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What would you do with sixty acres?

Posted by blue_ivy 5 IN (My Page) on
Fri, Jan 23, 09 at 12:35

Hi all,

What would you do if you just rented a little cottage-type house on sixty acres, and your landlord said you could only garden on a less-than-half acre plot (which of course I already have extensive plans for filling)?

Another way to ask this question is: do you have any advice on how to be a sneaky gardener?

I am so thrilled about my new surroundings. I walk/ run (jump, tumble, throw leaves) around the property like a kid in a candy store. There's a decent sized field area, (most of which I am to leave alone) and then most of the rest of the property is woods, including a semi-path that cuts back into the woods, down to some stream. Sounds glorious, doesn't it? Central Indiana has never been my top-choice as far as location; it is a bit cold for a mostly southern girl like me, but this property is idyllic.

So, back to the topic, what can I do to add a little color here and there that will not be too obtrusive? Especially back in the woods? Do you think it might be bad if I introduce a few new species to the ecosystem? Should I leave it alone? Or are there a few annuals or easily adaptable perennials that would not hurt a woodsy setting? Herbs, vines, I don't know.

Any comments/ advice would be appreciated, including any along cautionary lines, but of course I am hoping someone has found some great "invisible" plants for a woodsy setting.


Follow-Up Postings:

RE: What would you do with sixty acres?

Hi fellow Hoosier blue_ivy,

I'm guessing you are a lot farther north than I am. I am 30 miles north of Louisville.

I know and can feel your excitement, as I too am in IN and have acreage, but I own it. From my experience, I would first suggest that you enjoy it all. Even now there are natives that might be found. In fact today I looked a bit for the elusive native orchid Puttyroot (Aplectrum hyemale0 in the hopes of locating some so I can see them bloom later in the spring. They only put up one leaf and that is in the winter.

For your woods walking pleasure I would suggest getting Field Guide to Indiana Wildflowers (Paperback). It is a great resource.

do you have any advice on how to be a sneaky gardener?
Hmmm....I really would suggest you not doing anything without an OK from the landlord. I would scope things out, and see just what all there was in the woods and property that wasn't in pasture. The Name That plant Forum has been a great help to me in identifying so many things I have discovered. Possibly there are non natives that he would welcome you trying to eradicate....Japanese honeysuckle comes to mind. What a thug! In talking to him, I'd suggest you asking permission to maybe plant some natives with his OK. If the field is being used as a pasture, he may have worked hard to make it a good pasture, free of most weeds. I would not introduce any non native flowers in the woods though.

Possibly there is some additional right of way property at the roadside that you could adopt with his permission. Possible there are power poles along the roadway that could use some prettying up with some flowers or even some spring daffodils or other spring bloomers.

I wonder if there are blackberries and raspberries growing wild and if the landlord or his family or friends are regular pickers. There's nothing better on this earth (imho anyway) than a fresh warm blackberry pie made from wild blackberries.

I look forward to hearing more about all the native treasures you will likely find.

Oh...if you haven't had the pleasure of seeing and enjoying much snow yet, I hope you get to see at least 1 or 2 nice snows. We have not had a single decent one here yet this winter, that I can remember anyway.

Sue...a native nut

Here is a link that might be useful: a nice March 2008 snow-house in the distance

RE: What would you do with sixty acres?

  • Posted by lgslgs z6 SE ohio (My Page) on
    Sat, Jan 24, 09 at 14:04

I wouldn't introduce non-natives to property that I didn't actually own myself. I've got 15 acres here and while I'm happy planting non-natives myself, woe to ANYONE who dumps unauthorized seed on my land!

In your situation, I would suggest enjoying the additional land by doing some basic stick pickup and gentle neatening if you'd like, studying what wild flowers grow there now, and then seed saving from them and planting them intentionally if you want to give it more of a garden feel.

I couldn't even begin to tell you how much I'd resent someone messing with my land without permission. If your landlord has granted you permission to garden in a certain way, abide by the rules, show you are a good tenant, and once you prove that see if you've earned their trust to do more. On the remaining acreage be a good steward to what's already there - but don't go planting your own choice of things there. That's just not a good thing to do to someone else's land.


RE: What would you do with sixty acres?

Thanks to both of you for your responses! You both gave practical, well-grounded advice.

Sue - It sounds like I am about 60-90 minutes north of you, which means that if you find out about any plant swaps in the area, please let me know because I would love to go! Nice photos, by the way. I like your white bush (what is it?) and your pink (Japanese cherry??) tree near the house. Looks like you have some great land! I don't know what "much snow" means up here, but from my perspective, we have had a good amount. My perspective is probably skewed due to a history of snow-deprivation and - yes, to be honest I must admit a little snow-aversion. Maybe it will wear off.

Berries! What a great idea! I have not seen any in this area, but that would be a nice item to cultivate (in a permitted zone) if I can manage to have luck with them. I have checked out a few books on native plants, but I am not very good at identifying anything in the winter. I can't wait for spring! It will be fun to learn about native herbs and flowers. A classroom in my backyard.

Lynda - Two great responses to my questions in just a couple days! I love the idea of saving up seeds collected from the woods and re-planting them as I want. It seems so obvious but I am so new to collecting seeds that it doesn't always occur to me. Do you think it would be so bad to introduce native, local plants/ seeds that are not in the back woods? I probably will ask the LL about that, as Sue suggests.

