halifaxearthtech: Photo by Joe Shneid of Louisville Kentucky, from Wikimedia Commons (Pattern)
Long-term gratification or How else can twenty bucks last three lifetimes?


A lot of people are surprised to hear that we can grow many varieties of nuts here in Nova Scotia, including Chestnuts, Almonds, Hazels, Walnuts, pine nuts and some pecans as well as more exotic varieties like yellowhorn and ginkgo. Bill and Elizabeth Glen of PEI have been growing hazelnuts commercially since 2013, pioneering both a local market and best practices for Maritime nut growing.

We should be investing in planting perennial crops anyway, and trees in particular. Planting trees fixes carbon, mitigating climate change. And nut tree crops have the added benefit from a resilience standpoint of producing a harvest for 200-500 years, meaning they can be an asset well into the future in case of many potential scenarios of food scarcity. Walnut hulls and bark are useful as mulch, medicine and as a natural dye. Some people plant walnut as a retirement fund for one's grandchildren. Country Wisdom and know-how's Woodlot Management by Jay Heinrich writes that "A single huge flawless walnut tree can sell for several thousand dollars (one such tree reportedly brought 30'000 on the stump)".


The Sex life of nuts

If you want to obtain nuts from your trees it is is important to plant nuts that are compatible, that will pollinate each other. Nut trees finish putting out male flowers before starting to put out female flowers, and so often can't pollinate themselves. Trees must be from two different seedlings to be able to pollinate each other. Some nut trees will self-pollinate but even these will fruit better with a friend. If that fails, you can pick off male flowers, keep pollen in the freezer for a week or two and then throw them at the trees.


Identifying Hardy Walnuts


A Japanese variety with huge 6' leaves and heart-shaped nuts. There is a heartnut outside of St Mary's University.


Black Walnut and Butternut


The two species hailing from North America. Butternuts are endemic to the St John River valley. Black walnuts are extremely hardy and tasty but hard to get into or extract meaty bits

Leaf shape and scars

The black walnut can be identified by leaf scars that look like three line segments of half-circles like a monkey face or clover leaf with some imagination. This way they can be identified in winter.


As you can see here, the butternut monkey face has eyebrows

From treesofwisconsin.com



Butternut leaf scars

(Raisin River Conservation authority)


Stem pith of black walnut


Stem pith of North American walnuts is honeycombed and dark brown.


Buartnut Juglans x bixbyi

The unfortunately-named first generation of children between a heartnut and butternut. Buartnuts have heartnut's easy crackability and blight resistance while having butternut cold-hardiness.


(From www.havenyt.dk)

Buartnut cross section


The grocery-store variety we are used to seeing, the English or Persian, is not yet quite hardy to our winters. Two exceptions are Carpathian and the totally safe for work Manregion, which will live in our zone 6. Some will survive even zone 4 which endures winter temperatures of -30 and includes such regions as Calgary.





Starting nut trees from seed

Credit to Sylvia Mangalam for teaching me to start nuts in pots buried in the ground in the fall, after they are thoroughly cleaned. In the spring, check the nuts for sprouted roots out the bottom, and of those that are sprouting, cut the main root tip to encourage surface side-branching roots. Then pot them back up and keep in dappled or part shade for a year or two before final planting in full sun. Time to first harvest varies from seedling to seedling and different variety grafts, but you can expect nuts after 5 to 10 years.


Planning for centuries

An urban legend has been going around of the foresters of Oxford University in England who set oaks aside for 300, 600 or 800 years until the ceiling beams of the main hall got too "beetly" and needed to be replaced. The tale grew in the telling it seems, and it's not true (though the trees were several hundred years old at harvest) but it's an appropriate sentiment.


I think it's high time to at least supplement our instant gratification with some long-term gratification. What were you doing five years ago? Starting school? Worrying about whether your pants are tight enough without being "too" tight? Convinced you would never grow a beard? The time went by faster than you thought. Trees move us beyond the treadmill of the next apartment, or the next election. They destroy the capitalist illusion of the perpetual present., connecting us to the gifts of our ancestors, and our responsibility to our descendants.


A fun article about ways to get into the shell and extract the delicious reward within


An exhaustive guide to growing nuts in Ontario


Walnuts secrete a substance called juglone that kills some plants that would grow underneath. Here are some resistant plants compatible with walnuts.


A good forager never reveals her secret stash, but I'm going to go ahead and say there are black walnuts growing behind the Dal Sportsplex. Now go nuts.


halifaxearthtech: (magic is nature)

Food forests are undeniably sexy right now in Permaculture circles. A great compliment to a regular raised garden of annual vegetables, food forests pack a lot of food sources into a small space, using different height-plants that help each other out, while benefiting soil and wild life.

But what do you do when you just don't have the funds for the latest cultivars of fruit and nut bearing trees and shrubs? Behold the free food forest planting guide!

To design a food forest on the cheap, we make use of plants that either come up from plentiful (= easily available) seeds, or clones.
A plan for expanding your food forest by cloning

You may have heard of the practice of cloning while learning about more illegal plants. But many herbs and trees can also be cloned; in nature, it's a major plant-reproducing strategy.

