Puddle Planting

Now is the time to plant your starts and young trees folks! That’s what’s been happening at Leafhopper Farm and we’re well on our way to having some new native plant habitat around the landscape.

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In the picture above, you have to look hard, but here are a few flora friends to find:

Gaultheria shallon, Acer circinatum, Pseudotsuga menziesii, Blechnum spicant , Adiantum aleuticum, Pinus contorta, and Malus fusca

This hillside is usually overgrown with Rubus armeniacus, our common bramble. It’s been a neglected hillside, producing fodder for goat browsing. The soil here is sandy clay, dug up and piled here during some earthworks back in 2014. Because the soil is so disterbed, tinacious weed species like reed canary grass Phalaris arundinacea spread rampantly, and the whole space was a sort of waste land; but, it’s also a fantastic micro climate!

The hillside is banked on the south side of the well house. The sun heat reflects off the dark green metal sheeting and keeps the space warm. The graveled turn around area just below the space also banks heat, especially in the summer. I’ve put the shore pines in the sandy clay bank, and mulched heavily with wood chips and straw. Other under-story species are dispersed nearby to help diversify and regenerate the space. 

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On this west facing bank below the well house, we’ve planted more under-story shrubs with a few young evergreen trees, which will be transplanted in a few years as the bank is reshaped with a retainer wall to stabilize the building foundations above. Another potential experiment would be to pleacher these young trees to encourage their root systems to stabilize the bank instead. There is a seepage here, and more water catchment will need to be designed in this area.

Below is an update on some water catchment design already hard at work. The recent heavy rains are pouring down our hillside, above and below the soil. This drainage ditch is sending runoff to a catchment basin on the left of that large log. You can see the pipe connecting this basin to another on the right out of shot across the road. In the lower left of this picture, you can see water actually shooting up out of the ground from old drain pipe.

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All this catchment is directed to the pond, and the gallons that flow through this landscape in the wet months does add up. Leafhopper is still working towards even more catchment, including larger roof catchment systems which would include a 23,000 gallon cistern. That will take some permitting and even more planning, but the building plan is drawn up and contact with the county regarding code has begun. The farm’s permaculture plan is build around water and terrain. We’ve set up earthworks, including swales to direct our 23,000 gallons into during the dry months.

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The pond is not designed into any agricultural irrigation systems on the farm, as its main purpose is to create habitat. The farm is utilizing four 800 gallon cisterns to catch roof runoff from four different buildings, but that’s not enough to irrigate personal gardens all summer. They are helpful in holding water non the less and are used throughout the year for a number of other needs. No water catchment is a waste; water is life.

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Other plantings on the land include a cover crop of fodder plants, including Raphanus sativus. In this bed, there are also a mix of onions marked by a few bricks. I’m tilling some areas in and leaving others to grow, harvesting the young radishes from time to time. Next summer, this soil will be ready to host a vegetable garden. In future, we plan to put another greenhouse in this space, so the soil here will be consolidated into raised beds before the new house is built.

Back along the drainage ditch by the driveway, I’ve set in a couple of fruit trees and a pine. The mulch of cardboard will keep the young roots well insulated and bank moisture. It’s also a great way to keep the weeds and grasses at bay. At the base of the established evergreen on the left of this picture, there is a bank of biomass building up along that corner where the drive makes a sharp turn along the north side of the property. Establishing a solid corner (a drainage pipe also enters here from the north side of the drive) will anchor the directional change and protect the embankment and pipe. The visual shape of the tree sets a marker on the flat terrain which is easy to see. On driveways, these physical markers are crucial navigation aids.

They can also be enhanced pockets of habitat on the landscape. I’ll be planting a few more low growing perennials around the base of the tree. In time, this entire edge space along the driveway will be a hedge of useful plants and habitat for wildlife.

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Where the portable chicken coop is located, our permaculture plan mapped out a large shed building to house our biomass (wood chips and compost), as well as a greenhouse on the south side of the building. The roof catchment from this building and the shelter for the ger would fill that 23,000 gallon cistern we’re planning. That’s the layering system at work for the benefit of the long term resiliency at Leafhopper Farm.

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