I would like to do a thought experiment that would lead me to doing the right thing when the situation presents itself. I would also like to have some strategies in place when the time comes.
Let's imagine you have just bought 1 Hectre, 2.47 Acres. Your goal is calorie dense food, variety of food, and a perennial polyculture with annuals limited to the self-seeding, the low maintenance and the volunteer plants. Your goal is to maximize what can be produced for human consumption.
We're in mild temperate mediterranean climate. Potential hills but it could be plain. Most likely heavy clay. Hot summers, cool/cold winters. Water, unless collected rainwater, would probably not be present.
What would be the plants you chose?
Would you choose different plants for the different stages of the project?
Which Hunger gap plants?
Which trees for consumption or aiding other plants?
How would you go about obtaining the plants?
Guilds you would build?
Techniques you have tried or would try?
Are there questions I'm leaving out?
Books I haven't read are coming to mind: 4 season harvest by Jeavons; Perennial Vegetables by Toensmeier. If anyone has chapter references from the mollison's big black book, I can read those. I'm plodding through that one little by little. Any other helpful books?
I'm a little more interested in what people have tried and had success with or would try if they could start over/again...
Smith is the grandfather of permaculture, note the subtitle of his book written in 1929. Several descriptions of setups for Mediterranean climes.
green onions and chives are great, at least for us. Peppers for us are a tree, I kid you not, they survive at least 5 years.
One of my new favorites is chayote. Four vines and you are smothered in them.
Warning, we live in the true tropics.
How many large plants (these could be fruit/nut trees or bushes) would you think would be suitable for 1 hectre/acre? I saw
Smith Says: "It is so easy to plant trees too close together both on paper and on land. Individual trees perform wonders occasionally, but some- how, when they are set out in rows and given a term of years, they fail to perform every year on the average as the rare
genius tree does once in a while. "
Obviously I won't be setting things out in rows, but the point is that a specific land size can hold only so many trees/bushes.
William James wrote:
How many large plants (these could be fruit/nut trees or bushes) would you think would be suitable for 1 hectre/acre?
It really depends on the width of the tree at full size and to some extent the landscape itself. I strongly recommend planning using like this:
It's surprising how few trees you can fit if you plan it based on their width when grown. In that plan there are overlapping canopies where I'm planning on a living fence.
The brown and blue lines are swales which, by the way, if you can set it up right the soil is the best place to store water.
Apples (warm climate variety)
Muscadine - but I believe you can grow regular bunching grapes in your area
I always plant a variety of beans for nitrogen, they are easy to grow and a good 'bulk' food.
Oregano and Rosemary are planted in the hotest 'no care' areas away from things that might be composted or mulched.
I just planted Sunchokes for the first time this year, the tubers are intended as a filler/starch food, the green tops I will use as mulch.
Things that are considered more decorative than edible, such as elephant ears, canna lilies, and banana leaves make GREAT additions to hugelkulture beds and compost piles. I just put them down like a green 'mat' around plants - kind of a mega chop and drop.
We plant lots of other stuff here but those are the things that really require the absolute minimum of care from me. The most labor intensive part is when I have to figure out what to do with all of the food. Plums for example often end up in a compost pile but next year I plan to have some birds to contain in that area until the groundfall is cleaned up.
Try to think a natural succession if you can, if you are think for the long term. Much of the problem we have is that most foods we are used to eating are annuals, but annuals usually grow best in very fertile soils, often those laid bare by nature or man.
Jeanine Gurley wrote:
Things that are considered more decorative than edible, such as elephant ears, canna lilies
Don't forget both are staple foods in other parts of the world: Elephant Ears Colocasia esculenta are Taro, with edible tubers, and canna has edible tubers as well.
Ditto for things like Taro...I brought one home and, after eating a raw piece, went online and saw it was toxic. Luckily I survived, but the Taro went in the compost.
That being said, I'm looking at that foto of Cj's and I'm seeing around a hundred big plants. Which is what I'm seeing here too:
Maybe you could get in more with understory/small shrub plants directed toward diet.
Another thing is "pre-installation" crops. Especially things like these, which I find extraordinary!
