Permaculture and Homesteading Q and A Series No3

Permaculture and Homesteading Q and A Series No3

This post is Permaculture and Homesteading Q and A Series No3.  Topics covered include; Food Forest Garden Update, DIY Cheap Greenhouse, SureCall Fusion4Home Cell Phone Signal Booster, Hardwood Cutting Propagation, Planting Paw Paw Seeds, Kombucha brewing, groundhog repellent, free fruit trees, and more.

This is one of a series of Q&A sessions that I will be holding over the next few months.  These questions come from our YouTube channel, email, blog post comments, Facebook and even a few face-to-face questions.  If you would like to submit a question you can do so in the comments section of any of the above medium or you can email your question to me directly.  My email address is [email protected].

YouTube – Food Forest Garden Update WV April 2017

Background – I did a food forest garden update where I walk through the garden, show various plants, and also show some of the supporting equipment.  One of the supporting devices is a solar charge controller for an electric fence.  I use this to keep deer out of the food forest.

Permaculture and Homesteading Q and A Series No3 - Solar Charger

Permaculture and Homesteading Q and A Series No3 – Solar Charger

[Q] Rich asks: What brand/model is the solar panel? Groundhogs ruined me last year

[A] My model is the “American FarmWorks 30-Mile Solar Powered Low Impedance Charger” and is a product I found at my local Tractor Supply store. Here is the link: https://www.tractorsupply.com/tsc/product/american-farmworks-30-mile-solar-powered-low-impedance-charger?cm_vc=-10005. I didn’t do any research on it and just lucked into a great model – or at least tractor supply carries a good model. I have had my charge controller for going on two years now and have not had one issue with it.

YouTube – DIY Cheap Greenhouse

Background: This video is about building a 8’x7’ greenhouse for about $250 with material you can find at your local hardware store and Tractor Supply store.  One of the items used are cattle panels.  The cattle panels need to have the cross-section pieces on the inside so you don’t poke holes in the plastic when you are pulling it over the top.  When we were putting this system together in a classroom with a lot of people, we missed that detail.

Permaculture and Homesteading Q and A Series No3 - DIY Cheap Greenhouse

Permaculture and Homesteading Q and A Series No3 – DIY Cheap Greenhouse

[Q] I noticed your cattle panels are on backwards, should be flipped over so cross wires are on the inside.

[A] Thanks! We were going fast with multiple people and that one slipped through the cracks.

YouTube – SureCall Fusion4Home Cell Phone Signal Booster Product Review

Background – This video was a product review of a cell phone signal booster.  Several viewers commented on the length of the cables and how to get an even better signal.

Permaculture and Homesteading Q and A Series No3 - SureCall

Permaculture and Homesteading Q and A Series No3 – SureCall

[Q] Looks very similar to some of the systems we use at work. I second the shortening of the cables, it is suggested to use the shortest cables you can. Most of the models we use recommend the antenna to the booster be less then 75ft which can sometimes be challenging in commercial environments, but shortening the cables as much as possible does improve the signal strength.

[A] The kit comes with one kit at 50′ and the other at 20′, so that keeps it just under the 75′ you are talking about. I’ll take a look at shortening the cable next time I’m out that way.

YouTube – Hardwood Cutting Propagation | Winter Plant Propagation

Background: This video shows you how to do hardwood cutting propagation.  This method is done in the winter time when the plants are dormant, with all of their leaves having fallen off.

[Q] Tom asks: Does this work for fruit trees (apple, peach and pear)? Or just a particular class (berries) of fruits? I know planting seeds of fruit trees are 1 in 100 of a chance for fruit, but did not know if hard wood cutting on fruit bearing trees worked just as well or in place of grafting.

[A] Hi Tom – the answer to your question is yes and no. You can root cuttings from fruit trees, however, they are usually grafted for a reason. First, you really want the tap root that you get from a seed and you will not get a good tap root from a cutting. More important is the other qualities that you get from the root stock on a grafted variety. That may be cold hard, disease resistance, dwarf vs. full size etc. You can certainly try it, but I’d recommend going to a place like raintreenursery.com and buying root stock. Get it started for a year and then graft on to it. There are loads of videos out there on how to graft and I’ll be doing some grafting videos in the future as well. Good luck.

YouTube – Planting Paw Paw Seeds

Background: This video shows how to clean, stratify, and plant paw paw seeds.

[Q] JD asked: Is it the Coastal/Pacific Redwood that requires this process? (this question was referring to the stratification process)

[A] Hi JD – I use the stratification process on a number of different plants. It helps the seeds break dormancy. I’m on the East coast of the US and not sure about the requirements for the Pacific Redwoods. Sorry.

