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Using Evergreens or Mostly Evergreens in the Food Forest

 
gardener
Posts: 1961
Location: Zone 7b/8a Temperate Humid Subtropical, Eastern NC, US
746
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I have some native evergreens or mostly evergreens growing in my food forest, and I've recently been noticing some benefits from them. They provide habitat for beneficial birds in the winter, who are hopefully helping to balance out the pests. They also provide shady areas in the winter, and they also just look nice, when a lot of other plants are dormant.

Privet (Ligustrum sinense) grows everywhere in my yard. At first I disliked it because it came up everywhere, was hard to cut down, and it was hard to dig out once it got established. I've learned to really like it now however. It can serve as a pretty good living grape vine trellis, with its fast growth and flexible branches. Here's a recent video I made about it.



I'd also like to find some wild magnolia to incorporate into the food forest. I've heard they can possibly help repel some insects, which is always welcome.

Anybody else have any evergreens or almost evergreens growing in their food forest or any you're interested in planting?
 
pollinator
Posts: 224
Location: Gulf Islands BC (zone 8)
74
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You can do so much with conifers!

Human food and supplements - Juniper berries, pine pollen, spruce and cedar tips, all are edible and good for you, loaded with nutrients. Useful in baking, tinctures, teas, etc.

Animal feed - my goats love pine and cedar clippings.

Scent and decoration - great to bring into the house at this time of year, just tie a few boughs with a bit of cloth or twine and voila, an instant swag. And I bought an old beater truck last summer for hauling stuff around the farm, and a previous owner was a smoker. I wasn't able to completely de-stink it with cleaning (I think it's in the upholstery), so every now and then I throw a fresh cedar bough behind the seat. Much nicer than those synthetic car scent things.

Fire starter - I'm the world's worst wood-stove-starter so having a bin of dry cones nearby helps.
 
Steve Thorn
gardener
Posts: 1961
Location: Zone 7b/8a Temperate Humid Subtropical, Eastern NC, US
746
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Those are some great uses Andrea!
 
gardener
Posts: 2123
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
946
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The conifers here are all edible. The young soft green growth in early spring is supposed to be tasty. I'm planning on trying to saute some Douglas fir greens mixed with some pine nuts and then mixed in with whole wheat pasta and olive oil plus garlic and perhaps rosemary. It will be fun to try!

But there are also other edible evergreens that aren't conifers. There is an evergreen huckleberry here that gets up to 12 feet in the shade and is very dense. The berries are ready in August but keep ripening through the fall and can be harvested through December!

I love that huckleberry and I have planted 8 of them on my wild homestead. All are doing great but they need more time to grow before they will produce much. I'm planning on adding around 2 to 3 dozen more up and down my hedgerows once the other plants get established enough to provide a good amount of shade.

Strawberry trees are also edible though with mixed reviews on the taste. But I planted one a couple years ago and it's doing good and has grown a lot.

There is also the California bay tree. It can be used as a substitute for bay leaf in cooking. Very similar flavor just stronger so you use less of it.

I always try to include evergreens in my hedgerows and food forests. As you said they are great for birds and other wildlife and many of them provide a lot of other functions too!
 
Steve Thorn
gardener
Posts: 1961
Location: Zone 7b/8a Temperate Humid Subtropical, Eastern NC, US
746
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Great list and info Daron!
 
pollinator
Posts: 195
Location: Asheville NC
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Not a fan of Privet. If you want to get rid of it, You'll need to remove the roots. I did Subscribe.
 
Posts: 618
Location: Northern Maine, USA (zone 3b-4a)
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fresh spruce needles make vit. c rich tea. my grandmother said when she was a girl they used to boil spruce bark to collect the sap. once it hardened it was like chewing gum. they would chew it to clean their teeth.
 
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