• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

White Oak Guild w/ Emphasis on Edibles

 
E. Elkins
Posts: 22
Location: North Carolina, USA (Zone 7B)
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm trying to design a guild to go under the canopy of two mature white oak trees. Here's an overview of the site and conditions:

*Each tree is approximately 2' in diameter, and the centers are about 3' apart (leaving a gap of about 1' between the trees). They're both about 60' tall, the spread of their combined canopies is approximately 30'-40', and the lowest branches of any size are 30' or more off the ground.

*My lot slopes from north to south -- the grade is in the 6% to 8% range. I'm working with an area about 15' square on the north side of the trees, and an area that's perhaps 15' x 20' on the south side. The soil is compacted clay with erosion damage on the north side (covered by patchy grass), but the soil on the south side has been covered by successive layers of fallen leaves for the last several years and, so, is in better condition. The south side also has the benefit of catching water runoff from my asphalt driveway and the north side of my roof, not to mention the very active mole who's working hard to aerate and fertilize the soil. I need to do some soil improvement, but I obviously need to be cautious so that I don't jeopardize the health of the trees.

*The trees are approximately 12' to the east of my two-story house, which means that ground in question receives afternoon shade from the house (6 hours of full sun at the height of summer?).

*I'm in the southeastern US, near Charlotte, North Carolina (35 degrees latitude, Zone 7b). Our winters are mild (lows rarely dip below 20 F), and our summers are hot and humid (90's F).

I already grow quite a few perennial fruits (mostly cane fruits and strawberries), annual vegetables, and perennial vegetables on my property, but I'd like to further diversify the edibles. On the north side, which is considerably drier, I'll need tough, drought tolerant plants that can handle poor soil and competition from the oaks. On the south side, I can add a berm/raised bed about 20' out from the tree to catch more of the runoff from the house and driveway. That plus the better soil and slightly more sun should make it a more forgiving environment. I have some possibilities in mind, but I'd really appreciate advice and suggestions...
 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
12
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
under oaks i plant autumn olive, blueberry, raspberry, hazelnut, highbush cranberry, cornelian cherry. things that also do well out on the edge of the dripline are lettuce greens, sprouting broccoli, winter squash.

id leave out the blueberries if you cant irrigate until established.

but there are many more, oaks are pretty compatible from my experiences.
 
John Polk
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
286
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Pawpaws and ramps do well in your area, and love to live in the understory. Alpine strawberry also does well in open shade.

Sounds like some magnificent oaks...they just need an "accent".
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
10
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
i believe there is a white oak guild section in gaia's garden.. I have red oaks but found a white oak tree this summer and it had some nuts left..not many as the birds ate them all..and deer..etc..but I found 2 good nuts and planted them in my yard..they are tastier than red oaks..

so I'll be also considering a white oak guild or two if then nuts sprout next spring and grow..hope so.
 
osker brown
Posts: 146
Location: Southern Appalachia
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
They might not thrive in the compacted, eroded clay you described unless it's improved, but, Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) and Giant Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum commutatum) are both shade loving delicious natives.

In Wildflowers & Plant Communities Timothy Spira says "Mayapple plants near nectar rich species, such as lousewort (Pedicularis), are more frequently visited by bumblebees and have higher fruit set." They also taste really good, and are quite hardy plants. They might work well under white oak because they fruit in July-August and the foliage dies down to the ground by September, leaving lots of open ground for collecting acorns.

peace
 
E. Elkins
Posts: 22
Location: North Carolina, USA (Zone 7B)
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks for the suggestions, everyone. You've made me feel more confident about some of the plants that were already on my list of possibilities (autumn olive, blueberries, raspberries), and you've opened my eyes to several options that I hadn't considered (pawpaws, ramps, mayapples). It's interesting that you mentioned Gaia's Garden, Brenda. It's one of my favorites, and I'm in the midst of rereading it right now. I don't recall an oak guild and don't see anything in the appendix, but I'll keep it mind as I continue reading. Also, thanks for bringing mayapples to my attention, Osker. You're right -- the soil is probably too poor to support them in this particular location, but there's a gorgeous oak on the opposite side of the house that I have my eye on, as well. It's not on my property, but the lot is vacant and I don't think the owners have anything planned for it for a very long time. Most of the property is second (or third, or fourth...) growth timber, but the oak has definitely been there for quite some time. It's even bigger than the ones that I mentioned above, and the canopy has a magnificent spread. The soil is much, much better over there, but there's also a lot of competition from other trees (red maple and cedar primarily). Still it might be a great spot to try to grow mayapples (and, perhaps, ramps as well). My wife has long suggested that I stealthily plant some edibles in the understory over there...

 
E. Elkins
Posts: 22
Location: North Carolina, USA (Zone 7B)
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Brenda Groth wrote:i believe there is a white oak guild section in Gaia's garden.


You're right! Oddly enough, the section in which he discusses a white oak guild isn't referenced under the "oak" heading in the appendix. Instead, it's listed under the "Quercus" heading, and I didn't think to look for the latin name. The suggestions that Hemenway provides plus those provided above should definitely get me off to a good start...
 
osker brown
Posts: 146
Location: Southern Appalachia
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
If you don't mind sharing, what are Toby's suggestions?
 
