1. 24.7.2014 Day is done

    Frogs in the pond waiting for the sun to set before venturing out into the garden for their evening meal.

  2. 24.7.2014 Red Maple

    I wanted to also share the red maple’s recovery since 2011 when we started this project. The last photo shows the state of the trunk before we intervened. 

    Over the course of three years, the tree has finally had access to water, nutrients, and less competition from grass as we have implemented our plan for the forest garden.

    Not once in the past 3 years has the tree split open again and been close to death.

    If this garden hasn’t accomplished anything else, at least it saved this tree’s life.

  3. 24.7.2014 Last PawPaw

    One of the two paw paws planted along the second swale. This one will have the most sun of any of them for the time being, but within 2 years the canopy will close overhead from a tripartate commission of red maple, river birch, and willow oak.

    Near this paw paw we have Bocking 14 comfrey, phlox, strawberries, black eyed susans, a rose, echinacea, lemon balm, assorted clovers, dandelion, and aster. And probably some other things too.

    Also visible, barely, is a passion flower or maypop (Passiflora incarnata) that volunteered under the willow and managed to find the twine marking off a bed. Pretty cool as we need more good native vines in the garden!

  4. 24.7.2014 Strawberry, lemon balm, oregano, echinacea patch

    This is the largest patch of strawberries and is doing very well in partial sun! In the first photo you can see the huge pile of “weeds” that we need to compost and a pile of reserve clay from the zai bowls. We will put the clay to use in other area of the garden where we need to do some earthworks.

    Bumblebee not moving very much on the echinacea. One day we noticed some small wasps were biting the bees while they were foraging… all very strange. 

  5. 24.7.2014 Unknown blueberry on little hugel mound

    The blueberries I planted the first year (the gifted plants that we don’t even know the variety of) are hanging on, but not producing. I guess whatever variety they are, they need a lot of water. This bed is being overtaken by the mock strawberry as well, but the blueberry will survive that so we can hold out on managing it.

  6. 24.7.2014 Cultivated, unknown variety of thornless blackberry and black locust.

    The black locusts I planted in 2012 continue to grow pretty quickly. The largest of the 2 trees (one has a sucker coming up) lost about 3 feet in a storm so would be even taller by now.

    Nearby is a blackberry patch. We had tried moving the black berries from here, but as you may know, once planted its almost impossible to get rid of. But even without any care they have put on a huge amount of delicious berries! Sadly, since we are the only game in town, the local junebugs (Cotinis nitida) have taken a liking not to rotten fruit, but ripening berries. 

    I wouldn’t mind sharing, but they put out a nasty stench onto the berries if you disturb them during their feast. Their nibbling habit opens up the berries to fungal attack and they rot on the cane. Next year we will have to consider netting our berries.

  7. 24.7.2014 “Select Paw Paw” behind the large pond

    This was the first one we planted. No water harvesting was put in place when we sheet mulched this area back in 2012, so we made a pits/mounds pattern here again! I love adding pits and mounds to the garden- a lot of fun to do “mini contouring” for plants.

    Anyway, this one is again surrounded by lemon balm, an unknown Baptisia (native nitrogen fixing shrub), bee balm, oregano, yarrow, and comfrey. The opposite end of the bed has a volunteer tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipfera [love that!]) and a superb patch of cultivated strawberries. Into that mix we also put about 10 echinacea crowns. There is also a volunteer milkweed near the west end of the pond (center left in the second photo among some branches that act as shelter for the frogs).

    Into the eastern side of this bed, near the false indigo bush (Amorpha fruticosa), we will plant a “Shangri La” variety of mulberry- once the mulberry is strong enough.

    Lastly, you can see the end of one of our little hugel beds that has been dominated by mock strawberries. We didn’t get to that either, but will just let it be for now.

  8. 24.7.2014 Second “Select” Paw Paw

    Three of the four paw paws are in the old four sister’s guild- the place that had the most sun during the first two years is now dappled shade most of the day due to the rapid response of the canopy trees to our regenerative efforts.

    Planted at the base of the hill next to the lower/large pond, we did some minor earthworks here. While it shouldn’t have access to sheet runoff like in the first year (when the swale would spill over down the center and destroyed part of the four sisters haha), I still created a pits and mounds strategy. 

    The mound opens its two arms to hug the main pathway (left side in the last photos) and the minor path along the pond. The water is then channeled into a pit, where again, a paw paw sits in the center above the main collection site. This patch is filled with red clover, a few comfrey cuttings in the pit/bowl (which word is best… hmm), and oregano to shore up the defenses against encroaching mock strawberries and other undesired species.

