AlnoCulture; Alder Tree as a living trellis with Courtney Brooke at Earthaven Ecovillage
Transcript from video:
Courtney Brooke: Good morning, it’s Courtney Brooke here. I wanted to show you another exciting plant in our landscape which is called an Alder. It’s a tree; it’s these trees here. This is a baby one. It was planted about …maybe two years ago. Here’s one that was planted three years ago; it’s the taller bigger tree there.
What’s going on here is that we have an existing muscadine arbor. Just here… behind me is an existing muscadine arbor, which is made out of logs to hold it up and then it grows muscadines which are a wild grape. They make a lot of food; they’re just really delicious. They’re native to this region.
The scheme here is that we are growing these alders. At the base of each one of these, each one of these trunks, each one of these, what would you call it,…whatever the thing that’s holding up the arbor is. An alder that we planted to replace the pole, the post when the alder gets bigger.
Nitrogen Fixing Living Trellis
The alder is a really cool plant. It’s actually fixing nitrogen. It’s a nitrogen fixing tree that’s non-leguminous. So, it’s not a legume. It doesn’t make a bean pod. Alder fixes nitrogen with its roots so it improves the soil. It helps to put nitrogen, which is part of what the plants need to grow and be well, into the soil. Then you can see here this alder here and there’s a grape here. So this grape will be trellised up the alder when the alder is a little bit bigger.
This is not something that we came up with on our own. There’s a whole beautiful way of growing grapes that’s called Alnoculture because the latin name of this of this older tree is called Alnus. There’s this whole thing from up in Europe where people grow a lot of grapes for a really long time called alnoculture. They use these plants to trellis, as living trellises. So we’re not gonna cut the tree down. We’re just gonna let it be living and it’s gonna be a living post.
Pollarding and Propagating
Then you coppice it, you know when you pollard it. We don’t want the alder to get really big. We want to cut it and let it stay as a trellis. When you cut it releases nitrogen into the soil so this is an old thing. Tried and true. Especially out in Italy there’s all these old vineyards where they are practicing alnoculture.
Then another thing about the alder is that you can do something that’s called stooling. So when… let’s see if I can find an example… if you pack dirt around the bottom of the tree then it will make another baby tree. So you can see here that that is what has been done we just mounted the soil around the original tree here. It has made a whole bunch of other little babies. Then we can cut those off and have vegetatively propagated older trees to be feeding our grapes… yay!