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Food forest with a short growing season

 
Posts: 7
Location: Ottawa, Canada
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Hey everyone!

My husband and I are planning for a very small food forest; we have a tiny plot on the tiniest corner of New Brunswick that happens to be hardiness zone 5. The challenge, though, is that our growing season is short and mild. We will see frost well in to April, and temps will stay under 22⁰C (71⁰F) through the season. Pretty early in November, we get the first frost. I think it will actually be better than what we've been dealing with here (up to 40⁰C in the summer, as low as -40⁰C in the winter. Not easy!!), but I'm curious what kinds of food-producing trees we might be able to cultivate! For zone 5, things like pawpaws and peaches are suggested, but I strongly doubt either of those would actually thrive up there.
We're very close to the coast, and the established trees are quite thin... I feel like it's a very unique environment. Any suggestions?
 
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I am also in zone 5, shorter growing season (mid May to mid October) but warmer temps in July and August, on Lake Superior. I am surrounded by orchards. Fruit trees that may do wellfor you are plums, cherries, apples, crabapples, juneberries (also called serviceberries or saskatoons, some are shrubs but some are small trees). There are less commonly grown fruit trees like rowan (also called mountain ash) and hawthorn as well.

That said, if conditions really aren't great for fruit trees to thrive, it may make more sense to focus on shrubs and vines, working with nature instead of against. Blueberries, currants, and grapes should all be happy enough in those temps. Hazelnuts are abundant in the wild here, so I think they might also grow well for you there.

What is your site like now? What's growing there and what is the soil like?
 
Meg Knox
Posts: 7
Location: Ottawa, Canada
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Marisa Lee wrote:I am also in zone 5, shorter growing season (mid May to mid October) but warmer temps in July and August, on Lake Superior. I am surrounded by orchards. Fruit trees that may do wellfor you are plums, cherries, apples, crabapples, juneberries (also called serviceberries or saskatoons, some are shrubs but some are small trees). There are less commonly grown fruit trees like rowan (also called mountain ash) and hawthorn as well.

That said, if conditions really aren't great for fruit trees to thrive, it may make more sense to focus on shrubs and vines, working with nature instead of against. Blueberries, currants, and grapes should all be happy enough in those temps. Hazelnuts are abundant in the wild here, so I think they might also grow well for you there.

What is your site like now? What's growing there and what is the soil like?



I wondered if hazelnuts might work!
I know service berries are relatively common around there, and the site has lots of wild blueberries already, so those are good bets, too, I think you’re right. I figured apple was my safest bet, so you’re probably right on with the crabapple suggestion too! But I wonder how well stonefruit could do up there... only one way to find out I guess!

The site now is largely forested, but trees are spaced relatively far apart (at least, compared to the land I was looking at in northern Ontario... YIKES). Looks to be mostly birch, but unfortunately I haven’t been able to really check it out in person due to the pandemic. So not entirely sure! I read about lots of maple in the area, so likely some. I don’t know the soil on the lot specifically, but my husband mentioned he’d done some research and found that it was « very fertile » in the area.
I know the land is extremely flat, and pretty much right at sea level, so I’d assume doesn’t get too dry lol! And the lot has a large road on the south side, a field on the east side, and forest all along the north and west.

So far I’m planning to experiment with some logs lining the western edge of the property, inoculated with various types of shroom. Undecided which ones so far! Along the road side, I’m thinking a greenhouse if we have appropriate space. It is an awkward shaped lot.
We know there are blueberries on the site, and there should be other berries within a forageable distance. We don’t have a ton of space, so I want to make the most of the 10’ along the property’s edge where we can’t build structures!
 
Marisa Lee
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Oh, are you planning to build and live there? Or build a cabin and spend weekends/vacations there? I thought maybe this was a site you'll just be visiting to tend and harvest.

This is not fun advice, but spending a year or so there to get to know the site before investing in trees might end up saving a lot of money and hassle. It'll give you a stronger sense of what's already present and what will/won't thrive. You'll also need to identify what trees are there before deciding what mushrooms to grow, since different ones prefer different wood.

It sounds like a great spot!
 
Posts: 9
Location: Ontario
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No personal experience, but I read and enjoyed this book a few years ago: https://newsociety.ca/books/p/permaculture-for-the-rest-of-us . It is is Nova Scotia, not NB, however.

 
pollinator
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Meg Knox wrote:Hey everyone!

My husband and I are planning for a very small food forest; we have a tiny plot on the tiniest corner of New Brunswick that happens to be hardiness zone 5. The challenge, though, is that our growing season is short and mild. We will see frost well in to April, and temps will stay under 22⁰C (71⁰F) through the season. Pretty early in November, we get the first frost........ I feel like it's a very unique environment. Any suggestions?



