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Shade Tolerant Edibles

 
Jaimee Gleisner
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I have a patch of yard that is almost entirely in tree shade all day. The ground can't even support grass. My first thought was to simply cover the bare area with mulch or rocks to prevent the mud bath that rain creates. But then I wondered if I could build a raised bed around the tree and plant shade tolerant edible plants in it. I would definitely prefer to do this so that I'm actually making use of the space instead of just covering it up, but after searching around on the internet I'm seeing that most plants require at least a few hours of sun a day. This area doesn't ever get direct sunlight. At best there may be an hour or two of dappled sunlight, but I'm not even positive of that. The tree's branches are fairly high off the ground- maybe 8 feet- so it's not like it's a dark shade.

Any ideas of edible plants that would survive there? Thanks!
 
Tyler Ludens
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Not a plant, but you might look into growing mushrooms.

 
Judith Browning
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Shiitakes...pretty easy, reliable and really tastey.
 
Jaimee Gleisner
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Interesting... is that complicated? It seems like it would be a whole other world of gardening as I have no fungi identification skills beyond the different phyla that I learned in systematic botany back in college!
 
Jaimee Gleisner
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Um, yeah, I just popped over to the fungi forum and spores, plugs, inoculation, humidifiers, gloveboxes, cloning.... too much for at this stage in my gardening career! Maybe in a couple years...
 
Takaya Chi
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What a problem OP, with land so expensive these days it's frustrating to see any going to waste.

- mushroom cultivation: very difficult. You would need to control the temperture, light, and humidity for your fungi brethren which could be very difficult depending on what climate zone you occupy. I suggest doing a little background studying and starting small perhaps with a "kit". However, not trying to put you off if you want to try, mushrooms are one of my favorite foods and near impossible to find where I live (Hawaii) as in very very expensive so I understand if you wanna try and grow your own. That said many mushroom growers create miniature man made "caves" which enable them to control the environment much easier.

- about the subject of your original post disregarding mushrooms, I'm not aware of any edible succulents but if you'd be into raising some succulents / cacti many varieties require awkwardly low amounts of light and perhaps you could get into cultivating these types not edible but definitely fun and beautiful results! Great for gifts or if your space is large enough perhaps you could even sell to local coops? I often see those places have displays of some botanists handy / artwork : )

-cheers
Takaya Chi
 
Judith Browning
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Jaimee Gleisner wrote:Um, yeah, I just popped over to the fungi forum and spores, plugs, inoculation, humidifiers, gloveboxes, cloning.... too much for at this stage in my gardening career! Maybe in a couple years...



Shiitakes are grown on freshly cut oak logs , holes are drilled and pre innoculated wooden plugs pounded in. checkout Field and Forest Products catalog on line. All you need is the logs, shade , water occasionally and they will produce periodically for a few years. They can be grown in small amounts on a few logs and if you have an abundance they are even more nutritious dried. We waited years to try growing them and when we finally did couldn't believe how simple the process was.
 
Jaimee Gleisner
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Judith Browning wrote:Shiitakes are grown on freshly cut oak logs , holes are drilled and pre innoculated wooden plugs pounded in. checkout Field and Forest Products catalog on line. All you need is the logs, shade , water occasionally and they will produce periodically for a few years. They can be grown in small amounts on a few logs and if you have an abundance they are even more nutritious dried. We waited years to try growing them and when we finally did couldn't believe how simple the process was.


You do make it sound temptingly easy! Do they grow over a season like vegetables? Our winter is long and cold here in zone 5.
 
Judith Browning
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Here in Arkansas we plug in late winter and get a small amount in the fall. Then the next spring alot and depending on the weather and the strain we are growing, which is usually a wide range, a nice amount two or three times a year for a few years. Cold winters are no problem... We are not experts but with basic information from Field and Forest and others who grow them locally it wasn't hard, but I tend to love processes- tempeh making, lacto fermentation, compost. (I bet Univ. of Ill. has someone who knows about growing them in Illinois, even in corn country ). I am thinking about using the old logs that are done producing in a HK bed after reading so much on this site about them.
What I should add though is that we have forty mostly wooded (and rocked) acres to choose trees from and are thinning an area with young 6to 8 inch trees that are the correct size to cut into 40 inch lenghths to grow them on.


