Forest Garden Year 2

Happy new year! Unfortunately for you, ‘blogging more’ is not one of my resolutions, at least if you are someone who frequently checks this blog only to be disappointed, but I will endeavor to be a bit more, ahem, regular, around here. I was busy for a the few months cramming my brain full of kanji and Japanese grammar in preparation for a Japanese test at the beginning of December, and these pesky kids take up so much time, and of course it’s winter, or supposed to be at least, so there isn’t much going on garden wise. So here’s a rundown of where things stood in the fall of the second year of my young forest garden.

I planted a pretty modest winter garden this year, with only a few each of broccoli, Chinese cabbage (hakusai), regular cabbage, daikon, and some leftover kale seeds I had. I’ve planted too much in the past, so this year I aimed for ‘just right,’ but my aim was off in terms of when to plant. I planted everything late, which means here in January, when things are hardly growing, I have yet to harvest anything.

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On the up side, there are no bugs/slugs this year. I used a bit of experimental compost made from pine needles that I picked up (more on that in the future) that, in addition to filling your veggies with vitality, is supposed to deter insect. So it could be that, or it could just be a down year for bugs and slugs. The jury is out.

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I decided to plant garlic in one of my raised beds. I’m thinking this might of been a mistake as well, since it’ll be taking up space into summer when I could probably already be harvesting the salad greens I should have planted there again. In the future I think I’ll just disperse garlic all throughout the forest garden where it won’t be taking up valuable annual space and may even be help deter unwanted insects around fruit trees and shrubs.

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I harvested quite a few small, tart mikan from the tree I just planted in the spring. It produces quite a few fruit but is hardly able to support their weight.

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And some fruit from my strawberry tree. I didn’t really know what to expect from this evergreen, but this custardy little berry-fruits are pretty nice.

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I got a decent harvest of ginger and turmeric, most of which I used to concoct some ‘fire cider’ that is meant to ward of colds and other winter ailments.

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I’ve hinted at the extremely mild winter we’ve had so far, but the one snow we did have managed to take down my beloved acacia tree. I think this thing was doomed from the start, too pot bound and fast growing to every spread roots capable of sustaining its major top-heaviness. I’ve stressed about it tipping over constantly, and even had a bunch ropes set up to support it during heavy winds and snow, but forgot to lash it down before we received a meager 3-4 inches of snow. When I woke up in the morning and casually looked out the window, it was flopped on the ground. I was almost relieved. I’m looking around for something nitrogen fixing to replace it with in the spring, probably another acacia.

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I also planted some additional perennial things in the fall — a ‘bikkuri gumi,’ an almond tree, a sugar prune and yellow cherry tree, as well as a few more raspberry bushes because I’ve realized you can never have too many raspberries.

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I’ve got my eyes on shoehorning in a few more things in the spring, but my main focus in on chickens, which I’m really looking forward to getting in a few months. I’m currently figure out which breeds to get and how to design a coop. I want egg layers, and in Japan the main breeds seem to be Nagoya Cochin, Boris Brown, Okazaki Ohan. I can order all of those from my local home center, as well as Ukkei, which are called Silkie in America I think, and I’m kind of taken by those fluffy things. If you’re reading and have any input on anything chicken related, please comment.

So forest garden year two? Everything grew, one thing fell down, most of the major installments are still pretty small and not productive…but things are getting established, and that’s exciting!

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10 responses

  1. Year 2 and looking good there. Are you on Instagram ?

    Maybe do a “false” acacia instead of acacia. Fixes nitrogen in the soil just the same. A non-thorny type is ideal if you plan to prune the branches for posts or tool handles, or to do hugleculture or firewood. Also, false acacia casts a dappled shade, not a deep shade as the acacia does. Never prune it to heavy though, because if you do you’ll get sprouts come up at every corner of your garden, and possibly in your neighbor’s too !

    If I recall, in year 2 I started getting into hugleculture with woody garden byproduct, working on living and dead hedges to eventually replace the fence, importing woodchips for the trails, “weeding” clover !, being more careful where I flicked comfrey root, doing more 3 sister sets at various places, figuring out that looks was more important than harvest, and in general not having to worry so much anymore about not having to stake trees in typhoons.

    I’ve only ever kept aigamo ducks, Muscovy ducks and Nagoya Cochin here. Aigamo are heavy shitters and, while good for the soil, not good for the kids who are out wanting to play in the garden. They also didn’t seem at home here with a smallish pond under the trees. The Muscovy were heavy shitters as well, and they were known around the neighborhood as the birds who might fly to your house and shit on it. They did it often, actually, so it was “back to the river” for them. The Cochin, by far, have done the best here. “woodland” is their native habitat after all. The hens in year 1 and 2 laid eggs often, and have slowed since.

    I’ll write again ! Back to the woodstove for me.

    ken

    January 7, 2017 at 6:37 pm

    • Casey

      Hi Ken,
      Mystery solved…your comment initially went to the spam bin. Thanks for the lengthy response.

      I’ve got an Instagram account but I never use it and keep even remember my username. Primarily FB and this blog for social media.

      I’ve got one false acacia/black locust planted already, and I love it, but for the sake of variety I was thinking some kind of acacia. I found a variety that offers more dappled shade than the the mimosa that fell down, so it’s a contender. I also keep thinking of a pagoda tree, but they seem to get really massive.

