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Rustling Knapweed Forest Garden
Rustling Knapweed Forest Garden
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425 White Oak Rd., Lawton, MI, US
Climate zone:
Cold Temperate

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Mid-Drought Update, Summer of 2012

Project: Rustling Knapweed Forest Garden

Posted by PJ Chmiel almost 12 years ago

The combination of weather and pests has made me wonder why I even bother on several occasions, but so far I still get enough joy from the things that are living to continue.

This spring saw a lot of important trees go in the ground, but the abnormal weather we had (May weather in March) fooled most everything into waking up early, with the result being that most fruiting trees got zapped by frost several times in April. Many of the trees I planted got heavily frosted and lost their leaves a few days after going in the ground, which wasn't the start I was hoping to give them! However, most grew new leaves and are still alive. BUT, since May we've had drought conditions and weeks of record high temperatures, which coupled with my dry, sandy soil, mean that the trees have been really struggling (many lost leaves again and some may not live through the drought despite my watering a few times per week). Global Weirding proves that even permaculture designs are not foolproof!

Some of the trees I planted in the last couple years have died—an apricot, at least 5-6 tulip poplars, 4 korean nut pines, several birch, hazelnuts and pawpaws, etc.). These just mean those spaces are open again, so I reconsider what was growing there before and will plug in new plants as appropriate. I'd rather have more chestnuts than tulip poplars, now that i think of it. :) Some of the plants I wanted this year I was unable to get or afford, but I was happy to add 3 asian pears, a couple more apples, a hybrid persimmon, a few dwarf plums, 3 kinds of seabuckthorn, 2 grafted pawpaws, a dozen or more various sweet chestnuts, a couple dozen american persimmons, half a dozen walnuts, a few pecans, 2 different goumi, 2 named elderberries and aronia, and a number of native/wildlife plants (ninebark, dogwoods, prairie wildflowers, native nitrogen-fixers, etc).

Speaking of n-fixers, my efforts on that front continue to be frustrating, I've not had good luck with ordering seeds online or germinating my own alder or black locust seeds. I did manage to grow a tray of Wild Indigo seedlings and will plant those out maybe in the fall or next spring, and also managed to transplant a couple of black locust suckers (2 of 5 survived) and propagate some good varieties of autumn olive from cuttings (3 of 7 survived), but I'm still wanting for Alder or locust seedlings for the canopy.

I planted a 3-layer evergreen hedge near the road, using arborvitae and 2 varieties of American Holly, but that's not off to a good start and I may have to replant most of it next year.

I've also been challenged heavily by moles underground (very few predators here) and Asiatic Garden Beetles defoliating plants by night, hadn't ever noticed them before but this year the pressure is heavy. Going out w/ a flashlight and night and hand-picking seems to be helping, but it's a lot of work. Watering everything by hand is a huge chore, but is the only way that everything is still alive. Many full-size trees are shedding leaves. My water barrels were empty long ago, but thankfully my aunt next door allows me to get water from her hose when needed, otherwise even the toughest plants with the heaviest mulch would likely die. Hopefully once they're better-established and there's more shade and water cycling on the property, this will be mitigated somewhat, and I can spend more time enjoying the beauty of nature rather than cursing its many challenges.

NOTE: photos taken in late May, before the drought, when things still looked ok. Haven't felt like taking many photos lately!

Back40 0512 Fromshed 0512 Mulchpile 0512 Hazels 0512 Back40 south 0512 Back40 east 0512 Back40 north0512 Back402 0512

Comments (4)

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Ute Bohnsack
Ute Bohnsack : Hang in there. It takes time. re alder: It may be different in the States (alder is native in Europe) but I found them so cheap to buy here (and from a nice "green" nursery to boot) that I didn't bother growing them from seed. The weather seems to be a challenge everywhere this year. Very worrying. We had May weather in March like yourself, and we've had April weather all through June and July so far. The wettest, dullest June on record (same in Britain) and July has not been any better. Fifth bad summer in a row. You are doing the right thing going for diversity of cultivars. It'll hopefully give you a buffer against climate change.
Posted almost 12 years ago

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Alexandra Berendt
Alexandra Berendt : Oh no :( How sad to see seedlings struggle and die after all the effort that went into them. However, any that will survive this drought will hopefully be able to deal very well with your climate :) Have you tried shading some of the truggling one with tomber stakes and shade cloth/chaff bag/whatever you have or ca get your hands on for free or cheap? Also, rather than simply watering, have you tried filling up old bottles with water and sticking them as far into the ground as you can so the water is released slowly and over a longer period of time? They also have watering bladders, which also release water at a slow and steady trickle. Maybe this way plants can be kept alive a little longer and water will not evaporate as easily?

Will chickens or other poultry eat the beetles that are giving you trouble? If it is easier to collect them at nght when most birds will go to roost, the ones you hand pick might at least be able to supplement the bird's diet?
Posted almost 12 years ago

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Alexandra Berendt
Alexandra Berendt : *shading some of the struggling ones with timber stakes and cloth

My bad, I was trying to type around my 25 kg "lap dog", which is not easy and obviously gave me some major spelling issues :P
Posted almost 12 years ago

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