Some times twigs (or even sometimes leaves) broken or cut from trees and shrubs will grow roots and become a whole new tree or shrub. Other times, we can stab a shovel down the middle of the plant and cut the root-ball into two or more pieces, a process known as "dividing". 

You can probably find friends willing to divide edible ornamental like Solomon seal, daylilly or hosta, and you can almost certainly find an owner of grape, hops and hardy kiwi willing to part with some prunings to clone. Thinnings of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and thimbleberries are easy to come by as people cultivating these fruit often need to thin them. Nursery season-end sales are also good to check in July and August.

Even volunteer white oak and mountain ash can be found sprouting beneath their parent trees if these tickle your fancy for an emergency food supply. Some perennial vegetables can be started from roots and leaves available at specialty grocery stores, like watercress, sunchokes and oyster root. 

Finally, Perennial vegetables can be got from further afield from progressive nurseries and seed suppliers. It is my hope to make an initial investment to bring these varieties to Nova Scotia for further propagation to jump start local food forests. Plants like salad burnet, ice cream bean, cinnamon yam, tuber pea, perennial parsley, perennial sea kale, bush cherry, hardy passionfruit, hardy kiwi, wooly lambs ear tuber, rapunzel, potato bunching onion, skirret and hardy pecan. 

Some locations I hope to plant this year with guilds and/or food forests include:

Transition Bay St Margarets

Annapolis seeds in Nictaux


The Open Mic House on Agricola street

There will be shout-outs and volunteer opportunities as spring advances so keep your eye out for those.

Some perennial vegetable purveyors 

Eric Toensmeier





as well as more traditional nurseries if you know what you are looking for.


Gardeners around North America this year were thrilled to learn about The paw paw project. Kentucky State University are distributing 30 thousand paw paw seeds in the hopes of more widely distributing paw paw trees throughout their range and foster their diversity and strength. You can contact them here

To get your own free pawpaw seeds. Of course if you help support the project you will get on the seed distribution priority shortlist!
hawthorn, mulberry and red and black currant prepared for cloning

A by-no-means exhaustive list of easy-to-obtain plants to clone for your own

Trees and shrubs that can be cloned

Beech, dogwood, willow, alder

Hawthorn, Elder, Mulberry, Currant, Gooseberry

Autumn olive, Sea buckthorn

Hazel, Sweet fern

Food-providing Herbs that can be divided or that spread

Anything mint: lemonbalm, cat nip, bee balm, chocolate mint, apple mint, horse mint, thymes, oregano, anise hyssop

Alliums: chives, garlic chives, society garlic, golden garlic, Egyptian Walking Onions

Miscellaneous perennials: ostrich fern, hostas, may apple, Solomon seal, wintergreen, rhubarb, echinacea, sweet cicely, Comfrey, yarrow, horseradish, daylilly, good king Henry, all raspberries and blackberries, many roses, strawberries, and more.


Easily started from seed and self seeding

Nasturtiums, violets, calendula

globe thistle, rudbeckia

artemisia, columbine

musk mallow




Not edible but useful for pollinators and/or fixing nitrogen

lupine, daffodil, scilla


This is a great website for all things food forest


halifaxearthtech: (Default)
If you're having trouble growing a garden it could be because your tree is poisoning it.

Norway maple (Acer planatoides) is a very common urban shade tree and it's also one naturalists love to hate.They were at the centre of last year's debacle appearing on the new $20 bill. They do indeed come from Norway as well as other regions in Eastern Europe and Western Asia
According to Wikipedia, it can tolerate poor, compacted soils and urban pollution. The roots of Norway maples grow very close to the ground surface, starving other plants of moisture. They also cast one of the most total and complete palls of shade over streets, lawns and gardens alike. Some scientists think that Norway maples might be alleopathic, meaning they poison the ground beneath them to reduce competition from other plants. The tree has been banned in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

When plants grow in nature, they very rarely grow in patches of only one kind, the way we try to make them grow in normal agriculture. Instead we see plants growing beside other plants. A patch of woodland might have taller trees, shrubs and low plants. They interact in ways we do not yet fully understand, sometimes helping and sometimes harming one another. A group of plants that work synergistically to help each other grow is called a guild. We can build whole forests out of guilds, such that each plant produces food, or helps those plants that do. You might be having to deal with aggressive plants like Norway Maple in your city garden right now. If you can't get rid of them, you can at least find the plants that can play well with these noxious species.

Guilding with Goutweed
Goutweed doesn't kill the plants around them, but will vigorously out-compete them for light, space and soil nutrients. Nearly impossible to weed out, goutweed will sprout back up from stem and root fragments and requires several going-overs to make sure it's really gone. From my own observation, goutweed occupies the root horizon most thickly between 1" and 5" below the surface. I have had good results with these plants that can co-exist with goutweed by occupying a different root horizon entirely, particularly deeply taprooted plants like burdock, comfrey and yellow dock. Shallow-rooted plants like geranium and english ivy manage with goutweed by occupying the root horizon of between 1" and the surface.

