The last of our tree orders have now arrived and been planted. Our focus this year has been getting the swales that were dug last year in the lower field planted with a mix of trees and bushes. We’ve focused on apples inter planted with shorter shrubs like seaberry, aronia, siberian pea shrub, and beach plum. The siberian pea shrubs are mainly for nitrogen fixation, though their flowers and seeds are edible, and may be a fodder source someday. The other shrubs bear berries that are highly nutritious and low maintenance, though not necessarily great eaten out of hand. Last year the swales were seeded with all kinds of clovers, sunflowers, radishes and other cover crops, so we expect to see a lot of those popping up again this year. We are currently propagating more comfrey and other perennial flowers to mix in to the plantings to help with mulching, soil improvement, and pollinator support.
To save some money we ordered a bundle of standard apple root stock. We got a bunch of varieties of apple scionwood from friends by hosting a scionwood swap with our local permaculture group. Then we grafted 11 cultivars of apple onto the root stock, making 20 trees for $3 each instead of $23 each. We are not expert grafters, so perhaps we won’t end up with 20 successful grafts, but as long as the root stock survives, we can try again next spring if necessary. We’ve potted up these grafts to keep an eye on. By the fall we should know if the grafts are successful and will plant out the new trees at that time.
The swales have served their function of slowing and sinking water into the field, but have certainly not worked perfectly. The main problem has been that so much water has flowed through them during heavy rain events that they have filled up with silt and water has busted through in a couple of undesired locations. Frey spent much of the weekend moving logs and branches to help fortify some problem spots in the swales. We then dug out much of the silt that collected last year in the first two swales, adding it to the top if the berm and around the log pieces to try to solidify the weak spots and direct water to participate in the swales fully, rather than cascade down the road. It is a lot of work and will require continued monitoring and adjustment- not a quick fix. Water is powerful. We’ve also just planted willow whips in first swale that bears the brunt of the force from the water flow. The hope is that the willow will help stabilize the berm and land along the water channel.