understory to hardy nuts?

Elfpermacl at aol.com Elfpermacl at aol.com
Sat Aug 30 08:03:20 EDT 1997

In a message dated 8/29/97 11:10:26 AM, dtv at mwt.net wrote:

>We have a planting project called the Theatre of Plant.  7 acres of
>former pasture on the dark side of a creek valley.  Zone 4 Wisconsin. 
>My overstory planting is all manner of nut that will grow in WI.  Im
>interested in entertaining suggestion of possible understory plants for
>the buartnut, butternut, walnut plantings & for the chestnut plantings. 
>I have a pretty good idea but would really like to get some surprise
>Also most of the trees are 2-3 years old & are just now starting to take
>off, especially since the actual way that trees get established here in
>the cold north is they die back to the ground for 2-3 years & then after
>that start to take off.  Any way my further question is does it make
>sense to start putting understory plants in at this early stage.  I know
>the obvious answer would be cover crops but we have neither the money or
>did I want to do anymore tilling on this land that has lain fallow for
>20 years.
>Miekal And
>I second the notion that the juicy response to cover crop resources was
>quite entertaining as a one time intervention.  Gave me a good laugh
>Dreamtime Village website: http://net22.com/dreamtime
>QAZINGULAZA: And/Was/Wakest website:
>e-mail for DT & And/Was: dtv at mwt.net

Hi Miekal:

First, understory is too broad a term.  You want trees that temporarily fill
the space, drip line species, shelterbelt species (which would have reduced
your winter die-back), edge species and species that stand under canopy.

I'm not sure if any of the dogwoods will take zone 4.  Cornus florida
probably will not, but look at Cornus kousa and maybe some of the more
obscure species.  Are you in white pine country?  Probably, eh?  Well that
can't be too bad, white pines being particularly sacred trees, but it does
limit your choice of Ribes, species of which grow right up to the arctic
circle.  There is a selection of plums that will grow in your area and make
nice little wildlife thickets.  You don't mention deer browse pressure but I
think we can assume it is severe, particularly if you happent to be
vegetarian.  You can probably find black locust, Robinia psuedoacacia, that
can handle your winters--I've seen them as huge trees at about your latitude
in New Hampshire and Vermont.  If you can't or don't want to bother finding
cold-adapted parent plants of these trees (easily grown from seed--we have
them that routinely take -35 F  on an exposed westerly slope, there are
memberd of the Eleagnus (or Aeleagnus) genus that will fix nitrogen better,
though not produce as many uses otherwise.  There are Alnus species that will
thrive in your areas, whatever your soil moisture conditions, and they are
good N-fixers.  Generally, the N-fixers shade out pretty well as their
companions get large.  Don't neglect the brambles--I'd have to go back and
check on black raspberry, which is, of course, choice, but there are
blackberries that can colonize and hold.  Brambles, dogwoods, and of course
the old standby red cedar (Juniperus virginiana and related species) cycle
mineral nutrients to the feeder root zone--very important.  I suspect, but
have seen no evidence, that hopbeam and hopbeam serve this or similar
functions.  You need to wait a bit, though, before putting these in as I
think they like a little cover to establish.  This is just a guess.  I hope
you will mix a little sugar maple in the planting, as it is having such a
hard time with genetic erosion and is such a majestic and useful tree.  Don't
miss the obvious, like blueberry.  Avoid allelopathic species such as braken,
sunflower genus, goldenrod, etc.  Knock the bracken and goldenrod down when
it tries to establish.  Planting patterns on the juglandacea will determin
what plants will not survive its root exudates.  Black walnut will hammer red
raspberry (do any species make it in zone 4?) but not black raspberry
	We looked at about 1,000 species in a design we did for a very exposed place
on Georgean Bay, Northern Ontario (after failing to pursuade the client to
pick a sheltered spot.)  Email me about terms for the species list we

	Don't forget larch--larch is a good one and will produce some useful timber
between the trees that you want to grow straight.

I assume you have checked Bill McKentley's St. Lawrence Nurseries Catalog.
 Everything in there will work--tons of stuff, much of it highly selected for
good cultivars.  Gods, put in a few apples. They are actually a good edge
species on, your northerly edges particularly, and with adequate shade, but
not too much, never need pruning to develop the correct scaffold.  they are
light bearers in this situation, but they are something where before there
was nothing.  There are some damn tough apple cultivars around, same with
pears which will actually stand in your forest for 500 years or so before
being shaded out if you don't ruin them with pruning.  I'd avoid rosa
multiflora as it actually climbs up into trees like a vine.

Are you doing any management with livestock.  Again, that would make a
difference.  Moveable poultry and/or pigs on free range can help keep the
undesirable vegetation down, particularly after you throw a bucket of corn in
a mess you want cleaned up.  Used this way, corn is a much nicer herbicide
than 2-4-5 T, if they still sell that awful stuff--2-4 D is bad enough.  You
get something back for your efforts, to, and cycle nutrients where your trees
can use them.  Avoid ruminants until your nut trees are well off the ground.

Don't forget hazel, witch and otherwise.

Well, email me about the full list.  This is taking too long.  Good luck.

For Mother Earth, Dan Hemenway, Yankee Permaculture Publications (since
1982), Elfin Permaculture workshops, lectures, Permaculture Design Courses,
consulting and permaculture designs (since 1981), and now correspondence
courses via email.  Next starts in Oct. 1997. Internships available.
Copyright, 1997, Dan & Cynthia Hemenway, P.O. Box 52, Sparr FL 32192 USA  Yank
eePerm at aol.com  

The organizing principle of the Universe is silliness.

More information about the permaculture mailing list