So, I'm trying to think of a good way to spend $200-300 on furthering my vision of a permaculture farm, and looking into it, I've gotten an idea and would like to see what you guys think of it.
But first, some info on my site:
Chuluota, Florida, Central Florida, Zone 9, with mostly grassy, very sandy fields surrounded by forest and palmettos. I've put a few different kinds of seeds into the soil, but most have not had a chance to sprout yet, so it's mostly weeds and grass. I've amended most of the soil with about a 2 - .5 inch layer of composted horse manure from my neighbor. The site is mostly full sun, with some partial-shade along the edges from the forest.
Now, my idea is grow about 6 zig-zag rows (or as many rows as I can afford) of blueberries alternating with a species of the Elaeagnus family, (Autumnberry (Autumn-olive), Silver Berry, Goumi, Trebozoid Date), with plants being spaced 4ft apart.
However, I've heard that Elaeagnus plants tend to prefer alkaline soil, while Blueberries prefer acidic. Is this true? Will Elaeagnus grow and fruit acceptably on acid or slightly-acid soil? Will blueberries not mind slightly-acid soil? Alkalinity will be difficult to come by and maintain here, unfortunately... Unless I could use livestock mineral supplements, such as oyster shells?
Also, what other plants would grow well with them? Especially as a groundcover. I already have white clover and buckwheat seeds on the ground, though they haven't sprouted much yet, from what I can tell... Would dandelions be a good addition to this? Will they be able to take the sun until the bushes can shade them out? I'm also interested in growing coppiced wild honeylocust (for mulch and fruit) and pawpaws inter-planted or planted nearby. How well would this work? What would probably be the best way to go about doing it?
Thank you for any of all replies and information, and if you'd like more info on my plans or my site, of course feel free to ask.
My understanding is that eleagnus are generally pretty tolerant, hence the invasive issues. On that note I'd check your local resources on the invasiveness of some of those, in my area (NC) autumn olive are a legitimate problem, while goumis seem to be fine. Blueberries recquire acidity to thrive, if you're wanting good yields.
From the description of your site you may want to look at Sea Buckthorn, I'm not sure that it will grow in zone 9, but I know it's native to sandy soils.
I would think about sweet potatoes as a groundcover/alley crop until your bushes are established. I'm not sure how it does down there, but I plant lots of wild carrot as a first succession species. It works well to stabilize soil and generates a decent amount of mulch. The seeds are also a valuable contraceptive. I would say dandelions are always a good addition to everything.
I'm also planning on growing coppiced honeylocust and pawpaws, although not together. Pawpaws prefer moist floodplain sites, while honeylocust seem to prefer better drained upland sites. For establishment I plan on acquiring some grafted pawpaw varieties as well as a lot of local wild seed. As the seedlings grow up I'll either let them fruit depending on the desirability of their parent or graft on to them early. I'll do basically the same thing for Honey Locust except I've got a source for scions, so all I need for now is seed, which I have already begun sprouting (also honey locust is a substrate for Maitakes!).
Sounds like an interesting layout. I don't think you will need to provide an alkaline environment for the eleagnus plants. I've grown goumi and autumn olive in NC red clay with a pH around 5, and the plants did just fine with some extra compost as top dressing to boost the organic matter content.
I currently have both goumi and several varieties of autumn olives in a clay-loam soil with a pH of 6.0. Again, the organic content of the soil is very low, so I have topdressed with rotted wood, mostly conifer. My blueberries (7 varieties) are also doing fine in these conditions. The only special change for the blueberries is a mulch of pine straw (long pine needles) rather than regular straw that I use around my other plants. I don't add any extra acid to their soil.
In my experience, blueberries do fine with a pH from 5-6 so long as you don't add any calcium ammendments to their soil. I would keep them away from the oyster shells. I think the bigger trouble you will have will be keeping the top 6" of soil moist on a continuous basis. Their roots are shallow and if your soil is sandy, it may be a challenge. Mulch heavily!
One other option is a blueberry relative - sparkleberry (farkleberry). I haven't gotten around to ordering some yet, but I've read reports that they have much deeper roots and are therefore tolerant of sandy soil and dry conditions. They can be used as rootstock for standard highbush blueberries.
"Limitation is the mother of good management", Michael Evanari
Location: Southwestern Oregon (Jackson County), Zone 7
Yeah, that's what figured, but there's also another problem...
The only source of cheap live plants I've found so far is in Michigan, with varieties developed for Michigan, in Michigan. Michigan is a LOT colder then Florida, and I contacted the grower, who said that autumn olives do go dormant during the winter up there... Though, maybe it's not a necessity for fruiting?
