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New to permaculture, design help and wisdom to offer  RSS feed

 
Posts: 3
Location: PDX
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Hi everyone!

I bought a house last March and have spent the intervening year fixing up the inside and tearing out most of the old plants. Now I am ready to start putting things back in the ground and through my research I have discovered the world of permaculture, which appeals to me for many reasons. I know there are lots of posts asking what kind of plants to get, and I have read as many of those as possible. I have become quite overwhelmed in my several months of research and hoping to start planting here in the next several weeks, so I want to nail down my choices and hoping to get a little morale support and feedback! I'm 30 and don't have much gardening experience, let alone in permaculture, and it's my first house and foray into landscape design, so trying to learn a lot of things at once!

The house is in outer SE Portland and has approximately a 65x120ft lot, with the house right in the middle, so big front and back yards. I have attached a 3D model that I made to help visualize. The house faces north and behind the fence in the back yard is a two story house looking into my backyard and then many very tall evergreen trees and a water tower that give some shade in late afternoon. I want to have edible plants as much as possible, along with as many evergreens as possible to keep it pretty through the long winter. I plan to put up a mason bee house so lots of plants for them too.

A. Starting from the NW corner: there is about a 2ft wide strip of dirt between my driveway and a 4ft chain link fence where the neighbor's yard starts. My original idea was to put clumping bamboo there but I was convinced not to for fear of a ton of maintenance and it leaning into my driveway. The new idea is to construct a 7ft lattice of some sort and then grow vines, mostly evergreen, to screen my yard from my neighbors. Want to do this as cheaply as possible so thinking about just putting some 4x4 posts in, 2x4 top plate, maybe one more 2x4 across the middle and then fill in the rest with some wire or remesh for the plants to hold onto. Thinking akebia, jasmine, hops, honeysuckle, china blue vine, clematis, passionflower.

B. North facing front yard: My main project, I want to plant a food forest based around four fruit trees. Gone back and forth a lot but current plan is to do one combo apple and one combo European pear closest to the house. Then a fig and mulberry beyond those, making a square. Underneath these I would have a fruit tree guild with bee balm and comfrey, thyme, lavender, clover, lupine, yarrow, daikon, strawberries, aronia, a couple goumi bushes, maybe a currant.

C. East side of front yard: I want an evergreen hedge that will fill in moderately fast. It is a mix of sun and shade as it will start right on the north side of my house outside a big picture window and continue to the street. There is a big grape trellis structure over the neighbor on that side's driveway which the hedge will but up to, that will also provide a little shade. I want this around 8ft tall to totally block my yard from their driveway in the winter when the grapes aren't there. Here I was thinking silverberry and pinapple guava, maybe a smaller ceanothus, smaller manzanita bush, Peris japonica, camellia, sweet olive, evergreen huckleberry (not sure if it will get 8ft tall?).

D. Backyard along the fence: I want some 15-20ft tall evergreen trees along the fence to screen my backyard from the second floor windows of the house behind me. Thinking loquat, Chilean myrtle, Strawberry marina madrone, wineberry, one of the big ceanothus, another Elaeagnus or autumn olive for the fast growing and fruit but I hear mixed reviews on how invasive they are and whether or not to plant them.

Few other spots beside the garage and the patio and in front, but I'm not as worried about them. Want to have Oregon grape, salal, fragrant sweet box, winterberry, lingon berry, etc.

-So first question is do you see any potential problems or have design ideas to add?
-Anyone in the Portland area have extra/dividable understory plants like those I mentioned for under my trees you want to donate to the cause?
-Did I miss anything that would work great in one of the spots
-Which of the mentioned plants would you recommend over the others?
-If you were starting over your urban food forest today what would you do differently?
-What do you wish you knew when you started that you know today?
-Anything else I should think about as I start buying and planting?

Thanks for reading and any thoughts!
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pollinator
Posts: 238
Location: San Diego, California
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This is awesome Kevin, welcome to Permies!!

Really love the 3D model, it's so easy to picture what you're going for.

I'm not experienced in your particular climate, so I'll leave plant selecting to other, more knowledgeable members.

Have you thought about rainwater management in your design? If your property has any measure of sloping, maneuvering runoff to water your plants, and not dig ditches/wash away your topsoil, will save you money and work over the long run.
 
Kevin Ajarn
Posts: 3
Location: PDX
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I was actually just thinking about that issue. The whole property is pretty flat. There is a downspout at the front NE corner of the house by the hedge, I was thinking I could add a rain barrel there, maybe with a drip line connected to the bottom of it that I can turn on and off?
 
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Hi Kevin,

If possible I would recomend staying away from fruit trees with multi variety grafts in them. At least ones grafted from the nurseries to form scaffolding branches. They can become high maintenence with the different varieties competing for dominance, and unless you have by chance two varieties that stay well ballenced on the rootstock. It can be difficult to keep the tree aesthetically appealing. My advice on fruit trees would be stick to one scion graft per rootstock, and if the fruit trees you choose aren't bloom/pollen cycle compatible. Incorporate dwarf or dwarf columnar trees that are bloom cycle and pollen compatible, into other parts of your landscape. The dwarf fruit trees I'm referring to, stay very small, and can often be planted in large pots. Also use the new disease resistant rootstocks with the newer diseases resistant scion varieties. High resistanceto scab, fireblight and other common fruit problems that occure in the Willamette Valley will be needed to insure low maintenance organics inyour permaculture design. You may need to do custom grafts if they aren't available yet in local nurseries. Other things I would consider are looking into potential micro climates you may have, and the cold hardy strains of green tea bushes, which is a type of flowering evergreen camellia. Also check out different types of cold hardy citrus for evergreen placement, like the 10° tangerine or other more cold hardy citrus. Those are just a few ideas to start thinking about, but definitely do not get in a hurry with these things, thinking it all need to be done at once.  A good permanent design that truly is permaculture could take a few years to get fully planted.