There are a few nearby small areas that I may slightly fix-up in a non-garden way, such as putting up a rope swing and arranging some rocks around. I can't promise that I won't want to bring out a few pots of my favorite plants, but I might bring out stuff that won't reseed, and with permission.

What native (to Indiana) plants are easy to collect seed from?

I won't go too crazy - I sound like I am overly ambitious, but the truth is that in my non-gardening life, I am extremely busy anyway. Too busy to cause too much trouble anyway. For example, I will be teaching in Greece for a month this summer! I wonder what seeds I can collect there.... Okay, okay, enough dreaming and not quite enough work. Back to the books.

RE: What would you do with sixty acres?

  • Posted by lgslgs z6 SE ohio (My Page) on
    Sun, Jan 25, 09 at 10:08

I think you'll also find that once the weather warms up there will be so many different sorts of native plants already there that it could take a couple of years to get to know them all. I've included a link that will give you an idea of what you may find.

There are probably a lot of amazing things already growing there. Don't be surprised to find bloodroot and trilliums in the Spring. There will probably be some flowering trees. As you go into late May the plant growth will change so fast that every day the woods and fields will look really different than the day before and you'll probably feel like your eyes can't take in all of the new things to see fast enough.

Flowering may taper down during the height of summer, but if things are slow you can always watch the hummingbirds as they discover your garden. You may have wild black raspberries and blackberries - possibly in tangles bigger than you can imagine. We used to have a five acre patch (on a 15 acre property) until we got goats. They were good while they lasted! :)

Around September the purple and gold flowers explode and you may see many kinds of goldenrod growing next to expanses of Joe Pye weed and iron weed.

As fall comes in you might find hazelnuts ripening and maybe a patch of pawpaws or a persimmon tree. Even though we were looking for pawpaw trees from the day we moved in, we didn't find our grove of them until our third year when I found a pawpaw on the ground. Even looking for them, I walked by our pawpaw patch every day for three years until I finally recognized it. There were just so many different kinds of plants to discover that some took quite a while to identify.

I would think that as your landlord gets to know you and sees how you take care of the garden area he's already allowed, you'll have opportunities to expand it. You'll also learn which of the plants on his 60 acres are ones that he's most concerned about being messed with. Odds are that somewhere out there is a nice morel mushroom patch that's he'd really hate to have dug out and replaced with something else. Or a special elderberry bush or a great smelling honeysuckle spot. And there will probably also be spots he'd love to have cleaned up.

We often refer to our daily hikes on the land as "going out to see the show" because there is just so much new to see each day. Too bad you're going to Greece and will have to miss a month of the show!


Here is a link that might be useful: indiana wildflowers

RE: What would you do with sixty acres?

I would suggest not sowing seeds for anything until you check to see if they are or can become invasive. While a Newbie on GW I received seeds for verbena bonariensis, I think it is commenly called 'Verbena on a stick' or Brazilian Verbenia. I planted it and didn't even keep it long as the flower was not much to talk about but I did have it long enough for it to do to seed. It has now spread at least a quarter mile away and as far as I now had not been in my area before.
I hope that I never find that it has adverse effects on my local area but I will alwasy feel bad when I see it blooming.

RE: What would you do with sixty acres?

I agree completely with Lynda and Sue. You may do damage that you surely didn't mean to simply by not knowing what damage some plants can do to a farm. For instance, eating fescue, that stuff lots of people plant as ornamentals or lawns, can cause a pregnant mare to have a "red bag foal", a foal that suffocates minutes after birth because the placenta is too tough for it to break through. And even beautiful garden flowers and medicinal plants, even natives, datura and milk thistle for instance, can wreak havoc in a fertilized hay field, greatly devaluing the hay baled with those in it.

I'm not trying to lecture you at all, BlueIvy. :) I admire your joy in your new home! It does sound gorgeous (got any pictures? :). And I definitely encourage you to take full advantage of all it's beauty that you have permission to use. I just thought that you may want to know that your landlord isn't being a control freak in not wanting you to plant elsewhere ~ it's because he really does have good reason to not want extras planted. :)

Forgot to add

I also forgot to add that I'd also ask before you trim, prune or remove anything, even something you really do think your landlord would want removed. Some renters I had years ago cut a large and productive grape vine out of a pecan tree without asking me. Man was I mad! They said it would kill the tree, so they removed it. They didn't realize that not only had that vine been here on the ranch for longer than I have (and I was raised here) and the tree was still fine, but I have literally hundreds of pecan trees, yet only a few productive grape vines. And I sure do like grape jelly! LOL!

Like Lynda said, I'll just bet if you ask before you do anything outside your half acre area and show him that you really are taking care of your area, your landlord will let you do other things to pretty up the rest of the place and make it easier for you to enjoy as well.

RE: What would you do with sixty acres?

I am with everyone else here. I own 42 acres. I would be upset if someone came in amd planted seeds. We keep our 40 acres natural and is under a federal nature program. We have Dnr come out and see what is growing. There is the largest clump of bass wood in our area. PLEASE dont disturb the area without finding out if there are special requirement or not. Enjoy the nature you are RENTING... :)Barb

RE: What would you do with sixty acres?

Thanks for all the good advice, everyone. I appreciate hearing from people with educated experience about this, which is why I asked here! I'm sure I can learn how to have careful, creative, non-destructive fun, according to your suggestions. I am also sure that as things warm up, I will be posting for information about unknown plants that show up.

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