"Preserve the old, but Know the new" -- Ancient Chinese Proverb
A Network for Trees and their Friends
Newsletter No. 13, Fall 1988
This will be a late, abridged version of the newsletter. We need to notify you of the upcoming FRUIT SWAP and get you geared up for some late hour collecting for this event. It's been a brief, brisk and busy summer for me, without nearly enough attention to all of this Fun tree fruit and nut stuff. My apologies for not staying on top of correspondence. There's still a stack of letters to respond to on top of my desk. I promise to answer them soon. Lainie and I will be getting married a week before the Fruit Swap. I'm certainly looking forward to the relaxed pace of late fall and would enjoy hearing of your summer's encounters with plants. REMEMBER—I'LL NEED MATERIAL FOR THE SPRING NEWSLETTER so PLEASE DO WRITE! Some exciting prospects are out there for this NETWORK in the near future. I do believe there is a need for maintaining some cohesiveness through this newsletter and will try and carry on with my involvement as editor and chief instigator in this regard. Here's a sampling of what is going on. We do hope you continue with your tree-related endeavors, and will share what you learn and grow.
COMMON GROUND '88
This years Fair was once again a flash-in-the-pan as it raced by us. Here are a few of the highlights:
Jonathon Fulford gave his usual spirited grafting demonstration to a couple of sizeable crowds. Several returnees reported that they now have the technique down and thanked him for those introductory lessons that gave them the encouragement to practice and improve their skills. New faces in the audience were deligted to learn of the possibilities awaiting them at future scionwood swap:
Mark Fulford manned the booth during part of the weekend and offered helpful suggestions spiced with controlled enthusiasm. The overly curious were directed to the Fruit Swap for another glimpse of what this is all about.
Francis Fenton's collection of antique apples attracted quite a few folks bent on learning what variety they had growing on their property. Mr. Fenton finds the standard reference —S.A.Beach's THE APPLES OF NEW YORK—lacks a number of local favorites. He'd especially welcome a book on Maine varieties to assist in identification.
John Navazio gave us an astoundingly large and beautiful apple from an ailing tree he's been pruning on his farm on Mt. Desert Island. John says some have called this variety Summer Delicious. Regardless, it's a real gem and he gets enough of a clean crop to sell at a handsome price.
One of this year's focuses was on Minor Fruit Selections For An Edible Landscape. People seemed quizzical, but puzzled (again) over what this was all about—despite props of live plants and a couple of descriptive posters. And there wasn't a whole lot of interest as compared to single-item exhibits like the neighboring squash and beekeeping displays. Killer bees were a hot topic next to us so we propose next year to feature 'killer kiwis' with photos of them taking over trees and towns and maybe let Mark wrestle a vine or two. In all seriousness, we'll be back again next year. My second talk on these plants did get a favorable audience reaction and that's enough to stick my neck (and tongue!) out for another go at it.
The other booth (table) we tended over the weekend was on "Guidelines For Home Scale Organic Fruit Production". People weren't exactly attracted to this one like an apple maggot to a red sphere! ut we did receive some favorable comments. One person who staffed an adjoining Pest and Disease display found one point he wished was taken more seriously—"Settle for less-than-cosmetically perfect fruit." He reported that much of his IPM work could be reduced (and consequently a lot of spraying) if the consumer wasn't so fussy about appearances.
We may put in our appearance again next year with this display due to a big void out there for this kind of info. Some simple things are undoubtably tripping people up and the difficult stuff may not be even getting any attention. We don't have all or perhaps even any solutions to this quandry right now. As mentioned elsewhere, your assistance in this matter is always appreciated.
NOTES FROM THE GRAPEVINE
Dave Patterson reports with some enthusiasm of several black locust that have grown 13 feet tall and 3 inches in diameter from seed, in just 3 years. That's in garden soil and they've sent out plenty of suckers. (Note: the department that maintains the State's highway plantings is regretting having planted black locust for this suckering ability.)
Tim Ketchum has friends in New York state who recently returned from England with a collection of some 60 varieties of basket willow. A few of these may even be suitable for biomass production because of their growth habits. Tim and his wife Ellen, who make the traditional ash baskets, are both excited about the possibilities of utilizing this fast-growing material. We'll try and secure cuttings of these plants for our spring Exchange.