Hope that helps!
 
Posts: 2
Location: Ozarks -Missouri
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Hey Kevin,
I too am new to the site.  I am renovating my plot in Missouri.  I built a retaining wall that is 100' long, 18 ft high on one end, and 18 inches high on the other!  This was done to renovate the septic system.  Lots of trees and plants moved and "temporarily stored for two years for the project.  So I too am in the midst of planning and "replanting" the "food forest".

I am no expert.  I am a master gardener here in MO, which doesn't mean much except that I have a higher than average interest in gardening, sit/sat through a lot of interesting training and seminars, and experiment a lot.

I have 5 apple trees, one crabapple, four peach (though one will be cut down this year, the moving was too hard on it), elderberry plants, a fig "bush" ( it is winter killed to the ground each year), mulberry tree, nut trees, blackberry, blueberry, and gooseberry plants as well as herbs and flowering shrubs, perennial flowers, and edible garden.

I am experimenting with the "tree guild" concept, hugelkulture, straw bale gardening, raised beds, scion grafting, and two honey bee hives.

Maybe I can make some suggestions that might help.  I used to live in USDA hardiness areas 7,8 and 9. I now live in 6A.  I have tried bringing many of my beloved southern plants here to MO, only to kill them.  I am still hoping my new rock wall offers a warmer, protected microclimate.

Your 3d image is very helpful.  You do have some challenges. and some highly hopeful areas.

That 2' strip between the drive and chain link will be a challenge.  Research your "set back" restrictions regarding plantings and property lines.  Bamboo would make your neighbor an enemy as it would spread and drop into his yard.  Your vine idea seems on target.  Perhaps consider making several screens with 4x4 and plastic lattice, separated by a panel's or 1/2 panel's width, staggering them close to drive, then close to fence.   Train your vines through the lattice, and fill the open area with a columnar or espalier fruit tree, training branches to the screens.  Figs, apples, pears?   Maybe some of your ceanothus? Perhaps grow beans on the lattice?

Save your mulberry for another place besides the front, perhaps on the back fence?  It will get huge, and is berry messy!  I love my mulberry tree.  Hate the volunteers that the birds plant all over the yard.
I agree with R.Steele. Shy away from the garden catalog multi-fruit trees and try your hand at scion and bud grafting.  I have successfully grafted two Asian pears and a Bartlett onto a "nuisance" Bradford pear!  First attempts!

Figs might put forth a small spring fruiting for you and also a late summer/fall.  They fruit on new wood. In SC my brown turkey gave only in the fall, but was winter hardy.  It got huge.  I did not know about pruning it then.  I can send you some rootings if you like.  Plant them in full sun and where they will get some reflected heat during the winter. I will be  rooting my fig next to my south wall.  It dies to ground, even wrapped and covered in leaves  on the SE corner of my house, east wall.

Comfrey will self sow everywhere! It is a great soil builder, but you must cut it down frequently!

Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) may be invasive and outlawed out there.  It is here and in some other places I have lived.  Give lots of thought on placement  and how much shade your young trees will take on that back fence.  Perhaps consider some privet/ligustrum varieties in the mix there and along your other fence.  But check their invasive qualities also!  I have a well behaved and pruned varigated variety.  Grew up with glossy privet (ligustrum lucidum), easily trained to tree or shrub.  Bees love it!

Your goumi/Elaeagnus multiflora would probably do well along the east fence and might get high enough.  I'm sorry, I do not know of fast growing evergreens beyond the Elaeagnus and ligustrums.  I love camellias (I am from GA) but they are not fast growing.  You have many that will probably do well in your area.  R. Steele advocates Camellia Sinesis/ the teas.  Try a couple!
Give thought to being a good neighbor and make sure your plantings will not adversely impact his grapes by shading!

You have a great concept.  There is no instant gratification.  Make yourself feel good with some annual flowers while you wait.  Again, I will be happy to share some thornless blackberry crowns, some bartlett pear scions, and some brown turkey fig rootings with you, as well as ditch variety day lily!

Do not grow grass in your orchard or other planting areas!  keep the lawn small and with your entertaining areas.  Lots of wood mulch!  I use free ramial wood chips, sawdust, and coffee grounds!  Grow some King Stropharia and oyster mushrooms in your fruit tree guild
A favorite book, The Holistic Orchard by Michael Phillips
Feel free to email me Bill.Bennett@crumilitary.org

Best wishes to you.  Enjoy both the successes and failures
 
bill bennett
Posts: 2
Location: Ozarks -Missouri
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Hey Kevin,
Bill here again.  I cannot see Portland having any drought problems!  Your roof will produce far more than 55 gallons at every rainfall!.  But that downspout might be serving only the small NE section of your roof.  How/ where is the rest of the roof's water shed?
Consider not only, and maybe instead of a rain barrel there, a small berm or swale to direct the flow to your hedge.  Be careful to not flood your neighbor!  Perhaps if it is not too unsightly, straw bale gardening along the fence there, both in front of and behind your hedge?  The berm/swale will direct your water, as would a ditch or buried tube, the straw bales (hugelkulture) would absorb much of the water, and make perfect mulch at the end of each fall!  Share your mushrooms and produce with your neighbors!
 
Kevin Ajarn
Posts: 3
Location: PDX
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Thanks so much for the replies, all the info is very helpful. Anyone else have thoughts on my plant choices or ideas for 15ft ish evergreen trees that can take a little shade? Anyone tried Crataegus mexicana, Tejocote?
 
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