This week we are still awaiting our bulb order. The bulbs should have arrived late last week, but they did not (which gave us an excuse to farm-hop, hike and enjoy the summer-like weather). In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about wild things: Wild grapes, asparagus, fungus, mint, apples, herbs, etc. I’m also thinking about how we can better connect people accustomed to purchasing food in the grocery with wild spaces in a way that is fun and adventurous. And in addition, which resources Healing Tree might collect to lend to people interested in farming and permaculture.
The girls recently made a model of an apple blossom. At six, my oldest can already describe how an apple is made by the tree. This is more knowledge than most adults currently hold, but I think it’s an invaluable part of understanding the larger system. If a farmer would prefer to reduce the number of chemicals applied in the orchard or he/she wants to produce a higher, healthier yeild, they need to understand how fruit-trees function optimally.
Just as stress causes human immunity to lessen and makes us more susceptible to disease, so does stress experienced by fruit trees. A bad pruning, an accidental knick down to the cambium, or grass planted all around the tree, stresses the tree and makes it more susceptible to disease. It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that trees on a vigorous root stock do better when left alone than those grafted onto a dwarfing variety.
So what does this have to do with wild things? Observing how plants interact in the natural world is the best education for the “budding” orchardist. If you want to mimic a mature ecosystem, you need to take the time to observe a natural ecosystem. Wild apples are easy to find in Michigan, but in general, fruit trees like edgeland. They like the edge because they require ample sun to produce ample fruit. Beneficials like bees are more common along edgeland and flowers which attract these beneficials thrive in meadows near the edge.
When observing in the wild, ask yourself:
- What kinds of native plants grow here.
- Notice which plants are thriving and those that seem to be struggling
- Examine the roots of plants, if possible/permittable
- Walk the land and make a mental note of where water might collect in a heavy rain
- Are they’re any natrualized or “invasives”
- What sorts of insects/animals are present
Answering these questions on your own and coming up with additional questions is a fantastic and organic approach to learning about permaculture. Better, it’s a great way to spend some quality time in wild spaces. Feel free to share your comments/observations below!