Author Topic: First step?  (Read 321 times)

Offline PeleeFarmer

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First step?
« on: June 09, 2019, 07:36:54 PM »
Hello

About 8 years ago, we bought a farm and put in a bunch of fruit trees in north-south rows (an area about 3 tennis courts).  We did not maintain that area because we do not live there.  Now it is a crazy town of elderberry, silver dog wood, red ozier dogwood, thistle, and other hip-high weeds.  The fruit trees are being "suffocated".  I've been learning about permaculture etc but still very much a newbie.  This site has me feeling very bummed.  I'm a 51 year old 5 foot shrimp, and I don't get much help out there which makes it even worse.  Ha ha.

What it is one first step I can take to reclaim this area so that the fruit trees will be the focus again?

Offline CharlesH

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Re: First step?
« Reply #1 on: June 09, 2019, 08:21:59 PM »
Depending on the spacing between your trees, the quickest way to get your self back in there would probably be to brush hog around your fruit trees.  It’s been 5 years so I’m guessing most of the stuff could still be knocked down with a rotary cutter.  If some of the softer wood trees have gotten too thick for that you could go in with a chain saw and cut out the big stuff first.  If you aren’t comfortable with chainsaws, or don’t have access to the equipment, you can hire someone.  An excavator could probably do it, but you’d want to be sure they know what you want saved.

Offline PeleeFarmer

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Re: First step?
« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2019, 06:09:45 AM »
Yes, maybe if I just look at it tree by tree.  My hubby's too busy with work to help out much, but I can dig up some of the dogwoods for use around the perimeter of the property - they transplant well.  I can cut the grass a perimeter around the tree.  Then I was thinking to throw some clover seed down under the trees for now because it is at least better than grass/weeds and won't grow as high so I won't have to worry about cutting it back.  Does that make sense?

Offline bigbear

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Re: First step?
« Reply #3 on: June 10, 2019, 10:05:43 AM »
Clear out what you don't want.  Whether that means transplanting, chainsaw, bush hog, whatever... up to you. 

Maybe even clear the land with goats (you'll want to protect the fruit trees with fencing).
https://permaculturenews.org/2014/10/08/reforesting-goats/

IMO, the biggest issue is maintaining the land.  Once you clear it out, then nature will try to fill the void.  And it's either the strongest, fastest growing, or most aggressive that will win the day.  Typically things like running grasses, brambles...  i.e. the crap you're clearing out now!

You could keep goats/chickens/ducks there indefinitely.  Either of them may be a bit higher maintenance than you'd want though.

If that's too much long-term maintenance, then maybe use the 'Back to Eden' method.  It's more labor intensive up front, but less long-term until you can fill in the void with stuff you want (like maybe more food or simply preventing weeds).  Start by mowing the area really short, lay cardboard or thick brown paper on the whole area, and add 6" of wood chips.  You could even do this in the area immediately around the trees as you mentioned. 

Cardboard you may be able to get a retail stores for free.  But it takes time/space, so another option is Home Depot/Lowes carries something like this fairly cheap:
https://www.homedepot.com/p/Trimaco-48-in-x-500-ft-45-lb-Flooring-Paper-5048500/203613772
Then flip through the yellow pages/google to find some local arborist/tree trimmers to call and ask for a few loads of chips (usually free).  There's been varying levels of success with Chip Drop.  But they connect people like you with arborists without you having to call someone.
https://getchipdrop.com/
Depending on where you live, this could be the easiest step or the most difficult (or least costly/most costly).  A few work days/weekends later moving the wood chips around the property to where you want it and you're well on the way.

The BTE method will suppress weeds/invasives, buying you some time to get everything else situated to be more 'self-sustaining' (i.e. less long term work).  (Plus it adds nutrients, retains moisture, greater cover for earthworms, keeps the soil loose, etc... for soil benefits.)  BTE is the entry drug for permaculture.  Some stop there and just garden with wood chips as a mulch.  For others, it's a gateway to a changed lifestyle.   ;)

Once the chip mulch is down, plant some understory bushes, herbaceous plants, and a ground cover to shade out and prevent invasives while also providing benefit to the fruit/nut trees.  It may help to do some research here to narrow down your plant list.  To be more self-sustaining, you'll want nitrogen fixers (clover, redbud), rhizome barrier (helps prevent some weed spread - garlic, onion, daffodil), insect attractor/mask (garlic, lemon balm, bee balm), and ground cover (i.e. an acceptable "weed" with a purpose - like clover).  Mix in a few berry bushes (blueberry) and perennial veggies (rhubarb, asperagus, garlic, onions).

Heck, you could geek out, learn the various guilds/layers, stacking functions, and make it much more complicated than I did above.  Or keep it fairly simple and just start with a few high level priorities in mind!

Some of these plants may want more/less water than others.  If you can't irrigate the space on a timer, a few (or many!) 5 gallon bucket with a 1/8 hole drilled in the bottom strategically placed could be a cheap solution.  A weekly task would be to fill up the buckets.

Offline CharlesH

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Re: First step?
« Reply #4 on: June 10, 2019, 04:55:56 PM »
Yes, maybe if I just look at it tree by tree.  My hubby's too busy with work to help out much, but I can dig up some of the dogwoods for use around the perimeter of the property - they transplant well.  I can cut the grass a perimeter around the tree.  Then I was thinking to throw some clover seed down under the trees for now because it is at least better than grass/weeds and won't grow as high so I won't have to worry about cutting it back.  Does that make sense?
 
Makes sense to me.  A white clover would stay pretty low to the ground?  Are you in the frost belt somewhere?  I’m in Michigan and like to put down my clover in the early spring when it is still freezing over night.  The freeze thaw cycle helps the clover work into the ground and I get very good germination.  Good luck!

Offline PeleeFarmer

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Re: First step?
« Reply #5 on: June 10, 2019, 07:38:56 PM »
Thanks everyone.  You are calming me down.  It's a challenge because I don't live at the property.  It's our retirement plan. And I'm a 51 year old 5 foot shrimp, although I can do lots myself, the energy bank just isn't as full as it used to be.  I'd like to get things into "maintenance mode" for now and then once I move there I'll be able to work on things every day and learn a lot more about permaculture.


Offline Stwood

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Re: First step?
« Reply #6 on: June 10, 2019, 10:59:19 PM »
Take stock of the elderberrys before you whack/mow those down.
Google elderberry uses, read up and decide if you could use them.

We harvest the berries, and acquired 4-1/2 gallon of juice last year.
We keep ours trimmed up, and just this year, transplanted a lot of cuttings into our garden area, adding more plants, closer in.