• Fruit & nut trees, berry bushes, edible landscaping plants

  • Adapted to the Southern Appalachian and Piedmont bioregions

  • Naturally grown in an ecovillage

  • By friendly and knowledgeable useful plant specialists

  • Permaculture and edible landscape design services

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    Fruiting Plants
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    Nut Trees
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    Medicinal Plants
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    Permaculture Plants
  • Early Spring in the Orchard

    Early Spring in the Orchard

    Thursday, 01 March 2018

    With February’s very unusual, prolonged heat wave, there is little doubt that bud-break will be early this year. (That said, it’s within the realm of possibilities that our weather could dive into series of Arctic fronts, and slow things down a little). I am not going to count on this, though.
    Early spring pruning can stimulate bud break, so it’s best to avoid it, especially with this year’s weather uncertainty. It’s going to be tough enough to baby the early blossoming of our fruiting plants past the always late (or even timely) cold snaps. A late, hard freeze rarely kills a flowering, well established fruit tree, but it could result in little (or no) fruit this year.
    This is a good time for planting potted trees and shrubs, following our planting advise, and watering them in very well. This will give the plants a chance to develop their root systems a bit before the tree pops into its growth cycle. And it's always a good idea to soak the root ball in a Nature's NOG or other seaweed and humate solution for an hour or two. If the plant is root-bound, gently spread the roots as you place it in the soil. 
    Fruiting plants are ecologically happier and healthier being in community. An island approach is an example of a permaculture design that will meet this purpose. Prepare an area in a “fat” boomerang shape: place your largest plant in the middle, and add smaller trees, shrubs and perennials for the side areas. This type of planting design creates a guild: an assemblage of plants growing together in their own ecosystem, each enhancing the health and vitality of the others. Just like Mother Nature!
    This design approach creates a fruit system that is natural, interesting, and fun to be around, and also beautiful and fruitful. It’s also much easier to mow around a single shape than several isolated plants.
    Andrew "Goodheart" Brown is a 40 year resident of WNC and a passionate home orchardist with over 46 varieties grown ecologically. Andrew is an international consultant in small scale sustainable agriculture projects, an endangered species observer, field biologist, naturalist, permaculturist, gourmet natural food cook, educator, gardener, and beekeeper. Andrew will be teaching several orcharding workshops at the OGS Spring Conference.

  • About Useful Plants Nursery

    About Useful Plants Nursery

    Tuesday, 05 April 2016

    Buying Plants

    Visit our nursery, order and pick up, or schedule delivery, see what options could work for you on our Buying Plants page. Note that we can only accept cash and checks at the nursery because we don't have cell phone coverage to process credit cards.

    During the winter we are open by appointment. If you would like to schedule an appointment, please contact us at least a couple days ahead of time. For your convenience, please do not visit at other times without a confirmed appointment.

    About Us

    Useful Plants Nursery is a permaculture-based nursery specializing in useful, phytonutritional, food, and medicine plants well-adapted to our Southern Appalachian mountains and surrounding bioregions. Our plants are grown without the use of synthetic pesticides at our nursery located at Earthaven Ecovillage.

Adapting to spring in winter

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Adapting to spring in winter

Given that current reality of change being the only certainty, and with the spring blooming fruits of our region being notorious for emerging in a warm spell and then getting hammered by a hard frost, I’d say our favorite fruit yields for those spring bloomers, such as apples, pears, peaches, cherries, and blueberries, are at serious risk of freeze damage once they begin to bud swell and flower.

Some plants will likely get through unfazed if their flowing timing catches a lucky break, but the uncertainty suggests some preparation to protect your flowering fruits may be in order.  The most reliable method would be to drape or cover your susceptible plants during the danger period.  If you don’t have a supply of freeze protection blankets on hand and a plan for how to secure them, I’d suggest you avail yourself of a supply and some cord, stakes, and landscape staples to secure them during windy conditions.


So, for the homeowner, what are your best freeze protection blanket materials choices? Probably the best simple option would be a supply of cheap or used acrylic or wool blankets in the larger sizes for small trees, and smaller sizes for bushes.  They will work so much better than sheets, burlap, tarps or plastic if there is a hard freeze.  The spun bonded veggie row covers are generally too light, and will be ripped up by the branches of trees or shrubs.  For larger scale, there are some very durable, nursery winter protection blanket materials available, but they come in large rolls and may be ordered from nursery supply businesses.

You can check out UPN’s instructional youtube videos on winter protecting figs for some more elaborate freeze protection schemes.  However, they are more elaborate than needed for a few nights of protection.  Generally just draping and securing your plants will be sufficient.

I’ll be giving a talk at this spring’s Organic Grower’s School in Asheville on Sunday, March 12 on horticultural responses to climate uncertainty.  We’ll look at permacultural and horticultural strategies and methods to grow healthy, fruitful plants during the challenging growing conditions that will mark the times ahead.
Cultivating Abundance,   …. The chuckster