Winter Work

There is one time of year I find work in the food forest is best rewarded. It follows the abundant growth in spring, summer, fall I let grow wild.

In late winter the mess of growth looks like this:

Wind blows it over. Snow pushes it down. Freezing and thawing breaks up the dry woody stems so they crumble nicely as I rake them up at this time of year to make thick layers of mulch.

For those who have been following me for a while, I won’t repeat how effective this mulch is at killing off weeds and grass, creates a bump in fertility, and ’tills’ the ground when applied at this time of year. You can read my Manual or bed building if you’d like to learn more.

I’m really pleased with how much mulch the food forest yields anymore. I have so many woody plants and N fixers growing up to 6 foot now during the summer that a whole new climate is developing in the food forest. Everything grows taller and thicker between these windbreak plants.

Diversity is really picking up of its own accord. I saw mantis eggs everywhere, and was careful as I raked to bring them no harm. The one pictured is in a clump of tansy (Tanacetum) stems.

One place I’m happy to see diversity diminish: rodents. Despite providing what I’m sure you’re thinking a haven for rodents, and enduring a long term ice storm a few weeks this winter, I cannot find a single tree ringed or gnawed at all by rodents.

This is really a big step forward. Last time we had a several week ice storm, I lost several trees to starving rabbits, voles, and mice. Generally, winters have always come with rodent damage I had to replace in spring.

I do not believe in wiping out the lower levels of the trophic pyramid (plants) to get rid of higher (rodents). See my thoughts on Making friends with rodents and Up the chain: trophic system moderators. For now, a picture is worth a thousand words:


  1. Glad to hear you’ve not had trouble with rodents in your forest garden this winter. I’ve not noticed any damage to my trees because of them but then our winters are not so harsh, so they no doubt get all they need to eat by other means.


    1. True point. I suppose a warmer clime like yours just doesn’t drive animals to such extremes. I have found a nest or too of mice, and rabbit droppings about. But they just aren’t nibbling on the bark or tips of my fruit plants. Glad to hear they’re leaving your fruit trees alone too, Helen.


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