YouTube – Mortier Pilon Kombucha Brewing Jar Product Review

Background: Last fall in a PDC class I was in a class mate gave me a SCOBY for making Kombucha.  I have been experimenting with this tea ferment for several months now and this particular YouTube video is a product review of the Mortier Pilon Kombucha Brewing Jar, a purpose built brewing jar.

Permaculture and Homesteading Q and A Series No3 - Mortier

Permaculture and Homesteading Q and A Series No3 – Mortier

[Q] I’m getting ready to start brewing kombucha. I’m a little nervous if all will go well. Thanks for the review.

[A] Have you checked out my other videos on Kombucha? I added two detailed videos last month on how to brew kombucha.

[A] I did view your previous videos. Did you improve your flavor with successive ferments?

[A] I’m still working on the exact ingredients and are mainly working with sugar and ginger. We are at 1/2 TSP of sugar and 1/4 tsp of ginger for a 12oz jar.  My next experiment is to run the ginger through a blender so I don’t have larger pieces in the bottle.

Baltimore Orchard Project Spring Fruit Tree Fair

Background: This fair is an event run out of Baltimore City in the spring and fall.  They give away a free fruit tree to each participant who attends.  They also have a number of vendors that sell products, gives out information, and they also do workshops.  This spring I ran the companion planting workshop.

Permaculture and Homesteading Q and A Series No3 - Festival

Permaculture and Homesteading Q and A Series No3 – Festival

[Q] From the crowd: I just received a Paw Paw tree.  What can I plant with a paw paw as a companion?

[A] Ramps are good because they are an edible, like the shade under the trees, and help to deter deer browse.  Hog Peanuts (Amphicarpaea bracteata) have edible seeds and “roots” which are really seeds that develop underground, are shade-loving, climb up and sprawl out (smothering weeds), and fix nitrogen.  Hog peanuts are popping up right around the time that the ramps are dyeing back in the summer, so they go well together.

[A] As for companions, I think of the usual suspects for fruit trees: daffodils, mints, garlics, annual legumes, bee balm, etc.

[A] Paw paw have fetid flowers, meaning they are pollinated by flies and beetles vs. bees.  Both mayapples and wild ginger have fetid flowers that attract the same sort of pollinators that pawpaws use, and they bloom around the same time, so that it part of my pollinating strategy.

YouTube – Groundhog Repellent and Deterrent

Background: This video shows my attempts to keep a groundhog from getting under my deck.  I’m only out at the farm on weekends and the groundhog is quite scarce when I am around, or I’d take care of him by “other methods”.  But since I never see him and it has been quite persistent over the last three years, I’ve waged all-out war with him.

Permaculture and Homesteading Q and A Series No3 - Groundhog

Permaculture and Homesteading Q and A Series No3 – Groundhog

[Q] Highview Hill Micro Farm states: Fox urine doesn’t phase them, human pee on a rag in the hole will drive them out according someone from the parks department in my area. I will let you know how it works out.

[A] I’ve not had good luck with fox urine in the past either. I haven’t tried your other method though.

[A] from Highview one month later: Well my husband has been peeing in the corner of the fence where he entered our yard no matter how we blocked it, and I haven’t seen it in a week!!!

The Video

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Unusual Edible Plants to Grow in Full Bloom at the Homestead

Unusual Edible Plants to Grow in Full Bloom at the Homestead

This video shows our Unusual Edible Plants to Grow in Full Bloom.  We take a walk through the urban homestead and look at all of the unusual edible plants that are integrated into the landscape that are currently blooming.


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Here’s What I’m Doing

I have walked around the Pasadena MD homestead with a video camera several times in the past, but today I’m doing it and highlighting the plants that are in full bloom.  The reason I’m doing this is that many people eat the fruits, but have no idea what the plants or blooms look like.

Some Fruiting Bushes

The plants shown in the video below include blueberries, Sweet Scarlet Goumi, gooseberry, and nanking cherry.  The nanking cherry was in full bloom when we had an ice storm a few weeks ago, but there are several little fruits that did make it.

Unusual Edible Plants to Grow in Full Bloom - Goumi

Unusual Edible Plants to Grow in Full Bloom – Goumi

The Pear Tree

I have a multi-variety pear tree that has several blooms on the different limbs.  The multi-variety is done so they flower at the same time and can cross pollinate with just one tree.

The Peach Tree

The peach trees and nectarine trees had quite a few buds on them when the ice storm hit, but some of the fruit seems to have made it.

The Dogwoods

I have a cornelian cherry that is flowering for this first time.  The Kousa dogwood is not flowering yet.  The honeyberry bushes are about the first plants to flower out and ice and snow do not seem to bother it in the least.