We get frost untlll  the first of June and frost again in October we rarely get over 25 although it can hit 30 some summers don't make it over 16
So to me you have a long season of normal temperature! Yes most of the US centric advice will struggle as you don't have the heat available, but resources that cater to northern Europe should work, just watch out for cold hardiness as most of us in similar climates over here are not as cold as you over winter.

Assuming they will survive the winter, apples, plums, cherries, elder, hawthorn, and hazel will all produce well, pears and quince will if you can give them a sheltered sunny spot. I am trying some pawpaws here but everything I have read says not to expect fruit they need so many more heat hours than we get here.
 
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Location: Southeast corner of Wyoming
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PIt fruits such as peaches and apricots are problematic in our iffy climates not because the tree can't handle it but because they tend to bloom before the last frost.  If your tree is in full bloom and the buds get killed by frost you have lost that years harvest.  I picked a late blooming, self fertile apricot for my yard (6,000 feet altitude in zone 5) hoping we do get harvests from it but with full awareness that I may only get apricots some years.  Hopefully by the time I have a full forest developed other fruit types will be more reliable.  

I chose not to go with apples due to the need to either have 2 apple trees for most varieties or an apple tree and a crab apple tree.  Finding room for one small tree was hard but 2 would have been nearly impossible.  That said south walls and espalier can go a long way to getting fruit according to many.  I don't have a south or east or west wall that I could try it on...
 
Meg Knox
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Location: Ottawa, Canada
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All excellent advice thank you all! And sorry for my delay in replying.

So for context, the lot is a small one that we will be living on in an RV, with the intention to maybe build something. (Starting with chicken coop, greenhouses, lil smokehouse, and an outdoor kitchen! Then maybe some sort of eco house.)
It is almost entirely birch trees atm. Very tall ones, too. Lots of blueberries nearby and on the property already.

So far, without having lived off it, I'm considering a couple hugelculture beds by the side entrance to the property, and a greenhouse or two at the front by the road. (South side)
I wouldn't be prepared to put much of anything in this year, just kind of planning ahead for next. (I like to plan ahead a few year if i can lol!) I want some idea of what to research and consider, and this has all given me great ideas!
Once we're out there, I'll have to check out what neighbours have managed, collect a few wild plants, and see what I can experiment with.

I'd actually be really interested in fucking with some strange apple types. I read an excerpt from Michael Pollan's book The Botany of Desire, and learned a bit about apple diversity. There are so many bizarre apple types we've never seen, and every seed is unique! And apparently there's a guy who will send you random seeds for free, so why not! I figure some might be inedible (as very very many are considered), but might serve well as apple cider vinegar for cosmetic use or something. That's kind of my attitude with the whole place honestly: Fuck around and find out. I'm just looking to try out anything, and see what I can make of it.

Very excited to get started on my lil experiment, and very much appreciate the advice.
 
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Meg Knox wrote:Hey everyone!

My husband and I are planning for a very small food forest; we have a tiny plot on the tiniest corner of New Brunswick that happens to be hardiness zone 5. The challenge, though, is that our growing season is short and mild. We will see frost well in to April, and temps will stay under 22⁰C (71⁰F) through the season. Pretty early in November, we get the first frost. I think it will actually be better than what we've been dealing with here (up to 40⁰C in the summer, as low as -40⁰C in the winter. Not easy!!), but I'm curious what kinds of food-producing trees we might be able to cultivate! For zone 5, things like pawpaws and peaches are suggested, but I strongly doubt either of those would actually thrive up there.
We're very close to the coast, and the established trees are quite thin... I feel like it's a very unique environment. Any suggestions?




I'm not sure if it's native in your local area but Aronia Melanocarpia is native to the Eastern United States and it will grow in a zone 5 climate. Aronia are small edible berries, usually black, about the size of a blueberry. That might be an option.

There are many varieties of plums that would do well in such a climate.

Nectarines can grow in a zone 4 climate - even colder than where you live.

I wouldn't even bother with Peaches. Two of my peaches that I grew from seeds died this year, and I'm only in zone 8 (Southern Oregon). They were doing so well, up to 4 feet of growth in a single year, faster growth than anything else, then some of them just died. Even one that was growing in the ground died, it wasn't the stress of growing in a pot. If some peaches can't even survive my local climate, I doubt that any cultivar would actually produce fruit in New Brunswick. If you really like the flavor of peaches, a peach hybrid might actually work though, such as peacharines for example, since presumably it would have some of the genetics of a nectarine.
 
