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Randy Bachman
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I am closing in on what I hope will be my own permaculture wonderland. I am interested in the timing of major activities. I understand the first big activities will be earthworks: swailes, ponds, etc. I had planned on getting my 1000 fruit tree dream started with 200 to 500 trees first so they get started (3 - 5 years to first harvest). I was then going to followup with berry bushes (1- 2 years to first harvest), and then perenial vegetables (immediate) like asparagus along the creek. i am a newbee, but i am interested in your thoughts on the timing of the permacuturization of a plt, particularly if you don't have the funds to do it all at once. While I shamelessly hope to win Eric's book, does anyone know if he addresses this topic?
 
Tyler Ludens
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From my own failed experience just planting fruit and nut trees out in the landscape, I very strongly support the idea of putting in swales, ponds, etc first. You don't have to do them all at once, but it is best to have a total plan for the land drawn up so you know where everything will go and you can plan the work in a way so heavy equipment isn't going to have to run over previous earthworks or smash new trees. One could start at the highest elevation of the land to put in swales and trees and work down, or one could put swales in close to the house and work outward in all directions.

I can't recommend highly enough "Establishing A Food Forest" DVD from PRI as a companion to Eric's Forest Garden book or other book about forest gardens for your climate zone (as the PRI DVD shows tropical trees, but the method would be the same even though the species are different).
 
Randy Bachman
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Thanks for your thoughts. I have the PRI DVD but have only watched the soils disc so far. You made an interesting comment about starting high or starting low. The land I am looking at has a definite topography with hilly area going down into a lowland area with a cool stream. If you had to do it over again, would you start high or low? Low seems easier because its farthest away from the road so I would be working from the back to the front. But that also means there would be runoff and stuff flowing into the area that is cleared and prepped.

 
Tyler Ludens
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Brad Lancaster (Rainwater Harvesting) recommends starting high to reduce the velocity of the run off. We put in our first water harvesting structure as close as possible to where the water enters the property from the neighbors, but it isn't the highest point on the place. The highest points of our place aren't readily accessible to equipment so we'll probably never do anything major there. I think starting near the house site is a good idea. Somewhere Paul mentioned Sepp works at the lowest and highest points simultaneously, which makes a lot of sense if you're trying to intercept as much water as possible.

 
Xisca Nicolas
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Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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Each place is so different...

I think it is great to decide what parts should be left without moving too much, especially if it is already planted (you do not arrive in a desert!).
So you can start to work there before the big works where you want the big changes.

Now I tell you what I have done first at my place:
- watch and speak with the land, well, listen. The form of the landscape is here the best inspiration.
How can you plant tall trees before you know about wind and shades?
- repair the existing so that it does not deteriorate (in my case, stone walls)
- water pipes, as it saves time to have it working properly.
- security (in my case, clean the cliff and make direct walk paths to the road and the neighbours)
- Paths in the garden, as I have changed quite a lot of them.
I have made short cuts, and plan to be walking on stoney parts so that I can plant the earth part we actually walk on.
- the house, because you need to be comfortable to rest.

Little things all year long:
- take pics all year long, at different hours, to know about the shades and sunny part.
- Plan the wind brakes, and so get to know the wind, where it dries more, the coldest/hottest parts etc.
- Look for plant varieties, and look for seeds.
So, Internet work...

- Plant some trees.
Yes, trees grow slowly, but mistakes cost more with perenials.
Look for the right species, but also for the right variety!
Do you have to escape spring freeze with late flowering?
It can be a real problem to make your choice... Start early to think about it.
And I already have 100 trees, so first it is necessary to get to know what you have. I will also need to replace some.
- identify the local flora. I have spent hours in identification, and so far I know certainly more than most local people!

then, the mistakes one can't help doing!
- Everything is priority, so my brain is too much working like a rocket stove!
- Plant without enough knowledge, sorry feijoa, I will move you this winter!

then, some mistakes are not mistakes...

- Plant right now: make errors with annuals!
I have made very little of a lot of things, just to know.
Also get to know your "best pests"... (lizards, rats or cochinilla?)

- Get your neighbours tired of all your questions!
and when they do something stupid regarding your permacultural knowledge, just think it is better to get to understand why they do it, because it usually works quite good.... The problem is that most people know what they do, but cannot tell you why.

- Start many things at the same time
- Start before the design is finished!


(please don't get me fired for saying this!) These two go together...
It is incredible how much the ideas come when you work with your hands and not your head above a paper!
But I am always prepared to start things and wait for finishing.
It is like doing a puzzle game. It is necessary that everything fits and makes correspondences.
also, if you are stuck in a job (lack some material, find stones that were not expected etc),
no problem you have another work to do!

