Win a copy of Bioshelter Market Garden this week in the Market Garden forum!
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • James Freyr
  • Nicole Alderman
  • Anne Miller
  • r ranson
  • Mike Jay Haasl
  • Dave Burton
  • Pearl Sutton
stewards:
  • paul wheaton
  • Joylynn Hardesty
  • Joseph Lofthouse
garden masters:
  • Steve Thorn
gardeners:
  • Dan Boone
  • Carla Burke
  • Kate Downham

Food forest from dougfir forest? Where to begin?

 
Posts: 23
Location: Olympia, Washington
4
hugelkultur forest garden fungi hunting chicken bike woodworking
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Maybe this has been covered before, if so please direct me if you can...

I am the happy new owner of 2.5 acres in western Washington outside Olympia. I want to make a food forest but I have a problem, it’s currently a non-food forest. How do I best begin replacing the dougfir with fruit and nut trees?

My first thought was to go full heavy machinery: raze the land, make a dam, make terraces, make swales and begin all at once. Some of the problems with that idea are 1) the upfront cost; 2) my wife wants forest (food bearing or not) but she doesn’t want a moonscape in between; and 3) the sandy steep land might not hold up to well to that kind of trauma.

The forested parts are sloped and the northern and most elevated part approaches 25°. The picture I attached has some doodles on it where I imagined putting swales but it likely too steep.
CA561666-E511-4414-9D81-BAAD2A973AD0.jpeg
[Thumbnail for CA561666-E511-4414-9D81-BAAD2A973AD0.jpeg]
 
Dj Cox
Posts: 23
Location: Olympia, Washington
4
hugelkultur forest garden fungi hunting chicken bike woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
PS: Yes, that is a big sand/gravel pit to the left of the picture. That should give you an idea of why I’m nervous about erosion.
 
Posts: 39
Location: Eastern Washington
5
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Very cool!
Since "all at once" is not an option now, and you want crop trees, you might start with thinning your timber and getting a feel for where you might want landscape features. If you need a fence or shed that would be a way to use your timber, even if it's just a shed to store that timber for future use.
 
Posts: 558
Location: Australia, New South Wales. Köppen: Cfa (Humid Subtropical), USDA: 10/11
154
transportation hugelkultur cat forest garden fish trees urban chicken cooking woodworking homestead
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hello Dj,

Just to confirm: between the gravel pit and the blue symbol at the bottom of the aerial photo, is that a gully that runs down from the ridge?

If so, then I suggest you maintain undisturbed forest cover around it to avoid erosion and landslide. If the Douglas Fir is not indigenous and you want to rehab the site, it could be done progressively over time rather than risk clearing it and the inevitable consequences - that gravel/sand pit is uncomfortably close!

Swales shouldn't be used on slopes greater than 15%, so it seems much of the property isn't appropriate for that use.

However, if you consider Permaculture Zones, the steep forested bits could be Zone 5 - used for forestry/agroforestry, wildlife habitat, beekeeping, very judicious Alley Cropping with fruit/nut trees. Swales may be achievable on the lower flatter slopes near the buildings.

Retrofitting a site that already has permanent structures is always challenging, but that's the fun of it!

Remember not to think in straight lines - Swales, fence lines, Zones, etc can be, and often are, in irregular patterns to suit prevailing landscapes. From an aesthetic viewpoint, irregular lines and patterns also tend to look more 'organic', similar to odd rather than even numbers of plants.
 
Dj Cox
Posts: 23
Location: Olympia, Washington
4
hugelkultur forest garden fungi hunting chicken bike woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi F, I think the yellow line in the new picture is what you are thinking of. In person, it doesn’t seem that dramatic. It looks lightly cupped.

Dougfir is native here. I think I can try to start growing some shade tolerant legume and fruit trees underneath.  Maybe prune the branches of the dougfir as high as I can reach without a ladder to let in more light on this equator-facing slope. I think this way I am still keeping the integrity of the dougfir roots until the more food bearing trees become well established underneath. Anything obviously wrong with that idea? Please note, I know nothing about growing and only became interested in growing and permaculture 3 months ago.
3EABA4EF-CA0A-4DA4-BD06-CAA1195FBBFC.jpeg
[Thumbnail for 3EABA4EF-CA0A-4DA4-BD06-CAA1195FBBFC.jpeg]
 
gardener
Posts: 720
Location: Western Washington
195
duck forest garden personal care rabbit bee homestead
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Douglas fir is native but is planted in massive, unnatural monocrops across the state, including many sites where it wouldn't grow naturally.

