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Hi there!

I finally got my sweet potatoes planted last week! Better late than never, I suppose. The unique thing about it is that I planted them in my neighbor's yard, where I was lucky to score an unused raised bed. A win for my small homestead! I also harvested lettuce and kale.

Rain Barrels: Last week we talked about connecting rain barrels to rain gardens as a way to passively irrigate edible gardens and conserve water. I showed you two of the rain garden/rain barrel systems we've built at our house. I even make a cameo appearance in a short video showing how it all works! Check out the blog post or last week's newsletter if you missed it. Why am I telling you this?

I have a special deal for you! If you plan to set up a rain barrel system, there are a few accessories you'll need. The company that we bought our accessories from, Aquabarrel, has agreed to supply you guys with a limited time discount: Use the coupon code "Tenth" at checkout to receive 15% off an order of $40 or more. Expires 7/31/2015.

So this crazy thing happened to me last week: Someone harvested something from my yard and left a note on my front porch. I posted a picture of the note on Facebook, which attracted a lot of attention, both from people who thought it was cool, and people who had other ideas about my reaction.

This week I wanted to write about it in more detail and share my thoughts, so this week's featured post is all about what happened when someone harvested from my yard without asking.

And in this week's reader question, a reader ponders growing walnut trees in a food forest.


Weekly Featured Article

Someone harvested something from my yard without asking and they left a note on my front porch letting me know. Here is what I think about it.


Reader Question Spotlight:

Can I grow a walnut tree in a forest garden?
Reader Question: My yard is 1/3 of an acre. I need to make sure I am not planting a walnut tree that would reduce my ability to create a forest garden because of the poison output. Are there walnut types that are okay in a forest garden?

-- Shakaya

My Answer: It sounds like Shakaya is interested in including a nut-producing tree in her food forest, and really likes the idea of walnut but is concerned with juglone, the chemical produced by walnut trees that can poison surrounding plants.

Without knowing more about the growing conditions of Shakaya's location, the following is some general information.

Black walnuts are actually a good choice for food forests because they have many benefits and uses. The trick is to pair them with sub-canopy trees, shrubs, and understory herbs that tolerate juglone.

Black walnuts will eventually mature to 75-100 feet wide and tall, so be sure to place them appropriately. They command the highest timber price in many regions if you're willing to wait 30 years, and for that application they should be spaced closer together to encourage upward, straight growth.

The nuts are considered an excellent source of high quality protein and omega fatty acids. Proper curing and toasting the nuts prior to eating will improve their flavor and reduce bitterness. Trees usually begin to bear nuts in the third year after planting.

Black walnut is actually a nutrient accumulator of potassium, phosphorus, and calcium, and will fertilize the surrounding soil for juglone-tolerant understory plants.

Walnut provides bird nesting habitat, and it is a favored source of nectar for pollinators in May.

Black walnut is a great canopy tree for food forests because it has a tall, open crown shape which allows 50% of sunlight to reach the forest floor around it.

Black walnuts have a high demand for nitrogen, so it is suggested to plant one nitrogen-fixing plant per tree. Suggestions include black locust or goumi.

The following plants are reported to grow well with walnuts:
Sub-canopy trees: pawpaw, persimmon, quince, cherry, plum
Shrubs: elderberry, currant, mulberry, hazel or filbert, spicebush, black raspberry
Vines: grape, kiwi
Herbs: alliums (garlic, leeks, shallots, chives, ramps), purple coneflower, bee balm, violet, dandelion, white clover
Vegetables (plant in the early stages while there is full sun): nightshades - tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, potato

When walnut trees are underplanted with nitrogen fixers and juglone-tolerant plantings, it is called a guild - a grouping of useful plants that supports a central element.

Or try planting black walnuts in a hedgerow.

Drawbacks: The black walnut is one of the toughest nuts to crack!
Also, a buffer planting will screen juglone from affecting plantings outside of the walnut tree guild. Mulberry, black locust, and goumi have been suggested as buffer plantings.

Butternuts are in the walnut family and also exude juglone. I might recommend them because of their nut being easier to crack and sweeter, more pleasant to eat, but they can take up to 20 years to bear nuts. In addition, their timber is not as valuable, and they are not considered nutrient accumulators.

If you're willing to wait eight years for nuts to bear, you may also check out hickory, pecan, or hican trees. In smaller spaces, hazel or filbert shrubs will provide nuts without the towering trees (2-3 years).

There's no right answer, only deciding what your goals are and what will work in your space.

The above information was taken from some of my favorite books: Gaia's Garden by Toby Hemenway, Edible Forest Gardens by Dave Jacke, and Restoration Agriculture by Mark Shepard.

Do you have a question for me? Send me a line anytime.

The Scoop on Facebook This Week

How to Train Chickens to Come When Called

Learn how to train chickens to come when called, so you can get them to safety whenever you want. Train multiple flocks, each to a different call.

Do you have a tip for chicken keepers?

Foraging for Cattails

Almost everyone knows what cattails look like. They're usually one of the first wild plants we can identify as kids.

Here's what you need to know about this edible and medicinal plant.

Do you have access to cattails?

This Week: Top Pin on Pinterest

Comfrey is a prolific perennial herb that is a favorite of the permaculture practitioner. Find out why!

Pin: What is Comfrey & How to Grow it

Homesteading Education & Supplies

FREE E-Book from The Herbal Academy of New England:

9 Familiar Herbs for Beginners

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