Unusual Edible Plants to Grow in Full Bloom - Honey Berry

Unusual Edible Plants to Grow in Full Bloom – Honey Berry

Sour Cherry

The sour cherry tree is loaded with blooms.  I have two apple trees that have never bloomed out before, but they are both flowering out this year.

Figs

I have two figs that are just starting to bud out right now.  Usually the figs die back to the ground, but this year they are budding out right from where they finished last year.

Bush Cherry

I have a Korean bush cherry that still has some flowers on it, but I don’t know if it is going to produce fruit or not.  The information I have found on this plant states that it is somewhat self-fertile, but so far, I have found that to not be the case.  I’ll keep an eye on it and see, but I think I may need to get another one to cross pollinate.

Nitrogen Fixing

I have a couple of autumn olive plants right next to some of my fruit trees.  They were put there to act as nitrogen fixers for the fruit trees.  You have to trim the plants to get them to release nitrogen into the ground for the fruit trees.  You have to be careful with these plants as they can be invasive when the birds eat the seeds and deposit them in surrounding areas.

Just in front of the autumn olive is a quince that has a half dozen blooms.

Unusual Edible Plants to Grow in Full Bloom - Quince

Unusual Edible Plants to Grow in Full Bloom – Quince

Not Blooming Yet

We also take a look at some comfrey, rosa Ragusa, raspberry, and red currant plant.  Then we wander by some figs, elderberries, and sea berries. None of these plants are flowering out yet.

Aronia

The last plant that we look at is the Viking Aronia, which has hundreds of blooms.  It is a very attractive plant and has survived well with me constantly taking cuttings for propagations.

Lovely Time of Year

This is a beautiful time of year and it looks like it is going to be a bountiful year.


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Unusual Edible Plants to Grow in Full Bloom - The Video

Unusual Edible Plants to Grow in Full Bloom – The Video

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Epi082 Great Escape Farms Podcast – Food Forest Garden Update, Companion Planting and Fruit Tree Fair Workshop Notes

Epi082 Great Escape Farms Podcast – Food Forest Garden Update, Companion Planting and Fruit Tree Fair Workshop Notes

This post covers Epi082 Great Escape Farms Podcast – Food Forest Garden Update, Companion Planting and Fruit Tree Fair Workshop Notes, Sustainable Homesteading in WV, Pruning Muscadine Grape Vines, and The Week in Review.


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Great Escape Farms Podcast

Great Escape Farms Podcast

Great Escape Podcast is an audio version of the blog posts from Great Escape Farms, Specializing in Unique Edible Plants, Permaculture Gardens, and Homesteading. The blog posts can be viewed at GreatEscapeFarms.com.

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Great Escape Farms Podcast

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Pruning Muscadine Grape Vines now for More Fruit later

Pruning Muscadine Grape Vines now for More Fruit later

Pruning Muscadine Grape Vines is about trimming two muscadine grape vines in the winter before they bud out.  Grapes and Muscadines only fruit on new wood, so you need to trim them regularly to keep the vines fruiting at maximum potential.


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Time to Trim

The time to trim muscadine or regular grape vines is in the winter before they have leafed out.  The best time is before the buds swell up too much.  You definitely want to make sure you wait until all of the leaves have fallen and the sugars and sap have moved down to the root system.

Pruning Muscadine Grape Vines - before

Pruning Muscadine Grape Vines – before

Leave a leader

You will want to leave a primary leader and trim off any suckers, smaller branches and any branches that are sickly, diseased, or damaged.  I’m calling the primary leader the main branch that comes out of the ground and goes up on your support system.

Trim the Internodes

The lateral shoots off of the primary leader should be trimmed so you do not have any that are closer than five inches on the primary leader.  Then trim these lateral shoots so you have about two or three internodes on each.  A node are the branches, buds, tendrils, or leaves on a branch.  An internode is the space in between the nodes.

Pruning Muscadine Grape Vines - after

Pruning Muscadine Grape Vines – after

Trim Yearly

If you trim yearly, you will not have as big a mess as I had.  You will do this same trimming each year and it will be much more manageable.  In the video below, I had only done minimal trimming and this was the first major trimming on the vines.


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The Video

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Pruning Muscadine Grape Vines - video

Pruning Muscadine Grape Vines – video

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Sustainable Homesteading in WV Spring 2017

Sustainable Homesteading in WV Spring 2017

Sustainable Homesteading in WV Spring 2017 goes over several topics including an update on the groundhog, organizing the shed, Winter Propagation Bed Transplanting, garden cleanup, and paw paw tree mulching.


Great Escape Farms is now on Patreon! If you enjoy our work and want to help support us, please check out our Patreon page at: https://www.patreon.com/gef


Groundhog Update

The groundhog has been digging around the deck trying to get under it again.  So far, the chick wire is keeping him out, but he is eating the lattice around the deck and making a mess.