E. Elkins
Posts: 22
Location: North Carolina, USA (Zone 7B)
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
osker brown wrote:If you don't mind sharing, what are Toby's suggestions?


His research showed that the native Oregon White Oak community included:

California Hazelnut
Pacific Madrone
Mazzard Cherry
Black Hawthorn
Saskatoon Serviceberry
Creambush Oceanspray
Round-Leaved Snowberry
Thimbleberry
Trailing Blackberry
Sweetbriar Rose
Broad-Petaled Strawberry
Poison Oak
Yerba Buena
Sweet Ciceley
American Vetch

Using these species as a starting point, he made the following suggestions:

Domesticated Hazelnut
Strawberry Tree (same genus, Arbutus, as Pacific Madrone)
Sweet or Sour Cherry (perhaps grafted on Mazzard rootstock)
Black Hawthorne (fruit for birds) or Pear (perhaps grafted on Black Hawthorne rootstock)
Domesticated Serviceberry
Thornless Blackberry
Snowberry (fruit for birds) or Honeysuckle (related)
Wild Strawberries
Lemonade Berry (Poison Oak relative)
Native or Domesticated Rose
Yerba Buena
Sweet Cicely
Common Vetch
 
Dave Miller
pollinator
Posts: 416
Location: Zone 8b: SW Washington
15
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Here is an excellent publication on restoring native Quercus garryana (Oregon White Oak/Garry Oak) communities in the Pacific Northwest: The Garry Oak Gardener’s Handbook

It might give you more clues on native plants in those communities, although I don't know how this might translate to North Carolina.

One plant which is important under Quercus garryana that I don't see in Toby's list is Camassia quamash. So a plant that produces a small edible bulb similar to Camas might be a good choice.
 
E. Elkins
Posts: 22
Location: North Carolina, USA (Zone 7B)
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Dave Miller wrote:Here is an excellent publication on restoring native Quercus garryana (Oregon White Oak/Garry Oak) communities in the Pacific Northwest: The Garry Oak Gardener’s Handbook

It might give you more clues on native plants in those communities, although I don't know how this might translate to North Carolina.

One plant which is important under Quercus garryana that I don't see in Toby's list is Camassia quamash. So a plant that produces a small edible bulb similar to Camas might be a good choice.


Thanks for the info and link, Dave. An edible bulb is a great idea. In fact, I just came across an intriguing native here in NC that's frequently found in dry, white oak/hickory forest communities -- Indian Cucumber Root. The roots are small, but they're said to be quite delicious. I found someone selling roots on eBay but no other sources at this point. Then again, it might not yield enough food to make it worthwhile for that purpose, so I'll probably look for other options that might provide a larger harvest. Camas sounds delicious -- Eric Toensmeier's description in Perennial Vegetables ("mildly sweet winter squash") caught my attention, but my jaw dropped when I saw the recommended preparation method of 9 hours in a pressure cooker. Yikes!

One thing that dawned on me earlier today (after perusing a NC plant communities guide) was that I hadn't considered muscadines. They're native to NC, are often found in white oak/hickory forests, and are very disease and pest resistant. My grandparents grew muscadines and scupernongs when I was kid, and still remember how much we enjoyed them.
 
osker brown
Posts: 146
Location: Southern Appalachia
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Yay for muscadines. They are totally amazing.

Re: cucumber root. I've heard a couple people in the Asheville area talk about breeding them towards larger roots, apparently large roots can happen as a result of genetic variation plus favorable soil conditions. Check out Joe Hollis's site. His place is called Mountain Gardens, it's right near Mt. Mitchell, that site hasn't been updated in a couple years but he's a very friendly, extremely knowledgeable guy who I'm sure could get you seed and/or plants if you're interested.

peace
 
Dave Miller
pollinator
Posts: 416
Location: Zone 8b: SW Washington
15
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
E. Elkins wrote:Camas sounds delicious -- Eric Toensmeier's description in Perennial Vegetables ("mildly sweet winter squash") caught my attention, but my jaw dropped when I saw the recommended preparation method of 9 hours in a pressure cooker. Yikes!


Yes, well-cooked Camas is pretty close to candy! The natives used to have family plots that they harvested and tended. There weren't a lot of sweet foods in this area, so Camas was highly valued. In fact my town is named after it (Camas, Washington).

Savannas of Oregon White Oak used to be very common here, but now they are rare and there is a lot of effort to preserve and restore the remnants. They are a very important habitat for wildlife. The oak savannas disappeared when the European settlers stopped the native practice of annual controlled burns, allowing evergreen trees to overtop the oaks and eventually shading them out. To reverse that, many areas are "releasing" oaks by cutting or girdling firs that are beginning to overtop oaks.
 
jacque greenleaf
pollinator
Posts: 489
Location: Burton, WA (USDA zone 8, Sunset zone 5) - old hippie heaven
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Anyone know the best time(s) for girdling ponderosas and doug firs?
 
No prison can hold Chairface Chippendale. And on a totally different topic ... my stuff:
2017 Permaculture Design Course and Appropriate Technology Course at Wheaton Labs
http://richsoil.com/pdc
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!