It is like cooking, you do not wait to finish cooking your dish for starting the sauce. And you might have ideas and make some changes while you do it. And what is around you might give you ideas you would never have had otherwise.
Plan AND improvise !
It is like writing, do you think I had designed to write all this before I started? ...

So, there are things that do not suit me in some usual permie ways, but I guess each person is as different than places are!
Ok, you can design in advance by only looking, but when I started digging to plant, then the land told me it did not agree, and that I had to plant elsewhere!
Ok you can only watch and design one year...
Who is honestly not eager to start?
who has ever done a design without some changes on the way?

another exemple:
If I had not been forced to stop a little wall, then what had been started would not have given me the idea to put there the little nursery!
the FORM gave me the idea.
Look at the form of everything, hills, trees, shades, horizon...
Look at your place from all possible point of view.

Sorry for the lengh, sorry for the useless, and I hope it is partly useful!
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
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Location: North Central Michigan
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i agree with Tyler that earthworks and planning the property are very important, but yes, get the basics of your perennial fruit and nut trees in as soon as you know where you want to put them and why.

Trees asap are very important not only cause they take a long time to grow, but they'll add shade and wind protection to other parts of your property..windbreaks are very important as are privacy screens..etc..and property shade..also you can plant hedges in the beginning..

timing isn't necessarily that important..but doing the things that will help other things and that take a long time to have an effect should be early on..but also if you are depending on food from the property use some of the bare ground to toss in a polyculture of annuals to cover the soil and give you some immediate food as well.
 
Eric Toensmeier
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That's all excellent advice. I've addressed some of this in other threads.

If you are new, starting on a small scale is a good idea. You might try a smaller planting of 20 or 30 trees next year and see what you learn about establishing them before investing on such a large scale. That's also an awful lot of fruit trees, are you planning to sell fruit? I'm all for commercial orchards but I like to make sure that people have thought about where they are going to sell their fruit before undertaking a large and somewhat expensive effort like that. Again, I think we very much need lots of large permaculture farms but I don't want to see people invest their life savings without having a financial planning element to their overall permaculture design.

Congratulations on your decision to heal a piece of land and bring it back into productive health. We literally need millions more like you to sequester carbon by restoring degraded land and planting perennial crops. Thank you and good luck.
 
Jeffrey Hodgins
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Location: Yucatan Puebla Ontario BC
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It's best to over plant and pull some stuff out if you have to do earth works.
You need to find seeds/other for cheep in large quantities. Gather seeds of what you can and get the rest after the first trees planted will act as nurse trees for the next batch.
Don't forget that it's ok to cut trees down. you'll get mulch and wood out of it plus the benefits (shade wind break) of having trees now rather than later.
 
Xisca Nicolas
pollinator
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Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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Edible forests makes us think "fruits"....
But this is not so in nature!
So now I think trees, and especially nuts and oil.
Fruits & vegetable are easy to obtain from land, but what's about fodder plants?
Try to live without buying flour and oil...
Then I think "edible leaves" in some cases, as my climate allows me for moringa,
but also medicine and other "use" (what a consumerism habit we still have!!!). I have tea-trees in my nursery!
Also, legume trees for nitrogene, fodder, poles, for bees...

I very much agree with Jeffrey and the need to think cheap, in order to plant more and cut every other tree when they grow and fill the room.
How sad is a new orchard with deserts between little trees!
 
Julie Gahn
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Location: Northeast Oklahoma
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I very strongly support the idea of putting in swales, ponds, etc first.


I agree.

I'm just now starting Vol. II of Edible Forest Gardens, but I see on page 193 a nice summary of three scales of Permanence: Yeomans', Permaculture's & Edible Forest's. I have read Water for Every Farm, Yoemans Keyline Plan by P.A. Yeomans, edited by Ken B. Yeomans H.D.A. & will share with you how being introduced to the concept of "Scale of Permanence" helped me. I look forward to reading Vol II of Volume Two: Design & Practice, Edible Forest Gardens, & learning how Eric & Dave Jacke have applied it. Perhaps Eric could share more thoughts here as well.