Sustainable Homesteading in WV Spring 2017 - Groundhog

Sustainable Homesteading in WV Spring 2017 – Groundhog

The Shed

My gardening shed is an absolute mess with all kinds of stuff just thrown in.  I sorted all of the plant pots and organized everything, so now I can find stuff in the shed.

Sustainable Homesteading in WV Spring 2017 - Shed

Sustainable Homesteading in WV Spring 2017 – Shed

Winter Propagation Bed

We dug up as many plants as we had soil for in the plant propagation bed and put them in pots.  I transplanted the blueberries, the dappled willow, and a few butterfly bushes.  I used my plant potting table for the first time and it saved my back big time.  It allows me to pot plants without bending over a lot like I use to have to do.

Sustainable Homesteading in WV Spring 2017 Propagation Bed

Sustainable Homesteading in WV Spring 2017 Propagation Bed

Garden Cleanup

I cleaned up the garden by removing some of the dead perennial plants and put the waste in the food forest.  Then I mulched the walk ways so it is easier to see where the paths are.  I get quite a few visitors checking things out at the homestead and having different color mulch on the walkways make it easier for people to see where to walk.  In the video below, I also show you what asparagus looks like when it is just sending up shoots in the spring time.

Sustainable Homesteading in WV Spring 2017 - Garden

Sustainable Homesteading in WV Spring 2017 – Garden

Mulching Paw Paw Trees

I mulched many of the paw paw trees I put in last year.  I removed the fence that was surrounding the tree protecting it from deer and then I put wet cardboard down with a thick layer of mulch over the top.  Then I put the protective fence back around the paw paw tree.


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Check out the video below, titled Sustainable Homesteading in WV Spring 2017.

Sustainable Homesteading in WV Spring 2017 - Video

Sustainable Homesteading in WV Spring 2017 – Video

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Companion Planting and Fruit Tree Fair Workshop Notes

Companion Planting and Fruit Tree Fair Workshop Notes

On Saturday April 15th 2017, I attended the Baltimore City Fruit Tree Fair where I presented a Companion Planting Workshop.  In the companion planting workshop, I went into a few plants that go together and explained the concepts of a guild.  Below are my notes from the companion planting workshop.


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Hello – My name is Todd McCree and I’m here today to talk to you about companion planting.  But first, let me tell you a little bit about myself.  My day job for the last 30 years has been IT.  In my nights and weekends, I’ve been following my passion of gardening.

I have taken quite a few courses on subjects such as permaculture, plant propagation, and soil restoration.  I also took off of work for a while and WWoFed – Willing Worker on Organic Farm – this is where I volunteered my time to work on a farm and they put me up and fed me.  We put in 3000 foot of swales and earthworks and planted almost 5000 trees.

In 2012, I bought a property in Romney, WV that had 42 mature fruit trees on it.  I now have a foodforest and almost 600 edible plants on the property.  One of the things I strive to do is to put in plants that get along with one another.  Believe it or not, there are plants that do not get along together and there are plants that get along great together.

In 2015, I opened Great Escape Nursery and Great Escape Farms.  The nursery propagates and sells plants, mostly shrubs, online.  The farm does a lot.  We do product reviews, how-to videos, and a bi-weekly podcast about gardening and homesteading.

Companion Planting

Plants that do get along well together are called companions.  That is the topic of this workshop, companion planting.  Some of the ways that plants help one another could be as simple as attracting insects for pollination or as complex as biological processes that provide nutrients to one another.  We are going to talk about plants that help one another, but we are going to go one step further and talk about a group of plants that all provide help to a centerpiece, which would be the tree you received today.

Plant Guild

A plant guild is a grouping of plants that work together to support one another to the fullest and provide better production than they would otherwise by themselves.  We try to mimic the stacking and relationships found in nature while also providing useful resources to humans.  In a guild, we may use a nitrogen fixer to provide nitrogen in the soil, a dynamic accumulator to bring nutrients to the surface for other plants, a plant that attracts beneficial insects to protect other plants and a plant that wards off larger prey like deer.

That Sounds Difficult!

