This post is written about A Stroll through the Michael Judd Food Forest I took when I was at his paw paw festival back in September.
Michael is the author of “Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist”, a very good book if you have not read it yet.
The post below can’t do this food forest or forest garden justice, so please check out the video at the bottom of this post.
The Food Forest
In the front part of the food forest he has some Jerusalem artichoke and hardy kiwi. He has rosa rugosa, which is a rose bush that has very large rose hips high in vitamin C.
Next on the walk I found a Flying Dragon Citrus tree. It is a cross between an orange and a lemon. This is one of the few citrus trees that will grow in USDA hardiness zones 6 and 7. It has some huge thorns on it and a branch from this tree could almost be used as a weapon or hunting too 🙂
There is some European elderberry that looks a little scraggly. It appears that the European varieties just don’t thrive as well as the American named varieties that I have.
I then wandered over to two large goumi bushes. One was sweet scarlet goumi and I didn’t quite catch the name of the second one. Goumi is a nitrogen fixing shrub in the elaeagnus family, the same family as autumn olive, but the goumi does not propagate like autumn olive and is therefore not considered an invasive.
Just past the goumis is a che tree. This is a tree that is seven foot right now and has large berries on it. The berries look somewhat like raspberries.
Being as this is a paw paw festival, as you would expect there were a half dozen or more paw paw trees in the food forest. Paw Paw trees are native to this are and is one of North Americas largest native fruits.
There is clumping bamboo used as a living fence. This was planted to block the view to a neighbor’s house. They say if you keep the area around it mowed and well-trimmed, it will not get away from you and take over.
A small mint patch is next to a couple of small figs. Figs in our area didn’t do that well this year because we had a very warm spring early on and then had an unusual late freeze that went down into the teens. That freeze killed all of my peach and pear blossoms and killed most of the above ground growth on my figs.
Michael’s Book, “Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist”, can be ordered at the below link if you are interested.
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Check out the video below titled The Michael Judd Food Forest
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This post is a Food Forest Update on the food forest I put in last year. It includes various different tasks that were completed this weekend.
The first thing we did was to remove the electric string that runs around and through the entire food forest. When the string was originally put in, it was haphazardly installed with loops on almost every section. This makes it near impossible to troubleshoot the system for shorts or opens.
A proper design has only one end connected to the source and the other end just tied off and not connected to anything. This way you can put a tester on the end and you should have the proper voltage. If you don’t, you know to troubleshoot and the testers will help you locate the issues.
By having the string down, it allowed me to more easily perform the other tasks over the weekend, so I did not put the string back up until the end of the weekend when everything else was done.
Dam That Wash Away
During large rains there has been a wash away issue since the system was put in. Last month I dammed up some of the wash away area with logs. This weekend I completed this task by adding several more dams. The point of the dams is just to slow the fast moving water down. We also put a foot of oak leaves in the wash away area to help slow down the water. Hopefully some of the water will seep into the soil, but at the very least the dam will prevent erosion.
My Weed Forest
When I arrived at the farm late last week the food forest was more of a weed forest than anything else. The weeds were reaching heights of three to four feet. This was causing excessive shade on many of my smaller plants, so much so, that I actually lost quite a few plants. This weekend I took a pair of shears and carefully cut down all of the weeds.
Cutting the weeds down to the ground will give the plants that I want more sunlight. But the cut down weeds will also act as mulch. I just cut them down and laid them on the ground. Then I added some horse manure on top of the weeds, followed by a thick layer of hay.
This will fertilize the plants, keep the soil moist, and bring in lots of soil life that will greatly help the plants.
After the mulch breaks down a little, hopefully by the early fall, I will add some white clover seed to fill in any empty spaces. The clover will act as a living mulch and will also add nitrogen to the soil.
Plants Planted and Labeled
The picture below titled “Food Forest Update – East Half” shows the layout of half the food forest. All of the plants that I put in are mapped this way so if I lose a label I still know exactly what each plant is.
