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Species list for niches/layers: canopy trees, small trees, vines, clumps and ground covers  RSS feed

 
Paulo Bessa
pollinator
Posts: 356
Location: Portugal (zone 9) and Iceland (zone 5)
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Hello,

I am trying to write a list of species to grow to occupy each different niche/layer:
So that, when we design our gardens, one species doesn´t outcompete another.

Actually I plan to divide the list in annuals and perennials, because many of us still enjoy growing a common annual vegetable patch (but doing companion planting). And also for sun loving species (grown in edges and clearings) and shade tolerant species (grown under the canopy).

The niches would be:
1) large wide trees, mixed with 2) some taproot tall and thin trees.
3) overstory with smaller fruit trees (and some n-fixers). Think of apples, pawpaws, citrus...
4) understory with tall herbaceous plant, with 5) climbers attached, and 6) ground covers. Think corn, beans and squash; or sunchockes, groundnut and chinese artichokes or mints (for a perennial mix)
7) clumping species fill the rest of the nice (stuff like lavender, raspberries, onions, brassicas...)


What worries me most is finding species for the layer 4) herbaceous tall plants, because in one function, they should support the grow of climbers without becoming choked, and also they must be able to grow easily above the clumping herbs and ground covers. So, they need to be vigorous species.

Here goes the list.
(I don´t go climate specific)
I am starting from the bottom upwards, as it happens in ecological sucessions. And it´s easier for most of us.

Ground covers: annual-wise squash and pumpkin are obvious choices, as are peanuts, parsley and coriander, sweet potatoes and probably most salad vegetables (lettuce, chicory, rocket) can also be grown as ground covers. Most except the cucurbits would tolerant some shade, and parsley could be grow in more deep shade. Perennial-wise, I think of strawberries, mints, chinese artichokes, ramps (for deep shade), new zeland spinach (more sun loving), rhubarb (for wider patches), and even oca, mashua, arrowhead and clover (for an easy next to ground layer)
Clumps: clumps group whatever is not a creeping ground cover or a tall herbaceous. Annual-wise these are potatoes, bush tomatoes, broad beans, most brassicas, onion family, cereals and beet family. Actually they don´t allow a ground cover to grow nearby except if this is smaller species, like radish or lettuce, but from my own experience, most of these clumps vegetables will choke any other small vegetables growing next to it. So, that´s one of my problems: how to combine them. And perennial-wise, there are a lot of herbaceous clumping species, like taro, currants, asparagus: many diffifcult to combine with other perennials, except perhaps small plants like chives.
Tall shrubs: these must grow above the ground covers. annual-wise the classic corn for the 3 sister, and probably also sunchokes, okra, amaranth or sunflowers. But I am not sure if these would support most climbers without being choked. I was able to grow corn with peas climbing it, and corn also tolerate a snake gourd, container in a pot. I don´t tried growing anything into the okra, amaranth or sunflowers, but beans or peas could probably do it. Climber-wise, cucurbits like cucumber and gourds are more agressive I think. Perennial-wise I think we could think sunchokes (for smaller climbers), bamboos and probably some smaller or larger trees (which ones for which climbers?). Also they all seem to dislike shade, which is a problem under a forest garden (where shades is abundant). Maybe non-edible species are a key solution as they provide a much wider range of choice, rather than thinking only of edibles.
Vines: Annual-wise I think of legumes and cucurbits; perennial-wise are groundnuts, yams, akebia, chaoyte, kiwi, passionflower, malabar gourd, jícama, peppercorn and grapes (most are agressive so I don´t know which species to support them). Also, most are sun loving, which is a problem for forest garden understories. Which climbers are not agressive and tolerate some shade?

At the moment I am not going into the tree layers yet. I can think of pawpaw, diospyros, amelanchier and hazelnuts as species for partial shade. All the other fruit trees for sun positions. Again, if you design your forest garden it will have to have a lot of clearings for those sun loving smaller size fruit trees (they are so many: apples, pears, citrus, prunus, almonds, mangos, avocados, berry trees, medlar...).
But not so much edible choice for large trees (canopy), I think of mulberries, carob, chestnuts, walnuts (but then we have allelopathy).
What about edible fruit taproot trees? I can only think of pecans. Dates/Palms could make another nice choice as they grow straight and tall. What more species? What for colder climates?
Maybe the best would be to grow the smaller fruit trees as the canopy itself, and only ocasional tall or large trees. This way, we provide much more sunlight for our forest gardens! So our focus would be in sunchokes guilds, apple guilds, hazelnuts guilds, bamboo guilds, elaeagnus guilds, moringa guilds, corn and amaranth guilds...

