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Posts Tagged ‘walnut tree’

It’s a simple life I live, but one full of happy moments. Here are just a few that made their way onto my camera this week:

1. Sharing the Cozy Chair.

DSCN2508

2. Rainy days at home.

DSCN25433. My merry minstrel.

DSCN27474. Optimistic tomatoes.

DSCN27505. Surprise white bleeding hearts.

DSCN27536. The best scones ever. (Archer Farms!)

DSCN27627. My garden’s first flower.

DSCN27648. Pointy ears.

DSCN27659. A beautiful view on a gorgeous 70-degree day.

DSCN276810. Mulberry season.DSCN277011. Anything Charley Harper.DSCN277312. Foster kids.DSCN2777

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Nearly 2000 years ago, Pliny observed that walnut trees have a poisonous effect on all plants.

Guess what these two backyard beauties are…

(The former owners’ long-abandoned attempt at a garden bed is slightly off frame to the left.)

All parts of a walnut tree produce a substance called juglone, which is leached into the soil through the roots and any debris that falls from the tree, such as leaves, fruits, and twigs. The juglone will allow plants to grow, then it essentially causes a massive asthma attack in the plant, causing respiratory distress and eventual (or sudden) death.

Well, shit.

Game over for Farmer Bee, right?

Not quite. If anything else, I see my new garden site as a challenge, warts and septic leach field and juglone and all.

We considered chopping the trees down, but they are quite pretty and extremely healthy. Besides, dead walnut tree roots will continue to leach juglone into the soil for several years after the tree is gone, so I’m not sure it would be worth the expense. The jury is still out on this one.

Assuming that the walnuts stay, I have a few tricks up my sleeve that (I think) will get us through this debacle just fine.

1. Fortunately, Pliny was a little bit wrong. Walnuts are not toxic to all plants, only certain ones. As far as edible plants are concerned, the most susceptible to walnut wilt, as they call it, happen to be the most popular plants to grow in a vegetable garden: tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplant. That may seem like a bad thing, but it’s actually a great thing. The farmers’ markets are overflowing with these exact edibles every summer, and their presence in my backyard would not necessarily be missed. I can still grow corn, beans, carrots, beets, squash, melon, and raspberries without a worry—they are juglone resistant! With a little patience and experimentation, I’m certain I will find a few more delectibles that will thrive within the grasp of those dreaded toxins.

2. There are ways to get around growing veggies in contaminated soil. Containers are an obvious solution, as long as there is some sort of mulch over the soil surface, and debris from the trees is swept away promptly. Same goes for raised beds, though it may be significantly more difficult to keep those debris-free, and there is the possibility of roots creeping up into the beds from below (sounds like a horror movie).

3. The trees are big and beautiful, but relatively compact. The rule of thumb is that a tree’s roots extend out as far as the tree is tall…
Our yard is large enough that I may be able to place my beds beyond that point, while still avoiding the septic field, of course.

4. An arborist may be in our future, after all. Trimming up the far-reaching branches could be a great thing for our new yard. The “drip-line” will recede, there will be fewer horrendous walnuts to rake up every fall, and the tree will get a tidier, well-groomed look to it. Most importantly, this will free up more space for gardening.

The fate of the walnut trees is held in sway for the time being. I hate to think of killing anything that has survived for so many decades (and is an Indiana native), even if it does increase the chance of a few twisted ankles and some wilted veggies here and there. If worse comes to worst, we’ll have a whole lot of really high quality firewood to enjoy for a long time to come…

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