It seems to me that a little prior planning might save a lot of physical labor later. Digging out suckering plants buried in other plants is something I would consider Hard Labor.
Not only is there soil nutrient competition between plants in less than ideal soil, but there are issues of available light, too, esp here in the PNW.
I've seen the drawings of food forests, and I'm inclined to think some of the stuff is too close together if you're looking for close to maximum production. Of course, the drawings need to fit on a page to make sense, and real-life spacing may be more generous.
I could understand placing trees and larger shrubs according to their mature (or even semi-mature) size, and then planting ground covers and other beneficial low-growing species between them. Looking at nature with that kind of eye can give you some good tips, but you still have to allow for room to walk/harvest between them. Needing a machete to approach your fruit tree seems counter-productive to me. It's bad enough when I have to stop to hack down the tall grass before I can harvest my sour cherries because I didn't have enough mulch the previous fall.
Planning your spacing on graph paper like a landscaper would do seems like a good idea to me. Replanting is one thing, having to rip out a lot of stuff is time-wasting to me. Especially if it's well entrenched.
I thought about leaving a space for a nice winding path through the forest. Then I got some sense talked into me. Surely some plants will be healthier than others. Also, some I may have way too much of (for my liking). Why not make a path as you harvest? I know walking in the "forest" forest a path kinda presents itself even if there is no trail. I think I will create the path as the food forest matures. Am I being stupid? Drawbacks to this method, anyone?
Has anyone ever planted potatoes in a food forest?
Trampling down an excessive variety of plant seems like one way to limit their growth! Sometimes I put paving stones on plants I don't like or that are in the wrong place.
Potatoes need quite a bit of full sun. I suspect if you planted them in your forest, the tubers would be quite small. Of course, you can always put some there and find where the dividing line between enough light and not enough light is.
I think Food Forests are a new enough idea (at least here in the U.S.) that info for individual species isn't really known. For instance, regular strawberries are usually grown in full sun for maximum production, but they grow quite well in partial shade, and the wilder strawberries do quite well in a forest. There may always be differences in varieties, too.
If you've got your main full-sun crop in, and still have a few leftover plants/seeds/tubers, plant them in different places in your food forest, and see how they do. YOUR soil, YOUR latitude, YOUR watering methods may all make a difference, good or bad.
As for a path ... if you have a five acre food forrest then I think planning on a path is wise. If you are talking about something that is a row of trees next to a driveway, then I think the driveway is your path and adding a path won't make much sense.
What about stones? I know they absorb heat and release it at night. Would stacking stones be beneficial if it helped create a microclimate and provided garter snake habitat? It would take away space from plants, but might be beneficial.
So I would like to do this without digging. Mollison has got me hooked on the no-dig thing. If I lay a heavy hay-straw mulch down and wait until it kills the grass and starts breaking down itself, will I then be ready to sow seeds? Do I need to get a bunch of topsoil and/or manure?
Sure, put down the mulch. Mow or flatten the weeds first. A winter of mulch will rot many unwanted seeds and starve many plants due to lack of light. Earthworms and other soil creatures will be eating the decomposing weeds and mulch and/or dragging it down under the surface of the soil... effectively 'tilling' the soil for you without exposing the soil to sunlight and wind. Even if the soil isn't perfect, it will be much improved.
You've probably already got enough topsoil to start. It's hard to know what that soil needs without a soil test, but composted manure usually contains nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, so adding it wouldn't hurt.
A friend of mine has an old pile of stones about three feet tall that is apparently a garter snake nursery every year. Always remember that indirect benefits can be just as valuable as direct benefits, but sometimes they're harder to see.
I use the rock heating method on my tomatoes and peppers every year. I start them indoors in February, and put them out in May (June is advised here). But I plant them out, put three carefully chosen rocks around the stem, and set some old plastic 5-gallon water bottles over them that have had their bottoms cut off. Small greenhouses with heat-retaining rocks. When the weather warms up, I remove the bottles and leave the rocks.
Things that can help: nutritionally- and minerally-balanced soil (healthy soil reduces stresses that advertise to pests), small separate plantings interspersed among other plantings that aren't in the same family (to confuse the insects or at least slow them down), and covering plantings with Reemay-type fabrics, sealed at the soil).
Biodynamic farmers seem to have fewer problems with pests. Crop rotation helps with some things.
If Leah's suggestion on using pepper as a pest deterrent, how would pepper bear spray work???
