Get the Dirt!

Figgery Greenhouse Fig Fruit Is Ripe

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So after four months of patient tender care, fig fruit have started to ripen! The picture above is showing
Ronde de Bordeaux left, Saint Rita longer pink/green skinned almost ripe to the right. 

As the days draw towards fall, more figs will come ripe (hopefully) and I'll be able to have a sense of the early varieties with good flavor. Most likely if we get enough warm days between now and the end of September, most of the other fig fruit will be harvested and eaten. Otherwise we'll wait until next year, as all the trees will have deep roots and can produce and ripen fruit more consistently.

If you'd like to be the first customer to purchase and grow these tasty, early to ripen, hardy figs, get your order in now at the FoodForestFarm.com/Shop and buy some fig tree cuttings today!



Paulownia tomentosa Empress Tree Potential Intensive Silvopasture

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Livestock tree forage characteristics for Northeast Temperate Climate Intensive Silvopasture:

-Long lived woody perennial tree or shrub
-Palatable and nutritious for sheep and cattle
-Easy to propagate for low cost installation
-Quick to establish, grazable in 2 years
-Indigenous North American plant, or at least manageable if naturalized in the area
-Other?

Paulownia tomentosa (Empress Tree, princess tree, foxglove-tree, or kiri) in Southern New York could work:

-As long as the roots get established, listed hardy to -15 F (climate zone 5, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York)


(Agroforestry Queen Meghan Giroux Burlington VT)


-Top growth most likely to be winter killed (as die back perennial), which is preferable as it keeps the plant:
*shrubby
*tender
*to young to flower and spread seed
*more palatable/nutritious?




-Tree is high in nutrients, especially protein, ~20%




-Can be propagated by seed, root, or stem cuttings




-As a 'C4' plant, growth is extremely fast (one of the fastest growing trees in the world!)


My son, under second year overwintered seedlings, Ithaca, NY, July 25, 2018


Hopefully by this time next year I will have grazed sheep in a hedge of Paulownia that I've established from cloned varieties, in Brooktondale, NY. Expect an update on this blog in 2019!

Then, the thinking is possibly planting an acre of Paulownia at 6 foot spacing, ~1000 trees per acre, VOILA! Intensive Silvopasture!

P.S. You might be wondering why not Black Locust? Well, due to it's characteristics of spreading by root suckers, and having thorns, Paulownia seems like it might be easier to manage

P.P.S. Intensive Silvopasture has been shown to both significantly increase carbon sequestration in grazing landscapes, AND jack meat and milk productivity. If native trees are added at the paddock edges more improvements can be made... From Drawdown the book, regarding tropical intensive silvopasture, "Trees keep the wind in check and improve water retention, which causes increases in biomass. The combination of flora can reduce the ambient temperature... which enhances humidity and plant growth [and reduce stress in animals]. Species biodiversity doubles... Stocking rates nearly triple. Meat production in pounds per acre per year is four to ten times higher then in conventional systems."



New Sheep and Cattle Silvopasture Forage Trial Update

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Starting February 2018 new plant seeds were prepared and sprouted inside in flats to give them a head start going into the growing season. With a little tender care (inside and outdoors), including watering, weeding and transplanting, many of the successes now can be shared.

Leading up to this project, I did significant research to understand the potential of underutilized livestock forage species. There is a lot of information out there about plants that have been planted around the USA and world that are good, but have lost favor in the "market" or conventional grazing industry for various reasons. OR, there are plants that are grown for other industries but have potential as forage for livestock in new configurations, like silvopasture systems.

Here is pictorial run through of some of this years' seedling successes (although they need a full winter, and tested as animal fodder before we can give them the thumbs up):


Illinois Bundleflower (Desmanthus illinoensis)



Big Trefoil (Lotus pedunculatus) with Willows (Salix sp.)



Chickpea Milkvetch 'HiPal' (Astragalus cicer) on the right



Empress Tree (from potted plant, Paulownia tomentosa) with Wild Senna (Senna hebecarpa) 



Mulberry (started from dormant branch cutting Morus sp.) with Black Locust (started from dormant root cutting Robinia pseudoacacia)  



Indigo Bush (Amorpha fruticosa)


As this trial continues my plan is to update findings on this blog. Ultimately those species that turn out to meet the following characteristics will win out and I'll publish details about them, including hardiness, palatability, vigor, growth habit, and polyculture potential.

Photos by Eric Toensmeier and others.

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