Also, I've heard of and have considered Seaberry, and I'd love to grow it, but I don't know of any sources of live plants that are cheap enough for my needs... Also, I'm kinda... aversive to growing from seed, because of past failures in doing so, and its unpredictability... Suppose it's better then trying to ship a living plant hundreds or thousands of miles, though.
That is a good idea, though, and I'll give the internet another go before calling it quits on that one...
I don't eat cooked foods, so I've never really looked into potatoes much. Would they be grown as an additional crop, or just as a soil-enhancer? Also, would they do well in poor soil?
The carrots are an interesting idea... Would they continue popping back up from rhizomes in a no-till system, though? And would this be a bad thing?
Yeah, I figured I wouldn't have to worry much about the soil pH, and lack of water retention is definitely THE greatest hindrance to any cultivation attempts I make here... My land is sandy sand, and very hot and exposed, so it would probably be better to wait until next year at least, so I have time to get some pioneer species established...
Also... Those sparkleberries...
I am in love. Those sound just absolutely PERFECT for me! The only potential problem is cost and availability, and possibly harvest...
They can be eaten by people too, but they are bitter and not very good, and most references say they are inedible.
Would it be a good idea to plant now? It's late spring, and things are already really hot here, but would my plants be alright if I just watered them well every day, and added generous amounts of soil organic matter and mulch?
Or should I just buy succession crops this year, and plant those?
Re: potatoes, I was talking about Sweet Potatoes (Ipomoea batatas), which actually can be eaten raw (apparently in China that's more common than cooking), and the leaves are edible. I would use them as a crop, because they are very nutritious with a decent amount of calories, but they also work as a soil enhancer/groundcover. And yes, they will grow in very poor soil.
Re: wild carrot. It is a biennial, so it would grow some the first year, get decently large the second year, flower and die. It would self seed heavily, which I consider good, since it seems to be the most common and reliable natural contraceptive.
Re: Seaberry. If you still have any interest check out lawyernursery.com They're based in Montana, but they are a wholesale nursery so their prices are low. I've heard you need about 1 male per 8 females, which seems reasonable to me. Lawyer also sells goumis.
Re: planting now. No. Unless you have a seriously reliable irrigation system and a lot of water storage I would not plant now.
Also check out http://www.hiddenspringsnursery.com They are in Tennessee, which is somewhat near you, and they sell seedling goumis as well as grafted pawpaws, honey locust, and other interesting things. Their prices are good.
you may be able to get away with planting now, but as Osker stated, you will need a very reliable watering plan. Even if you plant in the fall, you may need to irrigate on a daily/every other day basis. Drip irrigation to the rescue!
you know your soil best, and whether thirsty plants will be able to make it through you summer...
"Limitation is the mother of good management", Michael Evanari
Location: Southwestern Oregon (Jackson County), Zone 7
I've tried sweet potatoes raw, I think they're eh, and I've read that they're (and I remember them being) hard to digest. I'm sure they would be a fine nurse crop for the berries, but so would a lot of things, I'm sure...
Plus, I've been convinced that I really should just wait until next year to plant these, since it'll be an investment... And I really don't think the soil, as it stands now, is ready to harbor new plants through the summer, but if any plant could manage to live through it and prosper, it'd probably be the goumi and most certainly the sea berry. I'd have to buy drip irrigation, though, which is more money...
The wild carrot contraceptive is cool and interesting, but not of much used to me right now... I might get it as a part of my ground cover. Probably wouldn't be a good idea to get anything going until this fall, though...
Also, those two websites are awesome; the hidden spring I actually found while looking for nurseries, but I found cheaper sources, so I kinda blew it off... It's still rather expensive, even upon closer inspection.
The Lawyer Nursery, however, is bloody awesome. I don't like how large you have to make your orders, though, I don't think I'd be able to place 50 goumis in my yard and still leave room for other things... I guess they are nitrogen fixating, though, so they'll improve the soil for something else later, and I'm sure the neighbors would appreciate it if I sold them for cheap...
EDIT: Also, I'm not seeing any sea berries on the Lawyers Nursery website... Bummer... :/ Found them! Well, I found seeds for them, anyway...
They call this area I live in the sandhills – for good reason – sand. Hot and dry as a bone even though we have enough humidity in the air to wash clothes in.
I started out with MASSIVE amounts of mulch. I don’t mean mulch from the store, rather leaves of every kind, wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of green grass clippings, kitchen waste (and I know Paul would cringe) and even junk mail, newspapers and cardboard at the bottom.
We started out with an inch or two of sandy dirt on top and straight sand and clay below, now about six years later, there is rich black dirt deeper than the shovel blade.
