Racing before the Rain

Redbarn Food Forest Planting Days: May 25th, 2019…  let’s set the stage.

Its a delightful, sunny Saturday morning, and an enthusiastic group of volunteers assemble at the Redbarn food forest, to help plant a diverse set of trees, many from the Edible tree grant awarded to us by Tree Canada, some from the butternut rescue program (RCVA), and some propagated and/or started from seed by the core Redbarn food forestry team.

We know that more rain is in the forecast starting midday, we know that the site is soggy from previous rains and the lack of any true heat to help dry things out.  We have 100+ items to plant and we want to get them happily in the ground before the rain.

Our strategy: Divide and conquer

Team Hazelnut assembled in the area designated for the new hazelnut grove.  They were armed with shovels and a mission, to home over 30 hazelnuts into the ground, broken down as follows:
10 hazelbert
2 beaked hazel
20 hazelnut seedlings

Team Orchard, a small elite force, marched west, with some larger trees in hand, pears and apples.  They had the additional challenge of moving a lot of compost and soil into a distant area, to help the trees deal with the heavy clay soil that exemplifies the planting site. Undaunted, after planting all of the pomme fruit, they then decided to continue on their relentless planting and managed to also get the shagbark hickory trees in the ground.  The breakdown is as follows:
3 pear
15 apple
10 shagbark hickory
5 shagbark hickory seedlings

Team Butternut, a slightly larger contingent of volunteers, took on a huge task of planting 20 butternut trees, which are part of the butternut rescue program, run by the RCVA.  We hope that we will eventually find those special trees that are more resistant to the canker that is laying waste to many butternuts on the North American continent.  Unsatisfied with just this task, the team then created a blackberry patch in the future understory of these butternuts, along with an elderberry zone in the lower wetter area.  Sidenote: butternuts like many trees in that same walnut family produce a chemical compound known as juglone that is toxic to many other plants (a natural way for those trees to claim the space where they grow).  Unbothered by juglone are shrubs or berry plants that produce deep blue or black coloured berries, thus the inclusion of those in this zone:
20 butternut
30 blackberry
10 elderberry

Team Blueberry were a very small team of dedicated individuals, who started a bit later, but accomplished a critical mission.  They essentially created a special environment on the edge of the natural forest line, to make a happy home for some blueberry bushes.  Blueberries (and cranberries and lingonberries), grow in pine forests in nature, so they flourish in acidic soil.  In order to accomplish this, the team moved a large amount of leaf and pine needle debris to the planting zone, then tactfully created a new patch consisting of the following:
20 blueberry

In summary, 4 teams of dedicated volunteers, offered their hands and hearts to deliver on a very successful planting day!  They planted nearly edible 150 trees and shrubs in 3 hours, finishing just before the rain arrived.  Thanks to everyone who showed up to help, it is so very wonderful to have worked along side all of you, and will be so rewarding and satisfying to see this community food forest grow and succeed.  Let’s reunite in this community space over the coming years to enjoy some of the ‘fruits of our labour’ together.

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