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vines in a food forest

 
Milan Broz
Posts: 87
Location: Croatia
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Hi Toby,

your book is one of few things that is always next to my pillow. It is so informational and inspirational. I gave one copy last christmas to one girl that just started to discover the beauty of permaculture, I hope it will speed up her decision to live free. I wish I got one some 10 years ago, while I was wondering what to do with my life

One question comes to my mind. What you think about inserting vines to a food forest, or any other tree centered guild? I have red mostly concerns about that, most vines are able to grow up to the top of the fruit trees, competing for the light, thus reducing crop from that tree and also not producing any significant crop if it is shaded with tree leaves. Also, it seems quite difficult to pick that fruits, if comparing to vines trained on some pergola or so. It seems that it could bring more problems than benefits. However, vines are so interesting, bring whole new layer in food forest, making it look more like a natural forest. Maybe there are other benefits that I overlooked, like wildlife support, but don't now much about that currently.

I'm in zone 7 and thinking of vines like actinidia family, grapes, schisandra etc. Also, one no-food vine comes to my mind, wisteria. It is in pea family, fixing nitrogen, quite ornamental, insect atracting, and there is no need to pick any fruit since there are no fruits

How to guild fruit tree and vining plant, without causing too many problems?
 
E. Elkins
Posts: 22
Location: North Carolina, USA (Zone 7B)
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I'm obviously not Toby, but I thought I'd point you to another outstanding book that has some cool ideas for integrating vines into a food forest -- Martin Crawford's Creating a Forest Garden. Crawford suggests several ways to grow perennial vines without erecting a trellis:

1. Grow the vines on a coppiced tree. He likes to use a tree with edible leaves (he suggests Tilia cordota). If I remember correctly, when it's time to cut back the tree again, he also cuts the vine back and restarts the process.

2. On a mature tree, he removes the lower canopy with the exception of specifically chosen limbs that will become his "trellis." Can't remember the species that he usually uses...alder? The tree still has plenty of foliage up high, the vines have limbs to climb, and the gardener has better access to the vines in the open lower canopy that he or she has created.

3. The first two seem to be his preferred method, but he also suggests the possibility of growing a sacrificial tree, girdling it, and then allowing the vine to climb the dead tree. You would then plant a future sacrificial tree close by so that, when the original tree falls, you can then restart the process.

If you're looking to pair vines with a fruit tree, it seems like method 2 would work if the tree was large enough. Sure, you'd sacrifice some tree fruit for the vine fruit, but that would be a great way of introducing diversity to your garden.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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i have had mixed results with vines in food and other forests..and in our area several types grow wild in the nearby forests such as wild grapes and clematis vines. One vine that is very dangerous is the bittersweet vine, I have had them actually strangle and kill full size evergreens on our property both white pines and canadian hemlocks.

therefore, I have put my vines up arbors and trellises in my food forest and other gardens here. I have seedless grapes, clematis, kiwi as well as the annual vines up on trelliese and it makes for a lot more room, but trees can be ruined by vines so be careful..If you have a dead tree though, what a great place for a vine.
 
Milan Broz
Posts: 87
Location: Croatia
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Thanks to both. Now I have some new ideas that I might try soon. I'll also think about ordering Crawford's book, looks like another nice source of information.
 
E. Elkins
Posts: 22
Location: North Carolina, USA (Zone 7B)
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Drug Mile wrote:I'll also think about ordering Crawford's book, looks like another nice source of information.


I highly recommend it. It's a great book with a lot of practical information, but I value it most for its plant profiles. Like Eric Toensmeier's Perennial Vegetables, Creating a Forest Garden introduced me to a lot of plants that have great potential for the permaculture garden.
 
Toby Hemenway
author
Posts: 105
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Thanks for those kind words. I put a camera in every copy (with the feed going also to Paul for his plans for world domination), so I am pleased that people keep them close by.

Vines are tricky, but choosing the right vine/support combo is the answer. A kiwi--I don't think so. A friend pulled a mature apricot down with a hardy kiwi; that's why they use 6x6 posts for their trellises. But a grape? Maybe. Choose a less-vigorous variety and hack it back nearly every year. Or use a really big tree that you can climb (my friend trained the kiwi up a Doug fir). And yes, dead trees are great for vines. In a small yard, I stick to trellises for vines, since control is important. But in larger yards, I'll run them up trees. But less vigorous is wiser.
 
William James
gardener
Posts: 1008
Location: Northern Italy
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I saw hops growing up a tree in a hedgerow. The hops plant was huge. I don't remember how the tree was faring.

Would there be problems with excessive shading by the vine crop? Any guesses on the type of tree that would make friends with hops?

William

 
Leila Rich
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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Drug, are you near wild forest? I ask because our plans to manage what we plant are limited by so many factors, our lifespan being one
Perennial vines scare me a bit. In many areas in NZ, the bush is overrun with introduced feral vines. While our climates will be very different, here's some real problems in NZ: wisteria, honeysuckle, jasmine, banana passionfruit, morning glory, old man's beard (clematis)...there's many more.
Unless trees are prety mature, I'd be very careful about even small vines. I planted beans around a young plum last season. Not a good plan.
 
Milan Broz
Posts: 87
Location: Croatia
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Leila Rich wrote:Drug, are you near wild forest?


I am. You think I should be more careful because of that?


Thinking about pairing N-fixing tree and shade tolerant vine. It could be quite a guild. Currently thinking on pairing Alder and Schissandra Chinensis. So far I don't know of any tall tree for temperate climate that brings fruit and fixes nitrogen, all of them are bushes, and maybe some low trees. This pair could then be considered as an example of mentioned.
 
Pamela Melcher
Posts: 299
Location: Portland, Oregon Maritime, temperate, zone 7-8.
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one no-food vine comes to my mind, wisteria. It is in pea family, fixing nitrogen, quite ornamental, insect attracting, and there is no need to pick any fruit since there are no fruits


I once lived in a house that had a wisteria vine that had climbed about 20-30 feet into a tall evergreen tree, almost to the top. It was years ago and the details are unclear. I remember it as being in a cedar tree, but then I think, how could that be, nothing grows under cedar trees except an occasional fern. Maybe it was a fir. It was a delight when it bloomed. The tree seemed unharmed, but the tree definitely had a head start, and probably benefited from the nitrogen.

This comes to mind, a wisteria with a tree which is a valued food source. If the wisteria gets out of hand, you can prune it or "recycle" it. Wisteria is reportedly easy to propagate, so that I imagine you could replicate the process many times.

This gives me ideas because there are trees in our 1/4 acre land that are not producing food and are not very special and are very tall and shading areas that I would like to see sun in. I do not want to just cut down those trees. I could train a sturdy vine up them and the day might come when the vine is in the lead, and with a little help from me, the tree becomes a trellis and is no longer so tall and has become a support for our food forest. I do not like to reduce the oxygen production by cutting down even one tree. This evolutionary sequence that I envision would be a gain, and sustain oxygen production.

Thanks for asking your valuable question. Blessings.
Pamela Melcher
 
Leila Rich
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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My question about whether you are near forest comes after experiencing escaped vines in our native forests. Birds, wind etc are impossible to control and spread vines deep into forest.
Wisteria sends out incredibly long underground runners, then pops up in unexpected places. Trailing vines will develop roots where they touch the ground. Wisteris's a real problem plant in my climate. To make things worse, they quite often won't flower at all.
 
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