Logo primary
Logo secondary
Parkland Permaculture
Parkland Permaculture
Last updated:
Box 141 2 Mountain Avenue, Kelwood, Manitoba, CA
(204) 967-2739
Climate zone:
Cold Temperate

My Projects

(projects i'm involved in)

Parkland Permaculture

Parkland Permaculture

Kelwood, CA

Angelika Fijalkowska Davis Ben Jackie Lehn Ride well Sara Elbohy Silke Burger simo devine simo devine Slade Doyle Virginia Huynh

Back to Parkland Permaculture

Fast, Free Forests--Publishing "failures"

Project: Parkland Permaculture

Posted by Tim Engbrecht over 8 years ago

Some time ago, I documented some experiments I did establishing willow and caragana cuttings using various methods. 

The short-term result of those experiments was that it appeared cuttings driven directly into the sod along my fenceline with NO particular preparation of either the site or the cuttings themselves yielded excellent results:  nearly all of the willow cuttings, and close to 50% of the caragana cuttings rooted successfully, and some of the willow cuttings put on a whopping 80cm in their first growing season (which is quite short up here in the Canadian Prairies).

In the interest of publishing even when things DON'T go well, I've been wanting to update this post for a while now.

The year FOLLOWING the establishment of these cuttings, we had an incredibly DRY spring, and the quack grass quickly grew past the cuttings. Recall that the POINT of this experiment was to see whether I could establish "Fast, Free Forests" without any sort of inputs at all, so I didn't mulch, mow OR water these newly established trees...I left them to the mercy of their environment.

Even though the cuttings had good survival rates over their first winter, they quickly began to die--whether this was due to the drought or to the allelopathy of the grass they were planted into (or a combination), I can't say for sure--but I'm inclined to blame the quack grass, since I feel the cuttings would have been able to hold on for longer than the did if they were merely waiting for moisture.

Whatever the cause of their deaths, I lost nearly ALL of the cuttings, so I can't really recommend my "laisser faire" approach!

Of course, both MOISTURE and GRASS COMPETITION are easily addressed with sheet mulch; but when you're working alone and largely without machinery, it takes a lot of time and effort, compared to pushing sticks into the sod!  (Mind you--it takes even MORE effort to re-plant a shelterbelt every second year because your ill-tended trees DIE all the time!)

Trying to learn from my lesson, yesterday I began planting cuttings for a NEW shelterbelt.  I am doing quite a few things differently this time:

1) Planting in FALL, instead of Spring.

2) Using LONGER stock--sometimes 6-foot saplings of appx 1cm diameter.

3) Sheet-mulchig with 5-10mm of newspaper

I came across this excellent article on soaking spring and fall plantings of willow: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_PLANTMATERIALS/publications/idpmcar8305.pdf

...the results of this study suggest that in spite of most people planting in SPRING, the BEST results (in THEIR experience) was planting in the Fall, following a 14-day pre-soak in water.

I didn't want to wait 14-days to get started, so the willows I've put in position so far were soaked for as long as it took for me to harvest them, then put them in the ground (several hours)...but I will attempt to pre-soak my NEXT batch so that I can offer a survival comparison. (their article suggests that even without soaking, survival rates were high for fall planting)

Something we've committed to at Parkland Permaculture is documenting not only apparent "successes", but also "failures"... It is understandable that people are keen to share when things appear to go well, but this plays into a "confirmation bias"--which isn't in the best interest of spreading Permaculture. Often, the very BEST information comes from apparent "failures", since when things go well, it's hard to say whether you've done something intelligent, or have simply gotten lucky.  On the other hand, when things DON'T turn out as we plan--these are the times when we are most likely to LEARN, since the violation of our expectations reveals that we don't properly understand something.

"Failures" are not bad, but are often rich learning experiences, as I think most of us already know... I'm hoping to see more posts documenting experiments that don't have overwhelmingly positive results.  If we're NOT trying things that fail every once in a while, I feel we'll likely miss some opportunities.


Using a swedish clearing axe to harvest the willow Beginning to establish the new shelterbelt at the high water line of the unfilled pond Stacking functions emotionally 30 meters of shelterbelt in 3 hours

Comments (0)

You must be logged in to comment.

Courses Taught Here!
Project Badges
simo devine - Admin Slade Doyle - Admin Tim Engbrecht - Admin
Team Members
simo devine - Team member Slade Doyle - Team member

Report Parkland Permaculture


or cancel

Hide Parkland Permaculture


or cancel

Hide Fast, Free Forests--Publishing "failures"


or cancel

Legend of Badges

Note: The various badges displayed in people profiles are largely honesty-based self-proclamations by the individuals themselves. There are reporting functions users can use if they know of blatant misrepresentation (for both people and projects). Legitimacy, competency and reputation for all people and projects can be evidenced and/or developed through their providing regular updates on permaculture work they’re involved in, before/after photographs, etc. A spirit of objective nurturing of both people and projects through knowledge/encouragement/inspiration/resource sharing is the aim of the Worldwide Permaculture Network.



A member is a permaculturist who has never taken a PDC course. These cannot become PDC teachers. Members may be novice or highly experienced permaculturists or anywhere in between. Watch their updates for evaluation.

Male memberFemale member

Permaculture Matchmaker

One of these badges will show if you select your gender and the "I'm single, looking for a permaculture partner" option in your profile.



People who claim to have taken a Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course somewhere in the world.


PDC Verified

People who have entered an email address for the teacher of their PDC course, and have had their PDC status verified by that teacher. Watch their updates for evaluation.



People who’ve taken a Permaculture Research Institute PDC somewhere in the world.


PDC Teacher

People who claim to teach some version of PDC somewhere in the world.


PRI Teacher

With the exception of the ‘Member’ who has never taken a PDC, all of the above can apply to become a PRI PDC Teacher. PRI PDC Teachers are those who the PRI recognise, through a vetting board, as determined and competent to teach the full 72-hour course as developed by Permaculture founder Bill Mollison – covering all the topics of The Designers’ Manual as well as possible (i.e. not cherry picking only aspects the teacher feels most interested or competent in). Such teachers also commit to focussing on the design science, and not including subjective spiritual/metaphysical elements. The reason these items are not included in the PDC curriculum is because they are “belief” based. Permaculture Design education concerns itself with teaching good design based on strategies and techniques which are scientifically provable.

PRI PDC Teachers may be given teaching and/or consultancy offerings as they become available as the network grows.


Aid Worker

The individual with this badge is indicating they are, have, or would like to be involved in permaculture aid work. As such, the individual may or may not have permaculture aid worker experience. Watch their updates for evaluation.



The individual with this badge is indicating they are, have, or would like to do paid permaculture design consultancy work. As such, the individual may or may not have permaculture consultancy experience. Watch their updates for evaluation.


Community Project

Community projects are projects that help develop sustainable community interaction and increase localised resiliency.

Report Fast, Free Forests--Publishing "failures"


or cancel