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Sunlight and "full sun" in a food forest  RSS feed

 
Dan Jones
Posts: 5
Location: Palm Beach County, Florida, USA
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I'm slowly, but surely, turning my back yard into a food forest. I've run into trouble, though, with shading. Much of my 1/4 acre is shaded by much larger trees to the south and west. Consequently, most or all of my area is shaded, even more so in the winter when the sun's path is farther to the south. I know in nature, there are stories or layers of a forest, but I'm having trouble recreating that in my yard. For example, 7/10 of my blueberry plants died from too much shade. I moved the remaining three into full sun and they are growing sure and strong.

How does one do "close plantings" of various sized plants and trees and still ensure that each gets enough sun?
 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
pollinator
Posts: 1422
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
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That is a tough one. I see you are in the south so, like me, you must value your shade - it too is a part of retaining moisture and keeping cool naturally.

You have to find your own balance.

I have 5 massive pecans and several other very large (unidentified) trees that keep quite a lot of my one acre in shade for the summer. If I take them down I increase growing area for sunloving plants but at what cost?

I believe that my hugel beds that are in full sun are doing the job and have done well with no water - BUT I also believe that the nearby large trees are a contributing factor in retaining water when we start hitting those 110 degree days.

I do plant some things that are real sun lovers where there is morning shade but noon and afternoon sun - that is the sun that is a killer but it will work for things like tomatoes, rosemary and prickly pear and muscadine.

My blueberries are planted where they get mostly morning sun, maybe a bit at noon but shaded in the afternoon, peppers the same.

This means that I don't get to arrange the garden to my liking - I have to plant according to the sun and shade patterns.

So this really does not answer your question - just thoughts to ponder.
 
Nick Garbarino
Posts: 239
Location: west central Florida
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Ask the neighbors to cut down some of their trees? By the way, blackberries produce very well in shade, but not sure if they would get enough chilling hours in so FL. The thornless varieties are great. There has to be some semi-tropical to tropical shade loving fruiting plants for you. A great book to find out is "Florida's Best Fruiting Plants" by Charles R. Boning.
 
Lori Crouch
Posts: 104
Location: Amarillo, TX.
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I am almost done reading my two volume Food Forest book by Dave Jackey, so I'll try to give you the best answer I can based on this information. Though your climate is not covered in this book as it is more for a temperate region, they state that you use every bit of the shaded area with tolerant edibles. Gooseberries, currants, and the like are tolerant to shade and can be placed in partial sun spots under the trees (if these will work in your climate). Grapes can also grow with partial sun up an existing tree. Hardy kiwi can climb up trees to get their sun along with an existing tree. The fruit that is high up will fall to the ground when it is ripe and can still be eaten. For the understory there are many mentions of shade tolerant herbs, though again, I'm not sure which of these would be good for your zone.

Perhaps you could visit a local Barnes-n-noble and search through the "top 100" list he has and some of the other plant listings and make some notes to research what will work in your area. If you're good at plant recognition, there is a wonderful geoff lawton permaculture video that shows (about half way through) a home in a tropical region and what they have growing in their yard. This might give you some ideas when they show shady spots as to what could work for you. Basically from everything that I've read thus far it is working with the shade to grow the maximum amount of plants in that space as well as the sunny locations. With a shady area you might be creating a bit of a microclimate and can get some plants that wouldn't normally grow in your warm, hot sun. Hope this helps and good luck!!
 
Ben Walter
Posts: 92
Location: Deland, FL
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There's lots of great plants to grow in the shade. Turmeric and ginger thive in full-shade. Peppers were already mentioned and I shade grow them even though I have full sun because they do better with some shade.

I've seen citrus, mulberries and blueberries successfully grown in the shade. How much soil prep and did you test the soil where you planted those blueberries? I wonder if it was more the soil and less about the sun. It could also be that some type of blueberries do better in shade than others. \

With a little research you can find a lot of crops that thrive in shade, those are just a few i'm familiar with. I would also encourage you to experiment with a lot of annuals to see what you can get away with. My neighbors here in central florida grow their entire garden in mostly shade and it does really well. I would encourage you to experiment with perennials too, but that can get expensive.

It does suck for you winter gardening...Good luck
 
Varina Lakewood
Posts: 116
Location: Colorado
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Thank you, Nick and Ben. That info about blackberries and blueberries was something I've been looking for.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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on smaller acerage I think it is more difficult, probably a lot of trial and error, but I also believe that a lot of plants may prefer more shade than what the "books" and catalogs say. For example my black raspberries are in two separate areas of my garden..some are in nearly full shade and some get a lot more sun..the ones in the nearly full shade produce far better than the ones in full sun.

I also think a lot has to do with climate, soil, etc..

this year I moved some plants when I divided them from overcrowding, and the ones that had too much sun kept withering no matter how much water I gave them..and the ones in the shade thrived..personally I'm also much more comfortable with a little shade on me.
 