      RE focusing more on looks in the garden, I’ve realized that should have planted more evergreens around the perimeter of my garden for privacy. It’s OK in the summer when everything is in bloom, but this time of year we’re too visible. And clover…I found a happy medium last year keeping it at bay with an electric weed wacker, so it never had a chance to grow in to the beds…but I could see myself going the woodchip route at some point, too.

      At the moment I’m leaning towards a Okazaki Ouhan for chickens, and 1 or 2 Ukkokei (Silkies), which don’t lay a ton but seem to have great personalities…perhaps a stupid basis for buying a chicken, but whatever.

      Enjoy the fire…winter’s finally on its way.

      January 9, 2017 at 7:25 am

      • Indeed on instagram and FB. So many options. Gone are the days of mostly blogging on the internet. I miss the old blogosphere.

        After I posted that comment I remembered that you already had a false-acacia ! Hmm, a pagoda – a great medicine tree. But can you eat it ? How about Linden – It’s got abundant edible foliage and blossoms, and it’s basically a medicine cabinet. What’s more, it attracts loads of honey and bumble bees in the spring ! The pungent smell of the flowers will bring them in from miles and miles away.

        I’ve got one here that’s about 15 years old. It’s huge, but lightly pruned offers dappled shade with enough sunlight for perennials. I’ve also got a 2.5 foot seedling if you want it ? I offer because they’re a rare find at nurseries in Japan.

        See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tilia#Herbalism for more details.

        On evergreens at the edge, exactly !

        My top three here:

        1. Bay laurel are perfet for this, I’ve got like 7 of them and I transplant their seedling to my mountain properties as well. They grow fast and you can prune heavy. You know what the leaves can be used for and the Nuts offer better (More) stimulation than Caffeine; they had long been consumed on a regular basis by the Native Americans of modern day California.

        2 Loquat (BIWA) is another gem. Totally versatile. Fruit, wine and you can dry the leaves for biwa cha, not to mention other stuff.

        3.Olive ! Find the “Cipressino” variety. I have one here and it grows very well ! Native to the southern region forming the heel of Italy’s “boot”, where it is very windy, the branches of this variety grow upright like a column, strong, and so in Italy the tree is often grown as a wind-break at the periphery of olive groves. When it’s big it’s shaped like a cypress tree. Beautiful. Best for oil production but you can pickle them too.

        Good luck with the clover and the chickens !

        January 9, 2017 at 11:27 am

  2. Casey

    I’m definitely interested in the linden! I could send you some sea buckthorn cuttings (male and female) in return if that’s something you’d be interested in. My email is beancasey at gmail dot com…hit me up there and we can work out the details.

    I’ve already got a laurel and a biwa going…haven’t had the laurel produce any nuts yet though, and the biwa is also quite young. I’ll give olives more consideration.

    January 9, 2017 at 1:58 pm

    • OK, I’ll shoot you an e-mail.

      One other piece of advice that I gleaned a long time ago and wanted to pass on to you is this: go heavy on the seedlings (even many of he same variety in different spots) in the early years, then prune out what isn’t thriving later on. Some trees of even the same variety will thrive even two feet away from where one isn’t. When trees are young they don’t require much root space; you can almost grow leaf veg right up against their trunks without taking away nutrients that the tree might need.

      I say this because in you pictures your tree spacing looks wide ( I know it’s winter so that helps me think they way), but seedling are relatively cheap, so put a bunch in !!! You won’t regret it.

      It’s not about “hey look at me ! I have more trees !” It’s just more about long term management and getting a lot of the best out of what you put in.

      Actually, your felled acacia reminded me to mention this you.

      January 9, 2017 at 7:05 pm

      • Casey

        Yeah I’ve started to realize this…every time I think I’m done planting I find another place that I could plant something. The porch is currently filling up with seedlings to plant when things warm up.

        January 11, 2017 at 7:51 am

  3. Jo

    We have had a couple of different kinds of chickens, but Boris Brown have been by far the best layers and strongest against illness. And they are beautiful birds!

    January 9, 2017 at 5:35 pm

    • Casey

      Nice to hear from you Jo 😉 Thanks for your chicken input…darn…I had nearly decided against Boris Browns and now you’ve got me thinking again! My main concern is that after the second year egg production falls off dramatically but the chickens keep living for several more years. Do you have any experience with Okazaki Ouhans? That’s sort of what I’m leaning towards at the moment (as I mentioned in another comment).

      January 9, 2017 at 6:15 pm

      • Jo

        I haven’t had any experience with Okazaki Ouhans…..
        When we first got chickens we got three different kinds – a white kind, a pink kind (can’t remember the names off hand) and our boris browns. We wanted to be able to see which ones were laying best etc. The Boris browns kept laying the longest of these three and they were less likely to randomly fall off their perches for some unknown reason. They all lived happily together!!
        Having said that… I just went out to let them out of the chicken house today and found three dead on the ground from a weasel… first time ever. My job today is to try and find where the bastard got in…. make sure your house is safe!

        January 30, 2017 at 7:32 am

      • Casey

        Sorry to hear about your chickens Jo! I thought I had settled on which variety to get, but now you’ve got me thinking again…

        January 31, 2017 at 2:45 pm

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