That helps. So would it be wise to disperse the... rhubarb for example... across the forest rather than having it clumped into one area? How about hedge species, I am thinking of serviceberries along the driveway. Would it be better to let them run, trimming to my liking? Or have other species in between them?
If you were a thief breaking into a large, expensive department store, would you prefer that they put all the good stuff in one spot so all you had to do is scoop it up, or spread it out so you had to waste time and energy looking for it?
It's the same with bugs. With pest insects, you want to slow them down, hoping that your plants will gain size and strength before the bugs find them, so they'll be able to resist an attack. With beneficial insects like bees, you wouldn't want to space your plants or fruit trees too far apart, or the bees will have to waste time going back and forth, and maybe get sidetracked by nasturtiums or honeysuckle.
That's mighty good stuff there Sue. Think like a bug, a deer, a rat, squirrel, bird.
There are these things called "hedge" species, like Serviceberries. What would you do with those? Plant a few, spread out, along the edge of a driveway with other hedge species in between them? Or plant a few and let them do their hedge thing, cutting back as the new shoots pop out?
In my personal opinion, I would plant the trees first if the soil is capable of sustaining them at least when they're young. It will probably take a year or two before they have their 'feet' under them enough to do any growing. In the meantime, you can mulch to add nutrition, or plant cover crops like clover, that will take at least two years to do much (in my experience). If you have the trees planted first, you won't have to be tromping over the cover crop to do your tree planting.
So we just got a bunch of mycellium-filled grass hay. I am wondering if I should throw that down (asap) around the 4 fruit trees to kill that grass, in preparation for spring propagation (of cover crops). Do y'all think that would be alright? My concern is that the hay will compost before killing the grass.
I have 3 ground covers that I want to try: red clover, woodland strawberry, and groundnut. Should I propagate all of these this Spring?
If you put it down thick, enough to shut out the light to the grass, there should be enough left in spring that you will have to rake it aside to plant. If you put it down thin, there will be bare spots and grass will be growing.
Don't put the mulch right up to the trunk, or you may find the trees have been killed by animals (rodents, esp) chewing the bark and girdling the tree. Wrapping the lowest foot of the trunk with hardware cloth will prevent chewing.
Sure, get started with all of them. Just remember to put them in the types of areas they like, for best results.
Will putting the hay down...say 6 inches thick provide rodent habitat? We have a lot of voles and rats here... and mice. Those critters have girdling capabilities? Wow, that is news to me. I guess I will check out the hardware store before I throw that hay down. I also have to get that soil test done...still
I don't know if it would provide rodent habitat or not. I haven't heard of that, but that probably doesn't mean much. OTOH, I have a couple of dogs, and one of them is death on rodents. She has killed three moles, a vole, and four young opossums that I know of. As far as she is concerned, rodents = entertainment.
She's been sniffing around an outdoor woodpile recently...
I enjoyed this question as I have been reverting more and more of my land to forests ..bit by bit..I have already gotten a lot of it done in the many years I've been working on it but I have been studying the idea of putting more trees among my gardens in the last several years and also putting more food crops into my forest areas.
One thing that you mentioned about putting things under trees that you have to harvest..I've seen that suggested over and over too, but we are not idoits out here..no one is going to go through a thorney blackberry or raspberry patch to pick up fallen apples..except maybe deer.
I think that each plant should be thought out just a little bit more than widespread scattering of seeds..think of the plants physical needs and what it will do for or to its neighbors..like walnuts can kill their neighbors so they are better isolated..from susceptible plants..
If you plant an apple tree say, and you want to be able to pick the apples, I suggest a more friendly underplanting of say herbs, or flowers that will bring in pollinators, or salad crops that will be constantly harvested..
Sue had some really great ideas. Myself right now I have a very "dead" spot that had been an overworked garden place, that I have been bringing in fruit trees and perennial food plants into, and will be trying to build it up and build a windbreak on E and W of it..I've been really reading a lot on each plant that I plan to put into the garden..I had plans for mulberries..but then when i read that mulberries aren't that tasty and that they are easily tracked into the house..etc..I decided yes I'll put in some mulberries, but they will be in the hedgerow, where i can still harvest them,but also where they won't be dropping fruit into the rest of the garden (guess the fruit easily grows from seed too)
Bloom where you are planted.