While my last statements may sound like this is a lot more work than it is worth, it really is quite simple.  Let’s pick apart some of the terms that I just mentioned:

  • Dynamic Accumulator: This is a plant that has a very long tap root and mines nutrients way down in the ground and brings the nutrients up to the surface. What are some plants that have long tap roots?
    • Here’s a few: Dandelion, white clover, borage, comfrey, chickweed, yarrow, nettles, chicory, amaranth, lamb’s quarters, mulberry, plantain, Plantain, Buckwheat, Burdock, Carrots, Dock, Beets
  • Nitrogen Fixer: These are plants that put nitrogen into the soil. This could be done via a symbiotic relationship with other organisms or in other ways. Any guess what plants put nitrogen into the soil?
    • Here’s a few: pigeon pea, mimosa tree, Siberian pea, lupin, clover, vetch, groundnut, kudzu, honey locust, Alfalfa, Wisteria, Elaeagnus
  • Beneficial Insects: These are plants that Lure pollinators and pest predators. It is a bug eat bug world out there, and that is a great thing if we can attract predator bugs that eat the bad ones.  Any thoughts on beneficial insect attracting plants?
    • Here are a few: Dill, Angelica, Chervil, Celery, Fennel, Parsley, Parsnip, Cilantro, Yarrow, Sunflower, Aster, Calendula, Dahlia, Cosmos, Zinnia, Dandelion, Marigold, Daisy, and clover.
    • How about plants that deter pests? mint, peppermint, marigold, lemongrass, citronella
  • Great bird, bee, and butterfly plants: Borage, Nasturtium, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Spearmint, Sweet Alyssum, Nettles
  • How about ground cover – those Perennial soft leafy plants to keep the ground cool on those sweltering hot summer days and that break down into plant nutrients?
    • sweet potato, red clover, salad vegetables, parsley, squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, rhubarb, strawberries
  • Grass-Suppressing Bulbs – keep grasses and weeds at bay with a circle of bulbs
    • Daffodils, Camas (wild hyacinth), Alliums (Garlic, Onions, Chives, Leeks)
  • Deer – Plants that deer do not like or tend to stay away from. These include:
    • Daffodils, chives, onions, and garlic.

Companion Planting Guild Drawing

Today I’m going to draw up a sample fruit tree guild on the board and explain why these companion planting groups were chosen.  There is not a specific guild for a specific plant.  You need to base your guild based on what you like.

For example, if you like to eat Alliums, then you might plant garlic and onions to suppress grass.  But if you don’t like alliums, but do like flowers, you might plant daffodils or camas.  You should plant what you like and what you will use as well as what helps with the plant guild.

Plant to your taste and your personality.  There are a lot of different type of plants that perform the same function.

Companion Planting

Companion Planting

Daffodils are planted around the outside edge of the tree right at the drip line as well as right at the trunk.  They are planted at the drip line to act as the first line of defense in the spring to stop the growth of grass into the guild.  The outer ring of daffodils also helps deter deer browsing and has flowers to attract bees.  The inner ring of daffodils helps deter rodents from chewing on the lower bark and has flowers to attract bees.

Comfrey is used as a dynamic accumulator to bring nutrients up to useable levels for the fruit tree.  The comfrey will also grow larger as the summer goes on and shade out any grass that may be trying to move into the guild after the daffodils go dormant.  Summer flowers on the comfrey will attract bees and other pollinating insects.

Goumi is a bush added as a nitrogen fixer.  It flowers in the mid-spring, so it will attract pollinators, and it will fruit in early summer.  The bush will be trimmed from time to time and the trimmings will be dropped to the ground to add additional nutrient and mulch to the soil.

Garlic chives are planted as a pest deterrent as well as an edible.

Chicory is planted as a perennial flowering plant to attract pollinators and beneficial insects.  It also acts as a dynamic accumulator.

Yarrow is another dynamic accumulator.  It is also a plant that flowers for a long period of time and attracts beneficial insects.

Autumn olive is a nitrogen fixer and is planted just outside of the drip line of the mature trees and a little further out for the younger trees.  The bush will be trimmed from time to time and the trimmings will be placed on the ground under the drip line of the fruit tree to provide additional nutrient and add mulch to the soil.

White clover seed will be added in between guild plants as well as outside of the guild to help with fixing nitrogen.  The clover seeds will be inoculated prior to dispersal to increase nitrogen.

 

These are the plants given away at the Baltimore City Fruit Tree Fair.  I give some sample companion planting options below.

Brown Turkey Fig – Ficus carica

In some cases, a young, healthy fig tree undergoes proper pollination and fruit set, then drops all its fruit suddenly. This phenomenon is usually caused by overfeeding. It may take three to four years for the fig to recover from over-fertilization and produce a crop that ripens and stays on the tree. Avoid using shop bought liquid feeds instead use good compost fed at the base of the plant (20 L in the spring) and you should not experience this.

  • Companion planting options for under a fig tree: Jerusalem artichoke, elderberry, comfrey, stinging nettle, horsemint, hogweed, lemon balm, snowdrop and wild daffodil.
  • Companion planting options found around fig trees: European crab apple, tamarisk, blackberry, clematis, damson, quince, elderberry, Szechuan pepper.

