This confuses me as a beginner. Can you grow regular (not organic) strawberries organically?
they are very much organic, but not ‘certified’, since certification would prevent some of the very practices that MAKE them organic. So ironically, while they are as pure organic as it gets, they cannot legally claim to be organic.
Hi Julie - just curious, what are the practices they cite that are prevented by certification that make them organic?
Also, I just want to clarify, you can plant non-organically raised fruit trees and then later transition to be certified organic. Again this is a legal thing and different from the personal judgement issues for individual grower / consumers that you and I both mentioned.
Sahil - the answer to your question is “no”. Not all bare root trees have been grown organically. Most rootstock have likely been grown in soil that has been fumigated with chemical fungicides.
There are some mail order nurseries in the U.S. that do advertise as being organic. Trees of Antiquities in California is one that comes to mind.
However, I would note that even if the bare root tree was not grown in a certified organic way, YOU could raise using organic methods after you planted them, and by the time they came into bearing (several years down the road) they could become certified organic. If you are not interested in certifications, it’s just a matter of your own judgement. I grow everything organically for my own consumption, and I have no issues with the fact that the bare root trees I planted were not organic. Seems to me the five + years that it is taking them to bare fruit is enough to “cleanse” them in my judgement for my own consumption. Others may disagree...
I have some raised beds going east / west and some north / south. I prefer beds running east / west. The reason is that I run my vegetable rows across the beds to make it easier to hoe weeds between the rows. Rows of vegetables running across an east / west bed will obviously be oriented north / south which allows maximum sunlight for the plants. I hope I described that clearly.
My advice would be to wait to plant until you move there or until you can dedicate a good amount of time throughout the year to the trees. Lots of things can kill or stunt fruit trees. Many will grow rapidly into unproductive / problematic forms. They need a lot of care. They need to be watered regularly their first year. Trees are expensive.
I have a smallish orchard of ~ 40 trees. I spend 1-2 days in the spring and 1-2 days in the fall on things that I feel must be done. I could get by without doing too much else during the growing season, but the more time you spend keeping on top of weeds, light pruning, managing disease and pest pressure, the better. I could easily spend half a day a week working on the trees.
If you are determined to plant trees now, I would research / ask for advice on varieties that naturally grow with good form. I would also ask around to learn the most severe disease issues in your area and try to plant varieties that have resistance. There is a lot of contradictory info on the web on this subject, so I would try to talk to people who grow the varieties you are interested, in you region, using no spray / low maintenance practices
Based on my experience, I would avoid plums - they tend to grow very rapidly into an unproductive form. I only have one cherry - black gold. That one has actually required no pruning or training. Of my apples (~ 30) off the top of my head I would recommend Hewes Virginia crab if I was going to do what you are planning. It has naturally good form, very vigorous and hardy. Seems to be one of the least affected by pests and disease. If you planted a number of hewes, you could later graft them over to other varieties.
I absolutely believe most communities, and even households, could become self sufficient in locally appropriate fruit production and some amount of vegetable production. (And pork production and poultry production, and...). Think about all the "decorative" landscape trees that could've been replaced by a fruit or mast tree. It's not a matter of organizing community cooperatives or even teaching techniques. It's about influencing choices. The vast majority of people would rather drive to the supermarket to buy an insipid but blemish free red delicious than put in the work to plant and grow an apple tree. the best you can do is try through example and friendship to demystify and instill a love of nature and gardening to one friend, one neighbor, one co-worker, one niece, nephew, son daughter grandchild at a time...
You basically have a blank canvas. Your house is akin to a stick built house under construction that has dimensional lumber and osb sheeting but no additional wall assembly components yet installed. You can build inward and outward from that point by adding siding, air and vapor barriers, insulation, etc according to the needs of your climate and you budget. And consider that even though that might seem daunting and expensive, it may have a very rapid payback given how extremely energy inefficient your house is.
The most important thing to remember is to prevent moisture from being trapped inside wall assemblies and in contact with organic material (wood, paper, rice hulls, cellulose, etc) by improper placement of vapor barriers or the dreaded double vapor barrier (vapor barriers on both sides of the wall assembly).
