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Food Forest from scratch in Zone 5

 
Derrick Saxon
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I am looking for help establishing a food forest for Zone 5b just outside of Colorado Springs. (possibly 5a depending on elevation)

We are originally from the deep south (Zones 8 and 9) so I find myself lacking in knowledge of colder weather pioneer and nurse species (particularly of the nitrogen fixing variety)

We will be using swales on contour, possibly some hugelkulture, along with chicken tractoring land prep for the overgrown patches of the property.

Using the 'establishing a food forest' method by geoff lawton, I need some ideas for an annual and perennial nitrogen fixing ground cover, short term leguminous bushes that will germinate from seed, medium term nitrogen fixing trees (some that will germ from seed as well), and long term overstory nitrogen fixing tree species. All of these obviously need to be able to thrive in Zone 5 with some drought resistance due to colorado weather patterns.

Any help on the most beneficial pioneer species for this environment would be a great help to get us started. Thanks!
 
Miles Flansburg
steward
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Posts: 3549
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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bee books forest garden fungi greening the desert hugelkultur
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Hey Derrick, I am south of Denver. Here is a list but you might have to do some translating ?

http://plants.usda.gov/plantkeys/COLegumes/COLORADO_LEGUMES.html
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Here's a video of a food forest in the Colorado rockies which lists several species used in the forest: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehBQUJJwQpE

http://www.crmpi.org/CRMPI/Home.html
 
Anthony Anderson
Posts: 42
Location: Central Minnesota USA and Paris France
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Tyler nailed it - visit CRMPI and see what Jerome is up to. He knows what works. Check out Sepp's approach too - build ponds!
 
Derrick Saxon
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Thanks for teh links folks!

I had never even heard of CRMPI so that is a great resource. I am hoping since they are Zone 4a-4b that I can expand the diviersity of species in our own Forest Garden. However, all of the species shown in the video will be great as well!

Hoping for some cold hardy grapes, blue berries, kiwis, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, pecan etc. Basically, I want to grow as many berries and nuts that the property will allow. Fruit trees will be kept to the basic staples and I will expand it further once those take off.

I am going to get crazy a few years down the road and attempt a glass house grow with avacados, olives, figs, and a few other hot weather species.

Edit: Found this link as well... http://www.apiosinstitute.org/forestgardens/central-rocky-mountain-permaculture Seems like I certainly need to pay them a vist lol
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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in my signature is a link to my blog..I am in zone 4/5 so most everything I grow should grow in your area..but I am not at as high an elevation so things might have some wind problems there that they wouldn't have here.

I always suggest that people make a LIST of what they like to eat or what their animalsneed to eat and then cross off any that can't grow there..like bananas..etc..then see if you can start to grow the things you eat the most first..and esp put in the things that take longest to mature first..like fruit and nut trees.

good luck
 
Harper Stone
Posts: 24
Location: Whatcom County, Washington
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Up in Boulder, my parents have a grape vine that produces bountifully every year with almost no inputs whatsoever (only some watering in the summer).
Thompson grapes, I think. Dark purple when ripe, very sweet, great for jam, crap for wine.
It grows along an old picket fence that encloses their front yard. They don't prune, fertilize, mulch, or anything.

I also met a guy who had developed a system (I think near Colo Springs) for using mushrooms to help plants grow inside a greenhouse. He said he was getting 7 crops of marijuana a year, and "was beginning to experiment with the technique in the vegetable garden". Basically, it goes something like this: build raised beds. inoculate some big pieces of wood with primary-decomposer fungi (eg oyster mushrooms), and use these as the bottom layer on the raised beds. Add some smaller pieces of wood too, also inoculated with primary-decomposers. Fill in with dirt and cover the whole bed with a thick (4-6"?) layer of leaves (also perhaps inoculated). Wet the whole thing thoroughly. After a couple of weeks, he said, it's practically like cement, the leaves are so stuck together with mycelium (you might have to water some to keep it from drying out). Then dig a hole (he used a piece of rebar to get through the leaves and make his planting hole). Insert a seedling that has been inoculated with mycorrhizal fungi. As the primary decomposers work through the wood/leaves, they leave material in a state that the mycorrhizal fungi, being secondary decomposers, can take up and make available to the plant roots. When his plants have reached near-maturity, he plants another batch in between them, which take advantage of the shade to get settled in and develop roots. Then 1-2 weeks later he cuts the mature plants, giving the young ones full sun. Rinse and repeat.

The benefits of this system are:
  • Water retention
  • Heat production (fungi produce heat as they break things down)
  • Weed control
  • Extra nutrients for the plants
  • Edible mushroom harvest (from time to time, if you're lucky)
  • Extra oxygen for the plants (fungi breathe like we do, and plants can absorb more CO2 then they normally have access to. mostly this can only be captured in a greenhouse)


  • In fact, pretty much all those things carry over outside the greenhouse too, except that the extra CO2 produced usually escapes the system.
     
    Harry Greene
    Posts: 14
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    The biggest thing for you is probably drought-tolerant species, no? I'm in Zone 5 as well, but we get a lot more rain and snow in Massachusetts.

    I'll actually be moving to Colorado Springs soon enough, and I'd love to help you out with the food forest.
     
    Aljaz Plankl
    Posts: 384
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    I like this ones:

    Annual - runner or bush beans
    Herbaceous perrenials - alfalfa, red clover, vetch, lupin
    Trees - alder, golden chain
     
    Harry Greene
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    p.s. Derrick, I just finished Sepp's book, "Desert or Paradise," which talks a lot about water retention landscapes. Definitely worth the read.
     
    Deborha d'Arms
    Posts: 17
    Location: Mt Shasta, CA
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    Siberian Pea shrub, black or honey locust trees, autumn olive, goumi berrie are all varieties i am using in my high dessert zone 5/6 forest garden.

    All are very happy, except the goumi, which in my harsh climate is a challenge.

    BTW all parts of the locust trees are edible, wood is great for building; called iron wood for good reason, makes gorgeous fragrant blossoms bees make delicious honey from, and great forage for wildlife. can be invasive but not in zone 5.

    --Deborha
    www.forestgardening.net
     
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