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Forest gardening in Southern California

Posts: 1
Location: Los Angeles County / zone 9b
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Hi all,

We're slowing getting started converting our traditional garden beds into a food forest, but we live in the foothills of the Mojave desert where it is quite dry. I'd love to hear any recommendations from others on trees and plants that have done well for them in similar circumstances. We have the lovely California clay soil and have many coastal live oaks on our property (which can be toxic to certain plants), but our winters rarely get below freezing for more than a few nights running. We're also in a canyon perched on the edge of the national forest, so we have a cooler microclimate and less sun than your average sunny garden in this area.

That said, we'd love to hear what more experienced food foresters in similar climates have to say. What trees (especially specific varieties) have worked for you? What sort of guilds have you planted with success? Any plants you would not recommend?

Thanks in advance!
Posts: 1602
Location: northern California
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I guess one primary decision you will need to make is to what extent you intend to provide supplemental irrigation on the long term. Some will be necessary for just about everything in the establshment phase. Beyond that, a little research and observation around you should come up with a list of likely contenders. Is your climate proper desert? (think date palm, mesquite, cacti, etc.) or is there enough rain in the winter to call it Mediterranean? ( olive, fig, pistacio, pomegranate....) Other than plants native to such climates, everything else will either require or hugely benefit (in terms of yield) from supplemental water, moist microclimate niches, etc.---even popular and common plants like citrus, avocado, and other fruits and nuts. On the other hand you mention clay soil, so beware of any spot where water stands for more than a few hours after a heavy rain....most food-producing plants don't like this and many will decline and die....sort of a catch-22.....I've ended up planting a lot of things on mounds and then running drip lines. If your site slopes at all, then swales, with the trees planted on the berm, will help with both moisture and drainage......
Posts: 1981
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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And what is your intended surface for planting trees?
We are in a similar climate, except than I am far over freezing point.
and I also have little sun because of the valley. That can be an advantage for a cool climate, protect from wind... And less burning sun in summer.
One always thinks about mini temps, but MAX TEMPS are important too!
Yours max averages are certainly over mines...
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