I am going to sheet mulch this week. We finally pruned those poor apple trees. I am going to innoculate the cardboard with King Strofaria, Pearl Oyster, and Shaggy maine mushrooms, which should help it break down a bit quicker and provide some tasty shrooms.
Now, I just got one metric shit ton of 2 year old horse manure/soil. My question is, with the cardboard down (2 layers, shroom spawn in between them), will say 6 inches of manure/dirt and three inches of moldy wet hay be sufficient for planting day?
If your manure is two years old, it shouldn't be very hot at all.
My question (and I don't know diddly about mushrooms) is, do you really want to bury the mushroom spawn UNDER the manure? It seems too deep to me. Would it be better to lay down most of the manure, spread the spawn, then put maybe an inch more of manure on top of that? I'm thinking lack of oxygen might be a problem, but as I said, I don't know what I'm talking about.
today I hiked through the first 250 feet of the 600 x 600 aspen forest behind our house, i did manage to find a few hardwoods growing in my nurse forest today, which thrilled me to no end. There were 2 maple trees into the woods 90 and 110 feet with a deer run going right between them..and there were some beautiful white ash growing back a bit from the 210 ' mark..probably around 225 to 230 feet back..problem..they are all near the property line between us and the new neighbors who tend to be cutting down their woods..they just bought in October and have already cut down probably a dozen trees, and our property line is not well marked..so..next trip will to be getting colored plastic covered wire to mark the rest of the line between us and them (990 ') so that they aren't crossing into our property to cut their trees down..esp not my baby hardwoods which are so very precious to me.
our nurse aspens are at the stage where a lot of them are dying and the forest needs rejuvenation..so we will be cutting out the worse of the dying aspens, leaving some for the wildlife of course, and also makeing a road through the woods in the high ground so we can get our truck and tractor back there..as it is about 700' to haul the trees out into a space where we can prepare them for firewood..if we don't..that is a long drag for a big tree.
as i said in the Juglone post, i have ordered a bunch of baby trees for this spring..and i was hiking trying to find a good planting place at least 50 ' away from just about anything that the Juglone might kill..so the plan now is to plant them back into the woods 40 to 50 ' from the s edge of the woods which is 20' n of our fruit and vegetable garden.
i have ordered 1 butternut, 1 black walnut and 1 carpathian walnut, so i'll space those out near the 40' mark across the woods..this will also keep them about 50 ' s of the baby maple trees which i paced off at 90 and 110 ' in..fortunately there is a small clearing about 50' in that would be an ideal place to plant the walnuts..and fence them from the deer.
i have also ordered 2 hickory, 2 chinese chestnuts, 6 hazelnuts, 1 hardy almond, and a few other various trees that will be placed here and there in the cleared areas in the woods..to fill it in..also in areas where we remove dead trees and brush.
i'm planning on allowing a small patch of the wild raspberries to continue to grow in the woods as well..along the property line, as it will discourage trespassing of the neighbors there..and i'll be fencing that property line at least temp with some wire to also discourage them..
i have been making lists of plants that i want to plant in the forest also for food..there have been a few wild morels ..used to be a lot but the pulping off of this area 30 years ago killed them..i wouild love to put in some blue berries back there..but i dont' want to put in a lot of berries that will spread badly..and make too much of a thick thicket that is hard to get through though..i want to be able to USE this woods during our aging years (hubby turns 60 thursday)
but i have been paying attention to the posts..curious about the mushroom thing and how it turns out..we have perfect mushroom soil back there..so if i can make the woods more accessible i'm hoping that i can get mushrooms growing back there as well..
i hope also to get wintergreen berries and maybe some craberries in the boggy areas..but they will have to wait for better access to them right now..this is a baby project for me to start..our 2nd year with a tractor and first year with time to work on it..so my son and i will be tackling the forest slowly but surely this spring and summer as we are able..and i will be watching for the perfect plants and planting sites for some food crops.. besides my nut trees and a few berries..i do have 2 mulberry trees ordered and 2 paw paw trees as well, those might also find their way into this woodsy haven..
i have a smaller woods grove next to the ponds in our yard..but too close for walnuts..that i'm planning on working on as well..this is about 30 x 30 or so feet..and much more sunny than the aspen woods..this has mostly baby ash trees growing in it with a few lilacs and raspberries.
Bloom where you are planted.
