If the first step was planting, and the second harvesting wood, then the third is diversification. I’m treading a variable line at the moment between native and conventional planting, and various interesting edibles. I don’t want the treefield to appear to be a garden, but also want to make the most of interplanting and increasing food producing opportunities. I think it will be a question of evolving the planting as I go. The changing dynamics as larger trees are harvested for wood will add an extra complexity to the holding.
The few blackcurrants I planted a few years ago in the tree field are already bearing well, particularly the ones in the orchard area, which are a few years older. One of them is leaning at an angle now: blown over by the wind. I’ll cut that right back when the leaves fall, and hopefully it will regrow upright with stronger roots. I found quite a few rather leggy plants in the alder grove in the centre of the treefield. They are struggling a bit with the light levels there. I’m not sure whether to leave them, cut them back, or transplant them…. I may do all three to different areas.
I have also planted two different raspberry selections in the treefield. One, from my friend AC, I planted in the lee of the hump above the leachfield. They should be pretty sheltered there. AC says her dad does well with it in Wales, so we’ll see how it likes it slightly further North. They were planted last year, and so far have survived the winter, fruited on the small canes I left, and regrown new canes. The fruit is rather large with a very good flavour, but I don’t know what the variety is. It doesn’t seem to be the first to ripen, but seems to be good quality. The other variety is the summer raspberry I planted originally in the fruit jungle, which does very well there. I have planted some canes adjacent to some of the cut throughs in the upper part of the field. These are amongst slower growing trees: hazel and oak, so shouldn’t get crowded out too quickly, and are leeward of alders, so should be reasonably sheltered at least at first.
I’m quite enamoured of the Glen Prosen raspberries which were left here in a pot when we bought the house. They are not very vigorous, and the berries tend to be small, but oh so tasty! Just like a raspberry should taste. I’m thinking of planting a few canes in the leachfield area. The roots are fairy shallow, and the area is pretty sheltered under the hump.
For the first time this year I had flowers and fruit on one of my chokeberry, Aronia melanocarpa, bushes. These I grew from seed from ART some years ago and got really good germination. I planted a few out in 2013 at the edges of the main trackway. All survived and have grown to up to 3 feet or so. They seem to sucker about a bit, but otherwise look healthy. They have dark burgundy leaves in spring, turning glossy dark green, and in autumn have brilliant scarlet shades. Even without the fruit, they make attractive foliage.
The flowers are a cluster of white flowers that look very like hawthorne. The fruit clusters tend to ripen one berry at a time. I found someone – maybe local birds – took several of the green fruit before they were ripe. Bob Flowerdew said in the ‘Complete fruit’ book that they taste a bit like black currants but more piney. I thought thay taste like sweet cranberries. Astringent, but sweet and juicy at the same time. Apparently the longer you leave them to ripen the tastier they are, but I don’t think I can go past the bush at the moment without sampling a couple, so I don’t think they will last that well since there are not that many fruit. Apparently they make a jam-like preserve, good with savory dishes like cranberry and redcurrants, and were dried into cakes with other fruits by First People Americans.
We stock a fruit juice from Wonky Fruit with chokeberry (they call it ‘superberry’) and apple juice in our shop which I find very refreshing and tasty. The berries are rich in Vitamin C and also Pectin according to Ken Fern and also high in beneficial anti-oxidants and anthocyanins. The bushes may grow well in boggy soil and are hardy down to 25 degrees Celcius. I may try and get hold of some of the improved fruit forms that are available, since I do think that they will be worth while for me.
I have planted several seedling trees that I have grown from pips, in the tree field. I can either let them grow and see what the fruit is like, or graft a known good fruiting tree onto them. I’m still waiting for things like my unusual haw, and Amelanchier to do much. The wild cherries have had quite a bit of fruit in the last few years; tasty if a bit small. I might look into grafting on these, and I could also try grafting the large fruited haw onto hawthorne seedlings. I gather bud grafting in summer is the way to do cherries.
This year I have ordered some nutting hazel cultivars. One or two more of the woodland hazels I planted look like they have nuts this year, but most are still too small. Of the herbacious layers most of the plants are the native ones, along with the grasses and flowers, such as the pignut, sorrel and marsh woundwort. The fiddlehead fern I planted in the treefield was a bit small, but is surviving and may be better now it has room to grow out of it’s pot.
An insect seen for the first time this year: a small Dragonfly, probably a common darter (about 2 inches long). I saw lots of bigger ones last year but did not manage to get a good enough picture to identify them. Hopefully they were making a good meal from the midges, which have been quite bad this year.