I think it might be worth it to do some respectful thinning to create some "sun traps" for little pockets of food forest. The idea of adding shade loving crops is also a good one.
 
Grady Houger
Posts: 39
Location: Eastern Washington
5
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
A map tip: the free Google Earth Pro pc program has a feature where you can look at all the past satellite photos of an area. I was really excited to find it and see my spots with different sun angles and past tree growth.
Google-Earth-historical-imagery-button.jpg
[Thumbnail for Google-Earth-historical-imagery-button.jpg]
 
Posts: 182
Location: 7b desert southern Idaho
16
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Why do you want a food forest? Mine is simply for my own needs, so it doesn’t need to be very big. The learning curve can be huge. I’m a fan of diversity, so I spent more time experimenting that actually eating stuff. I do a lot of hiking to see what occurs locally. The native berries seem to grow themselves, while many store bought struggle. What mushrooms grow locally? A commercial approach would be different from an ecological approach. I often see the advice to spend a year just learning the property. That includes learning the local ecosystem.
 
Dj Cox
Posts: 23
Location: Olympia, Washington
4
hugelkultur forest garden fungi hunting chicken bike woodworking
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I want a food forest to become the main source of food for my family. I don’t need it to be regenerative to native species or meet any spiritual needs. I just want it to meet the demands of climate change, the end of oil, and complete societal collapse.

I like the idea of the sun pockets. I think I can get away with 2 or 3 25’ clearings that let in enough light to get some support plants established. I think this will leave enough forest for the Mrs. to go along with the plan.

I feel like I need a guide for what to do in the first years of owning a new property. And I wish I had an idea of if I should get someone to do some exploratory digging to find out if I have clay beneath my glacial till. And then this makes me think if I can terrace the property. And that makes me wonder if I made a terrible decision on the property I purchased and I should find somewhere else. Is this an existential property crisis? Am I the only one FREAKING OUT HERE?!

Smiles :)
 
Dennis Mitchell
Posts: 182
Location: 7b desert southern Idaho
16
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Ok, I’m a little freaked too. Which is why I favor natives and diversity. Fire, drought, late frost, freak hail storms, are all very real possibilities that I worry about, hence the diversity. I grow natives because they are bomb proof in my environment. I plant and ignore till time to harvest. For pure survival I’d do everything I can to attract huntable wildlife.
    Try to find out which nuts do well locally. Burnt Ridge nursery had a four pack of eatable pine nuts that might do well. Which type of cherry will survive the birds? Plant some root stock apple, some crab apples, cider apples, and regular apples. Food that stores without much processing.
 
Posts: 43
8
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I live in the coast range in nw Oregon  my land is kinda like yours, south facing slope covered in fir trees. They logged it about 25 years ago so the trees are still relatively small and easy to cut and process.  I also do not have the resources that would have allowed for a "getting it all done at once" which is not really how it works anyway.  I also desire to grow a food forest for a lot of the same reasons as you. I started close to my house first cutting enough trees on the slope behind my house to plant a large garden. Over the past 10 years I've developed a system that basically goes like this.... cut down fir trees, leave the stumps sticking up a couple ft if I want to remove them in a few years when the roots rot enough to make it reasonable to get them out without machinery, or cut off at ground level if I just want to leave it to rot in the ground and not look at a stump for a few years, I use the logs to heat my house or for any building projects I have and to make terraces and return all the limbs and brush to the soil via either wood chips or just laying it all in a somewhat neat pile on contour and covering with a few inches of dirt from slightly upslope creating a flatter area, plant an annual garden around all the fresh stumps, plant fruit and nut trees, berry bushes etc widely spaced amongst the stumps, as the newly planted trees and bushes grow the annual garden area shrinks and gets replaced with more perennials and self seeding annuals, repeat. Each year I probably cut 20- 30 trees  pushing the edge of the existing forest back and expanding the cultivated area a little at a time. One really nice surprise about doing it this way has been the wild flowers, everywhere the trees get cut within the first year foxglove, daisys, self heal and other native flowers move in. Doing it a little at a time and planting a garden right away helps to minimize erosion and the ugliness of a clear cut, gets me food right away and keeps me from getting in over my head. The sections I started in my first years here have fully transitioned into perennial polycultures needing very minimal upkeep giving me the ability to manage a larger and larger space around my house every year. I also have learned more about the native edible plants of which there are many good ones and encouraged them where it suits me because they require zero care.
 
