The past few weeks, we have been busy shaping the land we use to make it more efficient for water and nutrient storage. Dave used a borrowed mini-backhoe to mold steep, mostly un-usable land into contoured swales.
Swales are essentially trenches that run alongside the beds (or berms) , and have the purpose of catching rainwater before it runs off to the bottom of the slope and erodes the soil. It is very important that the swale runs on contour with the land to create a level surface.
Generally we favor handwork over machines, but this one-time use of fossil fuels was decidedly well-spent. It expedited the process so that we have been able to get many trial varieties of pear, mulberry, honeyberry, goumi, seaberry, and currant in the ground before winter really takes hold.
I was excited to get a big patch of our Alpine strawberries going underneath some of the Asian pears. The berries had been in the greenhouse all season, fruiting and graduating into bigger and bigger pots. It is nice to see them finally take root in the ground.
We also planted several beach plums. We are interested in studying this native plant more in depth. As of right now, there is not a whole lot of research on beach plums being used as a food crop, although many Cape Codders have and still do wild-harvest the fruits each year.
Part of the reason more people are not cultivating beach plums is that they are unpredictable: not all plants fruit every year. It would be very convenient to take cuttings from plants that do fruit faithfully. However, what further complicates the issue is that beach plums do not seem to take well from cuttings. making it difficult to replicate a particular plant's fruiting frequency or capacity. Despite this rather daunting information, we are determined to investigate the beach plum situation ourselves. Hopefully we will get some results! And maybe some beach plum farmers to boot.
Seaberry, also known as sea buckthorn, is another exciting new fruit for us. We are trialing several varieties of this Eurasian native. Some particularly novel characteristics include its ability to thrive in salty environments and poor soil. It also has some exciting culinary and nutrition prospects.
We will post updates on the development of these plants in our garden. In due time there will also be fruit sampling.