My guess is that in your climate you're going to want walls to dry to the inside, so you'll want a moisture barrier towards the outside of the assembly and no barriers on the inside (oil based paint, wallpaper, etc). Probably something like siding - a couple inches of eps or othe rigid foam insulation (insulation air and vapor barrier) - existing barge board - new optional 2x4 internal framing filled with high density blown fiber glass insulation (inert, non-toxic, won't absorb water or foster mold growth, good value for additional r-value) - drywall - latex paint - artwork.
They have many great articles that explain proper wall construction in different climates. How to get vapor barriers and insulation right...
To me, the two most important concepts to figuring out "the best bang for the buck" are (1) how r-value works; and (2) how heat travels.
R-value: when you double r-value, you cut heat transfer in half. So for example let's assume a wall has an r-value of 1, and you're loosing 100 "units" of heat, and every incremental r-value of one costs one dollar. if you insulate to an r-value of 2, you spend one dollar to cut your heat loss by 50 units. Doubling the insulative value again to r4 will cost an additional $2 and will reduce heat loss to 25 units. R8 will cost another $4 and reduces your heat loss by 12.5 units. R16 costs an additional $8 but only reduces heat loss By 6.25, etc. etc. As you continue to add insulation, you quickly will spend huge sums of money to achieve insignificant incremental energy savings. By far the biggest incremental energy saving per $ spent occur at the beginning of the curve.
The popular misconception is that heat rises. Hot air rises but heat actually radiates in all directions. It flows through your floor as quickly as your walls and ceiling assuming the same insulative properties and heat differential between interior and exterior. There is a separate reason in the north to increase insulation to a ceiling - ice dam prevention - but not because of excess heat loss.
In my house, adding one inch of eps under my basement slab was by far the best "beyond code" decision I made. That's because I was taking the r-value up from approximately r-1 (the r-value of an inch of concrete) to r-5.5 (r4.5 per inch of eps plus the concrete). Resulting in a greater than 75% decrease in heat loss. In comparison to increasing the wall or ceiling insulation from code minimum of r-21 (where the vast majority of efficiency gains had already been realized) to some greater amount, there was no comparison in terms of roi.
I would guess that the r-value for all the walls and ceiling in your house is very low, perhaps as low as r-1 or r-2. I would therefore guess that the best bang for your buck would be to uniformly throughout the house get the levels up 4-8 r-value points by for instance putting in an inch or two of eps. That would be better than concentrating on one area such as the roof. If you're good with excel you could model it out but if I'm understanding your situation that seems intuitively correct.
Have never heard that phosphorous should not go directly onto the soil. Why is that the case? At least two of my most respected garden gurus - Michael Philips and Steve Solomon - recommend direct applications to the soil.
Chicken wire on the walls is also surprisingly and incredibly good at blocking EM. Apparently a lot of the turn of the century, plastered row houses have had to be remodeled bc of the chicken wire that supported the plaster. Creates a faraday cage.
Might at least give you a reprieve. Perhaps use chicken wire wallpaper in your bedroom or something.
The house I grew up in had a fireplace on the outside wall. It was a beast to get a draft, always blowing smoke into the room when we lit the wood stove.
My current house has chimney in the very center of the house, going up three stories and out the peak. Draws perfectly every time I light the stove. Perhaps helps that the attic is finished and usually the warmest room in house. Attic roof has skylights on the south side and is much better insulated than the walls (r40 vs r21 in walls).
O. Donnelly wrote:I don't think you're going to be able to make much compost between now and spring given cold temps and lack of nitrogen. Shredding 100 bags of leaves is a big task. Given that youre going to spend a lot of time with little chance of achieving your goal, why not rethink the whole endeavor? If it were me, I would not shred the leaves. I would make a large pile and come back In a year or two for the resultant leaf mould. You could compost it at that time or simply use it as is.
If you don't shred the leaves, in a year or two you are going to have leaves. Last fall I shredded, loaded, hauled, and piled 120 bags of leaves in less than 2 hours. I still don't have leaf mold, although the leaves made really good mulch where I put them.
You aren't going to get compost during these winter months, but the first couple months of spring, composting works here. That should be enough time to get compost for planting given enough turning.
I believe everyone's post here are honest and written from direct first hand experience. I'm sure that what you describe above has been true for you. I just checked my leaf pile, so that I could speak out of direct experience rather than out my arse. Here's what I found...
I built my leaf pile in oct 2015, so it is 2 years old. It was 8' diameter, 3' high woven wire fencing packed as full as I could get it with newly fallen leaves after a rain.
