Friday, September 11, 2015

New beginnings and food forest visions

Oops! Haven't posted here at Rogue Eggplant in a good long while - even on Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, since for the last couple of months the 15th hasn't worked out for me (same will be true this month).

Also, our summer has been taken up by a much-too-lengthy porch and deck construction project - lovely results, and I hope it will finally be over with the last electrical work tomorrow, but it's limited the amount of gardening that I could do in the immediate vicinity, in the areas taken over by piles of construction materials and stuff moved out of the way, and really in most of the yard during the time that the workers were there. Plus, a wet early summer has been followed by a horribly hot and dry later summer, and I was ill for a while, so aside from watering and a bit of weeding... I just haven't done much except in the community garden (which has been producing quite well). Therefore, not much to write about, and the yard is a mess.

However, the end of the summer (and a bit of cooler weather) has brought some new inspiration. I've barely dared to look at the Way Back in recent months - here it is, not looking too awful since I'd just mowed it:

but ALL of that grassy area is now Japanese stilt grass (an aggressive invader and not desirable as lawn). I think if we keep it mowed, we may be able to stop it spreading, since it's an annual that spreads by seed. (It's now in all the forest areas around here, where there was little or no ground cover before. And it grows equally well in sun.) If we wish, we could treat in the spring with pre-emergent herbicide, and then seed later with better grass and hope it takes.

Anyway, since my attitude toward lawn is usually "it's green, who cares," that's a minor issue compared with the condition of the former vegetable garden. Its sorry history: after a long period of increasing groundhog incursions, we put up a really good fence to keep out all critters including deer, and expanded the garden in the process - which would have been great if a) I'd been energetic about developing the expanded area in the first year; b) we didn't have such an incredible weed seed reservoir, rootstocks of elderberry and pokeweed, and fertile soil; c) we'd realized that the trees nearest the garden were getting tall enough to shade it. I gave it up for vegetables when the shade got too much, moved those operations to the community garden, and started planting fruit - but then couldn't keep up with the weeds. I have actually cleared weeds inside half to two-thirds of the fenced area three times this year, and it's still a horrible mess. Here's the worst part:

It would have been a possible project, if I'd had more time, energy, and mulch, but it's just a frustrating mess. And, poking around yet again yanking weeds and pulling morning glory off the fence, I came to the sudden realization that the fence is the problem.

Well, not the only problem, obviously - but it has become its own weed zone, with intractable roots and lots of nooks in between the three layers of fencing for seeds to germinate and grow. It also makes movement of plant materials, people, and hoses difficult - there's a water source inside the fence, but right now I can't get the hose attached to it outside the fence to water trees and so forth. And now that I'm not growing vegetables in there, I really don't need the fence as much, since individual fruit plants can be temporarily fenced until they're big enough to withstand deer browsing, and a deer fence doesn't keep out birds and squirrels anyway. (It also isn't keeping the groundhogs out at the moment, and I don't have the energy to figure out one more time where they're getting in.)

So: I'm taking it down over the course of this fall. (Actually I'm hoping that my able assistants will do this while I'm away the next couple of weeks, but we'll see. They have other projects, of which more later.) I've already put small fences around some of the plants that will be exposed as a result:

And my long-term goal for this whole Way Back area is to apply some permaculture principles to it, turning it into a combination of food forest and native plant garden. This means that, for example, I can let the damn elderberry grow in most of the areas it wants to, because I won't have to think "no elderberry inside the fence." I can try to maintain the existing black raspberry plantation, but if it ends up going wild I'll just learn to prune it with a weed whacker. I'll plant things that can take some shade under the trees that are already in place, and will put in some additional small trees and shrubs, plus perennials and ground covers, both food-bearing and non-. There will be a lot of experimentation to see what our animal friends snack on and how I can urge them away - some interesting hints in this book - and probably some heartbreak as plants are eaten or otherwise fail. I don't think it'll be easy, but it can't be harder than it has been.

Also cheering: in the middle of the weedy and neglected "fruit patch," even though some plants are doing poorly, others are thriving, especially the currants:

(Especially once I'd pulled the morning glory off them.) They really do like the shady conditions I have them in, and seem to like the soil. So definitely planting more of those (I hope they don't all get munched by deer). And the red and yellow raspberries didn't actually die, at least not most of them, and with the rethinking I now have a perfect place for the poor little fig tree that's been dragged around from pot to spot-now-under-new-deck to pot again. I'll wrap it up this winter and cross my fingers it survives, but it does have sun and a windbreak and room to grow now, so there's hope.

Many updates to come, with any luck.

1 comment:

  1. It seems a very big job, but...there is a plan, and with a plan, many things are possible!