Have you used aspen for firewood before? In my experience, it really doesn't burn very well, and leaves a lot of ash in the stove. It can be used for making furniture and stuff that stays indoors, though -- is there a possibility of trading some lumber logs for something that makes better firewood?
we have heated with wood for about 40 years, however..we never really used any aspen because it wasn't a good heating wood.
well we put in an outdoor wood boiler this year to heat our house and our son's house next door..and when we ran out of firewood we did use some aspen between loads of buying more wood for the furnace..and we were pleasantly surprised at how well it really did burn.
we wouldn't be able to use it to hold fire overnight in the -30 temps..but it will work for fall and spring when it is hovering around 30's above..during the daytime hours..
we actually were able to throw a few small seasoned aspen branches in every few hours to keep the houses warm for about a month during the day throwing hardwoods on at night to keep it during the coldest nights..but then it turned really cold here again and we had to buy hardwood..we have a large pile of aspens that were cut and split for campfires..about 7 or 8 cord and when my son cleared an aspen forest for his house he piled the logs up in the field 2 1/2 years ago and they are well seasoned..we cut up one of those ..larger..and burned them in the boiler as well..we were very pleased at the way they burned..we will be harvesting the aspen to be using for warmer weather heating..in Michigan we have to heat 9 months at least out of the year here..but for 5 or 6 of those we probably could use the aspen rather than the hardwoods that we have to buy...aspen is free and renewable..grows like a weed here
Bloom where you are planted.
Robert Hart, who has a famous forest garden in Shropshire, UK, which Bill Mollison has visited, says, in his Youtube video, that to plant a food forest from scratch you do the following:
1. Plant standard, full-size fruit trees -- one every 20 ft or as recommended. 2. Plant dwarf trees midway between them. 3. Plant fruit bushes -- currents, gooseberries, etc., -- between those. 4. Plant herbs and perennial vegetables between those. 5. Then, as they grow, cut back plants that encroach on each other, everyday during the growing season. 6. Keep the soil well mulched, thus suppressing weeds and building the fertility.
Probably, if he could have expounded some, he would have said something about compatibility as well I would think.
there has been an abrupt and unexpected change in my plans for the "food forest" here..as we now have soil..lots and lots of soil.
as the neighbors decided to redig a pond..and give us not only the pond scum scrapings from the bottom, but also the topsoil..yes I said top soil..and some fill that is really good soil as well..we are now getting this piled in our woods as there was no where else to pile it..the wet scummy stuff, as well as the grassy soddy stuff and the decent dark fill that they dug up..some clay mixed in and a little sand..very little.
as they were throwing it in piles in the woods..my son was kinda mixing it with the tractor bucket to get a "blend"..
then we had an opportunity to use their backhoe and enlarge OUR pond which is right next to our woods..so the clay and muck that came out there..went into the woods and along side the woods as well.
so now what was once a low dry aspen woods..will have some new additions..
i'm not sure what i'm thinking of all of this change ..as it all happened in the last 7 days..
but now our woods is full of dirt and muck piles, here is a before picture...of the woods and my thoughts were to just....clear dead trees and plant..i had planted 3 walnuts in the front already and they are growing well.
but here is what the woods looked like 3 days ago..there is more in there now..mostly sod...and black dirt
[/img] and now where we dug out our new pond is all this stuff piled..which is mostly clay and muck..and cattails..these piles are all along the edge of the pond and edge of the woods to the right or east of the above photos..there also is a swampy field behind the far end of the piles..
so now the new plan begins..
Joel (my son) and I have been talking..we did leave a path into the woods..some dead trees will have to be removed from the path to get the brushhog in there to remove some brushy undergrowth..to reach the "backside" of the "pond" piles..and a couple of dead aspens and smaller trees will have to be removed to get the backblade and bucket of the tractor to the piles..but Joel plans to ..when the weather is dry enough..get back there behind those pond piles and slowly distribute them into the lower parts of the "woods"..and then put some of the rich pond scrapings and topsoil over the clay ..kinda mixing it in together....which should raise the grade up a couple of feet making it easier to get in and out of the woods..and more open to the sun..
after this is done..and it could take a couple years..the plan will be to bring in understory trees, shrubs and plants..leaving some clearing to the south for sun to get in..and try to make this a productive woods..but as you can see..my plan has been set back a good year or two..but i think in the longrun it will turn out to be a better plan??
Bloom where you are planted.
