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Which fruit trees as understory in a wood coppice, zone 5b?

 
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Location: Upstate NY
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I have been cultivating a wood coppice on the bottom 2 acres of my sloped property here in zone 5b upstate NY, 1000ft. elevation. The wood coppice is mostly mature maple, young ash, young elm, young cherry. I am pollarding the 2 acres in 5 cants (sectors), harvesting wood for fuel from one cant per year.The soil is former pasture for a few cows (last pastured probably 25 years ago. It's old new York agricultural land in the hills, so lots and lots of surface rock and boulders, despite 300 years worth of building rock walls. Being at the bottom of the slope, there is a creek that runs through wetland pasture on the neighbor's property on the downslope side.

My question is this: What fruit trees, berry bushes, etc. would you recommend as understory plantings?

I would like to develop food crops in this coppice, as well as fuel wood. Currently, high bush blueberries and Witch Hazel grow in the understory. Since it will be a coppice area, there will not be dense forest canopy - but a light canopy, and every few years no canopy for about 1-2 seasons.

Thanks for any feedback!
 
pollinator
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Fruit crops for shade, not necessarily trees - Gooseberries, red white and black currants, haskaps, goji (vining but use existing trees as supports), raspberries, tayberry, loganberry

In clearings or edges - serviceberry (Saskatoon), strawberries
 
                    
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Hi,

The first question is how much light is coming through the existing canopy.  Then you can determine if you are looking for shade loving or partial shade plants.  Edible ferns, wild leeks, or raspberries and currants...

For more information and to order a signed copy of the book go to:
www.ecosystemsolutioninstitute.com

Best,

Zach
 
Andrea Locke
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Plums and cherries can handle a fair amount of shade too. I assume when you said 'cherry' as a species in your coppice you meant the native black cherry? You could also consider planting sour cherries, perhaps focusing more on bush cherry varieties or smaller tree cultivars if you want them as understory.

You mentioned a wetland nearby, so maybe you have enough moisture in the ground for paw paws.
 
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You need to make sure that currants are legal in New York. It goes state by state & I'm only aware of one east of the Great Plains that doesn't have any. For instance, in Ohio, you're allowed one special variant of either red or white currant, after a yard inspection by Dept. of Wildlife. Black Currant fruit or plants & anything made of Black Currants is technically illegal contraband. Meanwhile, in Michigan, you can only have currant plants for scientific purposes, have to grow them in specialized greenhouses & need a permit.

Some others I didn't see people mention:
American Wintergreen, American Cranberrybush, American Spikenard, Hogpeanut, Dewberry (assuming they grow that far east. Not 100% on that.), Allegheny Serviceberry (but you'd likely need to start that in a pot, &/ or in worm-treated potting soil). Blueberries prefer more open ground, I think, so I don't know how well they'll do in the woods.
 
D Tucholske
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Also, do not put Logan berries in the woods. They're a man-made hybrid species, not natural.
 
D Tucholske
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And you are likely too far north to grow pawpaws. They don't grow naturally north of Columbus, Ohio. I heard that the Erie People had attempted planting them on the southern shores of the lake, but they were stunted. No clue how Global Warming has affected those facts, but it may be a wasted of time.
 
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The YouTube channel Canadian permaculture legacy documents that some cultivars of pawpaw can grow in Canada.
 
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Location: New York City/Woodstock NY, Zone 5b
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Where exactly in NYS are you, Gabe?  

Blueberries and huckleberries (Gaylussacia baccata) can grow fine in part sun, with huckleberries in particular naturally occurring on sloped forest land in the northeast.  I have a wonderful family memory of exploring an old wooded logging road years ago while driving Grandma back from the optometrist.  The berry bushes were so thick on both sides of the trail we were soon all out amongst them and filling any handy receptacle with fruit - hats, hoods, shirt tails, you name it.  

I've had good luck with raspberries in zone 5b - Woodstock, NY - but only in full sun.  Currents work fairly well (never heard of restrictive laws in NY) though they do tend to spread after time.  Good catch with the wintergreen, D Tucholske, they grow wild here.  There is a town in the lower peninsula of Michigan called PawPaw, so I assume their natural range is north of Ohio, although I haven't  had success with them here, but was working with bad seed, as they never germinated.  Strawberries work well between low bushes that allow part sun.

Try to remember to let us know how you do, Gabe, in years to come.  I'm always looking for new ideas that work well in sloping land in 5b.  
 
Myron Platte
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Since the levels of sunlight are extremely variable, I would use many different species with variable sunlight needs. Everything from sunchokes to raspberries to hostas. The different plants would have shifting, successive dominance over time. blackberries, sunchokes and raspberries would be shaded out, and perhaps with some encouragement, give way to more shade-loving plants... which would be replaced by the really deep shade lovers... which are suddenly exposed to lots of sun and once again outcompeted by the full sun plants that had been semi-dormant under the shade.
 
Myron Platte
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Also, I see chickens being very useful here... and maybe even a two-year coppice cycle on caragana bushes between rows of fuel coppice... This could become an extremely complex system, although maintenance could get pretty intense.
 
D Tucholske
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Something else I forgot-- New York Wild Rose. I don't know if the seeds are available for purchase anywhere, but that should be your native species. Thimble berry might be a possibility, if you're far enough north. Once you become roughly level with Lake Erie, though, I think they stop producing fruit.

If people have gotten the Pawpaws to grow further north, that's great. I'll have to look into that myself.
 
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