Blog: Creating a Food Forest Patch in Our Yards

 

 

How would you like to have a food forest patch in your yard? Maybe dedicate an 8×8′ square bit of land, ideally removing some lawn? Imagine adding small fruits, food, medicinal plants right in your own back yard? One of the basic tenets of permaculture is to create a ‘food forest patch’ in our yards. What is that and how can I plan a ‘forest patch’ with food in my own yard?

When I hear the word forest I think of trees, lots of them, maybe pine needles and old leaves on paths. Understory trees and shrubs fill in that landscape sometimes making the area appear dense with foliage. Other times these lower story plants line a pathway. How can I mimic this system on a smaller scale in my front or back yard and include food?

My podcast guest this week, Micheal Judd, talked about creating a ‘food forest patch’ in our yards. Before I describe what he suggested I would like to remind all of us about the importance of our forests from a permaculture perspective. Let’s look at some facts:

“Forests are life ( from permaculture news)

  • Forests are home to approximately 50-90% of all the world’s terrestrial (land-living) biodiversity — including the pollinators and wild relatives of many agricultural crops (Source: WWF Living Planet Report 2010)
  • Tropical forests alone are estimated to contain between 10-50 million species – over 50% of species on the planet.
  • Rainforests cover 2% of the Earth’s surface and 6% of its landmass, yet they are home to over half of the world’s plant and animal species.

From these basic facts, it should be evident that forests themselves are synonymous with life, biodiversity, and fertility. Where life gathers, complex and mutually beneficial relationships are created between organisms; natural harmonious communities form, and life forms multiply and proliferate.”

Forests are the best of life and offer ways for us to live in harmony. They provide food and are great examples of how species work together. Yet, we continue to tear down our forests for the sake of development, our thirst for lumber and other byproducts made from trees, and the need for fields for mass monotype agriculture and farming.

Michael suggested that we take (where possible) a small patch maybe 8′ by 8′ and plant a fruit tree. He includes nitrogen-fixing plants such as lupines, blue indigo in the same area. Add other perennials to the mix all planted within this 8×8″ space. Spreading mints can be added too. I had the chance to visit and be on one of his yard tours in MD.  Mints were all over the place but didn’t give me the feeling of taking over. He chops and lets the plant material drop. Very easy and very cool.

As you cut back these companion plants, you leave the plant material right there which continues to build mulch. All of this adds beauty and diversity to your landscape. Check out pawpaw, juneberry, black currants, Aronia’s.  Aronia or chokecherries are native to our continent.  There is much to choose from.

Summary:

Dedicate an 8 x8′ patch for new plants.

Add 8″ compost, layering the materials and leave over winter.

In the spring: Select a fruit-bearing tree appropriate to your region.

Add leguminous plants when you plant the tree; lupines, peas. Around the outer edges add more plants.

Michaels’ book shown above has great detailed ‘how to’s’ and photographs to illustrate his ‘food forest patch’. I highly recommend his book. I personally refer to his ideas over and over. Think about the gardeners in your life. This book is a great addition to any gardener’s library.

So, what would you do? Can you take away some lawn and create a’ food forest patch’? Let me know if you do. All comments are appreciated. Enjoy. Judith

 

 

 

 

Blog: Wangari Maathai: A Vision of Hope, One Tree at a Time

Sustainable and edible landscapes capture our attention and our creativity. Sustainability is a buzz word. It’s how we conserve resources and protect our environment. Yet we seem to favor unsustainable practices in managing our landscapes, our yards, our municipal lands. What’s the difference?

Let’s look at Sustainability: Sustainability means using our resources with the intent of replacing them better than when we began, so we leave something viable for the next seven generations, as my elders would say. One of the primary areas we can change today is the use of our personal yards, front or back, and create, bring in more diversity to improve the overall picture of global warming’s effects. That means we need to rethink lawn. And rethink how we approach nature. Is she something we use regardless of consequences? Or can we see nature as an intelligent entity, that has had 3.8 billion years to refine and define operating systems, so she thrives? How do we fit in as humans managing her resources and gifts? In the big picture, we are a young species.