Now the pile is about 12" thick. The top .5 cm or so is recognizable leaves, but below that thin veneer - I wouldn't even call it leaf mould. It is soil, forest duff, not sure what you would call it. There are no recognizable leaf parts whatsoever. Completely decomposed.
My climate is slightly warmer than yours (5b) and the pile is in the forest, with an intact sfw capable of rapidly decomposing leaves. Perhaps that's the difference in our experiences...
Ive read, and re-read and re-read both Apple grower and holistic orchard. I wish he had just come out with an expanded version of Apple grower as you really need both books to get a full picture of his methods. Each book by itself feels incomplete, and it's work to try to piece it all together given his writing style. He needs a better editor...
That said, they are the best (perhaps only?) guide out there for organic orcharding; and I've bought multiple copies of each to give to friends (or replace loaned copies not returned), so I've found them to be worth the effort...
I don't think you're going to be able to make much compost between now and spring given cold temps and lack of nitrogen. Shredding 100 bags of leaves is a big task. Given that youre going to spend a lot of time with little chance of achieving your goal, why not rethink the whole endeavor? If it were me, I would not shred the leaves. I would make a large pile and come back In a year or two for the resultant leaf mould. You could compost it at that time or simply use it as is.
It looks like you still have some very beautiful apples on those trees? What percent are completely inedible vs slightly blemished vs nearly perfect? How much perfect fruit do you need? Why do the trees have to be completely free of insect / disease damage? Can you bend your mind, instead of the spoon?
They don't seem to like burrowing under woodchips.
I have voles in my orchard. They love burrowing under cardboard / hay; cardboard / woodchips; and just hay. So far not under just woodchips. Although they don't seem to be as active in the summer. Activity increases through the fall. I guess other food sources become scarce.
Next year I'm going to experiment with woodchips first, covered seasonally by hay, with hay raked back in the fall.
I tie twine to a clothespin. I attach the clothespin to the branch. I tie the other end of the twine to my 6' diameter wire tree cages (you could tie to a brick or a tent stake in the ground if you don't tree cages).
I like this method bc it is easy to attach, remove and adjust the clothespin from the branch. And it's cheap and very easy to install.
A few sources (Dave Wilson nursery and Michael Phillips) advocate planting plums in thickets. With 3-4 trees per station with each tree within ~18" of each other. Supposedly it aides in pollination.
In full disclosure, I have planted my plum trees in this way but it is too early for me to opine first hand on whether this is beneficial. Perhaps Bryant has a view (hau BR!) as he is very knowledgeable about fruit trees.
O. Donnelly wrote:What did the contractor do with the topsoil? Probably sold it. Really sad that they did that...
Actually my father in law did most of the clearing (he owns some heavy equipment, and we were thankful not to rent it.) Most of it sat in piles for ~ year and then were used for fill or leveling around the house. We did actually try to save the best piles and spread them on the garden. I think the problem is that you hit clay very shallow here, so what I got from those piles was some good topsoil mixed with a lot of clay.
Probably would have been better to level the subsoil and then spread the topsoil back over the site in a uniform thickness, or concentrate some portion in raised beds, Rather than using precious topsoil to level and fill. In any case, much better situation than what you originally described "clearing away and removing absolutely all the topsoil"
You should have gained some thickness from the footprint of the house. it sounds like your topsoil is just very thin to begin with. Based on the pictures, the subsoil looks like saprolite - partially weathered shale bedrock. Dense clay and large chunks of shale. If so It's going to take you a very very long time to build any good soil on that. Probably not in your lifetime. Which is why the native soil is so thin. I would build raised beds and buy a couple cubic yards of topsoil (or have your father in law "procure" it) and call it a day.
Regarding size of pots: for tomatoes at least I actually prefer repotting / upsize potting multiple times. The reason is that tomatoes are very good at rooting from any section of stem that is buried. So when I transplant, I bury the plant up to its leaves. I often go further, trimming off most of the bottom leaves to provide more stem. I believe this practice results in a much larger, more developed root structure and a more compact upper plant.
The other practice I've found to be critical is setting an oscillating fan on the seedlings, from the moment they break through the soil. You can set the fan on a cheap timer, so it blows several times a day for a short period. Gradually increase the length of time and strength of the wind current. This will create stout, strong stems that can survive the harsh conditions outdoors .
I've used both soilless and soil mixes. Haven't noticed a difference.
