I have an acre that is valley oak and ash. It used to have abundant himalayan blackberry (which grows like a weed here) and poison oak which we have cleared. (There is still abundant himalayan blackberry -- I didn't eradicate it.) The area is naturally sub-irrigated, and downright waterlogged ("high water table" is an understatement) during late winter through spring. We generally have no rain between June and October. Soil is clayey loam, with some gravel in areas. The blackberry grew like crazy, as does poison oak. Dock, plantain, and chicory are abundant. We are zone 8. Summer temps are frequently in the 90s or higher during the day but cool down every night. Temperatures can swing 50 degrees in a day.
I have created a couple of raised areas and filled them with compost. I'd like to add some fruits/berries either on the "floor" of the forest or in the slightly raised beds. Areas range from deeper shade to sunny.
I was wondering if you had suggestions of things to try. I'd like to try a few pawpaws in one of the beds. Would salal be possible on the forest floor? Were do have hot summers, but under the trees it is somewhat cooler, are there gooseberries or currents than might endure our summers? Can they take the waterlogged soil or would the beds be better? Any suggestions on understory, vining or groundcover edibles that agree with springtime wet, shady conditions would be appreciated. It doesn't just have to be "people-edibles," I have rabbits and free ranging chickens I'd like to provide more food for, as well.
Is it possible to thin out the canopy trees to the best and healthiest oaks and ash, if you do it little by little you can replace the understory with what you desire. The upper canopy takes a long time to grow if you cut everything and replace everything.
If you can't currants, gooseberries, raspberries might do well. I bet nettle would do good too.
Photos help a lot
The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings. - Masanobu Fukuoka
Location: Near Jefferson
posted 8 years ago
Let's see if the files I attached stick. This area can be under an inch or two of water in the mid winter to mid spring, and spots are soggy till late spring/early summer. The raised bed is maybe a foot and a half high and is shady. I was thinking goldenseal would love it here, but I'd want to supplement with water in the late summer. The back (this area) is too wet for raspberries, I'm planning them up front where the ground is a little higher and we have more sun.
You might like this site: Gary Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team, especially The Garry Oak Gardener’s Handbook. This is a fantastic resource for understanding Garry Oak (Quercus garryana, AKA Oregon White Oak) ecosystems. This is probably what your property "wants" to be. If you can understand what native plants want to be there, you can switch them for edibles which are in the same family or which have the same needs/characteristics.
I'm afraid I don't really have the answers, I just wanted to pitch in and say that I share your predicament.
I have a slope that is mostly covered in oak and ash (and some other smaller species that have mostly died under the immense pressure of tree-suffocating vines), except for the wild brambles you have to hack your way through, and the bottom of it is right next to a river and can best be described as a flood plain. I have no idea what to do with it, but I have only been here for a few weeks so I've decided to give it a full year to see what the river really does to it (the neighbour showed me the flood line, but I'd like to see the actual state of the soil before and after). When it comes to trees I've started clearing parts of higher, less wet, areas though, and put in apples and cherries. I'll be clearing more in the spring to put in plums, pears, quinces and medlars.
One thing I'm going for since my soil is quite "moist", that may be something for your raised beds, is blueberries. They like wet, but don't want to be constantly water-logged. They won't love the clay loam, but if you're raising them up a bit to get out of the worst of the water you have your choice of soil, don't you? Rhubarb is another one I've been considering under the trees. They like most soils, like getting wet, and those enormous leaves let them get at even dappled sunlight. Gooseberries, I understand, do not like being really wet. One thing that grows by itself among our ash and oak, that hasn't gotten fully suffocated by the tree-killers, is hawthorn. Would that be of interest?
Le blog d'Emma: Homesteading, vintage sewing & knitting, renovating, wildcrafting, etc. in Brittany, France.
Location: Near Jefferson
posted 8 years ago
Thank you for your responses so far. I looked at the Garry Oak (thank you!) resources and while we're a different species here (Quercus lobata, California Valley White Oak), our area may be suitable to huckleberries which are part of the Garry Oak ecosystem -- I have to read more. Emma, Hawthorn wasn't even on my radar until I began looking at Martin Crawford's Creating a Forest Garden. He mentions Hawthorn grows anywhere and suggests it as rootstock for Medlar. I don't know that eitherMedlar or a tasty variety of Hawthorn is common here in the US, so it may be a bit of an adventure tracking them down. Thank goodness for the internet!
Yes, I think the raised bed will allow me to cheat a bit and plant things that otherwise would not be possible. We do get down to the low 20s here a few times during the year, and I'd like to see if I can get a few ramps (wild leek) to grow in one of the raised beds. Other alliums love it here!
Emma, best of luck with your fruit trees. We have tried cherry here several times but the late frosts we get did them in. Too bad, I love cherries. We're trying plum, apple and pear in out front yard which is still wet in the spring but not under water. Fingers crossed.
Please keep ideas coming!