Annual-wise what I need to investigate is how to integrate potatoes, tomatoes, broad beans, most brassicas and most cereals within these layer design system.
And both annual-wise and perennial-wise to investigate less agressive climbers are tall supportibve edible species for those climbers.

Overall, I wish to focus in edible species (not forgetting other niches such as n-fixers and food for insects), and I want to focus particularly in high yielding foods, that could be used as staples.

Please feel free to add more species recommendations (ground covers, climbers, tall herbaceous, shade trees) and to discuss this from a design perspective.
I am niot going climate specific, but feel free to include species for all climates.
 
Paulo Bessa
pollinator
Posts: 356
Location: Portugal (zone 9) and Iceland (zone 5)
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I am now thinking for instance potatoes: what could you grow together with it? Obviously you should only plant annual species, or perennials that do don´t mind to dig. They should not compete for leaf space, light, root space or nutrients. Obviously tomatoes are a wrong choice. Squash seems not the best choice either. But thinking only of above ground space, vegetabkes like corn or beans could be a better choice. But they might compete root-wise, I am not sure of it. ANy other choices?

Okra seems fragile to grow with beans or peas. But corn seems a better choice, and I forget, yacon, I tried once and beans were happily climbing it without choking it. I also climbed cucumbers into a small tree, and they did not mind the shade (produced heavily).

With squash or pumpking, I can think of corn and beans (obvious 2 sisters that easily grow above them) as well as radish (grows down but maybe doesn´t like the shade provided by the pumpkin thick green layer).

Brassicas, maybe carrots and onions (works well light-wise, but onions might compete in roots and nutrients). Maybe lettuce, but they seem to compete also in roots. All of these seem to grow better when grown with bare space around them. Radish seems sometimes to grow well, because their roots, like carrots, grow down, not competing so much with the brassicas.

Carrots and onions, as well as celery and kohlrabi were other combinations that worked good with me, but I wish to look for extra elements, like a tall plant and a climing vine growing within a patch of these four crops.

I am also curious to hear from your experiences with both annual and perennial co-plating and designing for layers.
 
Aljaz Plankl
Posts: 386
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I plant annuals under young fruit trees and bushes. In first year i usually just mulch them, in second year i grow annulas under them. Mostly those that can be sown in patches or planted by seedlings, because mulch is still to deep. Bush beans love it, peas, salad, calendula, brasicass, ... I just keep in mind they don't grow to big, trees and bushes are first priority. In second year i also just let grow the existing vegetation that comes through decaying mulch and chop it when it gets in a way of the fruit tree. Pawpaw hates full sun in first years, poles and runner beans on them are welcome on south side of a tree. Strawberries! I go crazy with strawberries under young trees and bushes after i mulch the trees. Here is one young guild. Pawpaw planted last fall. A meter to the south josta. Whole area was heavily mulched with existing meadow vegetation and then strawberries were planted under them. I also included origano inbetween the strawberries, and in spring this year there was also room for tomatoes, calendula, some brasicass. Everything is growing really good. Around this guild there are other guilds and i could write for hours.
 
Paulo Bessa
pollinator
Posts: 356
Location: Portugal (zone 9) and Iceland (zone 5)
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Hi Tal Frulot,

Please write about your other guilds.

Pawpaw, josta, strawberries and oregano. Which tree shades the pawpaw?

Which guilds (or companions) are the tomatoes and brassicas part of?



Tal Frulot wrote:I plant annuals under young fruit trees and bushes. In first year i usually just mulch them, in second year i grow annulas under them. Mostly those that can be sown in patches or planted by seedlings, because mulch is still to deep. Bush beans love it, peas, salad, calendula, brasicass, ... I just keep in mind they don't grow to big, trees and bushes are first priority. In second year i also just let grow the existing vegetation that comes through decaying mulch and chop it when it gets in a way of the fruit tree. Pawpaw hates full sun in first years, poles and runner beans on them are welcome on south side of a tree. Strawberries! I go crazy with strawberries under young trees and bushes after i mulch the trees. Here is one young guild. Pawpaw planted last fall. A meter to the south josta. Whole area was heavily mulched with existing meadow vegetation and then strawberries were planted under them. I also included origano inbetween the strawberries, and in spring this year there was also room for tomatoes, calendula, some brasicass. Everything is growing really good. Around this guild there are other guilds and i could write for hours.
 
leila hamaya
pollinator
Posts: 1121
Location: northern northern california
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interesting thoughts, good list.
i am growing a lot of those things mentioned
i'm working on a similar line of thinking.

