This weekend I put down a deposit on land - 13 acres, mostly wooded (only about an acre clear in the front), hilly, and a stream running through the front between the clearing and the woods. It's a gorgeous piece of property, but not exactly farm land. I'm interested in the idea of a "forest garden" and would like to hear what people have to say about it. The idea is nice, but is it actually possible to produce food that way? The open land is for our sheep and chickens, and I'm hoping not to have to clear much more of it if we don't have to.
So who here keeps a "forest garden"? What (and how, and how much) do you grow in it?
We cleared as little as we could to make a terraced garden on the south facing slope at the back of where we built the house and we produce more than enough food for us and our two pigs from that and from the space between the trees. The trees and shrubs protect the potager from the wind and make it a sort of microclimate which means our growing season is slightly longer than it would be if the the plants were in the open.The sheep and goats graze on land further away from the house.
This plan shows the amount of clearing we did to make the raised beds relative to the tree canopy. It also shows the design we developed for recovering water from the site using swales and roofs.
From my own experience, keeping things small and near the house is important to success. I wasted a lot of time, energy and money trying to grow things away from the home site. Making small clearings near the house is probably all you'll need to do. If the property is heavily treed you will need to make some clearings because not many food plants will grow in full shade. If it's a cool or cloudy climate the clearings will need to be larger to allow more sun. In a hot climate you can allow a lot more shade. My new kitchen garden is almost under the trees and is doing much better than the old exposed vegetable garden which has dried up and blown away this year.
A stream gives you a lot of opportunities for food growing, and possibly for power generation if it's large enough! Many water plants are very productive of food, especially in a warm climate. I can't remember where you're located.
What am I going to do with my whole giant 13 acres? lol. We'd like the farm to pay its own bills eventually, though it'll take a while. Honey and wool will be our main product, though of course we'll be happy to sell our surplus eggs, meat, vegetables, and anything else that we can. I'm not sure we can make enough off the farm to have an income, but I hope we can at least supply our own fuel, most of our food, and enough cash to cover the cost of any extras that the farm needs. I expect one of us will always have to have an outside job.
The land is in NY, not far from Syracuse. I have an overhead map of it, and I've also found it on Google maps. It's on a south-facing hillside, though there are a few flat spots. The flattish areas have the thinnest tree growth, so they should be easy to clear out a bit. We're going to clear things out a bit as soon as we close on it, and leave the wood to season for next year's heating. We'll probably also set up hugelkultur mounds so that they can cook over the winter and be ready for some plantings next year. I'd like to get some fruit and nut trees in as well. There are already wild apple and crabapple trees, sumac, and some other possible wild edibles. We also have a huge deer run going right through the property, so hopefully we'll be able to take a couple of deer every year. We might even put a small pond in eventually. There's a spot that seems ideal for one.
watch for dead or dying trees in the forest and when you remove them, replace the tree with a fruit or nut bearing tree, also if you can, leave a little of the bark or trunk of the tree next to the planting to help to provide a food and water holding source.
as a hedge along the property lines you can put in berries, they generally enjoy edges of woods..esp brambles.
i have found that a lot of vegetables enjoy the woods and vines love the edges
you also can find an area where there is alot of fallen wood that is partially buried and install a mushroom garden or two..or more.
depending on what trees your forest is made of, some of them might be good nurse trees for fruits and nuts as well.
Bloom where you are planted.
Mare = body of water haute de la colline = top of the hill ligne d'altitude = land falls away in this direction swales et terracement suivant le terrain = swales and terraces across the terrain recouperation d'eau = water recovery or rain catchment potager = vegetable garden foret comestible = edible forest parc cochon = pigs' park or pigs' area
With that much woodland, I would suggest growing a lot of "ramps" (wild leeks). They are delicious, and bring premium prices from NYC chefs. They grow wild in upstate NY, all the way south to NC. They will not grow in full sun, but will thrive in partial sun to 'open forest'. They love shade.
I would not suggest putting them anywhere you might run hogs, as the hogs may eat them all, and I'm not certain if it might put a taint on the meat if they ate them during the finishing process.
As long as you don't pick them all, they will perennialize themselves quite readily. They do grow in the wild, hence the name "wild leek".