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Tim Engbrecht 's Profile
Tim Engbrecht
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Joined:
12/07/2014
Last Updated:
27/07/2014
Location:
Kelwood, Canada
Climate Zone:
Cold Temperate
Gender:
Male





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Parkland Permaculture

Parkland Permaculture

Kelwood, CA


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Fountain Family Pharm: A Permaculture Orchard in the Northern Boreal Forest The Ness Creek Forest Garden
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Willow Windbreak II: On Publishing "failures" (?)

Posted by Tim Engbrecht over 5 years ago

Some time ago, I documented some experiments I did establishing willow and caragana cuttings using various methods. 

The short-term result of those experiments was that it appeared cuttings driven directly into the sod along my fenceline with NO particular preparation of either the site or the cuttings themselves yielded excellent results:  nearly all of the willow cuttings, and close to 50% of the caragana cuttings rooted successfully, and some of the willow cuttings put on a whopping 80cm in their first growing season (which is quite short up here in the Canadian Prairies).

In the interest of publishing even when things DON'T go well, I've been wanting to update this post for a while now.

The year FOLLOWING the establishment of these cuttings, we had an incredibly DRY spring, and the quack grass quickly grew past the cuttings. Recall that the POINT of this experiment was to see whether I could establish "Fast, Free Forests" without any sort of inputs at all, so I didn't mulch, mow OR water these newly established trees...I left them to the mercy of their environment.

Even though the cuttings had good survival rates over their first winter, they quickly began to die--whether this was due to the drought or to the allelopathy of the grass they were planted into (or a combination), I can't say for sure--but I'm inclined to blame the quack grass, since I feel the cuttings would have been able to hold on for longer than the did if they were merely waiting for moisture.

Whatever the cause of their deaths, I lost nearly ALL of the cuttings, so I can't really recommend my "laisser faire" approach!

Of course, both MOISTURE and GRASS COMPETITION are easily addressed with sheet mulch; but when you're working alone and largely without machinery, it takes a lot of time and effort, compared to pushing sticks into the sod!  (Mind you--it takes even MORE effort to re-plant a shelterbelt every second year because your ill-tended trees DIE all the time!)

Trying to learn from my lesson, yesterday I began planting cuttings for a NEW shelterbelt.  I am doing quite a few things differently this time:

1) Planting in FALL, instead of Spring.

2) Using LONGER stock--sometimes 6-foot saplings of appx 1cm diameter.

3) Sheet-mulchig with 5-10mm of newspaper

I came across this excellent article on soaking spring and fall plantings of willow: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_PLANTMATERIALS/publications/idpmcar8305.pdf

...the results of this study suggest that in spite of most people planting in SPRING, the BEST results for willow (in THEIR experience) was planting in the Fall, following a 14-day pre-soak in water.

I didn't want to wait 14-days to get started, so the willows I've put in position so far were soaked for as long as it took for me to harvest them, then put them in the ground (several hours)...but I will attempt to pre-soak my NEXT batch so that I can offer a survival comparison. (their article suggests that even without soaking, survival rates were high for fall planting)

Something we've committed to at Parkland Permaculture is documenting not only apparent "successes", but also "failures"... It is understandable that people are keen to share when things appear to go well, but this plays into a "confirmation bias"--which isn't in the best interest of spreading Permaculture.

Often, the very BEST information comes from apparent "failures", since when things go well, it's hard to say whether you've done something intelligent, or have simply gotten lucky.  On the other hand, when things DON'T turn out as we plan--these are the times when we are most likely to LEARN, since the violation of our expectations reveals that we don't properly understand something.

"Failures" are not bad, but are often rich learning experiences, as I think most of us already know... I'm hoping to see more posts documenting experiments that don't have overwhelmingly positive results.  If we're NOT trying things that fail every once in a while, I feel we'll likely miss some opportunities.

-Tim

Using a swedish clearing axe to harvest the willow Harvesting 2 year old willow whips from road allowance Pre soaking cuttings prior to planting along newly established pond edge Driving cutting through 5 8mm of newspaper after pre piercing with a metal rod Stacking functions emotionally 30 meters of shelterbelt in 3 hours

Comments (2)

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John Lee
John Lee : So many variables! I'm glad you're actually experimenting. I do a lot of that here.

I remember learning how to ski and snowboard on ice hills in the Midwest and it being so difficult, then coming to the Rockies and riding powder like a pro... I reckon that is what it will be like practicing permaculture once I get out of these drylands ;)

How much moisture do you get annually, Tim?
Posted over 5 years ago

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Tim Engbrecht
Tim Engbrecht : Hey John.

We get a little over 500mm of precipitation out here (which is about 20 inches) It is certainly enough, especially with water harvesting. A lot of farmers are still draining wetlands out here, though!
Posted over 5 years ago

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