Shiitakes are a wonderful addition to a diet esp. if you are a vegetarian.
 
Shawn Harper
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Here is a couple plant ideas...

Huckleberry
Miners lettuce
Nettles
Ginger (wild)
One of the various edible ferns.
 
Jaimee Gleisner
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Ooo! Huckleberries! An inspired idea! I will definitely do that! And I had never heard of miner's lettuce before. I'll also look into edible ferns. Not sure about nettles, but wild ginger is a great idea, too! Thank you!! Keep 'em coming if you have them!
 
Shawn Harper
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Well the only other two I can think of are less common ones. Oregon grape and ginseng(spelling?)
 
Judith Browning
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goldenseal loves deep shade...we grow it on the north side of the house and it s edible as a medicinal herb.
...and violets?
 
leila hamaya
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yum for miners lettuce and wild ginger =)

nasturtiums like shade, or at least from what i can tell, they thrive in it, as long as you have lots of water in your bioregion.
pretty much- plant them, ignore them, and they take off climbing on everything. =) best on a trellis. they do fine even in not great soil too.

maybe not...quite as groovy as some of the other possibilities mentioned, but edible, yummy, beautiful, shade tolerant, little to no maintanance.

alot of wild plants will grow just fine in shade actually.
 
Rose Pinder
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What is your climate like?

but after searching around on the internet I'm seeing that most plants require at least a few hours of sun a day.


Fortunately plants don't read the internet Have a look around where you live. What kinds of plants grow well in the shade? What are the other conditions where they are growing? Think about what grows in a forest in your climate/area.

There's a good list of shade tolerant plants here http://www.permies.com/t/10302/plants/Shade-Tolerant-Edibles
 
Jaimee Gleisner
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Rose Pinder wrote:What is your climate like?

Fortunately plants don't read the internet Have a look around where you live. What kinds of plants grow well in the shade? What are the other conditions where they are growing? Think about what grows in a forest in your climate/area.

There's a good list of shade tolerant plants here http://www.permies.com/t/10302/plants/Shade-Tolerant-Edibles


LOL! Looks like I should have searched for my own post title before posting! For a second there I thought you were linking my own thread. That is a great thread, thank you! I checked out PFAF, too, and found some additional ideas.

My climate here in central Illinois is freezing weather (at least at night) from late October to early March, summer highs in the mid-80's F (though we've had upwards of 100F quite a bit this summer!), precipitation is around 2-4" in the cooler months and upwards of 5" in the hotter months. But in particular, under the tree where I'm trying to plant, it gets pretty moist (muddy right now b/c it has no ground cover whatsoever).
 
Alder Burns
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Beware of raising the grade around an established tree like you propose. You can cut off the air to the roots and cause the tree to weaken and die. I would only do it a few inches, and then perhaps continue with heavy mulch. Never pile soil or heavy mulch right up against the trunk. Lots of people kill valuable trees that way.
Have you considered the native ephemerals which love tree shade and many of which are edible and medicinal? Trilliums and dog-tooth violets, as well as ordinary violets, come first to mind. All of them are edible, at least when cooked. If once you get nettle started be prepared to harvest it regularly....it will spread as far as the shade and perhaps beyond. Bloodroot is an important medicinal. And the list goes on.....
 
Jaimee Gleisner
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[quote=Alder Burns]Beware of raising the grade around an established tree like you propose. You can cut off the air to the roots and cause the tree to weaken and die. I would only do it a few inches, and then perhaps continue with heavy mulch. Never pile soil or heavy mulch right up against the trunk. Lots of people kill valuable trees that way. [/quote]

I wondered about this... I actually don't like the tree much. It's an ornamental of some sort and I don't find it pretty. The previous owners hacked off a lot of lower branches so it has ugly stumps sticking out and isn't climbable for the kids either. It sheds annoying "berries" that are not edible as far as I know (I need to take a sample into a nursery to confirm). It does shade a large patch of our property, which can be nice in the hot summer, but I'd rather plant fruit trees. At any rate, I suppose we should leave an open area directly around the trunk. Thank you for pointing that out!
 
