Getting my grain patch established has been sort of rough compared to other parts of the food forest. Of course, the original plan was extensive compared to what I did in other parts of the food forest. I took out some cherry trees that were growing in the grain patch site. I wanted a terrace. Some other places I wanted to slightly slope down to a ditch for mushroom growing and general water collection as I mention in Stropharia firstfruits.
To get all this done I brought that horrendous monster of machines the bulldozer into the planted food forest. That, of all things, was the biggest mistake.
Not that I ran the thing. I’m terrible with big equipment. So I just had to be satisfied with the work I got, which was alright, but the whole process didn’t get me the terrace setup I had wanted (though I’m still planting an upper and lower plot like there was one) and crushed one of my planted trees. But I got the cherries out, and the water ditch in place. As a bonus, the ground was scraped bare, and the grass and scant brush cover that had been there was gone, making it easier for me to establish cover crops.
Reflecting, I think I could have done this in a much more natural way by just cutting down the trees and leaving the stumps to rot. I could have dug the ditch by hand, or just piled the branches from the trees to rot throwing some dirt on them to make the ditch. Then I could have mulched to get rid of the grass rather than tearing up the earth.
Of course, the tree stumps would sprout back up and live for at least a year. The branches would need to rot down before they would catch much water or be good for planting on. It would have taken longer across the board to get what I wanted, but it probably would have been better.
Nature relishes transition. Countless species of plants inhabit natural systems only for the blink of an eye in the scope of the systems evolution, growing up overnight and vanishing within weeks –even days, only to lie dormant again for decades, waiting for the system to need them again, and the system to supply what they need. An excellent example of this is what happens after a forest fire. Species that had been forgotten spring up in droves as though by magic, phasing out as the system turns back to a forest.
Disturbing the ground made it easier to rake in the seeds of oats, peas, lupine, phacelia, bell bean, but it also roused the weeds from their subterranean slumber. It worked out that neither did very well in the upper part because the dirt was bad.
Where some logs had been sitting the plants were definitly greener and taller than everywhere else. The logs must have already pulled out the N needed for decompostition and had begun giving back the N along with the decomposed nutrients. Either that, or they had just made a nice spot for fungi and bacteria and other groundbuilding creatures to prosper, or all the above. The logs helped though, that was clear.
In the lower level, I planted a mix of Japanese Millet, Crimson Clover, and hairy vetch. This did quite well, despite a few pernicious goldenrods that grew in the mix. I got a nice crop of well filled millet heads on the millets.
I don’t know why I didn’t think of it when choosing to plant millet, but my neighbor right across the street feeds thistle seed to droves of gold finches. What is millet? Finch food, apparently. They merrily hung on the drooping heads, gladly lifting the burden of all those seeds. It was a beautiful scene (sort of ) to see the little gold birds flitting about singing calmly, but somewhat horrific to see how well they cleaned the place! Nothing! I didn’t have any plans for the seed persay, but I will have to remember this for future reference. Millet is for the birds.
Food for the birds, and lots of mulch for the ground. I cut down the millet mix and left it for mulch, pulling out the goldenrods when I found them. It made a nice thick cover.
I planted a small patch of Hull-less Black Barley mixed with Austrian field peas which did quite well mulch-wise. The Barley ripened very unevenly though, with some heads barely ripe and others dropping their seeds. I saved only a little for further experimenting.
The upper part I have planted with rye and vetch, both tenacious weeds in their own right, but at the same time annuals that will die next year and leave room for a new crop.
I have plans for next year of course. I plan to move further toward a Fukuoka- Bonfil method grain field, and plant some three sisters patches in there too. But I really don’t know what I’ll get, so I’ll explain it all next year. It’s safer that way.