Jean English relates how 3-6" seedlings of Cornus kousa set out this spring reached 18-24" in their first growing season. One of a thousand Rosa rugosa started from seed this spring has flowered already. She also mentions of 2 Carpathian Walnuts growing and bearing well in Hull's Cove. Jean has a small nursery venture going now called Bayberry Gardens and sells some plants at the Camden Farmers' Market as well as from her Lincolnville home.
Denis Culley was surprised to learn that some commercial orchardists routinely dip (wax) their apples before processing (grading) so that even their cider contains Captan, carnuba and shellac. The shellac is derived from insect bodies (no big deal), Captan is a suspected carcinogen, and carnuba is a component found in automotive upholstery cleaners! Cider from organic and/or unsprayed apples is still our choice!
Tom Vigue had an interesting and inspiring visit with Stephen Bryer at TRIPPLE BROOK FARM in Southhampton, Mass. One lasting impression Stephen left on Tom was his attitude toward growing slow-to-bear plants—"Twenty five years is going to go by anyway"—so why not set out a few now and wait. Tom hopes to work with peaches and apricots on his newly cleared site in Sidney, where he has favorable winter temperatures. He's got a few hardy kiwi started now and will experiment with a living trellis for them—"pleached" (grafted together) Caragana. This fall he'll winter over some pea shrubs in his cellar, then move them to his greenhouse by late winter and set them out later in the spring. By next fall, he could have gotten the equivalent of two seasons growth on these plants and hopefully a jump on his kiwi. This is just another growing tip he acquired from Stephen and is excited to try.
Howard Wulf thinks the urea he applied to his pear trees this spring may be necessary to encourage an initial period of rapid growth and still allow time for the new wood to properly harden off. In the past, winter injury was found on any secondary growth that his trees put on. He cautions not to use urea on first-year plantings. Foliar feeding, he adds, probably isn't effective since pear leaves are quite waxy. (Anyone with an alternate solution?) Howard spotted a magnificent specimen of a pear tree this summer in Warren—tall, straight, single-trunked with a pyrimidal crown. Its fruit were disappointingly inedible.
What's been going on around here? About a dozen young catalpa trees sustained winter damage in our nursery, but still put on about 24" of growth. It takes a hard frost to make them drop their leaves and these non-natives are slow to go dormant. One reason I persist in trying to raise these trees here is because of a reference I spotted in GROWING NUTS IN THE NORTH by Carl Weschcke. Mr. Weschcke felt that a young Chestnut tree would grow more vigorously within the radius of the root system of a catalpa. Good enough! I'll get these in soon and follow up with Chestnuts in the future. Constructive symbiosis is how he described it—what other harmonius relationships might be out there? I've been intrigued by the texture of the soil where wild raspberries grow, and would opt for such tilth in an orchard floor. One person at the Fair related similar soil (building?) qualities to Cornus stolonifera (red twig dogwood). Mollison mentions using blackberries in a naturally designed orchard scheme. The effect is to control—stifling grass competition. Fighting grass with aggressive plants should work. Growing trees amongst them may take some fine tuning, so stay tuned and broadcast your ideas through this network.
One landscaping job this summer took me down to the Biddeford area and I was surprised to see the large native population of white oak and shagbark hickory growing down there. They spoke of a whole range of plants that could be successfully grown in that area.
It's seed collecting time. This year I'll again pay some local pre-teens to harvest bur oak acorns from a couple of lawn trees. It's tedious work, but pocket money they look forward to earning. Seems like other children could be employed at this task. Perhaps some youth groups could be encouraged to integrate this collecting routine into their environmental awareness programs.
Moe Martin of Montville had his first crop of fruit this year on vines he planted 5 years ago. The plants came from Greg Williams in Kentucky, an early promoter of this fruit, and former east coast director of the International Tree Crops Institute. These may be the first to bear of the recent influx of hardy kiwi. Moe's partly shaded location may account for his success in raising these. Other reports frequently mention set backs from frost damage. Will Bonsall, however, has seen no injury on his unprotected plants growing near Farmington. One nursery catalog makes note that the variety ISSAI, is not as robust as other cultivars and does not grow well in full sun. They recommend planting it with a male pollinator, and other limitations may exist. Someone at the Fair inquired about any known alleopathic effect on neighboring plants. They noticed some nearby stunted plants in their garden, but couldn't be certain why.
