I have experience planting hundreds of thousands of trees in Canada, the US, and Australia. One in particular was a permaculture food forest geared towards local fauna, and wasn’t geared towards human consumption at all. This was near Cheat Mountain in West Virginia. Where I’m looking at property is in the Missouri Ozarks on a natural body of water, whether it be a creek or lake. I know I can plant over a thousand per day at a very comfortable pace working sunup until sundown. This time does not take into account transplanting mature trees.
In creating a permaculture forest consisting primarily of perennials, how old should such trees be at planting time? What kind of care will they need for the next few years? I want to plant the forest with all possible layers, including mushrooms. Also, any clue whatsoever as to the potential cost per acre? Saplings were decently cheap that I planted before. Bear in mind Missouri has four distinct seasons.
For me, everything is a trade-off between cost and time. My answer would be, if you are in a hurry, plant the largest trees you can afford. If you put in 4 or 5 year old apple trees, you'll pay a lot for them, but you'll get some apples the year after you put them in the ground. If you start them from seed or put in very small grafted trees, you'll wait the 4 or 5 years on your own land before you get apples. I grow thousand of plants for very low cost. I grow from seed, cuttings, or transplant small trees from other parts of my land. I still buy some trees, both because I want some producing faster and because some things I can't buy any other way. I get lots of plants from friends or by trading. I put in 60 or 70 raspberries at my place and my parents place this year because a friend's patch was so overgrown in couldn't get through them anymore. I helped him create parts through his plants and he gave me the ones we pulled out. It always seems to come down to time or money.
I looked up Missouri's Department of Conservation tree sales for you. The website is here: Missouri Dept of Conservation It looks like native trees can be purchased for 30 or 40 cents a piece. That's a lot cheaper than here. They also have guides for how many trees you can fit per acre on what spacing, so it all depends on your intentions. I can't grow trees for anywhere near that price if you count my time.
On myseeds.co, you can buy 800 Antonovka apple seeds for $40. Myseeds.co 800 Apples trees will cover a lot of ground if you want them to. Or you can grow them in a really small space and graft them once they are larger.
Plums and stone fruit can be grown from pits for free if you eat the fruit anyway, or have friends save them, or pick them from a nearby tree. Many, many things can be grown from cuttings for free. There are so many directions you can go, it's hard to quantify without knowing exactly what you are trying to do.
John Null wrote:In creating a permaculture forest consisting primarily of perennials, how old should such trees be at planting time?
I don't think there is a right answer for this. I would probably go with a mix of young (cheap) trees and a few older (expensive) trees so that I get quicker production from the expensive trees, but save in the long term with the younger trees. Now, if I had a distant property, and wasn't planning on moving there for a while, I'd probably go entirely with young trees.
Your going to find that the soil makeup is quite different that what you are used to working in so I'd say getting to understand your preferred area in the Ozarks would be the first thing to do.
Usually you find a stoney sandy loam at the surface and then a secondary horizon of clay with a third horizon of heavy clay then bed rock.
If you don't take that into consideration, it could find you planting a lot of trees destined to struggle or die.
Others have given great suggestions so this is all I'm going to address in this thread.
There is a review of tree and plant nurseries here at permies: Permies nursery review That's a very good place to start.
Also, keep in mind that while those trees may not all be edible, some will be nitrogen fixers, draw pollinators, or be other types of support species. With a beginning food forest, you may want to plant a lot more nitrogen fixers than actual food plants.
It's hard to calculate cost based on spacing on Missouri's website with trees alone. That came out to less than $400 per acre on its own. Gotta try and fit the rest of this in as well, though. Should the rest of these be planted just a couple years later, or many? What percentage should I assume will be eaten by fauna so I know how much more to plant for myself? Like, if I want to eat x-amount, but they will eat 1/2x, I need to plant 2x.
I am not worried about labor costs. I will plant it myself.
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