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Proper spacing when planting

 
Daniel. Smith.
Posts: 12
Location: zone 6
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I found a blog by a guy who apparently spent very little time planning his food forest, then started bashing them because of his failure. He planted too close and likely didnt take into account sun angles. Some of his fruits didn't produce due to shade, some were girdled by rodents due to his giving them too much cover, and birds apparently destroyed what did produce due to tree placement. In the comments someone already explained to him what he did wrong, but I doubt he would have read their comment with an open mind.

http://www.cloudforest.com/cafe/gardening/why-fruit-forests-don-work-t2526.html
 
Xisca Nicolas
pollinator
Posts: 1271
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
22
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Your title might not attract to the right subject of this forum, but let stay just on "spacing" and not on failures.

When I look for information about trees, I look at the spacing that is advised for the specific specie.
So this is not so hard.

Then, it is possible to inter-crop, or to plant some more trees, with the plan of felling off the trees in a few years, for poles or fire wood... whatever.
At least they will leave carbon into the soil.

What I find harder than spacing, is planning about the height!
What shade will I have?
Summer shade
winter shade...
They are not at the same place.

Some leaves stay, some leaves drop in winter...
This is much harder to plan than spacing.
 
Travis Philp
gardener
Posts: 965
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
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When talking fruit trees I usually add a minimum of 30% or so of extra length onto the recommended planting distance for each tree, to create a gap in the canopy for sun loving ground plants. So if a tree is supposed to be spaced 20 feet apart I plant 26 feet apart. In my house garden where I tend to grow more annual vegetables, most of my fruit trees are spaced even further... about 30-40 feet apart, and they are on semi standard rootstock.
 
dj niels
Posts: 177
Location: CO; semi-arid: 10-12"; 6000 ft
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Again, as in most things having to do with permaculture, it depends. If you are in a cool, damp, humid climate, yes, give your trees and other plants more space, to let sun in. In other areas, where too much sun and dryness is the problem, it may be wise to plant closer together, or at least put in some temporary trees, to give enough shade so the understory layers don't fry in the intense sun. Each permaculture designer/practitioner needs to study his or her own situation to know what will work best for them.
 
Xisca Nicolas
pollinator
Posts: 1271
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
22
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Yes it really depends, as it might be necessary to do the reverse!!!
When it is dry, you might want to plant less close, just because of the soil's reserve in water that will serve less trees, leading to competition stress for water.
For shade, some trees have a spreading habit and they shade better than erect trees. So it can also be proper pruning... or proper choice specie...
 
dj niels
Posts: 177
Location: CO; semi-arid: 10-12"; 6000 ft
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Very true, Xisca. Each situation is different, and needs much observation. Here in the intermountain areas of the US, in the summer we look for shade, the more the better. My little piece of ground is flat, sandy, and has no trees. Shade is one of our first needs at my new garden spot, both to make the place endurable in the very intense high elevation summer sun, and to help other plants grow better with partial shade and shelter from the wind, mulch from the leaves, etc. So if I can get a bunch of trees, such as honey locust or siberian pea shrub, etc, to grow from seeds in the leaves I harvest in autumn, I will let them grow as thickly as they can, then thin them out to let the stronger, faster growing ones have more room. Eventually we will discover by observation how much room they need. I have seen a few clumps of trees, mostly the siberian elms that grow everywhere in the local towns, where each tree is only a few feet apart, but each one in the clump leans a different way to reach the light.

I have even seen pear trees growing like that in southern Utah, at about 5000 ft elevation, very tall trees, but they produced very good fruit. My son had to climb on the roof of the motel (with permission from the owner) to pick a bunch for us to slice and dehydrate for winter use. All the roots were growing close together, but they shared the mulch from their leaves, and it was easier to water and tend one bed, than to have 6 or 8 trees spread out 25 feet apart. And it made a nice shady area under the trees to sit and relax. To me, that is a permaculture solution, instead of thinking, orchard.

I planted my apples and plums at home in a similar way, with 2 trees in one planting hole, then the care and maintenance is all in one place. It works well, especially in a small urban or suburban or small town backyard. Then I planted my bush fruits and ground covers around the trees, so I only have to turn on the water system for a bed, with its guild of plants, instead of in rows as in an orchard, where each tree has to be tended individually.

You are right, though, about water, if there is a reserve of water in the soil. But in our sandy soil, I have not found that to be true. So now we usually dig out the sand, 18 inches to 2 feet deep, then fill the hole with cardboard, newspaper, woody wastes, spoiled hay, leaves, compost, etc--whatever I can get, and plant in that. I have found it is much easier to spread mulch on a guilded garden, in a bed, than to collect enough mulch for each individual tree or plant. And, the winds here blow so fiercely that I have gone out after a strong gust of wind to find that all my carefully laid mulches have blown away, "somewhere over the rainbow." But with the guilds, there is usually enough plant growth to keep the mulch from disappearing, and the trees and shrubs etc all help mulch each other, so they don't actually need as much added water as they would if each was planted alone. We tried some 'spot' planting 2 years ago, with holes dug every 4-5 feet, filled with compost, and planted to corn or squash, etc, to "give each plant more room to spread its roots" according to some book I read. There was no rain to speak of, and it was impossible to water enough to keep the compost holes damp. Some corn plants did grow--to about 1 foot high before they tassled, but of course, no corn. trees would be the same, I think, so now I plant everything in larger beds, that I can prepare, mulch, water, etc as a unit. I have found that works much better in this high and dry area.
 
Xisca Nicolas
pollinator
Posts: 1271
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
22
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Thanks for this precious information!
This is all very full of logic. Give water in one place for all, just give enough food and water and that is ok.

Yes I was thinking of cases with a reserve of underground water, but also of no watering.
Actually, I will think more of what you said because I had such ideas, that I needed to deepen.

I want to maximize the water I put in, and I am almost sure I have waste due to the little clay content of my soil + the stony underground (surely full of holes) because it was man terraced. I can even have some "springs" coming at some wall's feet... (yes I do forget to shut some pipes sometimes! Or more common some breaking with pressure)

So, if I have some plants CLOSE one to another, but with different root systems and depth, I guess that the water that goes deeper can still be made of some profit by another plant... I cannot dig and check the underground and soil quality, so proper spacing is not so easy. Informations about root systems for each specie is not a common information to be found!
 
dj niels
Posts: 177
Location: CO; semi-arid: 10-12"; 6000 ft
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You are welcome. We do need to share and help spread the knowledge and experience each person has gained, to spread the word and understanding of permaculture as far and as fast as possible.

 
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