When I wanted to plant something in the early years I would poke or cut a hole through the whole mess, fill it up with water and set in the tree, shrub or what ever type of plant.
I still mulch very heavily with green grass clippings.
If I had to do it all over again I would include lots of wood – ground level hugelkulture style beds – that is what I’m doing with all of my new beds and ….so far…. Those beds have not required watering.
The western part of South Carolina is already in severe drought stage and all soil in my area is already dry pretty deep down – except for my hugel beds. I am going to eventually bury lots of wood in all of my beds and continue the heavy mulching and chop and drop.
And that is pretty much exactly what I was thinking I'd end up doing.... Though, exactly how much mulch are we talking about?
Cuz I was planning on raiding the local dump as often as I could for anything cellulose and non-toxic, and I can easily imagine my yard becoming a massive pile of leaves, wood, cardboard, etc. 1-2 feet deep in just a few weeks.
EDIT: Oh, and also, would it be okay to plop some horse manure in there somewhere? Probably sandwiched in the upper-middle layers... Or, would this be largely unnecessary, or bad? Also, would it matter if I put it in fresh, or should I compost it first? I know that the manure isn't really necessary, since I'll be growing my own nitrogen, but I figure the more organic matter, the better.
I have mostly fairly acidic soil, have to put in ashes and whatever to sweeten areas for alkaline loving crops..but I have autumn olive and russian olive growing wild all over our entire area..and I have planted Goumi (baby so no info yet)..
the blueberries even require more acidity than i have though..here they are slow growing...but I guess maybe they are slow growing anyway
Bloom where you are planted.
I keep thinking about this, and I'm thinking of turning this into the first succession (and the outer edge) of a food forest... What would be a good nitrogen-fixating tree for the parts I'd like to eventually be forest proper, though? Red Alder has all the right properties, but it's a northern plant, so I don't think it'll do well here... What other, more southern Alders are there? Or is there a nitro-fixating tree native to florida that would be good for this?
I'll explain my idea for this a little better before going on;
Here's a rough aerial sketch of my property:
(Ignore the brown designations, they were what I was going to do, but those rows will probably dissolve once I start mulching)
The green areas (light and dark) are natural forest. Not going to cut that down, though I might be willing to plant some pawpaws in the underbrush...
The black rectangular thingy in the center is the house, the other black rectangle is the shed, and the blue is... or, was, the pool.
For now I'm focusing on that upper field, since it has the most potential, but needs the most work.
My plan as it is now is;
1. Wait for late summer.
2. Apply a thick (1 foot deep) layer of cellulose. Logs and tree trunks, if I can find any, will go first on the bottom, along with any cardboard that isn't shredded up. I don't want to smother out the weeds, it's just a necessary evil, due to my impatience... Things like cardboard and paper I'll try to shred up before throwing it down. Paper and cardboard is next, then paper, leaves, horse manure, then if I have any more left more manure left I'll toss it on, leaves, then I'll throw about one to a half- wheelbarrow of forest leaf litter, as a fungal innoculant, OR much more preferably try to find some edible mushroom spores I can inoculate my forest with instead. Then a layer of leaves on top of it all.
3. Let this sit and decompose for at least 2 weeks, preferably planting as soon as whether permits.
4. When the time starts to seem right, I'll order all of my plants, or if they were ordered as seed, I'll have them ready to transplant by this time. My first succession plant list is currently as follows:
50-75 Goumis (Barerooted, 12-18" plants, from lawyernursery.com)
10 Honeylocusts (Barerooted, still deciding on size but probably 12-18", from lawyernursery.com)
Some kind of nitro-fixating ground cover... Ideas? A mix of plants is preferred, as long as they don't easily out-compete the other, more useful plants. Current ideas are Alfalfa and Clover.
Comfrey (Directly planted from rhizomes, or grown from seed in containers here then transplanted, from horizonherbs.com)
Borage (Either transplanted or direct-seeded, possibly a mix to ensure some plants make it, from horizonherbs.com)
Dandelion (Either direct-seeded from horizonherbs.com, or as a transplant from oikostreecrops.com)
Adding some native plants to this mix would probably also be a good idea, but I can't think of much, besides just letting whatever weeds can grow in this system to do so...
I could probably use some more variety on that list, but then again I only have so much land, and most of the big ones I have to buy in bulk... Plus, I'll likely be replacing or adding-to the plants year by year with other kinds, though I'd like to know more about how exactly the succession should proceed... I'd still like to grow blueberries, but their cost (compared to the other plants) is very prohibitive with my current sources...