Regarding shortened lifespan of trees: is it the aggressive pruning? Or the dwarfing rootstock that is the problem? Because as has been mentioned, colonial era fruit trees and ancient hardwood copices seem to exist (on their own roots).
Tom Spellman on the videos claims he can keep any rootstock small with aggressive summer pruning. That's contrary to most of the advice out their in extension literature. But here you have a guy that's doing it on camera vs who knows who the extension author is and whether that person has ever seen a live fruit tree or whether he's just repeating the conventional wisdom...
I've trained my trees with a tall, central leader form in mind to date. However I've become intrigued with the Dave Wilson approach and will be trying it with a new batch of trees I'm planting this spring. It's all just one giant experiment anyway, so why not have fun with it, right?
Check out Dave Wilson's Nursery on YouTube. They have an entire collection of videos on backyard orchard culture, where they discuss pruning and training fruit trees to a small size where you can work the trees from the ground. I'm addicted to their videos.
Mike Jay wrote:Thanks Steve, I wouldn't be worried at all about using pee on our food. The worry comes in when I sell it to other folks and want to tell them that I'm following organic practices (without the certification).
However: normally, predators don't exterminate the entire population of their prey. They may prevent rodent populations from exploding, but won't make them disappear completely.
This is exactly correct. The usual question is whether that "reduced" population is compatible with the chosen agricultural system. In your case, I would say that it is not, as you're suffering catastrophic failure of your earthworks.
Perhaps a temporary fix is to create a controlled breach in all of your swales, so that if you have another major flooding episode the deluge will not destroy other parts of your garden. Or build some kind of "flood gate" that you could open at will. Maybe divert it into a pond so that you could use it later? Swale would loose its ability to capture precipitation in these types of events but would still function under normal conditions. Then you need to get rid of the voles. Then seal their tunnels. Perhaps something like a bentonite slurry would work? Bentonite, aka montmarilonite, is a "shrink swell clay". when saturated it will swell to many times its original volume. Well drillers use it to seal off well casing. it also works at the bottom of new ponds. If you have a local well drilling supply shop you may be able to get bags fairly cheap. Would have to think a bit of how you would get the material in.
I feel for you my man. it sucks to put in so much effort and then to have something like this happen. Thanks for posting. its really helpful experience for someone to hear prior to putting in all that hard labor digging a bunch of swales...
Each of these pages has even more links which explain every aspect of what USDA Organic means.
I believe Steve is correct, at least part of what he said is correct. Soil amendments, such as soybean meal and blood meal can be non-organic and derived from or fed gmo seed.
This is from an Omri publication that summarizes NOP standards:
"Materials and products produced from genetic engineering may be used as soil amendments and crop nutrients with exceptions. See the OMRI Genetically Modi ed Organism (GMO) decision tree for more information about how OMRI reviews GMOs used in inputs."
"Animal products used as compost feedstocks are not subject to source restrictions."
"Wastes from crops that have been treated or produced with prohibited substances are allowed for use as soil amendments."
Levente- I've had good luck with a ring of peastone mulch around my new trees. About 3-5 inches thick. Suppresses weeds and voles don't like to dig through it. In this picture I did no weeding the entire summer. Only a few small plants emerged. Notice the difference beyond the mulch...
A lot of the statutory definitions of "organic" seem pretty arbitrary to me. For instance, seed meals (cottonseed, soybean meal, et), feather meal and blood meal are allowed and yet there's a high probability those sources came from / were fed gmo seeds, treated with non-organic pesticides / herbicides / antibiotics, etc.
I don't see any difference between applying coffee grounds from Starbucks vs soybean meal from agway.
Even with strictly derived organic products there's a good chance of contamination.
So the question is what level of vigilance will make you comfortable? 100% site derived inputs guaranteeing quality? Statutory compliance (with all its compromises)? Or somewhere in between?
For me, the two tests are: (i) is the method improving ecosystem health or degrading it and (ii) is the method creating a potential health risk for my family. how do I set up a system, that with a reasonable amount of effort, I can maximize ecosystem health while minimizing health risks.
I personally wouldn't use urine contaminated with prescription drugs directly on food crops. But I might fertilize a biomass crop with them, and then compost the biomass and amend a comfrey patch and use the comfrey to fertilize young fruit trees, hoping that successive biological processes cleanse the material stream. Or more likely I might just get someone healthy (like me) to pee on the compost pile and avoid the risk altogether...