I planted a couple of dozen more plants this weekend. Mostly herbaceous and vine plants and a few small shrubs. Next to many of the larger trees I added a comfrey plant to bring nutrients up to the level the trees can use them.
After the plants were in the ground, I went through and made sure everything had a label. I used the metal impression labels in the food forest. On the top line I have the common name, then I have the Latin name, and below that I have the year the plant was added to the food forest. At the very end of the tag is a number that corresponds to the location in the food forest.
There is a strawberry tree in the food forest that is not supposed to survive below zone 7. The farm is in zone 6. The tree actually survived last winter even though we had a pretty harsh winter.
To help it survive going forward, we added some large rocks around it to act as a heat sink. This should form a micro climate to keep the plant a little warmer. The way it works is the rocks absorb the heat from the sun during the day, which keeps the area warmer than the surrounding area after the sun goes down.
To assist with the micro climate, the rocks are placed in a way to keep frost pockets away from the plant.
Check out our YouTube video below titled Food Forest Update.
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Yesterday I attended a Forest Garden Design and Care class in Bowie, MD, just outside of Washington, DC. I have studied forest garden design and even wrote articles on it, but I’m still learning. This article is about my day, about the class, and about the training site.
The class, Forest Garden Design and Care, was hosted by a company called Forested. The company is owned and operated by Lincoln Smith. They have a 10 Acre forest garden in Bowie, MD that they use for research and to hold classes. The class itself was more of a walk around and talk about how to implement different concepts. This was one of the best aspects of the class. I’ve been taking classes, both online and in person for years, but actually seeing something live in person and being able to hear about it and ask questions is the greatest learning experience. I’ve highlighted some of the things I learned below.
We started the day off by introducing ourselves and chatting about the history of the site. Then we did a tour of about 1/3 of the property talking about items that a permaculturast would put into a sector analysis, like sun, wind, and water runoff. We looked a many of the different species and talked about why each one is located where it is at.
We then moved to the compost pile and had a long discussion about how to make compost, proper temperatures, and what to do with the compost. They had a thermometer stuck in the pile and it was pushing 140 degrees. Then they moved the pile to add oxygen and mix it up as well as to add a little moisture to keep everything balanced. More compost information is in the highlighted link.
After the compost overview we cleaned up and got ready for lunch. They had some eggs from the goose and we went out and picked some shiitake mushrooms. They were growing this in a wooded area. They had some logs from a cut down tree that were cut to about three foot each. Sometime last year they held another class on mushroom growing and inoculated the logs with mushroom spores and now they are ready to harvest. A picture of the log and the mushrooms are below.
We then moved onto the greens. They had some chives growing somewhere and cut some of those. I wasn’t involved with that. I was involved with getting our leafy greens. This consisted of leaves from a plant called stinging nettle. I have been told that the hairs cause a stinging sensation. I don’t know because I wore gloves. To neutralize the stinging, you boil them. We did this and then I ate a leaf and it was very tasty. I’ve been told that they are very good for you. This will be a topic for another post. A picture of the stinging nettle is below.
After we gathered the wild edibles, one of the workers cooked everything up and made us omelets. They were absolutely wonderful!
After lunch we talked about sun and shadows and how to plan ahead and how you may have to cut some of the canopy trees down in the future. We then moved out and got a visual of what he was talking about.
From there we moved into the woods and got a look at the ecosystem inside the forest. I found this fascinating and was taking a lot of notes and pictures. One thing I did notice about the property is there was a lot of poison ivy. Mostly in the woods, but I found a few areas where it was growing out in full sun as well.
The Forest Garden Design and Care class was suppose to end at 4PM, but we were still going at 4:30. They did say if we needed to go, to just head on out. Some folks left around 4:45. I was there until almost quarter till six. In the after hours session we got an overview of vertical gardening and they gave us some bocking 14 comfrey plants.
