April 13, 2014
Last weekend we held the Creating Productive Food Forest Ecosystems weekend intensive. While the rain threatened, the weather held for the workshops, the hugel bed construction and the evening campfires. Overall it was wonderful weekend! Our appreciation goes out to all those who made it possible.
We started each morning with the construction of a hugel bed to extend our zone 1 intensive perennial herb and food garden. Workshop participants learned about and then gained hands-on experience building the layers of a hugel bed.
We successfully finished assembling the bed, seeding it with a mixture of alfalfa, parsnips and turnips, laying down a layer of mulch and then pinning the mulch with sticks. Then we planted golden currants (Ribes aureum), a drought-tolerant currant native to the east side of the Cascades, towards the top of the north side of the bed. A job well done!
In this past week, we added a few additional touches. We transplanted strawberries to the north side of the hugel bed, that with time will form a ground cover underneath the currants. On the south side of the bed, we planted a honey berry bush, soon to be accompanied by a few more at ~6ft intervals. Honey berries (Lonicera caerulea) are highly productive, cold-hardy large bushes that fruit small, sweet blue berries in June. And on each of the edges, close to the paths, are now fosythia bushes whose early bloom is a source of pollen and nectar for honey bees and whose fruit is considered medicinal.
Strawberry and Golden Currant
We were also able to complete the next hugel bed down slope. We followed a similar process for seeding, mulching and then pinning the mulch down.
On the north side of this next bed we planted an apple tree, on MM111 rootstock, grafted from scion wood from a delicious wild cultivar growing by the side of the Klickitat River (we've named it "Windward Red").
Windward Red Apple Tree
This tree will soon be accompanied by Aronia ( Aronia melanocarpa) bushes- another hardy, productive large bush that produces edible, though astringent, berries. Aronias are high in antioxidants and are often used to make wine, jams and sauces.
As we move down and across the hillside our intent is to use a combination of large apple trees and bushes to create a perpetual forest edge effect. We will continue to use hugel beds on contour to capture, retain and then slowly release moisture. The planting pattern will be fairly open, with the nearly standard sized apple trees spaced approximately every 30 feet, creating some shade and microclimates while also allowing significant light to come through to the layer of bushes beneath.