    The rest of the patch was then sown with cover crops, lettuce, chives, and cilantro.

    If the bowl does overflow, it will spill on either side of the pit where the pathways inevitably dampen the mound to a lesser height than the rest of the berm there.

    (Lastly, there is a more wild patch we didn’t get to full of oregano and mock strawberries. We are thinking of running some hardy kiwi (Actinidia arguta) vines up the river birch (Betula nigra) that Edible Landscaping gave us for free (lost tags, can’t tell if they are male or female, hard to sell)!

  9. 24.7.2014 “Select” Paw Paw (Asimina triloba)

    We bought 4 “Select” Paw Paws from Edible Landscaping. This is not a named variety, but rather plants grown from seeds of “select” Paw Paws: trees that have performed well in the past.

    One of the four is planted in the eastern side of the old four sisters guild and adjacent to the second swale in almost full shade. It did not need any water harvesting earth works added since it will be able to utilize the swale’s sinking of rainwater.

    We did, however, surround it with some lemon balm and sowed the cover crop mix along with lettuce, cilantro/coriander, and chives around it and in the rest of the long bed.

    The second photo is of Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) and an unidentified maple forming a sort of “sombrero” on the fenceline. Horsetails (Equisitium spp.) in the foreground.

  10. 24.7.2014 Native Elderberry in a lung-shaped patch!

    Here we have the “Native #5” Elderberry. The second swale has a 3” elbow pipe working as an overflow pipe (rather than having a spillway). This pipe was emptying into a straight shot line to the upper pond. One of the great things about evolving with a site rather than simply implementing a design and leaving is the ability to fine tune these things.

    Wanting to put that water to use one more time before going into the pond, I swung a small trench into a double bowl-shaped pits and mounds patch. This double bowl resembles lungs in shape, (unintentional) and has a few different levels. This creates a great situation for maximizing diversity in the little guild. Of course, I would have loved to have an entire palette of plants to choose from, but we make do with what we have. And I’m really pleased with this one.

    The native elderberry sits in the center of the downslope mound. Surrounding it is a barrier of lemon balm. To the east we have echinacea planted in a large cluster. On the base of that side of the mound, we have yarrow shoring up the path’s edge. The driest part of the mound, which circles up towards where the water enters the bowl, are a mass of oregano. Yarrow is planted into the irrigation channel, along with some oregano and seeds of white clover.

    On the other flank of the native elderberry are cuttings of bee balm. Inside the pit we sowed a mix of cover crops: red, crimson, and white clover; alfalfa, California and common poppy. Three cuttings of Bocking 14 Russian comfrey are situated among the low spots. The deepest and most wet sections of the bowl have yellow irises planted in them.

    Wanting to test the new construction, we filled the bowl with water from the hose. Within a few minutes, water began seeping out and into the upper pond. Slow, spread, and sink in action! (The upper/small pond is empty, but visible in the first photo)

    Now for the garden to just get back on track with rain…

  11. 24.7.2014 Second Swale

    On the eastern end of the second swale (left second photo, back ground of last photo) we planted an “Adams” variety of native elderberry (Sambucus canadensis). It will cross pollinate with Edible Landscaping’s “Native #5” elderberry that is planted just north of the swale by the upper/small pond. Like the European elderberries, we didn’t have to do any significant earthworks (pits/mounds) to satisfy the Adam’s’ need to be high and dry and water accessible since they are all on swale mounds.

    In the second photo you can see how clearly the area south of the first swale is bathed in sunlight even to the end of the day. The rest of the garden has nice filtered light through birches, pines, and the willow oak.

    In the last image it is hard to tell, but I added a few steps into the swale to fix the problem I had of digging it off contour during establishment. These two steps will allow a significant amount of water to accumulate before moving down the slope. In the event that we have enough rain for this to happen, by the time water overflows into the main part of the swale, the water level will have risen high enough to fill the full length. While not the perfect solution (digging on contour would be), it is a workable fix.

  12. 24.7.2014 Old Nightshade Guild 

    I need to name the areas of the garden again to reflect their current composition. This section, between the two swales, has a canopy of red maple and weeping willow. The understory currently comprises of large patches of oregano, lemon balm, yarrow, bee balm, red clover (Trifolium pratense), and alfalfa (Medicago sativa). We also have a nice little patch of strawberries ((Fragaria spp.)cultivated, not wild [Fragaria virginiana]) that is doing well in its second full year. Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea) is also to be found. This plant (large one, 4th photo) has been doing exceptionally well even in strong partial shade.

