A living laboratory for a sustainable human future.

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!

alder, alnoculture, bioregional plants, Courtney Brooke, grapes, living trellis, muscadine, nitrogen

Courtney Brooke

Courtney Brooke (she/her) is an ancestor who was a Social Ecologist, Regenerative Designer, and educator whose work aims to reconnect people with a sense of belonging to place. Her work in the world aims to address the root cause of today’s overwhelming ecological challenges – that humans are starved of a sense of belonging to the places they live. Courtney Brooke was raised on a small farm in North Georgia, and has been guided by a lifetime of living close to the land. Her greatest teachers have been the Appalachian Mountains, the land of Aotearoa, and Selu, the Corn Mother. She holds a degree in Ecology from the Odum School of Ecology, University of Georgia, and has 10 years of experience facilitating earth-based education, ecological landscape design, women’s rites of passage, and cultural healing. Courtney Brooke has taught and facilitated environmental education curriculum, Deep Ecology, Permaculture Design Courses, hands-on craft and farming workshops, and Holistic Management to a wide range of audiences in nine countries from toddlers to adults and everyone in between. Deeply committed to spreading the healing that comes from belonging to the places we live, Courtney Brooke is passionate about designing learning opportunities that celebrate life. She lives at Earthaven Ecovillage where she tends the land, raises food, participates in communal ritual agriculture, swims in wild water, enjoys the mysterious blessing of being alive, and tends her own wild Hearth. She loves cooking home-grown and wild foraged foods, playing her flute to the sunrise, running on mountain trails, making compost piles, crafting from natural materials, and bringing people together to create beauty that feeds the holy.

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