My podcast guest this week, Dr. Jean Shoinoda Bolen, an activist for women’s rights, mentions Wangari Maathai is her book: Like a Tree. Intrigued I looked up this courageous woman and felt inspired to share her story with all of you. The above movie portrays Wangari Maathai’s vision. She started the Green Belt Movement in Kenya and helped plant thousands of trees turning barren land into a verdant landscape that rebuilt soil, improves water conditions, and gave the community pride and dignity. More importantly, she took one simple action to her community and made a difference.

Sustainability is a vital and invaluable component of getting back to creating holistic environments.

As you look through garden and seed catalogs, rethink your spaces. Research an edible shrub or tree to add food for you and wildlife. Plant a few different native plants to keep our wildlife thriving.

I hope you feel as inspired as I do by one person;’s vision and action that changed her community and left a wonderful legacy. Together we can create a sustainable world and enjoy the journey. We love hearing from you and hope you’ll share your stories with us. Thanks. Judith

 

Podcast: Holistic Nature of Us: Mark Shepard Forest and AG Restoration


Description: “Despite the massive human efforts applied to farming, we are woefully short of the inherent resilience, stability, and outright beauty of natural ecosystems. We need to look no further than native ecosystems for a template of how to move forward from the many woes of annual monocropping. This is our goal and mission: Redesigning Agriculture in Nature’s Image.” Mark Shepard, RestorationAg.com
Mark Shepard returns and goes into more detail about succession only this time he addresses our forest ecosystem makeup. Forests are a “phase” in time. Intrigued? I hope so. Join us for an insightful and helpful discussion.

About My guest: Mark Shepard is the CEO of Forest Agriculture Enterprises LLC, founder of Restoration Agriculture Development LLC and award-winning author of the book, Restoration Agriculture: Real-World Permaculture for Farmers. Mark has also been a former member of the Organic Valley cooperative, the worlds largest Organic Farmer’s marketing co-op, since 1995. He is most widely known as the founder of New Forest Farm, the 106-acre perennial agricultural savanna considered by many to be one of the most ambitious sustainable agriculture projects in the United States.

Transcript: #57 Mark Shepard #2 

 

Blog: Do Trees Breathe?

 

 

 

I am fascinated with trees. There’s new and maybe not so new research showing us their complexity and their extensive ecosystems that exist beyond our ordinary senses. We know they communicate through their root systems to each other. They send nutrients to a family member in need. They will also share water. Roots are connected by a mycorrhizal hypha network of fungi creating a kind of highway and inner net within the soil beneath the forest floor. Debris and leaves, insects and critters, microscopic nutrients and various species exist within the canopy of a forest and its layers. Mother trees help and support their young ones. And did you know they can cry when in need?

My guest this week, Lois Grasso, author, and transformational breath practitioner spoke about using the power of our breath as a healing modality. We can get stuck emotionally and hold our breath, maybe not dramatically but enough to block our connection to the best part of self. Since this blog and podcast series: Holistic Nature of Us is concerned with all the parts functioning optimally here within us as a human being and within all aspects of this planet, I wondered about trees. Air is an element that governs this planet. There would be no breathable air without our plant kingdoms.

She got me thinking about trees, our relationship with them and how they are suffering today. I read a report through my Master Gardener office last week that trees here in CT are suffering. In certain areas, they got hit two years in a row with gypsy moth infestations. The first year of the moths we were in our second year of a drought. Both factors weaken a tree, both factors open the door to their demise. When growing by roadways, they pose a hazard if and when they should topple over. The cost to remove them is also a factor that towns and the state have to consider for budget concerns.

But let’s get back to breath and breathing. Our first breath gives us life. Without our breath, we cease to exist. Our first responders know only too well that evaluating our breathing is critical to triage work. Life and death are only one breath away. How does a tree breathe? The leaves on trees and needles on our conifers have narrow slits on their undersides, openings that allow them to exhale and inhale. Roots can do the same thing too.

” A tree breathes through its leaves using chlorophyll, the substance that makes leaves green. Chlorophyll absorbs CO2 from the air and uses it alongside water to break down minerals absorbed through the tree’s roots. While trees do not technically breathe, respiration is comparable to inhaling air into the lungs and photosynthesis is comparable to exhaling.” (From youtube video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tXTYZpZNqrA)

We inhale O2 and exhale CO2 due to complex cellular processes. Trees use CO2 to make food and release O2 in this process which is photosynthesis.

