Garden design Ithaca

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A new project

One of my jobs for the summer is helping a couple of Cornell University professors with their garden work. (above) The area in front of the wall looked nasty because the contractor who built the wall left it without re-seeding grass.

The first question that came to my mind when the professors asked me to help them out was: Do you want an Edible Landscape instead?!

The answer was ‘yes please’, and to my delight, I had an opportunity to design a perennial garden

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ugly area behind the wall

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a few sparse weeds and gravel

What to do I do next?

  • measure site
  • check soil drainage (with a bucket of water and a stopwatch)
  • check soil pH (didn’t do)
  • check light interception
  • ask clients what they want
  • check overstory tree species
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site measurements to figure out how much mulch I need

Site characteristics I found:

  • medium quality soil
  • deer pressure (but clients do NOT want fence)
  • irregular light interception
  • clients want low-maintenance system
  • an unidentifiable tree canopy above the future ‘garden’
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What’s this tree?!

I spent an entire day going to Edible Acres (ie the Garden of Eden!) to select plants and renting a pickup truck get mulch for the garden.

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the plants I bought

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Soil remediation: I hand-tilled the soil with a fork and added some manure

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Lasagna mulching: after loosening the soil, I put cardboard down to kill existing weeds and inhibit weed growth. Mulching: mulch consists of chipped wood that I placed a thick layer of over the cardboard. Mulch helps keep the soil moist and also serves as a weed suppressant.

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I was about to start laying out my plants when I looked up around me once more and thought that the tree I couldn’t identify might indeed be a Juglans. Trees in this family (hickories & black walnut) can be very problematic for gardeners because the roots, the leaves and the nuts exude juglone – causing ‘allelopathy’ which can inhibit plan growth for certain species

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IMG_0213 What is this tree?

Because I wasn’t sure (the leaves I found didn’t have as many leaflets as a black walnut or a hickory, and there were no nuts to be found maturing in the tree), I decided to treat it as a Juglans in case. But what would happen with all the plants I had already bought?

Dealing with the Juglone Thankfully, quite a few of the plants I bought are  juglone tolerant such as currants, so I placed them right under the canopy of the unidentifiable tree.

Dealing with the Deer I created a natural deer fence using aromatic herbs (lavender, bee balm, yarrow…) that deter deer 

I then made a few Gooseberry cuttings from a bush I knew about and finally started planting.

I also made  compost tea to boost the plants and reduce the transplant shock

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Compost Tea- refer to my blog post on the topic for more info

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2 weeks later …

The site looks good, so far no deer nibbling. But, to my great disapoointment the currents look like they are getting rust

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rust on the currants

Hopefully the plants will spring back

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Another part of the property I have been working on is a the ‘wooded area’, where periwinkle has a hard time dispersing because of weed pressure. I weeded a lot, and sprayed some compost tea to boost the plants and help them spread.

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wooded area

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periwinkle