Latest bounty among the trees

This last week has been busy harvesting mulberries, but also our first Nanking cherries, planted spring 2011. We got a small harvest thanks to feeding the birds! Next year we’ll be on the lookout…

Nanking cherries
Nanking cherries

These were included in our larger 7-acre tree planting that we must mow twice a year while the trees get established. The planting is aimed to create timber and food. To that end we planted

  • Oaks
  • Walnuts
  • Chestnuts
  • Black cherry
  • Nanking cherries
  • High bush cranberry
  • Spruces and larches (for habitat)

Nankings are not native. We planted them before we appreciated the problems with planting non-native plants, but the Iowa Dept. of Natural Resources approves them, so we’re hoping there is some history and expertise there that concludes that they won’t become invasive.

This is how it looks before mowing, this time of year.

Tree planting before mowing
Tree planting before mowing










And here’s how it looks after mowing.

After mowing
After mowing




See any trees? This can get a little depressing after nearly three years. Some delay in tree  growth is caused  by the drought last year. Some by deer who still get into the fence, despite our best efforts. (This spring we found two fawns ordered by their mamas to stay put!) Some by weed competition and voles eating the roots. The rest, experts tell me, is the trees putting their energy into their roots. I like to think that’s what’s going on.

You can see tree shelters in the background. On select trees we’ve placed these as an experiment. Shelters act like little greenhouses and cause the tree to grow quickly, but the roots can’t keep up. To help the tree then, we will cut a foot off of the shelter each year after the tree peeks out of the top, helping the harden the tree and giving the roots time to grow. We’ll keep you posted on our success.

In the meantime, the sycamores, planted the same day and outside the fence, are taking off. They were inter-planted with sugar maples, but of course those are gone – deer candy. Deer don’t like the taste of sycamore, so they are an easy tree to grow in Iowa. But does anyone have any idea what these trees are useful for besides just “being a tree”? (We have a lot of trees, but following the tenets of permaculture, we try to have our intentional plantings provide as many functions as possible.) Even box elders provide sap that can be made into syrup. But sycamores? Write to us if you have any ideas! Thanks.











Alongside the tree planting are some other treats though, including these blackberries. Help us out – we still can’t tell the difference between black raspberries and blackberries. If you know which is which can you tell us? 

Here’s the plant:

blackberry plant (800x600)









And here’s the berry, and these started ripening last week:

blackberries (800x600)









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4 thoughts on “Latest bounty among the trees

  1. Hi! It’s fun to see what you guys are up to:)
    I don’t know for sure, but I would call those black raspberries. My grandma used to grow those and that’s what she called them.

  2. I’d agree with Toni! Black raspberries are hollow when you pluck them, like red raspberries, where as blackberries are not hollow at all: they have a solid white “pith” in the center. I haven’t seen too many blackberries in Iowa.
    One great use for Sycamore trees is that they are beautiful! Otherwise, here are some interesting Native American uses if feel like processing the bark a bit:

  3. Great info everyone! (Chant, your link didn’t work…what is it missing?) But the sycamore link cracked me up and now I’ll stop badmouthing them. Maybe that’ll become our “sugar bush”! And Toni, finally I can stop calling them both. OK, black raspberries it is!

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