Edible Tree Farms
April is a start up month. If you are an early riser, step outside and listen to some of the most beautiful bird breeding music in the world. Winter Wrens start singing before sunrise and have one of the longest, most complex bird songs known. Robins are back both hungry and happy because the snow is finally gone. Hooded Mergansers are scouting for a good nest site in tree cavities. This time of year, Starling Bills transition to bright yellow plumage from their winter dark brown. Kingfishers are patrolling Swamp River and Croton River again. Grouse are starting to lay eggs and the average grouse clutch has about dozen. Sparrows are looking for millipedes in the leaf litter and the first Bluebird should show up behind the garden center any day now.
I don’t have a lot of room for a vegetable garden this year, so I decided to incorporate fruits and vegetables into the landscape. Rather than planting marigolds, impatiens and dahlias, try carrots, garlic, peppers, colorful kale and Swiss chard to name a few. Allowing a few of these tender plants go to flower, then seed, will keep the pollinating insects and birds fed and happy and keep our landscape visually appealing.
You can replace the ground-covers myrtle and pachysandra for strawberries, nasturtiums, wintergreen, thyme and low bush blueberry plants. Remove the invasive euonymus and barberry to make room for elderberry and beach plum. Edible landscaping is the trend. Not only are these choices a common sense approach to land management, it’s a healthier choice and can be just as ornamental. With the current push towards growing and buying local produce, wouldn’t it be nice to see some of our abandoned fields reestablished by local farmers?
If you’re lucky enough to stumble upon some old black and white photographs of our area one hundred or so years ago, you would see an agricultural landscape. In our agrarian society, farming was the livelihood of many families and much of the wooded landscape was hacked away for corn and cows. In these faded, worn pictures, you may see a lonely tree in the distance. Many of these loners are still standing today; and most are ancient oaks, ash, maple and hemlock.These giants are known as ‘wolf trees’, a term that was popularized by foresters during the late 20th century, as many neglected pastures reached the age of first cutting. The origin of the term ‘wolf tree’ can be traced back to Medieval Europe. Europe was inundated with wolves at that time, just as the woodsmen were, in early to mid 20th century in much of North America. On back country roads, in Medieval Europe and North America, outlaws often hid behind these massive trees waiting to pounce on people passing by. One particular tree in England, the ‘Major Oak’, is said to have regularly concealed Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Their outlaw antics labeled these men ‘wolf-heads’. Today, these wolf trees are the seed source for much of the reforestation that has and is occurring across abandoned fields. Naturally, as many of these fields revert into wood lots, native wild life settles back into our landscape.
Plant your wolf-tree this spring.
Pete and the Natives
This article is sponsored by a generous donation from M&S of Pawling. http://www.mandsofpawling.com/