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Planning a food forest...with black walnut?

 
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Good morning!

I have been doing lots of reading, and this is my first post! Very excited to be digging through the wealth of knowledge here!

I am currently living in Alaska, but my husband and I purchased 4 acres across from my in-laws last summer, in Northern Missouri. We are planning on homesteading there in about 6 years once we can be partially (or completely) financially independent and leave our 9-5.

Since we have a bit of time before we can move, I wanted to get a head start with some trees. We are visiting in May/June, and we have already order some tree seedlings through the state department of conservation. In hindsight, I wish I had researched just a bit more before placing the order, but the cost is so low, it is not significant at this point. We got spruce, pines, Eastern redbuds, and black walnuts. We tried to get pawpaws, but they sold out.

I have read a ton about black walnuts and the problematic jugulone; all the posts I have found deal mostly with trying to work around an established black walnut. I have not seen anything about intentionally planting a black walnut as the canopy of a food forest and am second guessing my choices.

My concern is that I will be creating an issue that may or may not be worth the hassle in dealing with the jugulone, as I intend to have lots of other fruit bearing trees that do not tolerate it, and 4 acres may or may not be enough space for a black walnut centered food forest.

Assuming I decide to go ahead with the plan, I would have walnut as the canopy, with pawpaws under (maybe in a few years, when the walnut can provide a bit of shade), pink currants, black raspberry, and fiddlehead ferns, all of which are tolerant (to what extent, I am not sure) or jugulone.

From my understanding, the jugulone will increase in reach and strength as the tree grows; I do not want to have to remove the pawpaws later because the jugulone has become too much. Does anyone have experience with mature walnut/pawpaw combinations? They both have taproots, so I think this would prevent much of the competition for nutrients and possibly be a great combination.


 
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I would not try to use any of the Jugulone producing plants (trees) as the desired canopy element of a food forest simply because the canopy will always be trying to get rid of those plants you want food from.
If you go into the forest and locate a Black Walnut tree, you will find nothing around the base of the tree all the way out to the drip line of that tree, this is because the tree doesn't want any competition, which is what the jugulone's purpose is, it prevents plant sprouting and growth.

Redhawk

 
Jessica Mcdonald
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Thanks Bryant!

What would you use as a canopy layer for zone 5/6? I would like to use a nut tree, so chestnuts may be another option. A standard size apple tree? Or perhaps a nitrogen fixing tree that provides no food?
 
Bryant RedHawk
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I would look at pecan for the  canopy, chestnut and hazelnut for secondary layer then fruit trees. I would then use the fruit trees and shorter nut trees for planting the understory beneath those.
Pecan trees, while taking up to 20 years to reach a good height can grow up to over 70 feet tall making them a perfect subject for a canopy, since you need to space them at 60 feet between trunks you have plenty of space for everything else.

Redhawk
 
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Black Walnut will not kill your other trees it might just make them produce less. And that might be something that you are okay with because you have a particular attachment to black walnut vs other nuts or even other nuts in the walnut family. I think most fruit trees that aren't in the rose family (apple/plums/etc) aren't affected by black walnut.

For me irregardless of which tree, wallnut/apple/etc. I dont plant anything underneath their expected mature drip line, that I plan on gettin an harvest from say 15years later. Yes in year one when they are just planted, I might have tomatoes and pepper only 3feet away, but at year 7, that 20ft tree will not leave much resources for anything that is 3ft away from it's trunk, (okay I can probably get a wonderful mushroom harvest) . The main thing is that you have to thing in multiyear stages of the food forest. For me that involves lots of legumes/soil feeders and berry plants that I know will not be there later as they get shaded out.

Most trees even pawpaw/elderberry/juneberry will prefer to be in full sun vs 5ft away from the trunk of a 30ft tree, even if it is the most nourishing legume. I actually have my elderberry and pawpaw in full sun and they are doing wonderful. My juneberry is under some shade, and I think it is doing worse. Personally I don't want to harvest from trees that get to be more than 18ft, and definitely not more than 25ft, so I would look into other nut trees. That said you have 4acres so I don't see why you cant have a few walnut trees by the property border.
 
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I would plant them in a grove somewhere the shade would be appreciated, or at least not harmful.
Rather than trying to get to the nut meat myself , I might run pigs through the grove during harvest season.
Any seedings could be sold, and the trees could be tapped for syrup.
 
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Pawpaws are extremely juglone tolerant.  I fertilize mine with black walnut hulls and they love it.
 
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