Hi Alicia - I planted my backyard orchard in th Spring of 2016. I started preparations in the summer of 2015. I planted about 25 trees. I have ten more coming this spring. I have room for about 40.
A few things I learned: (I) I wish I had planted 10 the first year, and the rest in subsequent years, as you learn so much (and make lots of mistakes) that first year that you can apply for the remaining trees. Even if you read everything you can find (which I did), there's no substitute for actual experience. Partly because there is so much conflicting advice out there, it's not always explained in enough detail, and a lot is site specific. 10 trees is very manageable and would make a nice little beta test for a larger planting. And planting trees is fun, so it's good to stretch that out! And the smaller number would've been enough to "scratch my itch" for orcharding the first year. (ii) time is your friend when it comes to soil prep. There was a recent post by a gentleman who piles a huge amount of organic matter on the future planting site a year or more in advance and let's the soil food web do the work of weed suppression and soil improvement. In my experience, 6-8 months of sheet mulching helps but is not enough. From now on I'm going to plan 12-24 months ahead wrt soil prep. This concept dovetails nicely with the first point. If you're not in a rush to get everything done all at once, you have time to learn and do things the right and easy way. (iii) some great resources are: the two books by Michael Philips (Apple Grower and Hollistic Orchard); https://www.orangepippintrees.com as well as many of the reputable nurseries' websites for varietal selection; YouTube has some awesome videos on pruning. I've recently become a fan of the Dave Wilson Nursery series on backyard orchard culture.
I'm not quite following the part about seeding on top of the mulch. If you've put down enough cardboard, straw and woodchips to smoother the grass, it seemed like it would be too thick for seed to germinate and take root. Maybe I'm missing something obvious. Apologies if that's the case.
What about transplanting seedlings in holes in the mulch? You could pretty easily grow out hundreds of plugs each spring. Could have a nice mix of perennial flowering shrubs and herbs.
Most of the extension literature I've read on Crimson clover seems to indicate its best used as a winter cover crop down south where winters are mild. What is the best way to use it up north? When would I plant it in New York zone 5b and when would I kill it? how do honey bees like it?
Levente - your method is very close to what I did when I planted my fruit orchard. Although I didn't replant the field initially to alfalfa or other crops. I simply left it as a diverse pasture sward. I mow or scythe the pasture, make huge piles wherever trees are going, sometimes I double dig and amend the station first and then let it sit over the winter, or sometimes I just dig it 6-8 months after covering the station with hay (the next spring). I do the same thing as you with gravel mulch.
But for me the native flora does try to come back wherever a ray of light hits an area of depleted or thinned mulch. It may be that bc its native pasture va alfalfa and some of the plants have tenacious runners that do burrow through hay and gravel to reach the light. In any event it is work to keep adding mulch and pulling out weeds. Not a terrible amount but it does take up time.
You're going to need a huge amount of material to sheet mulch that much land. Huge. 1.5 acres is roughly 75,000 square feet. Sheet mulch that to say 4 inches and you're at 25,000 cubic feet. A cubic yard is 27 cubic feet. So roughly 1000 cubic yards. That's 100 dump truck loads that you need to procure and spread. Even one tenth of that area would be a major undertaking and possibly very expensive.
Or you could treat localized "stations" - amend and sheet mulch "oasis" in the sea of grass. You'd have to figure out the right size and spacing but for easy math let's say 5x6' stations (which is very small) - 30 sq feet, roughly 1/3 of a yard of material per station, 30 stations per dump truck load if you do it all at once (The hard way). Or every time you mow the field you use a bag on the mower and use the cuttings to build stations a few at a time (the easier way). This scenario will still require a lot of maintenance keeping the sea of grass from taking over your stations.
Alternatively, you could plow / disk / plant successive cover crops over the course of two seasons to smother the existing pasture. Then plant a more benign legume rich pasture mix and plant your localized stations. Cut the pasture periodically and use it to mulch an expand your stations. You'd need the right equipment to do it this way.
I collected seeds in late fall, stored in a ziplock in the refrigerator (in the pods, dry). Planted inside late April I believe. I think they'd be ready to transplant within a few weeks but I didn't keep detailed records. The important thing is deer protection. Even though they were surrounded by succulent vegetation, they got chomped.