Also, should I plant the planned climax plants at the same time as everything else? My list of climax plants, which is basically what isn't listed above, would like to grow some day, and can think of right now, is:
(The and/or listings are plants which can replace each other, if need be. The second plant is more preferred then the first.)
Pecan and/or black walnut Mango and/or papaya
Olives and/or avacadoes
Apples and/or peaches
Banana and/or Jackfruit
Custard apple Guava
Flax and/or chia
Melons (all kinds)
Dry Beans (for sprouting)
Everything else can can be grown and is edible
Now, of course, I know it's unrealistic to think that I'll be growing ALL of these plants, but it would be nice to grow as much as I can, with as much variety as I can.
But anyway, how would I build up the soil, essentially from the nothing it is right now, up to a workable food forest, filled with trees, bushes, and annuals, all self-sustaining, and maintain some level of edibility throughout its establishment? Most particularly, how should I arrange the plants, especially the first-generation goumis, nitro-fixating trees, and various accumulators?
Hi Andrew. I sent a reply to your message, but it didn't get through. Yes, it is very hot and dry for us here in central Florida, and we cannot wait for the monsoon season to get here. A lot of your questions depend on how much water you have access to. Do you have your own well? We do, and if I had to pay for metered water I simply could not have established all my trees and so many shrubs and guild plants this spring. It would have cost a fortune. I have been very meticulously can-watering all my pigeon peas and lamb's quarters seeds, and mulching around them as they sprout, and if I turn my back on it, I'm afraid it will all burn up......Horse manure is great fertilizer, but it is notorious for weeds sprouting out of it. Much of my area is so bare I wouldn't mind the weeds - anything covering the ground would be good. This fall, I plan to sow some buckwheat to see if I can cover up all the bare areas. A good source for plants is the Edible Food Project in Gainesville. They have a lot of hard to find stuff and the lowest prices anywhere.
Certifiable food forest gardener, free gardening advice offered and accepted. Permaculture is the intersection of environmentalsim and agriculture.
Also, yea, we have our own well, but I never like using water from there unless I have absolutely no alternative... I guess it is recharged whenever it rains, but I've never really looked into how the aquifer works here, so I have only a basic understanding...
I'd much rather use rain catchment systems and LOTS of mulch, and also recycled water from the shower and sink, but I have none of those set up... yet.
And I agree with you on pretty much everything you just said, lol. It's hot here, even when surrounded by pretty heavy woods, and if anything can shade the ground even a little bit I'm all for it!
When a friend came over by my mom's request, I was just writhing inside, and could feel an almost immediate increase in temperature in certain areas... Might've just been the suddenly increasing temperatures lately, though.
And yes, horse manure does sprout weeds, though the horses I'm taking it from don't eat many green plants, so it's mostly free of seed.
Looking into that edible food project... From my initial look into it I, strongly, approve.
Would get someone in with a bobcat over the summer, and dig in the first wood pits along the back stretch of your orchard area. Lay in the wood. I would be tempted to run a piece of dripline thru the middle of it for a midsummer soak. Put it all the way down in the big wood. Just take the smallest drill bit size you have, and drill a small hole in the hose every foot. If you can make a loop at least 20 ft around is best. You dont have to hook up the loop to the supply til 5 years down the road, just the straight thru line at first.
Plant the Pecans and some sweet potatoes in the watering basin, and add some kind of peas in the fall. Pecans can take the heat, and sweets will sweeten the soil, even if you don't want to eat 'em. I would say you havn't found the right ones yet tho, some of the reds are very tasty raw. Look for the local el-cheapo mexican grocery. My local Food City grocery sweets actually do sprout, tho most grocery ones wont. (sprayed)
Be carefull how close you go to the forest with everything but ground covers, the moisture will attract their roots, and they will go up to double, or triple the drip line to find more water, if you provide it.
Plant in rabbitbush and onions ,along with any clovers ,that you can mow down for greens to mix with the manure all winter. Keep that space cover only, or you will get to fight the jungle.
I would forget the blueberries, till you have a hugelpit at least 3 years old, and dedicated to only high water, high acid species. Nice to have em near the house, and could use as a gazebo cover, so you take care of em. Is a struggle tho, we are putting in grapes, because cant keep the berry flowers, let alone the fruit, from cooking in the direct sun. Rats or bird problems? - berries will double them.
Lots of mulch? triple the insect problems. You will have to stay on top of that, and use the right local plants to attract good bugs. Go searching in the forest now, and see which milkweeds and such have the scariest looking bugs on them, usually the uglier they are the better for the garden they are . Size dependent statement of course.
