Arkansas Natives

For the first time in my life, I have a yard all my own to garden.  It’s not a very big yard and it’s already filled with several large trees, but it is mine.  When I was living in Lawrence, Kansas I rented a house where the owners let me use the front yard as a small vegetable garden. Ever since, I’ve longed for the day when I could have my own place to plant something bigger than a veggie patch. 

I want to do something a little more long term. I want to turn my backyard into an edible forest filled with lots of plants and trees native to Arkansas. Planting native as much as possible means I’m also doing more to insure my garden is actually sustainable because the plants are already adapted to our particular environment. 

Besides all that, I think that plants can be a method through which we preserve and maintain our own history.  The Paw Paw tree used to be extremely abundant in the Ozarks. In recent years, due to the availability of imported fruit, the native fruits have fallen out of favor and thus, begun to vanish.  The Osage Orange tree has a similar fate, except that it was mainly eradicated because it doesn’t have any visible use for humans and its twisted vines create sometimes impenetrable windbreaks.  Also known as the “Bois D’arc tree,”  the “hedgeapple” and the “horseapple,”  the Osage Orange’s fruit isn’t edible. It does, however, make pretty flower arrangements and supposedly scares away cockroaches.  

I’ve already set my sights on the Paw Paw tree, of course(tastes like bannana custard, they say!), and the Osage Orange.  I’m definitely going to plant some muscadine grapes.  I’d like to find a heritage blackberry bush local to this area, but I  may just have to go with the varities the University of Arkansas produces. 

I’ve already planted some hydrangea that’s not native and one non-native semi-dwarf pear tree, but what’s an edible forest without a pear tree?

The problem, of course, is that I can’t afford to do it all at once.  My yard also has some special challenges.  The biggest of which is the giant tree stump immediately out our back door.  It’s huge.  We had to have the tree that once occupied that spot removed after the most recent tornado, because it made three extremely unstable. One more big wind and we’d be missing a living room.  So we had some guys come and cut the tree. Now we have a huge stump with roots that literally take up the vast majority of the yard.  I’m definitely going to have to go with a no-till strategy on this yard.

Since I can’t do everything at once, and I have to work around, I decided I needed to a pick a project and just do it.  And the rest will just have to wait.  I’ve been fooling around with the idea of extending our patio with gravel, but now I think I have a better idea for a first project.

I’ve decided that the best thing to do with the tree stump is to turn it into a focal point for an herb garden.  My plan is to build up a little bed with stones, fill it with a nice lasagne gardening mix, and go to town. I also thought I’d make one half of the stump a giant planter, since it appears to be hollow to the ground (which explains why the tree was in danger of falling over). 

Now that I’ve got my first plan, I just have to execute it.   The problem is, after scouring the internets, I can’t find a single list of herbs native to Arkansas anywhere.  Can anyone help me solve this mystery?


2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Tipper said,

    I have no info about your native plants-but I love the solution you have come up with to incorporate the stump. Even though I’ve lived here many years-it is still exciting for me to think of planting new things each year. I’ve found planting native plants is so much easier than having to baby ones that aren’t native to my area.

  2. 2

    Amy Jude said,

    Here’s a few places to start:

    Plus, on the hedgeapple tree – I love those suckers!!! I don’t know about cockroaches, but there is something in the chemical composition of the hedgeapple that is abhorrent to spiders. Our family has used them for years to repel spiders. We cut them in quarters and scatter them in crawlspaces, basements and around the outside of foundations. It does work. I have actually been wanting some (desperately!) lately, because we just moved into a creekside rental in DeSoto, KS that is crawling with recluses . . . sadly, the osage orange is not in season until July. 😦 Anyone wanting more info on the hedgeapple should check out . . . the site is a riot! I can’t believe they actually sell them for $48 a case!!! If I had known folks would buy that I could have retired by now. LOL 🙂

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