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Question for Dave: Cedars and Food Forests

 
Rianna Stone
Posts: 12
Location: Oklahoma
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Hi Dave!

I'm hoping you or someone on the forum can help me with this question. We live in central OK and we have a lot of Eastern Red Cedar on our property. There is an ideal area through the middle of our property where I would like to put a food forest but my concern is the cedar. This part of our property has a lot of cedar and oak. We would like to remove most if not all of the cedars partly because of the fire hazard they pose during droughts but also because they are allopathic. My question is, when we begin to remove the cedars how long do we need to wait before planting new trees or should we go ahead and begin planting? Could we start planting some things now before we start removing trees or will the cedars inhibit other plant growth? I know cedars should not be used in Hugel Kultur beds but if they have been aged would be they safe to use? We don't want to waste the wood and would like to find a use for much of it. Thanks for your help!
 
Dave Jacke
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Rianna--Thanks for teaching me something--I didn't know ERC was allelopathic! The USDA website confirms that, btw.

Allelopathic chemicals vary, as far as I know, and take varying lengths of time to break down. I have little data on this. I know with Juglans species it can take several years, as the roots give off the chemicals as they decompose. ERC is probably the same in that regard, but I'd imagine the roots might break down faster than walnuts because walnuts get so much bigger.

You will have to do the basic scientific literature review to see what scientists have worked out in answer to your questions, I am afraid. I'm interested in those answers, too, but do not have time to spare to go online through my local University computers to do that research. I hereby deputize you to do that research and let the rest of us know! If you want to. You may as well, it will help you design much more effectively, and you may find a list of species compatible with ERC along the way, like the one Eric put together for our book for the Juglans.

You can also just try various things in different areas and see what happens! If you observe the natural habitats the ERC grows in and see what species are growing in their root zone, that will give you indications of what may tolerate the chemicals, and you can use that as a basis for design, at least in the beginning. I would also try the Fire Effects Information System website, an awesome awesome resource to see if they have good info on this--that website is one of the best around for the species they have in it, which are relatively few, but boy do they do a good job summarizing all kinds of sci lit on the species they cover. http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/index.html Check it out!

Your questions are an indicator of how much we have to learn and how we are all at the very infancy of doing this kind of ecosystem design . . . I hope you feel willing and ready to take the bull by the horns and jump in, cuz we need lots of folks to do just that and share the learnings!

OK, good luck with it. Peace and blessings!

d
 
Ben Plummer
gardener
Posts: 345
Location: Midcoast Maine, Zone 5b
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Whoa, thanks for that link Dave, I can easily see myself going down the rabbit hole there! Thanks for your time here this week, learned a lot.
 
Dave Jacke
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You're welcome Bill. And by the way, ERC makes pretty darn good fence posts! They last a reasonably long time in the ground. A very good use for them I'd say.

d
 
Rianna Stone
Posts: 12
Location: Oklahoma
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Thanks for the link Dave! Hopefully that will help to point me in the right direction. I get the feeling I will become good friends with the university libraries! Interest in Permaculture has grown here in Oklahoma but like you said, there is still so much to learn and of course you can't know everything about the intricacies of each location. The ERC has become so prolific here that some of our state legislators want to take steps to help eradicate it or at least get it under better control. With the drought the last couple of years they have become a high fire danger.

With this being prairie country we tend to see them growing in clumps. The love to grow along fence lines and you will often see them spread out in open fields. Our native oaks seem to grow well with them as that is what we primarily have on our property. I get the feeling a lot of it may come down to experimentation. I will have to look at native species to see what may be tolerant there. We have six acres so I have room to plant in some other areas, which I had planned to do anyway. This particular stretch of the ERC may have to be my little science experiment! Hopefully one day I'll have some good info to share with everyone.
 
R Scott
Posts: 3305
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Cedars make great landscaping mulch. pathways, around raised beds, etc. Big stuff for fence posts, small stuff through a chipper.
 
Rianna Stone
Posts: 12
Location: Oklahoma
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We have thought about using them for fence posts and I will have to check into renting a chipper. We also have several that are old growth so they are quite large. I have even thought about checking around to see if I could work out a deal with someone to remove a lot of the trees and let them have the larger ones that could be milled as part of the payment. It will take a while but I'll find something to do with them!
 
Kitty Hudson
Posts: 33
Location: SW KY--out in the sticks in zone 6.
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Keep in mind that Eastern Red Cedar is a lovely habitat tree. I deliberately moved some small ones years ago to make a wind/sound break at the edge of my property. By the time they were 5-6' tall, I was finding lots of praying mantis egg cases and a few small bird nests in them. One fine morning, I also spotted a baby eastern blue bird puttering around near one--as my dog and I walked by, it hopped under the lowest branches for shelter.
 
Marsha Richardson
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The ERC is actually a juniper with edible (in small quantities - 10 per 1 gallon crock) berries that are used in making saurkraut adding a subtle but definite flavor! It is also a kidney cleanser even in such small quantities. Those berries are also relished by many birds, which is why the cedars are almost always found growing along fence lines -- the birds plant them. The big problem we have with them in Virginia is that they are also a prime carrier of cedar apple rust which is very bad for our orchard. We are planting rust resistant apples but they cast so much shade -- we have decided to remove a bunch of the cedars near the orchards/food forest but leave quite a few down wind from everything else. That way we hope to have the best of both worlds. Solomon seal grows very happily under the ERC and the wild blueberries seem to do as well. I use the posts for fencing and support posts in building sheds/animal housing etc. Some of the smaller ones make excellent stakes for the varius projects here and there.
 
chris cromeens
Posts: 61
Location: north texas 7b now 8a
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I just posted about this in the permaculture forum,webpage in my example it is a deodar cedar I am using to my advantage, we have alot of ERC. I know persimmon handle being around them as do muscadines,riverbank grapes, sumac(indian lemonade), mulberries, and pecans (lots of hardwoods) all grow up in cedar thickets. Sorry I don't know of typical fruits because this answer is based on observation of core of engineer lands around lake texoma. Oh yeah I have seen old pear trees w/ cedar thickets around them, but don't know if it would work the other way round as these trees were showing some cedar rust
 
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