BeaTzJooDy / Pixabay

What happens at night when the sun goes down? Since photosynthesis relies on sunlight to
ignite the metabolic processes within plants, photosynthesis ceases and trees breathe in O2. too.
So they exhale O2 during the day but need O2 at night.

We take breathing for granted. Breathing can be soft or filled with emotion. There’s nothing like the soft gentle breath of a newborn babe. You could say breath is connected to touch. Trees breathe and we can feel the breath of a forest that maybe quite literally takes our breath away.

I hope you will breathe with more mindfulness today and awareness that trees breathe too. During the day we have a breathing relationship with them: we breathe in O2 and exhale CO2 while trees breathe in our CO2 and give us O2. We are connected in very profound ways.

Remember all comments are appreciated. Please like and share. Thanks.
Judith

 

 

 

 

 

Podcast: Holistic Nature of Us: Jane Seymour, Wildlife Biologist, Steward of Belding WMA, CT

Description: What’s happening to our birds and bees? Essential to the health of our ecosystems, many suffer the loss of habitat, food, and shelter.
Jane is the steward for The Belding Wildlife Management Area here in CT. Beautiful meadows attract a variety of insects and other wildlife. Managed nearby forested areas keep the ecosystem strong and healthy. But, let’s get back to the birds and the bees. What do they need and how can we help? Jane’s expertise and tips are practical and timely.

About My Guest: Jane Seymour is a Wildlife Biologist and steward of the Belding Wildlife Management Area in Vernon. The Belding WMA was donated to the State of CT by Maxwell Belding who then set up a trust fund to help manage the habitats and provide environmental education. Received a Bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Conservation from the University of Massachusetts, and a Master’s degree in Natural Resources from the University of Connecticut while researching habitat use of American kestrels.

Transcript:  #29 Jane Seymour 

Blog: What you need to know about Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) TODAY!

 

 

Every species has a role in our natural ecosystems. This week’s guest, Carole Cheah, research entomologist with the University of CT Agricultural Extension Service shares her research findings concerning Eastern Hemlock and its pests that contribute to its demise in our eastern forests.

Eastern Hemlock: Tsuga canadensis is known as “the redwood of the east”. Tall and majestic, it lives quite long. Do not mistake its size for age. Many young appearing saplings can be quite old as they wait for the forest canopy to open and become flooded with sunlight. Then they shoot up, reaching for sunlight as fast as they can. Its ladder like branches provides habitat for many species. As an evergreen, the needled branches provide shelter in winter and keep the forest cool in summer. They like water and are often found by streams and waterways. Many species depend on them. Not just the tree itself but the ecosystem habitat they sustain in our forests.

However, our Hemlocks are beset with two troublesome pests. Today I am sharing a photograph of what the HWA or hemlock woolly adelgid egg mass and elongate hemlock scale look like on hemlock needles. A picture, they say is worth a thousand words. I hope you agree. The bug surrounds itself with its egg mass and it looks like leftover snow on the branches. Or maybe like cotton tufts which make it very easy to spot on branches especially by the tips of branches as they munch on new growth.

For those of you who want more detailed information, especially for the east coast, I recommend this article: http://www.ct.gov/caes/lib/caes/documents/publications/fact_sheets/entomology/hemlock_woolly_adelgid_2014.pdf

What I also learned from Carole is how the weather affects some of our pests. In this instance, a deep New England freeze can actually harm the pest and decrease its numbers. If you want more information, where to purchase the beneficial pest that helps eliminate HWA, contact your State University Agricultural Station or your Master Gardener program also run by the University Ag station.

Hopefully, you are inspired to keep a closer eye on your hemlocks. I know I am. Check them in late winter, early spring.  Lower branches can be removed or rub the egg mass off. Check with your county agricultural station. They may have folks like Carole monitoring the health and status of hemlocks in your geographic area, offer pest control advice and more.

Old and sentient, these trees have been around a long time, provide invaluable habitat, diversity, and integrity to our forests. Our forests are holistic. Droughts or intense rains place stresses on our natural plant populations. Intense research efforts are being made to preserve our precious native species such as the eastern hemlock.

I appreciate your comments. Please share. Thanks.

Enjoy. Judith