i plant some annuals mixed in with perennials but for the most part tend to have clumps of perennials and then out from the heavy shade areas plant clumps of annuals. so theres an area thats designated to annuals and seasonal stuff....but sometimes i plant the shade tolerant ones under the perennials.

i do a lot of lazy gardening, and plant too much. i plant four times as much seeds as i want to eventually have, and just let it work itself out. not that i would always recommend it, but it does have advantages in saving time. and in this way the stuff thats most fitting in that niche will take off, and some stuff just doesnt make it. i consider it works itself out better than me trying to fuss over the exact details.
though i do try to fuss over the details sometimes, and that brings some good improvements.

i am in a sort of weird microclimate, so i can plant a LOT of things almost any time of year, but many things wont grow here (not too hot -not to cold and super wet).
so i think its a good way, just plant, and then plant some more, and keep throwing down seeds, keep experimenting, feel it out.... what grows and takes off is what fits that niche best.

some plants that i would add to your list, some of the stuff i am growing that you mentioned:

FIG /ficus
plum - re roots very easily, layer branches and create hedgerow
hazelnut
thimbleberry
elderberry
tomatillo/groundcherry/husk tomato (perennial ish in some climates, or self seeds abundantly)
strawberry
cress
nasturtiums
viola /violets
different edible flowers (ground cover/vines/tall plants)
kitchen herbs/medicinal herbs usually do ok with tons of shade
mallow/hibiscus/malva/hollyhock
berry any kind
of course- onions, potatoes, leeks, greens, brassicas, beets, mustard, arugula, lettuce, beans and peas etc- common shade/hardy garden plants.

been looking into
honeyberry
daylillies
mushrooms

ah theres more of course, but thats what comes to mind fast.
 
Aljaz Plankl
Posts: 386
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Paulo Bessa wrote:Hi Tal Frulot,

Please write about your other guilds.

Pawpaw, josta, strawberries and oregano. Which tree shades the pawpaw?

Which guilds (or companions) are the tomatoes and brassicas part of?



Tal Frulot wrote:I plant annuals under young fruit trees and bushes. In first year i usually just mulch them, in second year i grow annulas under them. Mostly those that can be sown in patches or planted by seedlings, because mulch is still to deep. Bush beans love it, peas, salad, calendula, brasicass, ... I just keep in mind they don't grow to big, trees and bushes are first priority. In second year i also just let grow the existing vegetation that comes through decaying mulch and chop it when it gets in a way of the fruit tree. Pawpaw hates full sun in first years, poles and runner beans on them are welcome on south side of a tree. Strawberries! I go crazy with strawberries under young trees and bushes after i mulch the trees. Here is one young guild. Pawpaw planted last fall. A meter to the south josta. Whole area was heavily mulched with existing meadow vegetation and then strawberries were planted under them. I also included origano inbetween the strawberries, and in spring this year there was also room for tomatoes, calendula, some brasicass. Everything is growing really good. Around this guild there are other guilds and i could write for hours.


Pawpaw is shaded by hazelnut stick that i picked from a forest, but it's not really a good shade after they dry. Next year i will put some poles on south side and plant runner beans, taking care not to plant to close, i want pawpaw to have place to grow, i only want shade. Pawpaw will grow in full sun after few years.

In the moment i plant kale, salad and leeks on the same bed. They go well toghether. Next to tomatoes i plant basil, tagetes, calendula. All three grow quite big, so i don't plant the to close, i don't want them to touch tomatoes, climate here is humid and they need lots of air.

Few meters east from pawpaw guild there is amelanchier guild. Also strawberries for ground cover without problem growing toghether with Glechoma hederacea. Amazing ground cover plant, one of my favourite herbs and it's a volunteer. It's also covering a garden of paprika, tomatoes, corn, oninons. Back to amelanchier. Beside strawberries and glechoma covering the ground, there are sage, low aster, pastinac, black currant, purple coneflower.

#1 companion on a list for young plant is deep mulch. The best practise working for me is to mulch first and then plant other stuff or just leave it.

If i don't mulch, meadow vegetation comes back after i plant. This are red clover, pastinac, grasses, ajuga, scabious, and others. All of them are good companions, but i need to cut and drop many times, as they can take space from a young seedling. That's why i prefer mulch in first year to surpress competion. Even if they are good plants, they compete for space and nutrients growing next to a young plant. So i mulch or cut and drop a meter big circle around a plant.

This is a case around a young Lonicera caerulea kamtschatica. I planted and mulched it a bit. What grows in a circle around it i cut and drop, everything that grows around that cirlce and doesn't compete for space i live it be, and it's a dense diverse meadow vegetation described above. Many plants i didn't mentioned, some i still don't know.

 
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