Waiting for the bud break with every breath

Right now, almost a hundred new trees stand in our soil, the most vital parts of their bodies entirely out of sight, dreaming.

I fret over them wondering if any will live at all. Bare root, as inexpensive trees as we can get. Before this I’d only planted a handful. The number of things I don’t know are infinite, and the few kinds of care I do know how to give make me feel happy in a way that is new. This is care I can give.

I haven’t tested the soil, but I know it’s acidic and so a sprinkling (is it too much, too little?) of wood ash around most of my trees can help. Wood ash raises the pH and fills the soil with trace minerals. The Permaculture maxim “the problem is the solution” fits here, because the problem (acidity) is an opportunity for me to safely use greater quantities of the pH raising wood ash without causing the soil to get too alkaline; then the trees also get the benefits of an impressive range of nutrients that they’d otherwise struggle to find with new roots.

Of course I also added lots of biochar.

Meanwhile, the rain and clouds kept a rhythm that was just right. It stayed cool long enough that I think most of what I’m planting would stay dormant. We’re still water scarce, so watering in all those trees and shrubs wasn’t an option; yet the rain came as needed, soothing my worry. When the dance with the weather goes this well in the 21st century, it is a miracle too easy to miss.

For the simple joy of saying and writing the names of plants as if I were writing out my crush in a school notebook, I’ll list what I’ve planted this year:

  • Red Chokecherry – for us and for wildlife, grown in the understory
  • Spicebush – for medicine and wildlife and beauty
  • Black Willow – for infinite uses, but especially to stabilize a ridge from eroding
  • Hazelnut – most for the squirrels – but some for us, too
  • Tag Alder – for nitrogen fixation, trellising, tree hay
  • Black Locust – same, but a different family
  • Paw Paw – for food in the understory
  • Shangri-La Mulberry – for the yummyness
  • Shinko Pear – pears
  • Ayers Pear – pears
  • Ichi Ki Kei Jiro Persimmon – yum
  • Hachiya Persimmon – yum
  • Maekawa Persimmon – yum
  • Red Jostaberry – for diversity and food
  • Rabbiteye Blueberry – for blueberries
  • Forsythia – for Pickle’s heart & for powerful medicine
  • Chinese Chestnut – long term food crop
  • Blackberries – yum
  • Goumi – Food and nitrogen fixation in shrub form
  • Cornelian Cherry – edible dogwood for food diversity

Some experiments we’re trying with these plant allies:

  • Can we grow food in the understory here? I always hear mixed things. Many plants are an experiment in that. Especially curious about hazelnuts in a pine understory.
  • I planted tag alders (n-fixers, small tree) directly in the garden bed. How will they cooperate with the plants? Can I use them as living n-fixing squash trellises? Is it true that the part shade of a small tree can increase garden productivity in the Southeast?
  • We’re hoping for tree hay (i.e. – perennial fodder for animals that sequesters carbon) from the tag alders and black locusts. I know folks in the mountains know how to do this.
  • Can we grow an orchard between black locusts in the Milpa, and can those same locusts provide us building material via coppice?
  • I planted a pattern of tag alders above blackberries on an eroding slope in a loose terracing. The hope is that the tag alders’ shallow root systems and fast growth will stabilize the eroding ridge while giving nitrogen to the blackberries.
  • Can we start some fruit trees in the relative gentleness of a partially shaded area with plans to open it up as they mature, thus helping them grow in more moderated conditions until they’d reach a fruit-bearing age?
  • What magic will happen when we add so much diversity to the forest that wasn’t there? Do these plants want to be here? How will the forest community welcome them?
  • Is the way of planting trees I more or less made up going to actually work at all?

Tune in…

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