These would include heavy organic material producers, "filler" plants, which could be annuals/biennials to kinda jack up the photo-synthesis grab and really mediate the soil fast.
Thanks for the discussion so far. This is all going to go in my notebook (finally, some more crucial info to add)!
William James wrote:That being said, I'm looking at that foto of Cj's and I'm seeing around a hundred big plants.
What you not seeing in the pic are the animals in the pasture. Cattle, sheep, turkeys, chickens. So, I do have something to eat while waiting for the trees to bare. Some of the trees are living fences, some will produce for me some for the animals, some for both.
I think the area of the pic is about 4 acres.
about 4 acres
So, dividing by 4 does that mean 62 biggish trees/hectare ... or 25 trees/acre?
Good point about the animals. And the living fences.
Unfortunately I don't have animals in the crystal ball. This is due to location and land size, and the chosen diets of some of the people involved. Four acres I'm sure is okay for animals, but I wouldn't feel right about stocking 1 hectare/1 acre with too many animals, but that's me.
Ps: I'm really liking "Tree Crops." Amazing this was written so long ago. What foresight.
1. I planted tall fruit trees spaced 7m (20ft) one from another, not in rows and columns (rectangular pattern) but in triangular pattern. So around every tall tree there are 6 similar trees at distance of 7m.
2. If you move 4m from any tree in one direction, you are in centre of perfect triangle, 4m away from 3 tall fruit trees. I planted n-fixer in this spot. So, if I have 20 tall fruit trees, now I have 20 n-fixers (black or italian alder, black locust).
3. If you move from tall fruit tree 4m in opposite direction, you are in centre of hexagon, around you there are 3 tall trees and 3 n-fixers, all 4m away. I planted short trees here. So, for one area, now I have 20 tall trees, 20 n-fixers and 20 short trees.
4. As the forrest grows up, I will chop and drop n-fixers, prune tall trees to let some of the light to lower layers, and prune short trees to keep it short. By short trees, I mean trees that naturaly grows short and the ones that grows tall, but are hard to pick fruits, like mulberries. So I would keep mulberry short, although it would grow much higher if allowed, for example.
5. Then I would create a pattern of walking paths through the woods, since terrain is sloped I would follow contour lines, maybe creating slopes/ditches to keep some rainfall.
6. Then I would fit the shrubs in empty spaces. They would probably be below all this trees. I don't care about is there enough space for all that plants, since I'm working with time, not only space. Tall trees would take 10, 20 or more years to grow to full size, meanwhile I would have years and years of currants, gooseberries, hazelnuts etc.
7. Herb layer would be mostly for supporting species, like insect attractors, pest repellents, dynamic accumulators, maybe some of perrenial vegetables, bulbs, self seeders, etc. If there would be too dark below all this trees and shrubs, I would grow mushrooms. And that's it.
William James wrote:So, dividing by 4 does that mean 62 biggish trees/hectare ... or 25 trees/acre?
It depends on the tree and maybe even the variety. There are charts available. I think Tree Crops even talks about that a bit. I have a vague memory of only 8 pecans per acre.
But anyway, that's not really how you plan a food forest or a permaculture setup. Actually, it's impossible to plan anything without know that actual landscape.
Do you have Intro to Permaculture? There's much good info about setting up a site by zones of use. It's really important because permaculture involves understanding relationships between the design element and using them to your advantage.
I know that I should be basing my thoughts on real-life situations and the needs of the site, but I kinda want to get a very general idea of whether I'm going to be investing somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 trees or something in the order of 5-20, just based on this given size of land. Obviously it depends on the tree and what the needs are, but I'd want fruit/nut/nitrogen fixing, which is what the discussion has been about so far.
Of course, I might also have to battle erosion and might have to plant those 200 trees in the end just to deal with that problem. But I'm going for a ballpark figure of "end result" costs so that I can propose it to a group of people. Having done a little research and going into it thinking that it will cost 5,000 euros is a lot different than going into it thinking it'll cost 50,000; no matter what the eventual outcome.
All of this is really good. For example, knowing that I'll need some amount of above ground rain collection tells me I'll need some structure built on site, either pre-existing or newly built, which is what I was planning anyway.