Tyler Ludens
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Personally, if it were my tree and I didn't like it, I'd take it out and plant fruit trees instead!

 
Jaimee Gleisner
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I would, but it's really quite tall and would cost several hundred dollars to remove I'm sure. Plus some how it feels very wrong to take out a healthy tree, you know?
 
Alder Burns
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several hundred dollars?! Is it somewhere where it would smash something on its way down? If not and you don't want to deal with it yourself you ought to be able to put a blurb on Craigslist or some such and have someone come and take it down just to have the firewood!
 
Jaimee Gleisner
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Yes, it could easily come crashing onto our house, deck, fence, into the neighbor's yard, etc. if someone (us included!) didn't know what they were doing. We live in a housing development so the yards aren't super large and we are surrounded by houses.
 
leila hamaya
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[quote]
I actually don't like the tree much. It's an ornamental of some sort and I don't find it pretty. The previous owners hacked off a lot of lower branches so it has ugly stumps sticking out and isn't climbable for the kids either. It sheds annoying "berries" that are not edible as far as I know (I need to take a sample into a nursery to confirm). It does shade a large patch of our property, which can be nice in the hot summer, but I'd rather plant fruit trees. [/quote]

is it a rowan berry - mountain ash?
i dont know why but i got that in my head thats what it might be.
i think this is a common one people plant in circumstances like you describe, and get annoyed by the berries.

if so it is edible, and the birds love it.
its not...the yummiest, you would probably choose to eat something different, and i think you have to harvest at the right time in the right way, before they get totally ripe something like that. better for jam or cooking. i have never eaten it, and i am into weird flavored edibles like that, so if it is its not always the most desirable food tree. but considered an important one, and again the birds love it.
 
frank larue
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i have to admit, i enjoy shaded areas of a garden. we have options. my ideas are often a little scattered but i'll do my best to keep things structured.

pawpaws grow well with some soil depth. if fruit bearing is minimal due to shade, at least you have an excellent coppice plant for mulch and mushroom cultivation.

persimmons won't fruit well in shade, nor will they flourish, but they'll get by and look pretty doing so

gooseberries can taste good, but be highly picky with your cultivars. some are better at fruiting under dense canopies, growing in shade, and being delicious than others

red/white and black currants grow well enough in the shade

some yams can get by as well. i would recommend getting more than what you need and select the ones that suit your space.

others mentioned already:

miner's lettuce, wild ginger, and wood nettle (delicious!!)

mushrooms! ambient light is ideal for fungal fruiting. it sounds like you have the driplines of the trees on your space, which i suspect means it's rather damp. primary saprophytes (fresh wood-eaters) that can do fine in zone 5 are: shiitake, hen-of-the-woods, lion's mane, maitake (though i've had no luck personally), and myriad oysters. fresh healthy (not yet inoculated) logs at least 4 inches in diameter can be cut in winter, cured until spring, and inoculated using many methods (perhaps most common are dowel spawn). winter cuts contain tree sugars edible mushrooms love, and they take to the log considerably quicker in my experience, but trees can inoculated any time.

secondary saprophytes can be grown in wood chip mulches in your garden, which make them a little more integrative. your plants and soil food web consume energy from the mulch, why shouldn't you too? winecap stropharia (wood chips), elm oyster (straw), and shaggy mane (which might need more light and nitrogen than your space can offer, unless it's grown in your compost piles) could be tried. inoculating outdoor spaces is harder than controlled environments, but easier to maintain. don't mess with fine materials like saw dust spawn for this, since the mycelium need fuel to expand and out-compete existing fungi. grain spawn around pasteurized wood chips layered into a thick mulch will offer a plot of fungi that will grow and welcomes encouragement. these organisms will share nutrients throughout the soil (happy plants), regulate water movement in the soil, and produce amazing food for you to enjoy.