Thus far on my ultra steep learning curve, Yoemans' "Keyline Scale of Permanence" really helped me wrap my brain around what order to do things when setting up a farm-scale permaculture system. I highly recommend reading the book. In a nutshell, the order we're following is:

+ Climate,
+ Landshaping (understanding ridges & valleys & how water flows--observe observe observe your piece of the planet!),
+ Water (we'll be doing swales & berms on key lines. Something I've learned from Mark Shepard is that you can use your level (A-Frame, Sight Level, or Laser Level) to put up to make your swale line slope up to 1% to move water from valleys toward ridges & still keep your distances between your key lines consistent to make using machinery more efficient.)
+ Roads - I'm really thinking about this & about how to make our nut trees accessible to machine harvesting as Eric mentioned in another post. I see the need to visit the equipment manufacturer in the near future to learn what the machinery needs are.
+ Trees - When I started, my brain was so wrapped around trees & buildings; it took some time w/Mark Shepard & reading Yoeman's book for it to settle in that there is a natural order of things that starts with Climate, Landshaping, Water (water is life; catch & store resources high)
+ Buildings - Mark assures me that laying out our key lines will show us where the buildings naturally fit, and I believe him.
+ Sub-divisions - fascinating section of the book about how you can design an entire town based on the keyline scale of permanence. I suspect the ideas could be applied to planning a bioregion to ensure adequate shelter, food & clothing for the population.
+ Soils - I do find myself thinking about soil health (as well as trees) every step of the way. In Water for Every Farm, Yoemans makes the case that man can speed up the
various biotic and soil climate associations and thus help transform the inert soil materials of the subsoil into living top soil in as little as two or three years.

I hope this help! Also, please forgive my bumbling of the forum quote system. I think I just figured out how to properly quote from an existing post & will try to get it right next time!

Julie Gahn
northeast Oklahoma
zone 7ish
western edge of Ozark Plateau/eastern oak-hickory forest

 
Randy Bachman
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Being new to permies, although a dedicated Wheaton podcast junkie, I am overwhelmed by the advice from all of you. As to economics, are there some bright ideas / best practices for someone who is looking to plant lots of fruit and nut trees and bushes of as many varieties as possible: how to get them cheap, is it possible to plant too many varieties (My plan was to plant no less than 3 of a type), are there possibly bad combinations of trees (I know about black walnut) that may war against each other and limit their mutual progress ( you know people-like trees!)? I grew up an organic gardener ala Rodale, and was all about companion planting, but I have wondered if there are similar principles with trees and bushes.

Eric, you are new to me. Thanks for your participation. In your printed work, which is the best place for a newbee to start in reading your works? I have started spending some time on your website, but your books look like a good investment.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
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yes you are on the right track, you should do a little research to see if possibly the tree choices will not pollinate each other if a pollinator is needed..

that was a learning experience for me, making sure I had proper pollinators for my trees...and making sure that they are within pollination areas..nuts are wind pollinated and most fruit trees are insect pollinated so think that way.

wouldn't hurt if you have that many fruit trees going in, to seed a pollinator for your area too, honeybees, mason bees, or plant wildflowers to bring in wild bees..

i also agree that you should start smaller unless you have unlimited funds and help..and resources..

you can take huge losses if you put things in willy nilly

if you aren't planning commercial sales, make sure you plant first what you like most..if you hate sweet cherries, don't plant them !! etc..also make sure you consider your climate, zone, soil, etc..so that you grow what grows well, and consider frost, sun, shade..etc..

put some in you know you want to grow first..and then read read read read read
 
Eric Toensmeier
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Hi Randy, Edible Forest Gardens has enough ideas to keep you busy for a lifetime. I feel like I can say nice things about it because it was mostly written by my co-author Dave Jacke. my other book on perennial vegetables is limited in scope but quite a bit easier to work your way around. Martin Crawfords creating a forest garden is fantastic, and I like the beginners backyard approach in Toby Hemingway's gaia's garden.

I'm glad someone found our comparison of scales of permanence useful. That's the kind of thing Dave and I were not sure would be relevant to people, though it certainly is for us. The longer you spend on site analysis the more it informs your design and the more deeply your design can help harmonize your goals with the unique opportunities and challenges of your landscape. I think need to apply a similar concept to implementation, which is to start with the biggest changes to the landscape, typically rainwater harvesting and/or irrigation, other earthworks if needed, roads or paths, outbuildings and livestock/wildlife fencing. The next phase is to really prepare the soil well, with a subsoil plow or cover crop or broad fork and sheet mulch depending on your scale, budget, and time available. Only after all of that does the act of planting a tree come into play. In my own garden I skipped a lot of those earlier steps and have lived to regret it.
 
Jeffrey Hodgins
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Location: Yucatan Puebla Ontario BC
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What I said before about planting before you do water harvesting earthworks was wrong now that I think about it. If it's a dry climate then you should do at least some small scale water harvesting at the same time as planting.
You should concentrate on a few small areas or a small area first and then expand where you can. I personally made the mistake of trying to grow on too much unfit soil (urbanite fill) with insufficient mulch this year. Still a good idea to plant some patches in poor areas in order to colonize more ground but you have to put enough mulch and soil in to make it grow anything worth harvesting at least in this desert (ontario south).
 
