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Establishing diversity under backyard Douglas fir

 
Posts: 76
Location: Portland, OR, USA, Zone 8b
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I've got one mature Douglas fir at the back of my otherwise open and sunny backyard. I'm keeping the tree, and I'd like to help some native plants get established under and around it: thimbleberry, huckleberry, salal, mahonia, maybe ferns, and others. I think adding large and small woody debris (I've got lots of logs and chips) in the area under and around the tree would be helpful.

Anyone have success trying something like this? What would you recommend?
 
pollinator
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Location: Yukon Territory, Canada. Zone 1a
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The soil around a mature Doug is going to be pretty acidic, but as you are looking at native plants, they should be able to do well in that soil.
I give a hearty thumbs up to the thimble berry. My favourite berry since I was a small child.

Be aware that huckleberries usually grow out of rotting cedar nurse logs... if you can find some big rotten rounds you could scoop out a cavity in the top, dress with appropriate soil and see what will grow.

I'd add Oregon Grape to your list. They are great barrier plants due to the prickles, and they make an exquisite syrup, jelly or juice. Very high in Vitamin C.

Deer's Foot (aka Vanilla Leaf) is a good mosquito repellant when crushed.

Salmon Berry are delicious, and spread less than other vine berries. Birds love the nectar and fruit.

Maiden Hair ferns are just beautiful!

If you don't already have a copy, Lone Pine publishes great guides that respect both the scientific taxonomy and the traditional knowledge surrounding West Coast plants.
I have Plants of Coastal British Columbia, but I'm sure there's a PNW version al well (same biome!).
Red-Huckleberry-225x300.jpg
Huckle berry
Huckle berry
oregon-grape.jpg
Oregon Grape
Oregon Grape
deer-foot.jpg
Deer Foot
Deer Foot
salmonberry.jpeg
Salmonberry flower
Salmonberry flower
maidenhair_fern2_legler.jpg
Maidenhair Fern
Maidenhair Fern
 
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I'm have a very similar situation! I've got a massive fir tree in the centre of my yard. For me there is also a nearby large (3m /15' tall) rhododendron and a japanese maple that I can't remove, so I'm hoping to design a food forest around these. The area has ~15cm / 6" of fir needles, combined with the leaves from the rhodo and maple so I think it should be acidic and fungal dominated. This is just north of the US/Canada border - USDA zone 8b.
I'd love some suggestions as to what might grow well in these conditions and if etiquette allows,  to extend the question to non native perennial food plants as well.
 
Chris Sturgeon
pollinator
Posts: 191
Location: Yukon Territory, Canada. Zone 1a
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Ivar. Rhodos are a sure sign of acidic soil, non-cultivated varieties won't grow anywhere else. Some people say  they are a great pH tester: You can tell a whole lot about your soil depending on what colour the rhodos bloom. My understanding is the Pale yellow is less acidic, moving toward darker blue in the more acid soil. Of course watering cycles and many other factors probably play a role in bloom colour.

Sound like you are near Langley? The Langley Environmental Partners Society (LEPS) runs a pretty awesome native plant nursery out near municipal hall. Mind you, my info is 15 years out of date!
 
Anna Tennis
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Location: Portland, OR, USA, Zone 8b
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@Chris: Yes, thimbleberry is amazing! It was the first solid food I gave my first child. Love the idea of adding vanilla leaf. I could grow salmonberry - I've just never found the berries that interesting to eat. Oregon grape: yes! I listed that originally (Mahonia spp). Maidenhair fern: great idea! I was thinking of sword and bracken. Huckleberries: I did not know that about cedar nurse logs. So good to learn, both for cultivating them and for foraging.

@Ivar: I'm happy to extend the discussion to include non-native perennial food plants.
 
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(please excuse weird words/spelling. I'm typing while singing my daughter to sleep)

A lot of the plants on my Edible Plants for Shady &/or Wet Areas (especially in temperate climates like the Northwest) should work.

Some of fruiting plants might not fruit if planted close to the trunk/deep shade, but they will grow. Huckleberries should do well! I have some growing out of hemlock stumps, so if you have enough woody debri underneath, they should do well. One thing that helps is to bring soil from where there's already hucklberries growing, in a nice big chunk, and plant that soil with the huckleberry. I've saved quite a few dying blue hucklberries by transplanting soil from around red hucklberries. I've also successfully transplanted hucklberries quite a few times by just digging up a big chunk of soil with it, and planting it all together. If you were closer, I'd give you some red huckleberry plants, as they grow wild on my property, just growing in the woody soil)

Rhodies work alright under douglas firs, especially under the sunnier side. Miners lettuce grows under it well, too. Skunk/swamp currant, and red flowering currant do well. You might try other currants and gooseberries. My mom had jostaberry that did fine getting dappled and morning sun. It was leggy, but it made berries.

I've got babbington leeks growing successfully on the outskirts of my firs, and I'd think that chives would do well, as well.

For flowers (I don't think any of these are edible). my mom planted helabor and coral bells under her douglas fir. Bleeding hearts, of course, also do well. Hostas should do well, as well (hostas are edible, too!).
 
pollinator
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Location: Lewis County, WA
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Thank you for this thread, Anna! I have the same questions, too. I'll post pictures later. I have a ton of bare dirt under some cedars, firs, and whatever type of redwood grows in the PNW. (I'm still learning the names of the trees.)

I'll piggyback on your post and add picture later. I've been putting the ducks' kiddie pools under the trees figuring that the water is good fertilizer. I'd love to plant something that the ducks and I could eat as well.

Great topic! Carry on!
 
Anna Tennis
Posts: 76
Location: Portland, OR, USA, Zone 8b
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Nicole Alderman wrote:
Some of fruiting plants might not fruit if planted close to the trunk/deep shade, but they will grow. Huckleberries should do well! I have some growing out of hemlock stumps, so if you have enough woody debri underneath, they should do well. One thing that helps is to bring soil from where there's already hucklberries growing, in a nice big chunk, and plant that soil with the huckleberry. I've saved quite a few dying blue hucklberries by transplanting soil from around red hucklberries. I've also successfully transplanted hucklberries quite a few times by just digging up a big chunk of soil with it, and planting it all together. If you were closer, I'd give you some red huckleberry plants, as they grow wild on my property, just growing in the woody soil)



Learned something new about cultivating huckleberries! Thanks for your other suggestions too - I especially like the idea of adding hostas. I'll look into the best edible varieties.
 
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