but perhaps more important that your edible plants are the support species. these will provide your green mulches, your compost materials, attract your beneficial predators and pollinators, mine nutrients, and feed your soil critters. mycorrhizae are keystone species and will determine whether the aforementioned plants and fungi produce well or not, let municipal water stand for 24 hours to volatize the chlorine before watering your garden if you're serious about keeping these organisms around.

i hope this helps
 
leila hamaya
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frank larue wrote:

but perhaps more important that your edible plants are the support species. these will provide your green mulches, your compost materials, attract your beneficial predators and pollinators, mine nutrients, and feed your soil critters. mycorrhizae are keystone species and will determine whether the aforementioned plants and fungi produce well or not....


if you care to elaborate on some good plants for this, i would be curious to hear.
i think these kinds of plants are what i most need to add to my gardens...i have some, and lots of different fungi, worms, pollinators, bugs of all flavors...but i feel this is what i am most needing to add. and low growing - ground cover plants. i have alot of tall ones.

its easy to come up with and seek out...ooo the cooler plants...you know the stuff you really want to grow to eat... easier to over look these kinds of plants, the supporting plants, the green mulches, the less interesting but important plants. i have some as volunteers...though....lots of clover and sweet pea growing wild.
 
Jaimee Gleisner
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[quote] is it a rowan berry - mountain ash?
i dont know why but i got that in my head thats what it might be.
i think this is a common one people plant in circumstances like you describe, and get annoyed by the berries. [/quote]

No, it's not mountain ash... the berries are green on the tree and look like mini cherries. Then they form a shell and fall to the ground. I'll have to post a pic and see if someone can ID it for me. I plant to take a clipping to a nursery and see if anyone there can tell me, too.

Frank... thanks for all the info and advice. I think for now I'm going to just try some basic plants there and not attempt fungi. Many have recommended huckleberry and I like that idea along with some greens.

I'm also concerned about planting over the tree roots. It was mentioned earlier that I could kill the tree if I raised the soil level too high. I would love to hear more opinions about this and what you all think is feasible... 2" of compost and an inch of top soil? More? Less? I would think this would prevent me from plant root crops... thoughts?
 
Jaimee Gleisner
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Okay, here are pictures of the shade tree in my back yard... any idea what this is?



 
Alder Burns
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Looks like "Bradford" pear or a close relative. Are there white flowers early in the spring? If it is, one way to convert it to food production is to graft scions of edible pears onto it. I believe it is an acceptable rootstock for both European and Asian pears.....
 
Jaimee Gleisner
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Yes, lots of white flowers that rain down their petals like snow...

 
Jaimee Gleisner
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It's totally a callery (or bradford) pear! Thank you!! How would I graft on it? Would I cut it mostly down and then graft on the stump? I really don't know anything about grafting...
 
frank larue
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leila hamaya wrote:
frank larue wrote:


if you care to elaborate on some good plants for this, i would be curious to hear.
i think these kinds of plants are what i most need to add to my gardens...i have some, and lots of different fungi, worms, pollinators, bugs of all flavors...but i feel this is what i am most needing to add. and low growing - ground cover plants. i have alot of tall ones.



i love the support plants too, they're under-appreciated too often. if you want a full-season buzz it's important to have plants with various types of flowers at all times. keep in mind that some critters won't arrive until the following spring. many are prepping to overwinter or procreate. some spiders, when they hatch, hitch rides on the wind until they land in a suitable place. expect to find populations and diversity to increase over the years. shallow, open flowers allow the jaws of the pest predators to access the nectar while they hunt for the herbivores. often flower pads like yarrow, queen anne's lace, dill and relatives structurally support our allies. if you have the light, miners like mullein and comfrey will bring plenty of material to the surface. the mullein will die back when succession becomes established but they are great plants to have around. i use horseradishes to build soil as they have those big beautiful leaves to offer every fall. rotting logs that are well-decomposed will house tons of creatures too.