Beach Plum Prunus maritima

Although indigenous to the mid-Atlantic coastal region, beach plum has been planted successfully on more inland sites. It is well adapted to drought sites with moderately fertile, slightly acidic, loamy and sandy soils. Beach plum does not perform well on heavy clay soils, but will tolerate moderately well drained conditions.

Companion planting options for beach plum:

  • Green and Gold (Chrysogonum virginianum) This is a beautiful groundcover that attracts beneficial insects and can grown in partial shade.
  • Dwarf Coreopsis (Coreopsis auriculata nana) This is another beautiful groundcover that attracts beneficial insects.
  • Ramps (Allium tricoccum) a.k.a. Wild Leeks, are early Spring vegetables and grows well in the shade
  • Camas (Camassia quamash) has edible bulbs and has flowers that attract beneficial insects. (Native to west US)

Paw Paws Asimina triloba

Companion planting options for paw paw:

  • Ramps (Allium tricoccum) a.k.a. Wild Leeks, are early Spring vegetables and grows well in the shade
  • Hog Peanuts (Amphicarpaea bracteata) have edible seeds and “roots” which are really seeds that develop underground, are shade-loving, climb up and sprawl out (smothering weeds), and fix nitrogen
  • Notes: Ramps will grow well under Pawpaws, and will die back just when Hog Peanuts are getting large. If you do want to go through the trouble of harvesting the Hog Peanuts, there are no other actively growing plants in that layer during harvest time. The fruiting Pawpaw will benefit from the nitrogen produced by the Hog Peanut.

As for companion planting, I think of the usual suspects for fruit trees: daffodils, mints, garlics, annual legumes, bee balm, etc.

NOTE:

Paw paws have fetid flowers – Pollinated by flies and beetles looking for the stink. Companion planting for pollination will find under the pawpaws I’ve planted wild mint, mayapples, wild ginger and will add aralia racemosa and ramps soon. There are also currants and barberries close to them. Both mayapples and wild ginger have fetid flowers that attract the same sort of pollinators that pawpaws use, and they bloom around the same time, so that it part of my pollinating strategy.

Another option in companion planting is skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanus) which both have fetid flowers and are native to the west coast.

North American Persimmons – Diospyros virginiana

American Persimmons are one of the few plants that tolerate juglone, a chemical produced by black walnuts that can poison other plants, so American Persimmons can be used as a buffer plant between your black walnuts and your other forest garden plants.

As for companion planting, they are extremely tough trees with very few diseases or pests that bother them, so plant what you want around them.  They need no help!

Serviceberries Amelanchier

Because of its ability to thrive in both full sun and semi shade, the serviceberry can grow beneath semi dwarf and standard fruit trees. The fruit draws robins, cedar waxwings, and chipmunks

As for companion planting, consider the following:

  • Use runner beans (Phaseolus coccineus) or ground nut (Apios Americana). Ground nut is a vine varying in length from 5 to 30 feet. It produces an edible root and also fixes nitrogen, benefiting neighboring plants.
  • In the understory, comfrey (Symphytum officinale) and horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) can be used as deep rooted pumps to bring subsoil nutrients to the upper root zones of the other species.
  • Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is a semi woody short shrub with both culinary and medicinal antiviral uses and can grow along sunny edges.
  • Trout lilies (Erythronium americanum) are a native spring ephemeral, leafing out early, then as summer approaches they shed leaves and go dormant, like many other of our common spring bulbs. The trout lily bioaccumulates phosphorous in its leaves at a time of the year when heavy rain and snow melt can wash nutrients off the site, it then releases it back to the soil when the plant goes dormant in June.
  • White Clover (Trifolium repens) acts as a ground cover to hold soil on slopes from eroding. It accumulates nitrogen through beneficial bacteria relationships. It attracts both honeybees and other pollinators.
  • Mints (Mentha spp.), wild ginger (Asarum canadense), and comfrey are all useful to provide bee nectar and can form the foundation for a nearby apiary guild.

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Food Forest Garden Update WV April 2017

Food Forest Garden Update WV April 2017

This post is a Food Forest Garden Update WV April 2017.  It shows my two-year-old food forest, goes over some of the plants in the garden, and shows some of the supporting features in the forest garden.


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The Plan

What Plan?  There was a plan to put a food forest in a berm that the construction folks left when they put in my garage.  I had just started to learn about food forests and really liked the concept.  I built mine by just going through catalogs and purchasing plants that I like and putting them in.  This is not the way to properly plan a food forest, but for my small area it has worked out ok.