Guilding with Black walnut
As tasty as walnuts are, many kinds will kill the plants growing beneath and around them and can even produce an allergic reaction from their pollen in people and horses. (wikipedia, juglone). Many plants such as tomato, potato, blackberry, blueberry, other rhododendron and heath-family plants and apple may be injured or killed within one to two months of growth within the root zone of these trees ohiostateuniversity In spite of this, walnuts are a worthwhile addition to a food forest for their tasty nuts. Fortunately there's a lot of information online about guilding with Black Walnut.

Megan of Wisconsin (she gives no last name) at the Hardy Eco Garden explains gardening with black walnut way better than I ever could so I will just reblog her entry here:

The helpful gardener gives a guild with black walnut that includes choke cherry, currant, goumi or sea buckthorn, elder, mulberry and wolfberry.

If you are unfortunate enough to live with dog roses (Rosa multiflora) I hear goats will control them.

Here are some lists of species for you to try out in your food forest or garden compiled from several websites and forums

Norway maples
From adamsgardennativeplants;
Alumroot Heuchera villosa Some are native, pollinator support
American Bellflower Campanulastrum americanum Native, some pollinator support
American Pennyroyal Hedeoma pulegioides Edible and medicinal
Barren Strawberry Waldsteinia fragariodes A groundcover
Black-eyed Susan Rudbeckia hirta Pollinator support
Black Huckleberry Gaylussacia baccata native, edible berries
Christmas Fern Polystichum acrostichoides native, erosion control
European ginger Asarum europaeum Not edible, a nicely scented and well behaved groundcover that keeps down weeds
Fumewort Corydalis solida Spring ephemeral
Hairy solomon’s seal Polygonatum pubescens The solomon's seals are taken as hepatic adaptogens. The sprouts can be eaten in the springtime like fiddleheads if they are boiled in several changes of water. A spring ephemeral. Common solomon seal has done well under Norways in my garden.
Hazelnut Corylus avellana edible nut, coppice lumber
(a note that my hazels under Norway Maples are doing poorly. It may be worth a try in a sunnier location)
Heartleaf Aster Symphyotrichum cordifolium Pollinator and calcid wasp support
sweet woodruff Galium odoratum A vigorously spreading groundcover that smells nice when dried
Largeflower bellwort Uvularia grandiflora
Lowbush Blueberry Vaccinium angustifolia native, edible fruits
Male Fern Dryopteris filix-mas Native, groundcover
Rosey sedge Carex roseaSiberian squill Scilla sibrica Not edible, but an early spring pollinator support and spring ephemeral
Rosinweed Silphium integrifolium Pollinator support, edible seeds? oil crop?
Smooth Aster Symphyotrichum laeve Polinator and calcid wasp support
Possumhaw Viburnum Viburnum nudum Native to New England. Pollinator support. Does this indicate other viburnums such as highbush cranberry and wild raisin may also do well?
Tartan dogwood Cornus alba Dynamic accumulator
Twinleaf Jeffersonia diphylla Medicinal, native
Wild Bleeding Heart Dicentra eximia pollinator support, native
Witchhazel Hamamelis virginiana Native and medicinal
Woodland Aster Senecio sylvaticus Pollinator and calcid wasp support. It may be worth trying any sort of aster or goldenrod

From Toronto Gardens http://torontogardens.blogspot.ca/2007/09/tough-as-old-boots.html;
Chrysanthemum Pelargonium spp.
Lavender Lavandula angustifolia
Wild garlic (the species name was not given, could refer to a number of 'wild garlics')

From my own observations;

Black currant, red currant Ribes spp.
Blackberry Rubus fruticosus
Chives Allium schoenoprasum
Chrysanthemum Pelargonium spp.
Jerusalem artechoke Helianthus tuberosus
Mountain Ash Sorbus aucuparia
Nettle Urtica dioica
Mother-of-thyme Thymus praecox
Quince Cydonia oblonga
Saxifragia Stolonifera A medicinal groundcover
Solomon seal Polygonatum mutiflorum

Personal observations

Annual phlox ‪Phlox drummondii‬
Beach rose (Rosa rugosa) edible fruits and flowers, pollinator support, native
Bittersweet nightshade Solaum dulcamara
Blackberry, wild raspberry Rubus fruticosus
Dog rose Rosa multiflora
English ivy Hedera helix
High bush cranberry Viburnum trilobum
Flat topped white aster Aster umbellatus
New england aster Symphyotrichum novae-angliae
Pelargonium and geranium (just so shallow-rooted that they cannot be crowded out )
Showy goldenrod Solidago speciosa


Black spruce Picea mariana
Black ash Fraxiunus nigra
Barberry Berberis vulgaris
Elder Sambucus nigra
Lilac Syringa vulgaris
Native hawthorn Crataegus spp.
Norway Maple Acer planatoides
Poplar Populus nigra
Red oak Quercus rubens
Red maple Acer rubrum
Rowan Sorbus aucuparia
White birch Betula papyrifera
Wild Plum Prunus americana
Yellow birch Betula alleghaniensis


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May 2017

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