i would recommend you get your hands on the second volume of edible forest gardens. the appendix will give you dozens of options and is an excellent reference. i couldn't find a copy in a library, and no friends had one to borrow. a bit back i fetched it for about 40 dollars but i suspect it has gone up considerably.

jaimee,
some understory options could be (edibles and habitat)

wood vetch (vicia caroliniana) and wintergreen (gaultheria procumbens) will provide groundcover and enrich the soil, as they are mineral accumulators. i've seen the latter occupy shaded areas under high-bush blueberry thickets very well and will accumulate key minerals, and you can eat the latter's berries through the winter. there is also fuki (petasites japonica), which loves shade, produces lots of food, needs no coddling, and provides a moist cool groundcover for your soil. this plant is extremely well-adapted and can take over places however. i treat it like i do the sunchokes, eat them for maintenance!

as was added by others, you have a great many ferns available to grow, some edible, others simply habitat for the little creatures. you inquired into means of bringing critters into the space. it sounds like you already have suitable habitat for foragers to frequent the space. if you have access to logs and thick branches of all degrees of decomposition is an excellent way to bring in habitat. i use log cuts where knots are (with some of the branch and mast) and rocks to encourage spider webbing. it doesn't take long for them to take up residence. leaf mulch will encourage the prowling spiders too, as will fuki mulch. my suspicion is that your soil wants to go fungal over bacterial, as an understory to a tree. lignin-rich materials will encourage this development and the appropriate animals and microbes will come along.

if you are considering grafting the pear tree, then you are talking about more light during that period. i am not experienced with grafting, but i've seen cuts that involve attaching scions to coppiced trees. im interested to hear others' input on this!

as far as building soil that will suffocate your tree, yes, you do not want material to cover the tree bark, which needs to breathe. raised beds can be assembled (i prefer logs and stones) so that you can raise the soil level where you are planting without risk of damaging the pear. if there is a contour that falls away from the tree then this job is much easier. below is a link to some terrace "containers" my partner and i made. as wood rots down, more can be put in, or new beds can be made outward.

if you are going to be planting out in a space, it's best to come up with the paths before any work is done. this is often harder than it seems, but compaction is a serious problem in a lot of gardens.

http://ge.tt/8kgVmvK

 
                    
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you could try to even out the roots/ground grade with sand or dirt then carpet with moss.

james beam;)
 
Rose Pinder
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Any chance one of the moderators or admin could fix the format of this page? It's unreadable on my laptop, the page being twice as wide as it needs to be. I'm guessing it's the big photo that did that.

 
Devon Olsen
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mushrooms do seem complicated, but after jumping in feet first... theyre actually not too complicated
Oyster mushrooms are among the easiest and most aggressive you can grow, it can be as simple as a little hole with a bunch of straw piled on top, mix mycelium into the straw and water occassionally, if nessacary, the myc will colonize the right moisture area and produce pins only when the time is right, you may not always get mushrooms if you dont water the correct amount and they may only come up once or twice a year, but mushrooms dont HAVE to be as complicated as the proffessional cultivators make it
 
Alder Burns
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On grafting....well since you have lots of branches to practice with you should be able to become successful with sheer persistence. Just do some research and jump in. I like the cleft graft best, which would involve cutting the branch involved back to, say where it is an inch or two thick, and then splitting the end and inserting two scions. With a thicker branch you can split two ways and insert four. Try different varieties... Be sure to go clip the scions you want in the winter, before they have any hint of budding, and wrap them up and keep them in the fridge till AFTER the tree just begins to swell it's buds....that's the time to graft. I find that grafting success depends as much on the weather as anything else....a relatively cool, cloudy, wet spring is much better than a dry, warm, sunny, windy one....
With a tree this size, you can graft gradually, replacing one branch at a time, until you're confident it will work for you and go ahead and do the rest. I wouldn't plan on more than two or three varieties in the long run....inevitably one will prove more vigorous and you will always be cutting it back to give the others a chance....
 
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