Food Forest Garden Update WV April 2017

Food Forest Garden Update WV April 2017

Rainwater Harvesting System

One of the support systems is a rainwater harvesting system that collects water from the garage roof, filters the water, and stores it for future use.  This water is used to water the newer plants in the food forest in the dryer times of the year.

Food Forest Garden Update WV April 2017 - Rainwater Harvest

Food Forest Garden Update WV April 2017 – Rainwater Harvest

Deer Deterrent

I have a string with wire running through it that is connected up to a solar charge controller.  The string runs all the way around the food forest as well as two runs up the center.  The string is charged with 6000v in the winter and 9000v in the summer and so far, it has done a wonderful job of keeping the deer away.

Food Forest Garden Update WV April 2017 - Solar Charger

Food Forest Garden Update WV April 2017 – Solar Charger

So, what is a Food Forest

Many people ask what a food forest is.  It is basically an assembly of plants put together in a way that they will grow up and be a forest.  But instead of just any old forest, most of the plants are edible, so it ends up being an edible food forest.

Food Forest Garden Update WV April 2017 - Sand Cherry

Food Forest Garden Update WV April 2017 – Sand Cherry

The Plants

I highly recommend you watch the video to see the plants and get a little more detail on the various plants in the food forest.  Here are some of the plants that I talk about in the video; sand cherry, chestnut tree, raspberry, elderberry, mimosa tree, aronia, and plum tree.  I also go over; cornus mas dogwood, fiddlehead ferns, comfrey, blueberry, quince, nanking bush cherry, gold silverberry, rosa rugosa, figs, mulberry, and many more.

Food Forest Garden Update WV April 2017 - Comfrey

Food Forest Garden Update WV April 2017 – Comfrey


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Epi081 Great Escape Farms Podcast – Raspberry Pruning Basics

Epi081 Great Escape Farms Podcast – Raspberry Pruning Basics

This post covers Epi081 Great Escape Farms Podcast – Raspberry Pruning Basics, Hardy Banana Spring Preparation, Pruning Overgrown Apple Trees, Permaculture and Homesteading Q and A Series No2, and The Week in Review.


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Great Escape Farms Podcast

Great Escape Farms Podcast

Great Escape Podcast is an audio version of the blog posts from Great Escape Farms, Specializing in Unique Edible Plants, Permaculture Gardens, and Homesteading. The blog posts can be viewed at GreatEscapeFarms.com.

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Great Escape Farms Podcast

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Permaculture and Homesteading Q and A Series No2

Permaculture and Homesteading Q and A Series No2

This post is Permaculture and Homesteading Q and A Series No2.  Topics covered include first flush downspout water diverter, water catchment, rainwater harvesting, hardwood cuttings, protecting plants from deer, Michael Judd’s straw bale house, seed starting indoors, and cell phone signal boosters.


Great Escape Farms is now on Patreon! If you enjoy our work and want to help support us, please check out our Patreon page at: https://www.patreon.com/gef


This is one of a series of Q&A sessions that I will be holding over the next few months.  These questions come from our YouTube channel, email, blog post comments, Facebook and even a few face to face questions.  If you would like to submit a question you can do so in the comments section of any of the above medium or you can email your question to me directly.  My email address is [email protected].

YouTube – First Flush Downspout Water Diverter Product Review

Background: This video is a product review of the first flush downspout water diverter, which is part of the filtering system in a rainwater catchment system.

[Q] Thanks. Their own website fails to explain anything about the gaskets and the filter, thank god someone like you knows what they are doing!

[A] I’m glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for the kind words.  Be sure to check out our rainwater catchment video playlist for all of the “how to” videos and product review videos on rainwater catchment systems.

Permaculture and Homesteading Q and A Series No2 - First Flush

Permaculture and Homesteading Q and A Series No2 – First Flush

YouTube – More Water Catchment Lessons Learned

Background: This video shows some of my many mistakes and lessons learned on my first two water catchment installs.

[Q] Why do you have the black plastic over?

[A] The black plastic cover is to prevent algae from growing in the IBC tote. The algae would clog my mist heads. By covering the totes with black plastic, it prevents sunlight from getting to the water which prevents the algae from growing in the totes.

Permaculture and Homesteading Q and A Series No2 - More Rainwater Catchment lessons learned1

Permaculture and Homesteading Q and A Series No2 – More Rainwater Catchment lessons learned1

YouTube – Rain Water Harvesting Lessons Learned

Background: This video shows some of my many mistakes and lessons learned on my first two water catchment installs.

[Q] Hi, Thanks for the video.. I would like to do a rain catchment system for the financially challenged person living in a rental property. Please help.. thanks so much

[A] If you have a small garden, I’d recommend going with 55-gallon barrels. They are much cheaper and in some cases free. As a rental, they are easily moved when they are empty and can be masked or hidden to look better and not be an eyesore.

