Bees, GIS Planning, Silvopasture and Agroforestry

Trees for Bees 6: GIS Map and honorable mention

Other posts in this series:

Trees for Bees introduction

Trees for Bees 2: Planning

Trees for Bees 3: Sumac

Trees for Bees 4: Sourwood

Trees for Bees 5 : Basswood

 

You may notice one species mentioned in the first post is absent: Liriodendron tulipifera aka Tulip Poplar.

“Liriodendron tulipifera tulip close” by Dcrjsr – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Liriodendron_tulipifera_tulip_close.jpg#/media/File:Liriodendron_tulipifera_tulip_close.jpg

This species is an abundant nectar producer early in the season helping colonies build up food stores and population numbers. While other bee gardeners are full encouraged to consider this tree, it will not be planted on the farm for a few reasons. Tulip poplars require loose, fertile soils as their roots systems are small, fleshy, soft and to put it succinctly: weak. It is also susceptible to numerous pests and diseases. Combining these attributes with its huge form and full sun requirements, the decision was made to plant the more valuable (regarding bees) Basswood in the vacant locations despite the beautiful blooms that resemble tulips, thus the common name.

Final Plans and Map

Putting everything together, there will be sumacs planted on the hill that raises the farm entrance from the pasture as well as below the powerlines. Sourwoods will be planted between the farm entrance track and the main road as well as along the fenceline in the pasture. Lastly, Basswoods will occupy the areas where they have room to spread.

Note: I apologize for the low res imagery. It is used for faster processing as well as the only aerial image saved offline for when I work on maps at the farm where my cellular data is the only access to internet!

That concludes this series…I hope you aren’t sick of bee talk!

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Garden, GIS Planning

Perennial Species Highlight: Hops

Beer has been around since some guy in ancient Mesopotamia left grains or bread sitting in water around 10000 BCE. The first appearance in recorded history are in reliefs on Egyptian tombs or in the Epic of Gilgamesh and the first chemical evidence of barley beer is from before 3,000 BCE from jars in Iran. Bitter local herbs have always been used to counteract the sweetness the grain fermentation yields, but in modern times the added anti-microbial properties of hops have made them them almost the sole bittering agent used around the world. The craft beer boom of the last few decades have capitalized on the aromatic and flavor characteristics of some varieties as well.

Hops are vertical vine climbers and will be grown up the front of the barn. While enjoying full sun, they can get scorched with too much afternoon exposure so hopefully they will enjoy the trellises hung from the barn rafters 25 feet overhead while getting some afternoon shade from the structure. If they shade the open section of the barn, awesome! More than anything I just want them to grow UP and not outward on ground level. They will be contained by root barriers like these: 24″ x 100 ft.  or 18″ x 100 ft. Rhizome plantings are used to produce female-only plants as males plants pollinate the flowers causing them to seed which destroys their use in beer.

Same varieties are recommended to be planted no closer than 3 ft’ apart while separate varieties should be no closer than 5 feet apart (source). Soil ever allowed to dry completely will likely kill the plants growth for the year so heavy mulching and regular watering will be applied. I’d like to branch out and see which varieties grow well here in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia using organic methods but here is my starting point.

Sticking with my garden theme of focusing on growing plants I will personally use (or help the plants I enjoy), I will grow mostly Cascades and Willamette hops, with smaller plantings of Magnum/Zeus (CTZ) or other High Alpha Acid Percentage (AA%) hop meant for bittering. I’m going to try out a rhizome of Sunbeam Golden hops as the leaves are beautifully yellow and they prefer partial shade. I’d love to grow Simone or Amarillo hops but their genetic information is patented and I could not sell them let alone obtain rhizomes. There are literally zero recommended companion plants as they would most likely get smothered by the spreading hops roots. I plant to toss in some marigolds, a sunflower or two and some potted basil to determine the best companions myself.

Using the growth requirements mentioned above, the mapping part is as simple as adding the data to each grid. Here is a peak into the GIS database which represents where to plant the individual rhizomes.

HopsTeaser

HopsTeaser2

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Garden, GIS Planning

Revisting Garden Planning With GIS

I’ve decided to follow many of the market gardening and urban micro farm literature in preparing my garden. Vertical space and efficient layout are key considerations in planning.

GIS Software mapped the garden beds at 4 feet wide with 2 foot aisles between beds.

bedsOutline

Using a GIS tool that someone published online the garden bed polygons provided the boundaries to create 1×1 ft. grids.  Some unpredictable results were produced from my minorly complex garden bed geometries. I removed all but the two largest polygons to re-run the tool, then copied, pasted and cut the results to replace the other beds.

BedGrids

This GIS tool applied my grid to the garden beds to cut the polygons into 1×1 ft. squares. I ran into the same issue so I deleted all by the western most beds. After running the tool again, I copied the resulting beds and pasted them with 2 foot aisle ways in between. Then I clipped all of the beds to the desired boundary of the garden while adding an additional piece along the main fence. The end result is below

BedsFinal

The point of doing this is that now I can link the individual 1×1 ft rectangles to any piece of data I want. Examples include: plant species, species variety, growth characteristics, water needs, sunlight recommendations, soil preference, composting/mulching/organic fertilizing needs, planting time in relation to frosts, harvest time and ANYTHING else that is even remotely useful. This will help in planning but also garden maintenance and in the future, logging location specific performance over time. With GIS software, I can analyze the latter against 3-D sunlight, elevation, soils, and climatic data when I get bored or want to knock the rust off of the skills of professions past.

 

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GIS Planning

Mapping the Farm!

My first step to analyzing the viability of my pasture was to produce a digital map. I grabbed some high resolution imagery and drew the boundaries, otherwise known as digitizing or interpreting aerial photography in the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) industry. After digitizing the pasture, an array of powerful tools are opened up to me to perform geospatial analysis.

Base Aerial Image

Base Aerial

Boundaries Drawn for Pasture

PastureBoundries

 

As you can see, pioneer species of trees have popped up sporadically. I’ve decided to work with them rather than against them as they have created wildlife corridors for deer. However I understand that I cannot consider the area beneath the trees as good grazing material. So my next step was to digitize the trees in GIS software, then cut them out of my pasture polygon.

Pasture with Trees Removed

PastureNoTrees

Geometries like area, perimeter and anything else needed can be instantly calculated:

Acreage of Pasture (top is with trees removed)

Acrage

With these basic data creation steps complete, I can move forward with more advanced analysis to plan the farm. Stay tuned!

Please don’t hesitate to leave comments if you catch any errors in my methodology, can offer feedback, have questions or would like me to perform similar GIS analysis for your property!

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