Finally, I stumbled across several old vines at a Belfast estate that we landscaped this summer. Mark Fulford came by to check out the fruit and was impressed by their flavor and quantity on the untended vines. All of these relics are slated for removal next year. We should be able to secure plenty of propagating wood...and Mark has serious thoughts of transplanting a few. At least ½ dozen of these vines were ripped out last year and it was only by luck that I even stumbled upon the remaining ones. (I think a notice to area garden clubs of our interest in this plant could save other plants from a similar fate.) Interestingly enough, there doesn't seem to have been any evidence of seedlings popping up in the vicinity, even though the viability of the seeds has proven to be outstanding. One test for ripeness we've found is to only eat those fruit that easily separate from the stem (a sizeable hole will be left). Storage at room temperature will assist ripening (and cause some shriveling). Otherwise, don't eat 'green' (unripe) fruit, it's especially bitter. The really ripe ones will taste just like their fuzzy cousin. They are worth waiting for!
Alley-cropping is a system of hedgerow farming that could have a positive impact on reversing global deforestation and soil erosion. Basically, two to four rows of nitrogen fixing trees or shrubs are planted on 2' centers to form a hedge. An interval of five-ten times the width of the hedge is left for planting crops or pasture. Trees are clipped to remain at about chest height. The resultant prunings (leaves and stems) are applied as a mulch or fed to livestock, whose manure is then returned to the soil. The technique has met with success in tropical areas where the hedgerows stabilize soils, recycle soil nutrients, provide a refuge for beneficial birds, and yield flexible cane materials. It is utilized on the edges of terraces or used to create a series of hedgerow protected squares.
How applicable would this system be here and what plant possibilities exist for northern areas?
This arrangement could be used for rotational grazing given the right plant density and livestock combination. It might be used to exclude deer. Sufficient width and (at least initially) an exterior wire fence could make up for any height loss needed for protection.
An enclosed area might facilitate isolation for wind pollinated crops or insure adequate pollination of other crops if a hive were placed inside it.
Note: Thee requirement for plants for this system are generally stated as the following: Nitrogen fixing; deep rooted (so as not to interfere with crops); and ability to coppice well (pruned or clipped repeatedly). The suckering habit of many of these plants may be a nuisance to control or an asset (more clippings) when mowed or cultivated out.
Potentially useful plants would include the following:
Siberian pea shrub (Caragana arborescens) might be the easiest to contain. Seeds are edible and nutritious for poultry or birds.
Alder (Alnus sp.). Clippings could be fed to sheep.
Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacia) Prunings NOT for livestock feed. Some wildlife may eat seeds. Root suckers could make control difficult. Small, rubbery thorns on young plants.
Arnot Bristly Locust (Robinia hispida) 2-10" shrub used in conservation plantings, may be tender in colder areas. Some wildlife may eat seeds.
Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) Naturally forms thickets from root suckers. Edible berries. No data on coppicing ability.
Russian Olive (Eleagnus angustifolia) Thorny, May spread from seeds. Hard to establish (?)
Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica) A native plant reaching 3-5' in height and width. Female plants yield waxy berries favored by some birds. Should form dense root system after 4 years.
This spring I intend to set out some caragana on the downhill edges of a terrace where we've planted small fruit. What I will be looking to not impede is some kind of air flow to prevent a buildup of fungus related diseases. Also, a reasonable amount of air movement down the terraces could prevent early (or late) frost accumulation. These demands might seem unreasonable and I hope to learn just how much, once the hedge is installed and thriving, I can envision other plants like peaches, plums or hazelnuts interspersed in such an area. Grains, vegetables, and nursery crops could also be worked in through a rotation on separate plots. In the interim period, I'll continue raising caragana in nursery beds and will allow for inter-planting between their rows while these plants are still small.
Untried and unproven here and now. But a bright prospect for the future.
Source: ALLEY CROPPING: A STABLE ALTERNATIVE TO SHIFTING CULTIVATION, Kang, 1984, I.I.T.A.