Eric Toensmeier
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I should add that I've just agreed to do a farm–scale permaculture weekend workshop at http://omvalleypermaculture.com/ in Ohio this November. Stay tuned to their website or send them an email for details.
 
Jeffrey Hodgins
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I am compelled to contradict myself in order to argue that you should always plant now. If you want to grow large areas of perennials you need stock blocks so if you don't start stock blocks now then it will cost you a ridiculous amount of money to try and buy enough perennials to fill even a half acre. Eric your dig before you plant approach works if you assume that everyone has 20k to spend or has an eternity to live. Real people like you and me are bound by things like ROE and payout times. You have to know how much you can spend and work from there. Secondly in some areas there is no need for any earthworks at all. Paths can also be fluid on a half acre I have 2 straight paths.
 
Ed Colmar
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I'd like to reinforce Xisca's first point.

Wait, learn and listen.

The most important thing is to be patient and learn what your land has to tell you.

Spend time in all the areas of your land at various times of the year. Feel the wind. Look for the insects and wildlife. What are the native species already doing? What is the soil like in different areas.

Observe, take notes. Don't rush!
 
Jeffrey Hodgins
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Ed Colmar wrote:I'd like to reinforce Xisca's first point.

Wait, learn and listen.

The most important thing is to be patient and learn what your land has to tell you.

Spend time in all the areas of your land at various times of the year. Feel the wind. Look for the insects and wildlife. What are the native species already doing? What is the soil like in different areas.

Observe, take notes. Don't rush!

I will agree that you must know the land where you are growing and the many species that can potentially grow there in order to be successful (this disqualifies 99% of regular folks unless further educated). Even with more education still only about 20% of the population of the world is smart enough to remember the habitat requirements, fruiting dates, planting dates, and harvesting/cultivation methods for upwards of 200 species. If you see your self to be one of the 1% who knows this stuff then it's probably safe to go to the next step.
Observe the land/shade/soil factors at planting time. Then observe what crop species you have planted and see what works. I guarantee you you'll be farther ahead by starting some earthworks and some planting right away. I don't know how many acres you guys get done a year (that way) but I can tell you that I personally establish at least 1 acre of diversified agro-forestry per year for dirt cheap. This type of agriculture takes time to pay off therefore the sooner I plant the sooner I will have the money to plant more, not to mention the seeds, root stocks and cuttings that I will need. With 6 billion people on earth, most of them indirectly hacking down trees to grow their food and only a handful of active permaculturalists to counter act them, I would say I'm in a rush a big rush.
 
Xisca Nicolas
pollinator
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Right, I said to observe, but also to start and plant, especially trials with annuals, and a little of a lot of things.

Wait and start at the same time!
That is why Ed half misquoted me...

Jeffrey, why remember, I just write all!
About plant and harvest, the seasons vary all over the world, and it is partly a surprise.
(I do sow tomatoes now!)

For money saving:
Find tree seeds, so you can sow before you are ready to plant.
 
Jeffrey Hodgins
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Sorry Xisca Nicolas I guess I should have read your whole post actually I liked what you said a lot. Good thing I can't be fired
 
Xisca Nicolas
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Thanks
And don't be sorry, so you pointed out the paradoxe we all have to deal with...
Wait and don't wait!
I am sure we all advise to wait, and we don't walk our talk, haha!

Eric said "In my own garden I skipped a lot of those earlier steps and have lived to regret it."
enthusiasm has to live!
So I tried to find ways of doing something including planting, and be cautious.

Another point:
It is a temptation to gain time with grown up trees, but I have noticed the roots easily get crooked in a pot, and I am sure the tree never develop its full potency to look for water, especially with tap roots.
(I failed sowing neem so bought trees, but I was not satisfied with the roots)

I now try to sow my own trees, but with full space for roots, in black plastic bags.
So I think it is an early job that leaves time for observing.
 
John Polk
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I think you have pointed out one of the benefits of annuals:
You can plant annuals while you are 'waiting and observing'. If they thrive, you have gained a crop. If they fail, no big deal, as they need to be replanted anyways. At least you have covered bare soil, and grown organic matter to incorporate into the soil.

A mistake with 300 tomato plants will cost you $2, but a mistake with 300 walnut trees could break the bank.

A very common practice with new orchards is that after the young trees are planted, the entire area is put into strawberries. Typically, strawberries have a 3 year productive life. By the time the trees begin to shade them out, they were done anyways. You get three good crops while you wait for your fruit/nut trees to mature. With luck, the strawberries will have paid off your investment in the tree stock.

 
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