I get asked a lot of questions via e-mail. Usually, but not always, I’m good at getting back to folks.
It strikes me, though, I should share my answers more often, since some of you may be dealing with some of the same problems.
Let’s jump in:
Q: I live in south mississippi and will be planting a few
pear, plum, peach, mayhaw, etc. trees in the coming
weeks. I had a crazy idea to clear out a section of
woods (overgrown cut-over) and plant in this location as
opposed to my yard which is low wet clayey and not
organically rich. The location would be an east facing
forest edge I guess you could say.
Would the existing root layer “outcompete” the fruit
trees or would the leaf litter etc. provide a great
place for these. I have plenty of ramial wood chips to
mulch with. -T.R.
A: There’s a lot to think about when you jump into the middle of an
existing system. The roots from trees will reach more than double
the size of the leaf canopy outwards. That said, I’ve seen videos
on how old settlers used to simply girdle unwanted trees, then
plant apples and other fruit right in between them.
The great benefit to planting in established forest is on the
microscopic level. Forests contain fungally dominated soils which
are more beneficial to trees. There’s a huge network beneath the
ground of mycellium which will connect with your new trees and
help them flourish. Forest edges are notoriously good places to
grow a wide range of species. East is also better than West, so
you’re good there.
Here’s what I’d do: I’d clear a little space for each tree, plant
them in, then see how they do. If the weeds, etc., grow back
around them, keep chopping that stuff down and dropping it around
the bases of your desired trees to feed them and mulch the ground
as they grow. Trees like to grow in the remains of other trees…
keep that going and they should do great. Ramial wood chips are a
great addition as well.
Q: J.P. – What’s wrong with my avocado tree? A lot of the leaves look like this:
A: Looks like some kind of leaf spot disease to me – probably fungal. I’d try picking off the effected leaves and burning them. If it comes back, try spraying with copper sulfate according to instructions.
Q: I came across your website and was happy to know that you are so close to where I live. I am … thrilled to see another survival garden in the nearby area,
especially one with the same climate. I basically have veggies, adding
different odd edibles each year. I have some papaya growing in my
greenhouse waiting for the weather to break before planting but I am
really interested in what you do with your bananas in the winter. We
have one planted in the back and have tar paper wrapped around the trunk
and cover it with a blanket during the hard freezes. It’s about 3 years
old but no bananas yet. Another BIG problem I
have is ants – what do you use to kill them? I grow an organic garden
and since I am retired I have the time to pick off caterpillars but the ants are something else! -G
are not the best producers in this area and most of what I have are a
type I dug up from a foreclosure property. One thing that really helps
them is LOTS of nitrogen. The best I’ve ever seen were growing over a
leaking septic tank. I grow some of mine by the back of the house. I cut
out the pipe running from my kitchen sink and ran the water directly
onto the banana trees, so they’re swimming in a slop of food wastes and
warm water half the day. They grow like crazy. Unfortunately, the frosts
still take about half of the crop each year. It’s sad. I need to try
some new types.
As for ants, I’ve had luck
kicking their piles open and dusting the insides with diatomaceous
earth. It doesn’t kill them all, but it also doesn’t poison my ground.
They are bad here… there’s just no way to get rid of them all without
Have a question? Drop me an e-mail on the e-mail link at the top left of this page. Just know this: I’m likely to post it online at some point, especially if you say something hilarious. (I will, of course, edit out personal details to maintain your privacy.) -David the Good