Driftwood Paradise

It was a gardening assault here for the last two days, and I loved every minute of it even though my body is zapped at the moment. I was able to get all of the beds/guilds set up, trees and shrubs planted, and various piles of dirt shuffled here and there. I had to make an early morning trip to the beach to get another haul of driftwood, and I’ll need one or two more to get the materials to put around the large vegetable bed. But that’s a project for another weekend.

In the real ‘forest’ part of the forest garden, I made three large guilds. You can hardly make out any of the plants in these pictures since they are so small and leafless at the moment. To the left is the Acacia tree with one of the cherries planted nearby.

In the center is the dogwood with an autumn olive in front to hopefully provide nitrogen to the dogwood.

To the right is the Black Locust tree with the other cherry bush planted in front. All of these guilds will be full of beneficial/edible flowers, herbs, and other plants, and figuring out what to plant and where is my next stage of design.

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Part of the Black Locust guild also stretches along the walkway. There I’ve planted the two tiny Sea Buckthorns with another autumn olive in between. This will be a nitrogen-fixing paradise! Now I just need to figure out what to plant to take advantage of all that nitrogen.

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Next to the pond I transplanted the pear tree and gave it its own guild which I will plant with nutrient-fixing plants and plants that attract predators to the pests that will eventually want to eat up my pears. Part of my reasoning for putting the pear tree here is because I’ve read that you need two trees to cross-pollinate, though some species only require one. I’m not sure which my mine is, but the guy across the street has a pear tree growing, so I’m hoping that my tree is close enough to cross-pollinate with his, if need be.

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There are three blackberry plants next to the pear, and next to them I planted the fig tree, with enough space to plant some beneficial planets beneath it. There’s a bed next to the fig which I am thinking of using for Jerusalem artichokes. I don’t want to put them in the other guilds because they have a tendency to spread, so I wanted to give them their own, confined space.

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I was able to accomplish all of that yesterday, with the relatively small task of whipping the other side of the yard into shape today. I had already chipped away at it during the week, so my main job today was constructing a keyhole bed that I’ll use for veggies and herbs that don’t like as much sun as they would get in the front yard. Along the walkway I prepared a bed that I’ll use for asparagus. Beyond the keyhole bed is a pretty large area where I planted the Japanese Alder and the Strawberry tree, and I have lots of space to plant a lot of other, yet-to-be-determined, things. My only concern with this area of the yard is that it’s really wet. I really like how the keyhole garden turned though.

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The final bed I created is at the base of the hill adjacent to the lawn. This is the former site of my sprawling compost pile, so it has a lot of decomposing matter under the dirt that I’m thinking will really benefit whatever I end up planting here.

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Here’s a semi-birds eye view of the whole spread.

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I’m thrilled with how everything turned out, and equally as happy to have all that work behind me. Now I’m waiting for a deluge to show me how good a job I did grading out the beds. And of course, hopefully nothing dies!

The next major tasks I have, in terms of physical labor, are collecting wood for the vegetable garden and getting that area squared away — maybe next weekend depending on weather. After that, I’ll grade out all of the walkways and seed them with white clover, which is trample resistant, fixes nitrogen, attracts bees, and provides shelter for a host of other creepy crawlies.

An equally taxing task, though not physical, is mapping out each guild and deciding what to plant in each of those spaces. I already have most of the species in mind, but need to order seeds and start germinating them. I think we need a few more consistent degrees of warmth before I can start doing that though.

Overall, an awesome weekend. It’s really great to see the ideas I’ve been forming over the last few months coming to life. Time for a celebratory cocktail!

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