Nick Garbarino
Posts: 239
Location: west central Florida
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Dan, The following fruit trees reportedly do well in your location, and are shade tolerant: ambarella, pinneapple guava, carambola, and especially ceriman. The only one that I've grown is the pinneapple guava, and I agree based on my experience.
 
Dan Jones
Posts: 5
Location: Palm Beach County, Florida, USA
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Thanks all. I am doing a LOT of trial and error. Slowly but surely, I am progressing. Operating here, in South Florida, is different then "the books". I'm learning to embrace that and work out the details.

I asked an elderly gentleman what he was groweing and what "the season" was for it. His reply was, "It's Florida. I grow everything all the time." So...in some sense it is NOT as complicated as I am making it out to be!

My current experiment is to plant "winter veggies" in the shady areas, along with the perennials you guys mentioned. Blackberries seem to be happy in the shady spot were the blueberries died. Will try some sweet potato and pigeon peas along the shady back corner and see how that goes.

Over the last 2 years of my adventure, I have learned the two biggest words in my vocabulary; Micro Climate! To elaborate on Brenda's post, It amazes me that you can put two identical plants 2-3 feet apart, give them identical care, and 1 will die and 1 will thrive! WHAT THE HECK is going on in that three feet?
 
Diego Melians Ii
Posts: 13
Location: Miramar (South Florida Zone 10b) and Lee (North Florida Zone 8b)
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Hi Dan,

I also live in South Florida, so I feel your "pain", I am in Miramar (10b). I have a Carambola (aka star fruit) tree growing close to the east side of my home. It gets about 4-5 hours of sun in the summer and about 2-3 hours in the winter. The rest of the day it is in full shade because my two story home's shade completely overtakes it. I can tell you it does GREAT! I get more star fruit then I know what to do with! I end up feeding much of it to my chickens because I have too much! It fruits about three times a year for me. I don't fertilize it (or spray of course) and I have never had any bug or disease issues. In fact, of the 12 fruit trees I grow, it is the easiest and most prolific. If you have never tasted a Carambola fruit, you should try it before you plant it. No sense in growing something you will not eat. Unless of course you plan to feed it to chickens or the like. I like it but my wife doesn't. It is citrus-y in flavor and when you cut it crossways it forms a pretty star pattern. Another fruit you could try of course are bananas. I have three types. Two are in mostly sunny spots and one in part shade. All three fruit for me, although the shady one not quite as much as other two, but it still gives me 2-3 bunches a year. Keep in mind however that you will have to feed them. I use chicken manure. If you don't want to fertilize, bananas are tough. You can also try Jaboticaba. This tree produces grape like fruits which grow directly on the trunk and branches. It is very unusual! But if you try it, be sure to get a grafted variety or it can take 15-20 years to fruit from seed! Richard Lyons Nursery had a good selection when I bought mine a few years ago. However, it does need frequent irrigation to fruit well. As far as pineapple guava, I also grow it. It does well as a pretty tree. However I would not recommend it for South Florida because, although it is pretty, you will NEVER get a fruit you can eat due to fruit flies. They are UNSTOPPABLE! I have tried everything imaginable (except spraying), even physically covering the fruit when small with paper bags and tying it tightly. Nevertheless, every fruit gets maggots in them. It ends up making a big mess when it fruits because you can't eat the fruit and they end up rotting on the ground. Of all the fruit trees I have planted, this is the only one I regret. As for veggies, try Seminole Pumpkin. It does well in semi shade. The Seminoles used to plant them under trees in the everglades and let them vine up the tree. It was a major staple in their diet. In fact, it is rumored the Seminole War began when soldiers began shooting the pumpkins for target practice. Let me know if you would like any more info on any of these and I'll share my experiences with you. Good luck.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9742
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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You can eat pineapple guava flowers, so if you want a yield from those plants and want to avoid the rotting fruit problem, just eat the flowers. http://www.eattheweeds.com/edible-flowers-part-six/

We had pineapple guava in California and never got a fruit because the squirrels would eat them just before ripening. That was before I knew you can eat the flowers.
 
Diego Melians Ii
Posts: 13
Location: Miramar (South Florida Zone 10b) and Lee (North Florida Zone 8b)
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Here is a pic of the Carambola fruit and a couple of pics of Jaboticaba.
Carambola-(Star-Fruit).jpg
[Thumbnail for Carambola-(Star-Fruit).jpg]
Carambola
1594-jaboticaba.jpg
[Thumbnail for 1594-jaboticaba.jpg]
Jaboticaba fruits right on the wood! Very cool looking when fruiting
jab2.jpg
[Thumbnail for jab2.jpg]
Jaboticaba tree can grow in part shade of an understory (although it does BEST in full sun)
 
Diego Melians Ii
Posts: 13
Location: Miramar (South Florida Zone 10b) and Lee (North Florida Zone 8b)
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Hi Again Dan,

One other thought. How about growing some food in the front yard if you have more sun there? I now most HOA's (if you are in one) won't allow a true Food Forest in the front yard. However a small growing fruit tree or two with a 6'-8' diameter island of supporting guild plants should look good and have no resistance from neighbors/HOA. Just a thought.
 
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