Moving the woods – understory

At the back of our yard, we have the “woods”.   When Charlotte and Josephine (our girls) were small, these were a mysterious place, in which grew the “Witch Tree” with a twisted, hollow trunk, and where one might find treasures, such as an ancient china figurine of a man.   I loved the woods, too, because we kind of let Nature do her thing there, with minimal interference, such as keeping choking vines at bay, and planting edible or medicinal native plants such as the Ostrich fern for fiddleheads, ramps, Black Cohosh, and sweet woodruff.

But with this project, the woods need to be moved.   The tall trees at the south end of the yard expand their shade over too much of our small bit of land; it is better to have the tall trees in places where they do not add to our shading.  That is why I planned a new woods, with paw-paw trees, on the north-east side of our garden, where it is already shady.  It takes quite a lot of work to move a woods (duh!).

On one day, I moved the precious fiddlehead ferns – these had multiplied from five I bought about 10 years ago, to 87 plants (I counted, really).   It was the only day I could do it before tree guys were coming with big boots and machines that would tread on and ruin the ferns.  I dug out wheelbarrows full.  Then I wondered: there is (scrawny) grass growing there, will the fiddleheads be strong enough to out-compete the grass?  Should I spend a day getting cardboard, which I’d put down to block the grass, first?   But then the roots of the ferns will dry out…  Oh dear, so much planning, and then poof!  you find yourself at an unexpected junction.  I decided there was nothing to do but put them in the ground and promise to put leaves (which also block grass) around them.  I laid them in the area planned for them along the curved garden path and dug them in.  I felt extremely satisfied at the end of the day – it was like an instant-garden.

The other plants, are still asleep underground, so these will come sometime in April after they pop their heads out.  They will join the fiddleheads, in a blanket of grass-blocking old leaves, along with a few new valuable herbs for the new woods – five giant solomon seal plants; seven American ginseng plants, mitsuba for salads; and a to-be-decided-on shade-loving nitrogen fixer (bird’s foot trefoil, bush-clover/lespedeza?…).

Ferns in the process of being placed in their new home along the planned path (marked by old tomato stakes).





Putting blueberries and asparagus to bed

Today was my first day back in the garden after a long hiatus recovering from various surgeries and going on a 7-week long walk through Spain and France along the old pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostella.

I started by day back with my first-ever official garden walk-through.  This is when you take a little walk in your garden, looking at what needs some attention, noting what is doing well and what is new.  Edible Forest Gardens (Jacke and Toensmeier) recommend doing this in their book.  It was a lot of fun, and it’s true that you notice a lot of things that need to be done!  The list was too long, but I wanted to start by making sure the new paw-paw seedlings and the blueberries are protected from the rabbits that always eat the ends off the new branches during winter.

The paw-paws got little chicken wire cages, and the blueberries got wrapped in burlap.  While I was there, I also cleaned the blueberry and asparagus beds, taking out the Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea) and other plants that had grown there.  But Creeping Charlie turns out to be compatible with blueberries and asparagus and to accumulate phosphate and potassium, so I put the pulled plants back on the beds as mulch.  Then I added comfrey leaves for additional nutrients.  The blueberries got a thick bed of pine needles, and the asparagus got a thick bed of leaves with some pine on top.  Yummy!  Leaves tend to form a rather impermeable layer, but a post from Snakeroot Farm said the asparagus spears will push through it and they will like the leaves.


I also carried a little plastic table around with all my tools and materials.  This is quite a handy invention; I will make a photo next time and post it!

Hooray for being back in the garden!