Reclaiming Territory


A pile of cardboard awaits placement around established under-story shrubs and young trees through the coming wet season. The bramble below is deceiving, for many other verities of native plants are hidden in the vegetation. Using the scythe, hand shears, and a pair of gloves, I took time clearing back the overgrowth of about a month and a half of good summer sun. That’s how quickly you can loose young transplants in a temperate rain forest.

Old goat manure and bedding have been piled up around the base of each plant after a good layer of cardboard is put down to keep back weeds. Allowing young transplants space to slowly spread roots is important to the long term success of the planting. If there is no room for the new roots in an established soil, it will have to put a lot of effort into establishing and thriving, energy most young plants don’t have. They will end up stunted if they survive at all.


For each of these shrubs and trees, we added mulch for keeping down weeds, as well as insulating the young trees through the winter. I enjoy layering materials to serve one another; not only the nutrients from the manure and hay going into the soil for the young plant, but also holding down the cardboard mulch to keep it from blowing away in the wind. Note that green manure is not used, this bedding is from the lower layers of a deep bedding stall which has not had a goat in it for months. Green manure will burn the plant with too much nitrogen.

Because I’m planting by hand, and doing this with a wheelbarrow and pitch fork, there is always material available and plants that need transplanting. To keep from feeling overwhelmed by the projects, I work in sections at a time, slowly establishing a planted area within a tended edge space. It’s important to not get ahead of newly established plantings, forgetting to clear them of bramble or mulching enough for summer drought. In the past two years, Leafhopper Farm has been cultivating nursery stock with real intention. At last, there is enough root stalk and young seedlings being self-generated at the farm to keep up with replanting, at least in the zone one area of the farm.


The downside of using the bedding mulch is the enthusiasm of the chickens getting into the mulch to scratch out bugs. I can’t fault the birds, and appreciate their support in spreading fertility across the landscape, but fresh mulch placement is purposeful, and the birds are unwelcome around the young transplants. Chickens love fresh greens, especially delicate young growth of a baby plant. The young crabapple above got no love from the hens, and lost half of his leaves last Spring.

The reward of establishing new spaces around the farm to improve diversity in the flora of the land continues. As Fall sets in, I look around the fresh plantings and dream of a new under-story of lush shrubs and small trees offering a verity of food, medicine, and materials for use on the farmstead and in the greater community. The change will be slow, but long term vision feeds and encourages. I am so grateful for the continued opportunity to steward land, planting new life for the future health and fertility of the earth.


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