    The tomatoes my mother purchased and transplanted from the farmer’s market aren’t doing so well, but I think that has to do with a) being eaten a live by some catepillars and b) the soil hasn’t had any additional compost or nutrients added (except from nitrogen fixation) since we had a heavy crop of tomatoes the first year. It is also very dry, as mentioned earlier.

    It isn’t easy to see from the second photograph, but along the fenceline the heavily mulched water harvesting bowls (zai) have been doing their job well. I couldn’t even dig into them because the red maple has put such a strong root network into the mulch that its impossible to dig without destroying roots. Before we purchased the trees, I dug another 3 zai bowls in the line. Still room for about 3 or 4 more before reaching the second swale.

  13. 24.7.2014 First Swale

    Along the first swale we planted two varieties of European elderberry (Sambucus nigra): “Cut leaf” and “Black lace.” These two will cross pollinate and give the first swale some much needed shade in the coming years. Black lace is quite showy with its dark foliage and pink flowers, which should complement the ornamental plum quite nicely. Hence, its favored position nearest the deck.

    The metal tags are “Impress o tags” from Amekron. Simple to use and rust resistant, tagging the perennials in the garden will go a long way to ensuring their survival. It also adds a nice finishing touch to the garden. We wrote the common and Latin names on the front of the tag. On the reverse side we included the nursery (Edible Landscaping), where the plant is native to if introduced, and the date of transplanting.

    I also want to say that the speed of soil production at the bottom of these swales is very rapid. Only being mulched with cuttings from the swale, rich soil is at least 5 inches deep in the upper swale and even deeper in the second (which benefits from more shade and leaf litter). 

    In the two weeks I was there, I only took my camera out on the last day to take some photos and forgot to get a close up of the soil there :(

    Oh- and the plants look like they are tied up beyond belief, but actually the twine is only lightly wrapped around the stems in such a manner that they aren’t even being pulled by the twine. The twine is perpendicular to the prevailing winds (from the SW) so that the plants are only supported in the event of strong gusts. This method was described in the Edible Forest Gardens books and we used it to great success in bringing the weeping willow in the old nightshade guild back to health.

  14. 24.7.2014 

    1- Probably the only great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica) left in the garden struggling to make it along the edge of the first swale. It’ll need to be transplanted down to one of the ponds where it can have shade and more water

    2- Some volunteer red maples (Acer rubrum) that we cut back to single leaders and shaped up a bit. Makes it easier to get through the garden. And in the heat, they can use the little water they have available to maintain less leaves.

    3- A long view of the garden (looking north from the fence’s gate). Very clear that the treeless gap is struggling with not much identifiable desired plants growing. This entire section will be redesigned using pits and mounds to create a better water situation for the asian persimmon we purchased (Diospyros kaki grafted onto D. virginiana). Since it is a fairly large tree, it’ll cover the entire gap and provide the family with some very good fruit.

    4- Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) showing signs of nitrogen deficiency along the fence line. The left side is much more green after a dose of liquid gold.

    5- Patch where the lemon balm pictured in 4 is located (right side). Large patch of yarrow (Achillea millefolium) coping very well with the dry conditions (as expected). We found that both the lemon balm and yarrow are very good at excluding undesirable species and forming multifunctional ground covers in the early stages of a forest garden. In addition, oregano (Origanum vulgare) and beebalm (Monarda spp.) perform well at this task too. So these four plants wound up being part of the new guilds around the new fruit trees and bushes.

  15. 24.7.2014 Nottinghill Forest Garden

    I just returned to Finland from a short visit to the States and wanted to post some photos from the garden back at my parent’s place. In two weeks, we managed to get a handle on the problematic species in the garden (particularly Bermuda grass [Cynodon dactylon] and the mock strawberry [Potentilla indica]) and even managed to plant our first fruit trees!

    One of the first things I noticed about the garden was just how much the existing overstory trees had grown. The ornamental plum has put on quite a bit of new growth and the other trees have begun closing the canopy. 

    Which basically confirms the direction we were heading: attempting to build soil as fast as possible using the available sunlight.

    It should also be noted that their place hasn’t received any significant rainfall in over a month- which amounts to at least 12,500 gallons (47,000+ liters) short of normal. The lack of water has really taken its toll on the old green guild area (last photo).

    Without any tree cover for self mulching, this patch is exposed to sun almost the entire day. With temps above 30C for much of the month and no rain, the area is bone dry. Yes, even with mulch.