First, a bit of book-keeping. I never heard back from Julie Keith, our Bocking 4 comfrey winner.
Julie, if you’re still out there, please drop me an email with your
mailing address. And, just in case Julie doesn’t come through in
the next couple of days, I chose a runner-up. Daniel, please email
email@example.com with your contact information, and if Julie remains MIA, I’ll mail you the comfrey starts instead.
As a second book-keeping
note, a huge thank you to a second Julie, who sent me the Bocking 14
start shown to the left. This comfrey will go in my fence-line bed
next-door to the Bocking 4, and in a year I’ll put some in the pasture
for a chicken taste-test (and will give some away). The plant may
look scruffy now, but I’m confident it will take off like all of our
other comfreys once warm weather hits.
book-keeping aside, I figured this would be a good opportunity to take a
look at some of my forest-pasture-perennial experiments from last
year. The first was a total dud. I stuck dozens of Illinois everbearing mulberry hardwood cuttings in the ground in a nursery bed (and a few in a pot on the porch), hoping that at least one or two would
root. Some did seem to be taking hold during our wet summer, but
by the time fall rolled around, all had perished. I dug the last
sticks out of the ground last week and none had developed roots, so it
looks like Illinois everbearing mulberries aren’t going to be added to
my list of easy-to-root plants.
On the other hand, I sent some scionwood to a reader last winter, and he had great luck grafting onto wild red mulberries.
I don’t have quite as easy of a source of red mulberry seedlings, so I
might try starting some mulberry rootstock from seeds from our Illinois
everbearing tree this coming summer. My conclusion is — if you
want to propagate mulberries, it’s best to go the grafting route.
Next stop is our seedling persimmons,
now a year and a half old. These seem to be growing slowly but
surely in the pasture, perhaps because they don’t tend to get any care
during the year, but also possibly because American persimmon is just a
slow grower. The trees are now about two feet tall, and I’m
hopeful they’ll double in size over the next year so I can graft some
Asian persimmons onto the rootstock in late winter 2015.
What’s next in forest-pasture experimentation for the coming year? We’ll mostly be focusing on our newest pasture, where I recently set out the first pear tree and planted comfrey along the fences.
Another experiment will involve a taste test between the Bocking 4
comfrey that will be added to the pasture this year and the common
comfrey that’s already there to discover which is more palatable to our
flock. Stay tuned to learn the answer!