Thursday, June 25, 2015

Nutrient bomb

Unless you haven't caught on already, I'm somewhat of a lazy gardener. Scratch that! I'm an acreage gardener, which means my time is limited. Inevitably the garden has to do more for itself. So anything which can do my job, just by way of its normal biological function, I want it.

Leaf fall

Enter the humble mulberry tree. What a fantastic invention this was, for nutrient deprived soil like mine. It drops a giant nutrient bomb when the weather gets cold enough, via its fallen leaves. We're nearly at the end of the first month of winter, and its still holding onto some of them.

nature's carpet

But it's also dropped a lot more leaves on the ground. Since clearing the lantana and building the swale to help water this beast, leaf drop this year, has been exceptional. Just what I need to put those ground dwellers to work (otherwise known as worms, microbes and fungi) to turn my sandy, clay, loam, into dark chocolate soil!

Growing leaf mould

All these wonderful leaves which once fed the tree through photosynthesis, are now in various stages of decay on the ground. Some are turning black and being absorbed into the soil, some are still in the process of browning off, and some are even still green. A patchwork quilt of energy, being stored away for next years' growing season.

Under story

But there are even more benefits to this incredible tree of life-giving qualities. I have managed to grow comfrey under it! I've tried several times unsuccessfully to grow comfrey, but it turns out it likes the dappled shade provided under canopy trees - especially in our blazing hot summers!

The mulberry is large enough to create a micro climate, which is protecting the comfrey from dying back. It will be interesting to see if the comfrey leaves hold all winter. It seems to be getting a good feed from the mulberry tree though.

Sunlight and leaves, like the birds and the bees

In permaculture circles, this tree's function is termed a Dynamic Accumulator. To me its just a big old nutrient bomb, infiltrating the soil to connect many different lifeforms together. The magic after that is healthy soil, which can store nutrients and water better. Plants seem to like those things, so I try to have as many dynamic accumulators, as possible.

Weeds are another dynamic accumulator, and so is grass. They grow, store nutrients, which can all be released back into the soil to feed the ground dwellers, all over again. Year after year. So long as we understand their purpose and manage them according to their biological function.

Blue sky on a winter's day

Personally, there is something deeply romantic and mystical about a tree. Its a living companion. A quiet presence which moulds itself into the landscape, drawing life, like an invisible magnet. It never leaves its one place, but so many things change around it because of its existence.

Nutrient bomb, dynamic accumulator, romantic escapade, whatever you want to call it, a garden is poorer without them.


  1. Yay! I love mulberries, and now this is just an extra reason to plant one (or several!).

  2. Definitely go for several, on a hill, that you want your cattle to feed on lower down the slope. They grow fairly quickly too, so after three to four years, you shouldn't have a problem with cattle killing them. The great thing about putting them on a hill is, you'll also incorporate shade for the cows, giving them reason to return to the top of the hill to drop their manure, feed the trees some more, and you'll have incredible pasture continuing to grow down hill.

    I think I've managed to propagate one from my trees. I'll know for sure, come spring, as its dormant right now. I've heard you can even get them to grow roots if cuttings are sat in a glass of water. Once you master how to propagate them however, you shouldn't have to buy more than a few to begin with. In fact, if you know someone with a mulberry tree, you should try and strike as many cuttings as you can now, so you'll have plenty of material to plan at Cheslyn Rise. :)


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