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Did you see this post discussing a study about forest gardens of indiginous tribes in Canada? I did not see a comprhensive list of the specie found. Roberto posted links associated with the subject. At the bottom of the study is a email contact of the author. Perhaps you could correspond with this person for the specie list.
 
pollinator
Posts: 216
Location: Geraldton, Ontario -Zone 1b
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Meg Knox wrote:
I'd actually be really interested in fucking with some strange apple types. I read an excerpt from Michael Pollan's book The Botany of Desire, and learned a bit about apple diversity. There are so many bizarre apple types we've never seen, and every seed is unique! And apparently there's a guy who will send you random seeds for free, so why not! I figure some might be inedible (as very very many are considered), but might serve well as apple cider vinegar for cosmetic use or something. That's kind of my attitude with the whole place honestly: Fuck around and find out. I'm just looking to try out anything, and see what I can make of it.



This guy has some fantastic videos if you're interested in apple breeding:

Skillcult Apple Breeding videos

 
Michael Helmersson
pollinator
Posts: 216
Location: Geraldton, Ontario -Zone 1b
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Joylynn Hardesty wrote:Did you see this post discussing a study about forest gardens of indiginous tribes in Canada? I did not see a comprhensive list of the specie found. Roberto posted links associated with the subject. At the bottom of the study is a email contact of the author. Perhaps you could correspond with this person for the specie list.



Thank you for this link. I've been looking for information like this.
 
Posts: 17
Location: Zone 4a/5b, New Brunswick, Canada
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It's hard from your description to tell where you are in NB, but here's my experience from our first year on our property near Fredericton.
"Last frost" date of mid-May, had our final frost in mid-June (killed our crab-apple blossoms, but somehow our tomatoes survived).
We had tomatoes growing into late September/October. Only lost them because I forgot to cover them one night and the frost got them.
This summer was hot and dry - more so than previous years. Our property is south-facing so we get the worst of it but the past 3 years have been unseasonably warm and dry in the province.
For today's context: We're doing our first big planting mid-May, two weeks earlier than last year. A lot of nature's signs have been pointing to an earlier season start, and a later season end. Our spring this year has been very strange, and I worry we won't have the same kind of season in the next 5-10 years.

As for hazelnuts: yes, yes yes! Beaked hazelnuts are native to the province and you may find some at forest edges around your property. More productive varieties should do just fine.
For fruit: plums are your friend (at least more artic varieties), and apples do well (although better with North-facing exposure). We have many volunteer apple trees in our forest thanks to the prolific deer and orchards around us.
Berries: there are about a dozen native berry bushes in NB, so you're good to go on that front for most berries you would want to have. I'm jealous of your wild blueberries!
Timber-trees: Think about planting some red oak in the future. The climate is changing and it is drastically affecting the makeup of the forest in the province. The Acadian Forest is a mix of boreal and northern hardwood. The boreal sections are being pushed further north and the composition of the forest will likely see a big shift in the next 10-20 years.

We're just getting started in our journey. Let's grow together in NB! :)
 
Marisa Lee
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Meg Knox wrote:All excellent advice thank you all! And sorry for my delay in replying.

So for context, the lot is a small one that we will be living on in an RV, with the intention to maybe build something. (Starting with chicken coop, greenhouses, lil smokehouse, and an outdoor kitchen! Then maybe some sort of eco house.)
It is almost entirely birch trees atm. Very tall ones, too. Lots of blueberries nearby and on the property already.

So far, without having lived off it, I'm considering a couple hugelculture beds by the side entrance to the property, and a greenhouse or two at the front by the road. (South side)
I wouldn't be prepared to put much of anything in this year, just kind of planning ahead for next. (I like to plan ahead a few year if i can lol!) I want some idea of what to research and consider, and this has all given me great ideas!
Once we're out there, I'll have to check out what neighbours have managed, collect a few wild plants, and see what I can experiment with.

I'd actually be really interested in fucking with some strange apple types. I read an excerpt from Michael Pollan's book The Botany of Desire, and learned a bit about apple diversity. There are so many bizarre apple types we've never seen, and every seed is unique! And apparently there's a guy who will send you random seeds for free, so why not! I figure some might be inedible (as very very many are considered), but might serve well as apple cider vinegar for cosmetic use or something. That's kind of my attitude with the whole place honestly: Fuck around and find out. I'm just looking to try out anything, and see what I can make of it.

Very excited to get started on my lil experiment, and very much appreciate the advice.



That all sounds delightful! My advice remains: get to know the land. Learn about the plants that are already growing there and how to use them, where the good light is, where it's soggy in the spring, and all that - as well as what you mentioned about learning from your neighbors and planning ahead. What an adventure.
 
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Dorothy Pohorelow wrote:
I chose not to go with apples due to the need to either have 2 apple trees for most varieties or an apple tree and a crab apple tree.  Finding room for one small tree was hard but 2 would have been nearly impossible.  



You could graft multiple varieties onto one tree.
Also there are a lot of self-fertile varieties.
gift
 
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