Permaculture and Homesteading Q and A Series No2 - Rainwater Harvesting

Permaculture and Homesteading Q and A Series No2 – Rainwater Harvesting

YouTube – Large Rainwater Harvesting System

Background: This video shows from beginning to end of the install of a 1200-gallon rainwater catchment install I did last summer.  It is very informative and is by far my most popular video on YouTube.  The screen discussed below is a screen covering the inlet of the IBC totes.  The sole purpose of the screen is to keep mosquitos out.

[Q] Susanne suggests: I think a much finer screen mesh would be needed to keep mosquitoes from entering your totes and laying their eggs.

[A] Thanks! The screen I used was a fiberglass screen that is used in many windows throughout the US.  So far this screen has done great at keeping mosquitos out.

YouTube – Large Rainwater Harvesting System

Background: This video shows from beginning to end of the install of a 1200-gallon rainwater catchment install I did last summer.  I used a laser level to make sure that the four 3000-gallon IBC totes were exactly the same level so the water level would be the same in them.

[Q] Stephen asks: I know you said you used a laser level, but you are not on a solid concrete foundation are you, surely once the tanks fill everything will change right?

[A] I actually had no settle this year. I’m guessing that was in part because I’m on clay and we have a severe drought this year – clay in drought is as good as concrete. I’m moving to 8-foot round, flat bottom tanks later this year, so I don’t think even with soft clay I would have to worry about too much settling.

Permaculture and Homesteading Q and A Series No2 - Large Rainwater Harvesting

Permaculture and Homesteading Q and A Series No2 – Large Rainwater Harvesting

YouTube – Hardwood Cuttings Pt1

Background: This video was the first in a series I did on taking cuttings in the winter and putting those cuttings in the ground to propagate new plants.

[Q] RV asks: So what was the success ratio, also don’t I cover them with some polythene etc for them to retain moisture?

[A] The success ratio depends on the plants. I had about 95% with Elderberry. I had close to 50% with blueberry, which was great because I’ve always had difficulty propagating blueberries. The video is about hardwood cuttings taken in the winter time when the plants are dormant. I have so many because I run a nursery. Most people doing this will just put the plants in the ground right where they go and put a little mulch around them.

Blog – Protecting Plants from Deer

Background: This post was about some of the methods I use to keep deer away from my new plants.  I have a lot of deer in the area and them browsing plants as well as fall “scrapes” and “rubs” are an issue for me.  This video addresses some of my successes in keeping deer at bay.

[Q] Mike explains: I use a double fence at about two or three feet apart. The first fence can be two strands and the second fence a single strand about one foot higher than the highest strand on the outside fence. Deer are good at height perception, but not depth

[A] I now have a two-foot-high fence that is 2×4” to keep the ground hog out.  Just above the 2’ fence I have one strand of electric fence with another strand 18” above that.  Then I have another strand on T-posts about two foot inside of the first fence.  I have had one deer get into the fenced area and it is obvious by the damage he caused to the wires that he made a hasty exit.  This system has been up for over a year now around my food forest and works great.

Permaculture and Homesteading Q and A Series No2

Permaculture and Homesteading Q and A Series No2

Q and A

YouTube – Michael Judd’s Round Straw Bale House

Background: I did a video walk through Michael Judd’s straw bale house earlier this year.  Michael actually gave the tour and explained a lot about the house.

[Q] I’m in Maryland and I would love to come see your structure as I’m actually about to learn building with straw. Would that be possible to visit?

[A] Hi Philippe, I did the interview with Michael. He runs ecologiadesign and you can contact him directly at http://www.ecologiadesign.com/20-2/contact/

Permaculture and Homesteading Q and A Series No2 - Straw Bale House

Permaculture and Homesteading Q and A Series No2 – Straw Bale House


Want to Help our Small Business Out

If you shop at Amazon, please go through our site.  All you have to do is click the Amazon button on the menu bar at the top of every page on our web site.  That link will take you to Amazon and you then shop as you normally do.  It does NOT cost you one penny more, but it does help us out!  Thank you very much for helping to support our small business!


YouTube – Seed Starting Indoors to Save Money

Background: This video was a kind of how to on starting seeds in your house.  I start my seeds in my basement every year.  I do this because I can’t find the non-GMO, heirloom annual plants that I want to grow in any of the local nurseries.

[Q] Do you have any experience with the LED grow lights? (tom’s wife)

[A] I do not have experience with LED grow lights. I have done several different kinds of fluorescent bulbs and that is it.

Permaculture and Homesteading Q and A Series No2 - Hydroplanet

Permaculture and Homesteading Q and A Series No2 – Hydroplanet

The Video

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