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR article by Peter Tonge, 8.30.88 (+illustration)
The 1-95 'mystery' apple (a sucker from a crab) mentioned about in a previous newsletters put on a sizeable crop of medium size fruit this year and consequently broke under recent snow loads. Enough of it remains to produce future fruit and scions, but highway maintainence crews might seek its swift removal This years apples were coarse-fleshed (grainy), with dry, russet-type skins. While not terribly attractive to tongue or eye, they had a low incidence of insect damage. Sooty blotch is evident on the skins and automotive pollutants may have assisted in the development of these other traits. I'll have samples of them on hand at the Fruit Swap They may prove to be no one's favorite. I'm intrigued by wild fruit that isn't insect infested and can grow under unfavorable conditions. I'm also reminded to watch out for horticultural 'accidents' of both kinds — these things may be as hard to spot as they are easy to disappear.
An updated MINOR FRUIT GUIDE is available from us for a SASE. This September's revision of the fitfull Fruit that Fits may bear fruit yet. Please help us prepare a more thorough edition by sending your comments. Lists about a dozen possible odd and some well known fruiting plants and where to get them. (Mostly obscure nurseries). Named selections of already productive 'conservation' plants can provide you with some savory components for an Edible Landscape. Copies of this 2 page edition will be available at the swap. (NOTE: Production of a major fruit guide (apples, pears etc) and a nut guide have been postponed until further information is uncovered. A pear and plum reprint has been prepared from past issues of this newsletter and is available for a SASE).
PERMACULTURE TECHNIQUES by Bill Mollison Pamphlet IX, Design Course Series Transcripts from a 1981 Wilton, NH design course. 20pgs (published Fall 1988) Available from us for a double stamped SASE and $1 to cover reprinting costs.
Among the areas Mollison covers in this publication are: sheet composting and dooryard plantings; Treating annuals as perennials; Bee forage; Livestock ranges and orchard/forage systems; Pruning; and Inventions! Some of it is humorous, much is profound and little of it may have yet been tried in North America. Pick and choose what might work for you. The usual curve ball thrown at why we do things the way we do — if there's already an easier way.
HELP, HELP, HELP, HELP, HELP!
Some of you have already expressed your ideas about organic fruit production—we'd like to hear more of them. What conventional or unconventional practices could you recommend? Include your own observations and experiment al results or what you've read in old or new literature. We want to compile a list of options that folks could try, and have some idea of their potential effectiveness. THANKS
Here's some tidbits to ponder over, gleaned from a talk on sustainable agriculture given by Stewart Hill.
1988 FALL FRUIT SWAP
Sunday October 23rd, noon-5pm at Mark Fulford's barn in Monroe.
This year's swap will have a relaxed atmosphere without the usual congested schedule of overlapping workshops. We want to encourage the sampling of fruit and intermingling of old and new acquaintences. There will be some time slots available for short presentations and if you're so inclined, come prepared to speak. Mark will entertain questions about his nursery and possibly give a short tour. I may add my two cents on minor fruit. Stephen Drane has offerred to share his thoughts on nuts. So we'll be playing it by ear from there. Come and enjoy the fun, fruit and festivities. This year there's a particularly bountiful crop of apples with a low incidence of scab a good year for photos! Bring your favorites. POT LUCK AT 5pm. DRESS WARMLY. Cider will be made on the premises. DIRECTIONS: Look for signs in Monroe Village. FOR MORE INFORMATION: Call Mark 525-7761 or Jack 568-3444.
FEDCO TREES VI
Another varied selection of apples, pears, plums, cherries, grapes, small fruit and ornamentals is once again being offered through this pre-order sale. ORDERING DEADLINE is DECEMBER 13th; pickup and delivery is in April. For order sheets or info call 993-2837 or write FEDCO TREES, BOX 340, PALERMO, ME 04354. We will have order sheets available at the swap.
THE MAINE TREE CROP ALLIANCE IS A NETWORK SEEKING TO LINK PLANTS WITH PEOPLE. OUR SPRING SCIONWOOD EXCHANGE AND THE FALL FRUIT SWAP ARE OPEN TO EVERYONE AND PROVIDE AN OPPORUNITY TO MEET OTHERS AND SHARE IDEAS, INFO, SKILLS AND PLANT MATERIALS. NEWSLETTERS ARE ISSUED IN MARCH AND SEPTEMBER. SUBSCRIPTIONS $2/YR BACK ISSUES 50¢/EA. PLEASE KEEP US POSTED OF YOUR HORTICULTURAL ACTIVITIES
FALL FRUIT SWAP Sunday OCT. 23rd noon-5pm MARK FULFORD's, MONROE
This newsletter digitized by Tom Roberts, 1-Apr-2006.