James Landreth
gardener
Posts: 720
Location: Western Washington
195
duck forest garden personal care rabbit bee homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Dj Cox wrote:I want a food forest to become the main source of food for my family. I don’t need it to be regenerative to native species or meet any spiritual needs. I just want it to meet the demands of climate change, the end of oil, and complete societal collapse.

I like the idea of the sun pockets. I think I can get away with 2 or 3 25’ clearings that let in enough light to get some support plants established. I think this will leave enough forest for the Mrs. to go along with the plan.

I feel like I need a guide for what to do in the first years of owning a new property. And I wish I had an idea of if I should get someone to do some exploratory digging to find out if I have clay beneath my glacial till. And then this makes me think if I can terrace the property. And that makes me wonder if I made a terrible decision on the property I purchased and I should find somewhere else. Is this an existential property crisis? Am I the only one FREAKING OUT HERE?!

Smiles :)



It's ok, buyer freakout happens.

I think your concerns and goals are valid. I think the more food production the better. The trees will feed bees and wildlife if nothing else. And there are plenty of people who could benefit from the extra production

I've been growing in this area my whole life. If you need advice feel free to pm me. I'm still learning, but I've got plenty of mistakes and a few successes under my belt, and I'm in touch with plenty of others who are learning too
 
master steward
Posts: 10355
Location: Pacific Northwest
4121
hugelkultur kids cat duck forest garden foraging fiber arts sheep wood heat homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
A few thoughts:

  • Your slope is south facing! That makes things a WHOLE LOT EASIER for you. Mine's north facing, so it's really hard to figure out how to get enough sun without clearing out large swaths of land. Your trees won't shade nearly as much, and that's awesome!
  • I have 5 acres, but 1/3rd of it is protected wetlands. That leaves me about the same amount of useable land as you. As it is, I only really work with about 1 acre of it for my food forest and garden. I've got four cherry trees, 6 apple trees, 2 pears, multiple prunes, 13 blueberry plants, extensive salmonberry/raspberry/blackberry hedges, 5 honeyberries, 2 peaches, 1 persimmon, 2 paw paws, 5 currants, 9 garden beds, and a lot more that I can't remember. Those take up 1/2 acres. My ducks, chickens, and house take up another half acre. So, you don't need to use all 2.5 acres to get enough food!
  • We're really lucky to have a ton of yummy native edibles that can handle some shade. These can be inter-planted into your existing forest. I have some paths on my property. I like to add edible natives along those paths, as they (1) get more sun and (2)are more easily accessible. Salmonberries ripen before strawberries, though not very tasty. Wild strawberries and miners lettuce and woodsorrel are all tasty and do well in shade. Wild huckleberry does well in the shade and so does salal and oregon grape. Black cap raspberries and trailing blackberries and thimbleberries can handle some shade too, and all are DELICIOUS. As an added bonus, these plants can be gotten for pretty cheep through conservation district sales. I know King county has a really nice list of plants for their sale, and Pierce probably does, too.


  • Personally, I would start small. Fruit trees are often pretty expensive, and you might have a learning curve on killing growing trees. I know I did/have! So, you might want to just start out with some apple trees and a garden and maybe some ducks or chickens. I killed a LOT of plants, and failed to grow a lot of annuals. There's some great lists of fruit tree varieties that do well here. Use those lists! Get a
    Frost peach rather than other types of peaches, or you'll be dealing with a leaf curl, etc.

    Growing food takes time, especially when you're just starting out and the ground is less fertile. Using native plants and working with your forest will allow you to grow food with less effort. Have the more intensive/non-native stuff closer to your house--that way it takes less time to manage because you're not walking far. Even though I have food growing in my native forest, I haven't had time to harvest more than a pound of it. Life's been busy this year, and it's easier to just walk around my garden that's near by and get a bunch of blueberries and raspberries and peas, etc, and bring them in to eat.