Gosh this sites or forum is long. Here in Spain there is a sylvo pastoral tradition. Though it wont be the same as permicultural methods it may have points of interest. The principal tree in it are oaks, and to simplify here I'll i wont mention all the trees that have a minor role. The Spanish evergreen oaks bares both the cold of fairly high altitudes and an extreme climate and the heat of the Province of Extremadura for example. The distribution of trees is normally between 50 trees to 150 a hectare, in some provinces tradition establishes that they have more and in some less trees a hectare. I believe that one reason for combining trees and pasture land is that a thick forest is a fire hazard and as exploiting trees in open formation, for fire wood or beams, would not be very profitable they combine the exploitation of trees with that of pastures to make an open wood profitable. Of course trees help with live stock they protect them from the weather, their fruit feeds them, berries of junipers, junipers are used for beams, and of celtis australis, arbutos unedo. The acorns of oaks, oaks are used for fire wood. In a climate with two off seasons for pastures, winter when pastures stop growing and summer when they dry out die down completely, if we except buds both at ground level, in some species, between the dry leaves of the plant, and on roots and rhizomes in others, the leaf of trees is an important supplement to the diet of live stock and in the case of poor shepherds essential, feeds are very expensive. In drier countries, in some parts of Africa for example, the dependence on forage from trees and bushes must be complete. I have the government book on Spanish livestock species and the section on "moruchos" one type of cattle says that in poor farms the only supplement to their diet in winter is leaf cut from the evergreen oaks for them. The pieces on other races of cattle are often not so complete, but they say things like that they eat an woody, leñosa, diet while with other breeds they say they like tender forage or that they live where there are lots of trees. I sustpect each section is wirtten by the agricultural expert of the district and some give very detailed accounts of the diet of animals and others more summary accounts. There are races of sheep described as feeding on time and such, the rest of vines leaves, the shells of almonds leaf from olives the rest of banan plants and cactuses cut up for them, one race will eat rotten oranges.
In the Pedroches in Cordova where the number of trees a hectare is high, 150 trees a hectare they are pruned, if the grass is effected by their shade. The branches on the south side of th trees being cut off. So they go by eye as concerns tree to pasture ratio. "Encinas in the centre and south west of Spain", Encinas en el Centro y Sur Oeste de España" Cesar Fuentes Sanchez. In other parts of Spain the trees are kept low, the main arms are formed just above the heads of cattle at 2'8 metros and the head that grows on these main arms is, i would say, about the same height again. They look mushroom shaped . They can be very wide. The lack of height reduces the shade to pastures as well as helping them beat the trees for acorns where the acorns would be ruined by frost if left on the trees. Of course in a country with as much sun as Spain some shade is good for pastures, also the fact that trees tap roots, draw up water and feed it to their superficial roots, hydraulic lift, or hydraulic redistribution, when the superficial roots start to lose a lot of water to hot dry summer soils, means that pastures last longer at the feet of encinas than they do in other parts. They make these wooded farms by thinning down naturally occurring woods. That they thin woods traditionally, for fear of fires i suppose, both oak woods and juniper woods. This maybe a model worth following in California where people say their houses burn down every ten years. That farmers can use trees protects them, the trees start to suffer from accidents when they stop being useful. There are people here who feel they should not be pruned and i don't know if there are provinces that make this law. I would say that when farmers and shepherds are prohibited form using them, the trees start suffering from accidents an the woods disappear. This is one of my reasons for liking this system it assures the presence of trees. Anio¡other is that leaf is healthier and nicer tasting than feeds.
back to the original "food forest" title of this thread..i picked blackberries yesterday and the raspberries are forming in my food forest ..in MIchigan everything is later than most of the rest of the USA..but it eventually comes along.
the blackberries were such a treat after waiting for so long.
right now the elderberries are in bloom..there is some other tree/plant in bloom in the forests now too..smaller clumps of flowers..white as well..and I'm not sure what they are..so i'll be watching for the fruit when it comes alongside the elderberries..will be interesting as to whether it is an edible fruit or not.
the apples are forming nicely now..will have to walk back into the forest where i found that beautiful apple tree in bloom this spring and see if it has apples on it..or if they all got frozen..(a few did but most are doing fine)..and the birds are eating the wild cherries now..i'm thinking..hmmmm what could i use wild cherries for?
I haven't gotten my forest areas to where i want them yet..but they are coming along so much better than i ever imagined at this pont last year.
Bloom where you are planted.
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