Food Forest Design Update, Deer Issues, Mulching
This blog is going to cover updates on Great Escape Farms to include Food Forest Design Update, Deer Issues, Mulching and more. I will be doing another blog post right after this one that shows the progress on the propagation beds this weekend.
Food Forest Design Update
The picture titled “Food Forest Design Update – Trailer full of Leaves” shows my trailer filled with 58 bags of leaves. I have a few neighbors that let me pick up their leaves that are already bagged and set out for recycle out by the curb. All I have to do is go by and load them into the trailer. I then transport them out to the farm ans spread them around on the ground in the food forest area. These leaves will help protect the young tender plants roots, conserve moisture in the ground, and the bacteria that breaks the leaves down are beneficial to the plants as well.
I now have over 170 bags of leaves distributed over the ground of the food forest. I have over 200 plants in the food forest now that will act as my parent plants for the plant propagation business. The plan is that after a few years of adding leaves, the plants in the food forest will get big enough that I can just do “chop and drop” and then I will not add any more external elements (leaves).
I have included a video below on YouTube that shows that status of the food forest on December 5th 2015.
Food Forest Design Video. For more food forest design videos check out the Great Escape Farms YouTube channel.
When I bought the farm and started planting new trees I immediately learned that deer love the trees as much as I do. I like to eat the fruit from the trees and the deer like to eat the TREES!
So in 2013 I planted a half dozen cherry trees. I love sweet cherries. Two weeks after planting them, the deer had browsed most of the leaves off and some of the branches and twigs as well. The trees were still alive, but struggling. I put some mulch around the base of the trees and put a fence up around each tree. I used scrap lumber from around the yard and old fence that I had laying around. It worked beautifully. All of the trees survived and had one that produced cherries this year. However, I did not get any of those cherries, because the birds got them first! I’ll combat them next year.
A picture of my “Original Deer Fence” is shown on this post. It was cheap as it was all recycled material from around the yard. But as you can see, this is not the most visually appealing design. It also took a lot of work to install, because I had to dig the post into the ground, then tack the fence on. While tacking the fence on, the first fence post fell over because I didn’t have it buried in deep enough. So I dug the posts in deeper, add the cross braces on top for support and put the fence on. It worked great, but I was not going to do this for hundreds of trees going forward.
I then came up with the next generation solution, which cost money, but was much better looking. This design is depicted here and titled “New Deer Fence”. It simply consist of a six foot metal T-post hammered into the ground. Then I cut some fence and formed a circle around the tree. The size of the fence varied based on the size of the tree or bush I was protecting. I also used two different height fences. I have a 6-foot fence for the trees as depicted here. I have a 4-foot fence for the bushes and shrubs.
The first thing I did was put a layer of mulch around the trees. This helps to conserve moisture for the plants roots and keeps the weeds back. Then I put the fence around the tree. Once or twice a year I still need to weed around the base of the tree and once in a while the lawn mower gets hung up in the fence, but for the most part this is a good design and much better looking than the previous design.
This year I figured that a 7-foot tree was safe from deer browsing because the deer usually don’t browse above their heads unless they are starving with no other food sources. I’m guessing they don’t see as well with their heads looking up.
So I had a few 7-foot trees and I removed the fence around them this year. I was right about them not browsing above their head. They actually helped by pruning the trees up to about four feet.
I was wrong about the deer not causing damage though. As you can see in the picture titled “Deer Damage”, I have a buck in the area that is marking his territory by “scraping” the bark on the tree. In the tree pictured here, he killed it. Even though it still has leaves at the moment, it is gone. He scraped the bark off all the way around, so it has no chance of surviving.
I’m now working on something to save the trees from scraping. Leaving the fence up would be the obvious choice, but that cost money and I have a lot more trees to put in. I know they make tree wraps to put around trees, but those cost money as well. In the grand scheme of things, putting wrap around a tree cost less than the fence and less than buying replacement trees, so I’ll likely go that route.
Mulching Around the Garage
This past year it looked unsightly around the garage because of all of the tall weeds that grew up. The plans for this area is to put up multiple propagation beds. So I weed wacked the area as low as I could and mulched the area.
First I got a bunch of cardboard boxes and pulled all of the tape and plastic tags off. The tag removal is done so the cardboard will break down over time and just become part of the soil. Plastic won’t break down as easily as the cardboard. The cardboard is put down to suppress the really tough weeds that would come up through the mulch.
I then ordered 24 yards of mulch and put it out behind and next to the garage. The picture titled “Mulch” is the first load of 12 yards. The mulch helped me level the area as well as keep the weeds down. It will allow me to work in the area when the propagation beds are there without getting muddy and it will allow the water to seep in without puddling on the surface. Once the propagation beds are in there will be a lot of moisture in the area.
Building a Propagation Bed
I’m going to post a separate blog on this topic this evening. I have lots of pictures and videos on the progress of building my propagation bed out at the farm. I’m not done yet, but will show the progress to date.
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