Daisy, yes, I was really pleased to learn about digging a hole instead of a swale. That's one of the things I love about Bill Mollison, he readily adapts ideas and concepts to suit the situation!

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Thank you for the update Leigh! Very impressive.

One question: Is there a chance that the oak leaves or (what I assume to be present) acorns could adversely acidify the soil?

Leigh said...

TB, I'm in an oak/pine forest region, so our soils are definitely acidic. But I don't worry about the leaves, because we test our soil periodically and amend with lime if needed. For my little forest garden, I'm looking for plants that prefer acidic soils. That's where the guild lists are so handy. They group plants that like the same conditions. So my strawberries should do well under those oak trees. The real test will be this summer, when I see how many berries they produce.

Ed said...

I love the thought of what you are doing but at least around here, the deer would eat all of those things down to the ground and that would be the end. Anything I plant has to be fenced in and that gets to be tedious and unsightly so it doesn't happen often.

Leigh said...

Ed, Mama Pea just did a blog post about the same problem. Fortunately, our deer haven't been around a lot lately. My forest garden is surrounded by pasture so it's fenced, but not high enough for deer!

Rosalea said...

Ahh Leigh! Bare earth, green stuff, digging in the soil.....I remember that! 2 to 3 months yet to go, up here! I am curious about the strawberries under the oak tree..will there be enough light there for them?

Nina said...

I'd completely forgotten about ginger!! I'll have to get some of that in the ground! The one plant I have aplenty is wild black raspberries which seem to grow anywhere around here! I've been tending to mine judiciously to keep them under control. They are so tasty and make superb jams and jellies, etc. I planted some under and around my black cherry trees and they are growing like crazy. Also, the black cherry trees also make terrific jelly and are of great help medicinally. Love to read your blog. So many great ideas.

Leigh said...

Rosalea, I think they'll get enough sun. It gets morning sun, plus my hoophouse turned garden trellis experiment last year seemed to work. In the end, I'll just have to wait and see. I'm excited because I went from several dozen strawberry plants down to about half-a-dozen survivors of drought, back to a couple dozen again this year. I've got them planted several places, so I'm hopeful to get a halfway decent harvest this year.

Nina, thanks! I have blackberry vines everywhere too, and it's a constant battle. One year I got a fantastic harvest, but the next year none, and they spread like crazy. Keeping them under control is a challenge, for sure.

We had wild cherry trees when we first moved here, but they haven't done well. They are indeed a wonderful asset, so I'll have to look into trying to plant some again. Thanks for the reminder!

Lady Locust said...

Your tree selection is so different than ours would be (NW). I love that you can grow pecans. They are a mint in the store. Also, your strawberry patch is roughly the shape of a strawberry :-)

Leigh said...

Lady Locust, yes, there's a huge difference in the types of plants that can grow in different areas! Learning the best local plants is a fun challenge, and very much worth it.

I didn't think about the shape of the strawberry patch!

Nina said...

I planted a couple of haskaps a few years ago. During an ice storm, one had a big branch fall on it, and took a bit of time to recover, but the second haskap bush is thriving. Someone must have switched the tags on one of them though, because they flower at slightly different times, so I've gotten few actual berries from the miriad of flowers. This year I'm going to try to find a third plant in hopes of pollinating at least one of the bushes, if not both of them. They are supposed to make awesome jam and pies.

DVArtist said...

I just love what you are doing. I have seedlings started and onions growing from onion bottoms. I can't wait to get my garden going. Oh the face for 29 faces. It is made with DAS air dry clay, painted with iridescent paints.
Have a great day.

Leigh said...

Nina, I'm glad to hear your haskap survived and recovered. I'm hoping my climate isn't too warm for them. I'd love to try them in jam and pies!

Nicole, thank you for the information about the face! At first I thought it might be bread!

We've had a bout of warm weather and I'm sooo tempted to try to plant some things. But I know better. Winter isn't over yet.

Retired Knitter said...

Ha! I knew deer liked hostas and now skunks! I wonder what they taste like that animals seem to like them.

Leigh said...

RT, yeah, I had no idea skunks liked tender tasty leaves. I had to put up a "gate" to keep a chicken out of the forest garden, so I'm hoping that will give the hosta a chance too! Actually, humans can eat the buds and new leaves too. I understand they're quite tasty.

Chris said...

You know I'm the keen gardener, of permaculture themed forest gardens. The late great Mollison, gave us ideas, but it's ours to run with. Using what we have on land for inspiration. I like the way you've situated the pit, relative to the oaks - while giving the strawberries a fighting chance to populate.

Eventually, the tree roots will populate the pit again, but at least you gave the understorey plants, a head start. Then they'll start to spread naturally. I'm sure he strawberry runners will move, until they find where they're happiest!