    I went and had fun drawing lines and making comments to explain my ramblings. You know your property much better than I do from looking at a map, but these are my thoughts from looking at the map :D. I've never done swales as earthworks scare me and I don't want to have my hillside erode. I tend to just work with what I have and make slow changes. I focus on making small changes, observing, thinking about what worked and didn't, and then making some more changes.

    The doug fir forest is already a funtioning ecosystem. As a beginner gardener, you might struggle like I did in getting an ecosystem to work. For the first few years on our property, the biggest harvests I got were from the native berries--I'd prune and tend and fertilize them, and they loved me in return. My annuals and non-native plants took a while to get established and start to love me!
    doug-fir-food-forest.jpg
    [Thumbnail for doug-fir-food-forest.jpg]
     
    Nicole Alderman
    master steward
    Posts: 10355
    Location: Pacific Northwest
    4121
    hugelkultur kids cat duck forest garden foraging fiber arts sheep wood heat homestead
    • Likes 3
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Some great resources:

    Bullock brother's fruit tree recommendations for the PNW. This was a LIFE SAVER for me when I started growing. I kept the list in my car for when I saw plants on sale so I could make sure to buy varieites that would do well https://permies.com/t/9214/plants/Douglas-Bullock-Fruit-Tree-Recommendations#86494

    Daron Williams's "Wild Homesteading" blog and posts. Here's in your area, and has got a LOT of great info on gardening and working with nature. https://permies.com/t/96779/Wild-Homesteading-Work-nature-grow

    List of native edibles that do well in shade in our area: https://permies.com/wiki/76253/Edible-Plants-Shady-Wet-Areas
     
    Posts: 409
    Location: Portlandish, Oregon
    24
    forest garden fungi foraging
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    I’ve only skimmed the thread so apologies if some of this is covered by others. Let me say what I’d do and see if any of it sounds good. I’d probably take an acre and drop half the trees. Put those to mushroom production and hugel beds. Plant hugel beds with blue berry, heather, strawberries, potatoes,ground nut, elderberry, currents, miners lettuce and semi shade tolerant plants. After a couple years I’d start running ducks through. Don’t be afraid to embrace the forest there are a ton more edible crops I left out!
     
    Dj Cox
    Posts: 23
    Location: Olympia, Washington
    4
    hugelkultur forest garden fungi hunting chicken bike woodworking
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    You guys rock. Thanks. That all helps a lot. Nichole, that was super. I haven’t done a pdc yet but I think I’m going to start putting together a formal design. I’d love to be able to share the designs with you permies as I go along. Has anyone done that on this site before?

    I’m imagining I could try to put facilitate a ‘crowd sourced’ design. I could put together some videos of the place to help show what’s there and have some maps that people could place a design on top of.
     
    gardener
    Posts: 2512
    Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
    181
    forest garden trees urban
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    I have no forest of any kind,  but I would like to chime in on behalf of chickens or other fowl.
    They gather nutrition for you, and deliver it in the form of high value protein.
    Plus,  they are really neat to have around.

    I have never seen chooks in a fir or pine forest,  but based on what they do in a backyard,they would spend all day happily finding any bugs, plants or fungus worth eating.


     
    pollinator
    Posts: 240
    Location: NW Montana, USA
    63
    goat purity foraging rabbit chicken food preservation pig bee medical herbs solar ungarbage
    • Likes 5
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    We're in zone 3/4, forested with conifers including lots of Douglas.  It was logged 25~ years ago, virtually clear cut of old growth.  Fast forward and our trees are over crowded and sickly.   We are trying to thin to 'old growth' spacing of 20-50 feet between trees.  This has allowed us to plant orchards in the forest that still get ample sunlight.  We're seeding experiments right now; good animal fodder ground covers as well as spreading hap-hazardly a mix of seed from every garden variety veg or herb we have.  So far the lettuces, radishes, spinach, and turnips have cropped up.  It was a total experiment this year but I've already learned a lot!  I had just 2 puny squashes come in, next year I'm going to direct seed those in poopy-straw compost heaps from the animals and let them feed and flourish naturally with that boost.  We had a bunch of pinto beans spill on the ground and they've been thriving around a tire that's sheltering the soil from drying out; this has given me ideas on bean placement as well.