All time putting actual wood and drip lines in now, will be repaid in lower maintenance, a lot less time spent watering, better yields, less insect damage, and less plant death later.
Well... What i was thinking, was basically large-scale hugelculture of the entirety of the upper field. Perennials would then be planted into it after it's had a bit of time to decompose, especially the goumi, with various other plants filling in various other roles.
However, you do bring up a few good points I hadn't thought of... Such as the massive bug problem having such a large amount of leaves and mulch everywhere would cause.
Thinking about what I keep finding in my compost heaps... I think you may be right that it's not the best way to go. Though, perhaps I could get away with it by putting a greater emphasis on beneficial insect attraction? Honestly, I don't know much about my local ecosystem, unfortunately... I could ask some people, but I don't know...
And you're probably right about just not finding the right variety. I haven't really tried many raw...
Also, thanks for the tip about the forest. That's definitely a major consideration on my property... Though, I think it's also an unavoidable one, given how much space I have, and how large the trees are around here... Probably best to just deal with the roots.
Also, I'll probably end up over-head watering for the most part, just cuz that's the only way I know how to use water catchment systems without spending more money.
Andrew, I have found that I have LESS problems with bugs when I mulch heavily with green grass clippings. I may have pictures somewhere on this forum. Green grass clippings are gold in my garden. Lots of 'brown' as in leaves, cardboard, sticks etc. But I layer it with EQUAL amounts of green canna lily leaves, grass clippings, elephant ears and banana leaves.
That is when I am building or replenishing the beds.
Mulching the actual growing plants I pack green grass clippings heavily around them. Seems to actually lessen the amount of bug damage.
You mentioned that you were concerned that heavy amounts of mulch would encourage bugs. Remember that the good bugs and the bad bugs both need habitat. Add sources of water and lots of pretty flowers; the predatory bugs love this. It takes a while to build up the habitat but if you perservere it will happen.
I don't think I have access to green grass clippings, but I guess I could ask around the neighborhood... I might try doing it with just brown mulch, though...
Now, I just have to wait, wait for summer to end, wait for my brother to stop being a stingy dic- ... doo-doo head with our money, wait for transportation to actually get all this mulch... And the plants as well, though I'll probably mail-order them all...
It doesn't have to be green grass clippings specifically but I think you do need to have something green in the mix. Using only brown mulch will be a nitrogen robber - I'm hearing a lot of first year hugel beds don't do well and it usually turns out that there was not enough green material in the pile. I'm only in my second season with my bed myself but so far it is doing pretty good.
Since you are surrounded by forest, as I understand it, you should already be inundated with beneficial insects, so I would not be too concerned about bugs in the mulch. Just look around, especially in the mornings, and you should see lots of wasps patrolling the ground. I am surrounded by forest too, and I see them plus spiders in the mulch, plus praying mantises have already taken up shop on my blueberries and pigeon peas! The bad guys don't have much of a chance. Don't know about your well location, but in our case, our food forest is above the well, so watering the forest recharges the well. By using mainly drip irrigation to minimize evaporation, we're basically just moving the water around, spending a little on electricity, but not much. The monsoon will ease the watering load a lot, and hopefully by next spring, everything will be established well enough that we'll only need to augment rainfall a little for the heavy drinkers like citrus for example. We're avoiding certain plants that need a lot of water, but can't resist citrus.
Certifiable food forest gardener, free gardening advice offered and accepted. Permaculture is the intersection of environmentalsim and agriculture.
We don't really grow these plants here, I can't keep my mouth shut on mulch matters...
I've researched the 'carbon mulch robs nitrogen from the soil' thing pretty extensively and from what I can find, if mulch is only laid on the surface and not dug in there isn't a problem.
Morgan, I use enormous amounts of mulch and don't have any insect issues, but I'm on an island far, far away
I forgot that summer is the rainy season here in florida...
And I forgot just how much it rains during the rainy season.
If things continue like this, I might actually be able to start much sooner then anticipated...
This might actually be the best time to charge up the wood with water, but I have a bunch of seeds already in the ground, so I'm going to just wait for those to reach fruition first... I suppose I could plant some of the perennials, though...
Oh and btw, now that you mention it, we are indeed inundated with beneficial bugs here, so the flowers probably will be unnecessary...
Don't see how they could hurt, though.
I am a bit concerned about Japanese beetles, though... I almost can't go digging anywhere around here without digging up these big grub things, which look exactly like Japanese beetle larvae...
EDIT: Also, would it be a good idea to amend my soil with minerals? And if so, what are some cheap or free alternatives for them? I had the idea of using horse mineral, (google it) since they can be pretty cheap, but I'm concerned about how much salt they put in it...
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