The Forest Garden Design and Care class was an awesome experience and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is in the Baltimore/DC area. We did have two separate groups that came from up in north/central PA, so they drove several hours for the class. I learned a huge amount at the class, which is a wonderful thing. They have more scheduled and you can get more information at www.forested.us
The first thing I learned is to have a master plan, start big and move to the small. I have a forest garden at the farm in WV, but I have just been willy nilly throwing plants that I like into the ground. I knew that wasn’t the way to go, but I was anxious to get several of my exotic species onto the property. This training highlighted the fact that I’m going to have issues with my canopy trees as they are too close together. I may have to move or remove some of them that I put in. I hope they are still small enough so that I can move them to the swales when I put them in later this year.
The second thing I learned is that there is an entire ecosystem happening inside the forest. I have very little growing in the woodlands in WV. I was taking a lot of notes during the tour of the woodlands and, last night after I got home, ordered several hundred dollars of woodland perennials, shrubs, and trees. These I do have plenty of space immediately ready for at the farm and look forward to designing and planting these areas. I’ll do a separate post on that in the coming weeks.
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So what is all this Forest Garden Design Stuff
This post explains what forest garden design is and gives examples and pictures of plants in a forest garden design and even touches on companion planting.
A “forest garden” and a “food forest” and a “permaculture garden” are pretty much the same thing so I will just use the term “forest garden” to mean all three of these terms for the purpose of this article. They are a form of gardening where you try to mimic the way nature does things in a forest. We choose plantings that benefit other plants through companion planting, but the one big difference between what nature does in a forest and what we do in a forest garden is we gear the plantings toward our needs as well. These needs could include food, fertilizer, fodder, or fuel.
The Wikipedia Definition: “Forest Gardening is a low-maintenance sustainable plant-based food production and agroforestry system based on woodland ecosystems, incorporating fruit and nut trees, shrubs, herbs, vines and perennial vegetables which have yields directly useful to humans. Making use of companion planting, these can be intermixed to grow in a succession of layers, to build a woodland habitat.”
Robert Hart is credited with coining the term Forest Gardening in the 1980s. He took the pre-historic tropics method of gardening and did it in a temperate climate on his .12-acre parcel.
Forest gardening is closely aligned with permaculture. One aspect of the similarities of the two are the seven dimensions of a food forest: canopy layer, low-tree layer, shrub layer, herbaceous layer, ground cover layer, rhizosphere layer, and the vertical layer. These are the same as is taught in a permaculture course or manual. In fact, most permaculture manuals include forest gardening as one aspect of permaculture.
Forest gardening is based on perennial systems that you don’t have to plant yearly and the maintenance is less. The maintenance is less because you put plants in that are companions to each other and the plants help and provide for the other plants in the forest garden.
An example of a companion plant is comfrey which is a dynamic accumulator. It uses an extremely long tap root and mines down to levels that other plants can not get to. Comfrey brings nutrients from deep down up to the surface. Then as the comfrey leaves die back each year the nutrients from deep down are made available to other plants through these dead and decaying leaves.
Another example of a companion plant is mimosa. It is a member of the legume (Fabaceae) plant family and is capable of fixing nitrogen. The nitrogen fixation is accomplished by a symbiotic bacteria called rhizobia within the nodules in their root systems. The plant and the bacteria work together to make nitrogen. When the plant dies that nitrogen is released into the soil for other plants to use. If a branch breaks or is pruned, some of the nitrogen will be released to other plants.
My Forest Garden
I put in a forest garden this past year out at the farm in WV. I put in perennial canopy trees, low tree layer, shrubs, a few herbaceous plants, and groundcover (clover). In the next year or two I will add the vertical layer (vines). I want to give the other plants a little while to establish before I add the vertical layer. This is simply so I don’t disadvantage certain slow growing species.
As you can see in the picture titled “1st Year Forest Garden” the area looks a little untidy. That is in part because I threw down a bunch of clover, and diacon radish seeds to help with the bare soil. The clover will add nitrogen and the radish will use deep taproots to loosen the soil. This fall I covered the ground with a deep layer of oak leaf leaves to conserve water and build topsoil.
The picture titled “Forest Garden Design – The Plants” give you an idea of what is planted in this area. It actually takes two pages to show the entire forest garden.
I’ll give you updates on the forest garden in the spring and as time goes on.
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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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