    Keep in mind that Douglas fir is one of the best lumber woods and fire woods of our conifers in this region.  If you fell them, you could get some cash out of them.  A good chainsaw may be a better investment than hiring someone to come clear cut!  Drop select trees, de-limb them and burn the slash to help enrich the soil, open the forest up, use or sell the lumber.  We've got HUGE pockets of humus on our land from the logging 25 years ago.  That has shown me the value os leaving stumps in, and also leaving partially rotten trees (like dropping a standing dead tree) to decompose naturally.  
     
    Dj Cox
    Posts: 23
    Location: Olympia, Washington
    4
    hugelkultur forest garden fungi hunting chicken bike woodworking
    • Likes 2
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator

    William Bronson wrote: I have no forest of any kind,  but I would like to chime in on behalf of chickens or other fowl.



    They have been doing great on the forested upslope part in the top left of the property. We have about 15 chickens and 4 ducks right now. We are going to fence in a new section this week that keeps their coop within the new fenced in area. I am currently supplementing most of their food with layer feed, pellets, and our food scraps. Once chickens get moved I’ll start planting ground cover and legume trees in there.

    I think I will start a paddock system next year that has their coop better designed and better placed to be a hub with paddocks radiating off of it.
     
    William Bronson
    gardener
    Posts: 2512
    Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
    181
    forest garden trees urban
    • Likes 2
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Very cool.
    I have a small "d" dream  of an urban Christmas tree farm/egg operation with muscovy ducks,as a retirement business.
    That your ducks are doing well is encouraging.
     
    James Landreth
    gardener
    Posts: 720
    Location: Western Washington
    195
    duck forest garden personal care rabbit bee homestead
    • Likes 1
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator

    William Bronson wrote:Very cool.
    I have a small "d" dream  of an urban Christmas tree farm/egg operation with muscovy ducks,as a retirement business.
    That your ducks are doing well is encouraging.



    Friends of mine also have a lot of success with poultry and trees; the trees give them shelter from aerial predators. They still shut them in at night in a mobile coop and fence off a general area to keep the birds in.

    I'm hoping that poultry will be a success in my food forest longer term. I'd like to provide at least some of their feed passively this way, with things like mulberries, persimmons, and siberian pea shrub.

    Around here Christmas tree farms spray a ton, and it really impacts our bees. I'm glad to hear that you're dreaming (even with a small "d") of a more sustainable way of doing this!
     
    pollinator
    Posts: 1024
    Location: Longbranch, WA
    141
    goat tiny house rabbit wofati chicken solar
    • Likes 7
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    I am just across the water from you on the Key Peninsula. My experience on producing food around fir trees goes back to the 1940's  
    Yes try to use the edge effect by trimming up the lower limbs of the fir trees. A pole saw gas or electric will be a favorite tool. Fir branches are actually the best fuel wood we have because of their density. The parts with the needles should be used to mulch the soil as they naturally do.  As mentioned tending to the needs of our native fruit produces the most immediate results.  Even our invasive are beneficial and productive. The Hymalayan blackberry if trellised and prevented from tip rooting by regular pruning of growing tips will out produce any domestic berry.  Scotch broom is a nitrogen fixer and if sheared when it blooms to prevent reseeding can be a good soil builder. Large stems from them are also excellent wood for a rocket stove.

    We have about 15 chickens and 4 ducks right now. We are going to fence in a new section this week that keeps their coop within the new fenced in area. I am currently supplementing most of their food with layer feed, pellets, and our food scraps. Once chickens get moved I’ll start planting ground cover and legume trees in there.

    I think I will start a paddock system next year that has their coop better designed and better placed to be a hub with paddocks radiating off of it.


    It will be very difficult to start non native fruit trees because of deer prefer them over native trees.  So stack functions and put in high net fences both for the chickens and to keep the deer away from the fruit trees. For rotational grazing of chickens feed them whole grais. They will always bury  some and produce feed for the next rotation.  What works for me is whole wheat starting now which will grow all winter in our climate  What sprouted in September was available in May and later sprouting are ripening now in August.  In early spring I start feeding bird feed mix. which is starting to produce heads of millet sorgum and sunflowers now.  The little birds don't compete with the chickens for the wheat but they do for the bird seed plants.
    If you want to come visit this winter I have an abundance of plants that can be transplanted to your food forest.
     
    Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish. -Euripides A foolish tiny ad:
    holiday shopping for 2019
    https://permies.com/t/128446/holiday-shopping
    • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
    • New Topic
    Boost this thread!