Monday, May 31, 2010

Using the Native Indian Plum in My Forest Garden

The Indian Plum(or Osoberry, an older name)has been an old friend to me along my life here in the Pacific Northwest. When it pushes out its tassels of white flowers in February, that means Spring is FINALLY unleashed. Its sprawling form with upright shoots of new leaves glow like candleflames in candelabras, lighting up the end of grey Winter.

The Indian Plum(Oemleria cerasiformis) is a shrub or small tree that grows under the taller firs and maples of the forest, and is usually most happy towards the edges where there is a bit more sun. Male and female flowers are on separate trees, so only the female trees bear fruit--which are hard to catch because the birds are right on the ripe little 1/2" plums and gobble them up.

I thought the upright "whippy" form would be a great small fruiting tree in my forest garden structure. It would provide a filtered shade, as well as support for pole beans or peas. In the photo above is an Indian Plum I transplanted from the woods when it was about 12" tall. It's been in that spot for 5 years, so you can see it grows fairly fast. It really took off in the 3rd year, after establishing roots underground after transplanting. The deer have trimmed the bottom half of the tree, keeping it leaf free and "airy".

I've transplanted some small Indian Plums into my vegetable garden beds as well. They are still small, making roots. I'll do what the deer did and prune them a little to keep them airy. Although the trees don't get that bushy anyways--it would take intentional pruning to make them bushy and dense.

If you are digging up saplings from the forest it's the luck of the draw whether you get male or female trees. Again, go for 12" or shorter saplings. Above are the plums from the tree in the first photo--which you can also see a smaller Indian Plum tree to the right, which is a male. They do indeed taste plummy. I LOVE the glowing orange of the ripening plums, which turn the deep plum purple when ripe. There are several baby trees sprouting under this one, so it self seeds/germinates fairly easily. This particular tree(the female) gets full morning sun, and full afternoon shade. It does not need extra water in the summer(though of course new transplants will, keep them well watered the first year).

If you want to harvest the plums, you will HAVE TO net the tree(thinking about crocheting a net...). The birds are voracious on the plums(good for the birds though!). They snatch these at the cusp of ripe perfection, so you'd better be paying better attention than the birds!

I'm keeping my fingers crossed I have females in my forest garden. But males are welcome too--for their cooling canopy and structure for beans.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Springtime Harvest

I found this piece of purple cabbage stem that I had thrown in the weeds last fall. It has made a little cabbage head and is sprouting on the leaf scars. I potted it up and will see what happens?

This area was a place I had been throwing weed slash for the past few years. I was looking at it and realized my raspberries had sent runners into it and sent up 21 new canes. I tied them to some fennel stalks with some pieces of old t-shirt. I added rocks to make a border and a few sword ferns and snowberry, which grows as companions to the wild black raspberry in the woods. I will add in some fringecup and violet(also woodland companions).

This area shows a few different things going on. The tarp which is pulled back, was put over the Sacred Corn Patch last year after I had chopped weeds off with a hoe to prep it for planting. The Sacred Corn Patch is My Husband's Sacred Piece of Ground for Corn, I'm not allowed to do anything with it, ha--except keep it weed free of course! But he didn't plant the corn so I covered it with the tarp to keep it clear for this year. You can see it's nice clean dirt under there, and the weed clumps have composted. It used to be very weedy with that tall clumpy grass you can see, as well as thistles.

I'm cutting down the weeds and throwing the slash on a new bed I'm making. The brown patch of dirt is where I pulled up an old small door that I used to cover last year's slash pile, which is now nice compost and ready to plant. The slashed weeds will be mulch, and eventually more compost. Again, the cover of the door killed that nasty thick clumpy huge grass, which is very hard to dig up. Easier just to smother it. I plan to plant cabbages there, and eventually a small apple tree. A green table grape is growing on the fence above.

Before I plant in this bed I'll pull back the mulch and add a layer of duffy dirt from the woods to bring in more good bugs and seeds and fungus to make happy whole soil.

I'm experimenting with potatoes this year, since my bag of potatoes forgotten on the counter sprouted so vigorously. There is a potato in each cat food bag, and I'll add dirt as they grow and unroll the cat food bag. The bottom of the bag is still sewn shut with a paper strip, which will rot off pretty soon, the left of the potatoes is a row of peas coming up. I figure the potato bags will be just about full by the time the peas are done, so I'll gently scoot them next to the pea support so they wont' fall over. When it's time to harvest the spuds, I'll just pull the bag UP since the bottom will be undone. That's the plan anyway! The branch is laid on top to keep the cats from pooping in the bags.

and lastly, a haiku that came to mind in the doing of it all...

vultures, black angles
silently boomerang, slow
under a thundered sky

Iris Luv

Last night the setting sun was throwing unusually spectacular golden light which was bouncing off the flat bottom of a huge giant grey cloud. The light through the iris petals was almost coppery. #1 is a clump of purple and yellow iris(the yellow hasn't bloomed yet), interplanted with Lamb's Ear, wild dovefoot geranium, hens and chicks, and bronze fennel. #2 and #3 is breaking the rule "never shoot a photo into the sun", which I break this rule a lot. I got these by holding the camera at knee height and not looking through the viewfinder(which I also do a lot), I liked the unplanned composition and effects.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Went to Bethany Nursery the other day, north of Beaverton, Oregon. It is right on the edge of the Urban Growth Boundary(which has wonderfully preserved a lot of farmland and woods from development). Had fun walking around and enjoying all the colors. No money tho!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Another Year Gone by

The garden this spring, haven't planted any veggies yet, what you see are the perennials(healthier than ever!). Forest gardening huge success!

My 2009 garden journal is here