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Edibles for under pine trees

 
Posts: 90
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My son has a rather large portion of the south side of his yard full of pine trees. So far only a few weeds grow under them. Is there something that will grow well under pines that are pretty shaded. We are going to try some blueberry plants but otherwise would like some type of edibles. I myself have a large row of blueberries along my fence that runs north/south and thought I could plant the same food under those as well. any thoughts? Thanks Kim
 
pollinator
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Loofah. Yes, those bath sponges come from a vine that does very well climbing up pine trees. Sometimes you see the seeds sold as 'Chinese okra'. If you harvest the fruits when they are okra sized, they do have the crunch and the texture of okra, but the taste is kind of a cross between a cucumber and dish soap. I never had enough patience to figure out how to purge them of the soapy taste, so I just let them mature and used them for bath sponges.
 
Posts: 136
Location: Sunset Zone 27, Florida
forest garden trees rabbit
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here, prickly pear cactus thrives under the shade of pine trees.
 
Kim Hill
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John Elliott wrote:Loofah. Yes, those bath sponges come from a vine that does very well climbing up pine trees. Sometimes you see the seeds sold as 'Chinese okra'. If you harvest the fruits when they are okra sized, they do have the crunch and the texture of okra, but the taste is kind of a cross between a cucumber and dish soap. I never had enough patience to figure out how to purge them of the soapy taste, so I just let them mature and used them for bath sponges.



Cool I actually planned on trying to grow some this year and have one ready to be planted outside as soon as it stays warm enough. I think I will plant it at his house and a few more seeds under the pines. It will at least be fun for my granddaughter to grow her own sponges.

I wonder if prickly pear cactus would do on in zone 6. I need to do a little research. Thanks
 
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In Israel, I saw certain type of Thyme shrubs growing naturally under pine trees, in large numbers and sizes, where nearly nothing else grows.
- i'm not sure whether other plants are pushed off by the Thyme or by the Pines!!

Certain other geophytes grow here under pines as well: Daffodil, Cyclame, and others that I don't remember.

I think that main problems with Pines are that 1) secrete certain substance that prevents sprouting, and 2) they block the light (like any other forest)
so I THINK that if a plant had been sprouted elsewhere, or before the pine grove was planted, then certain kinds will succeed.

Also, specific kind of edible mushrooms, but only after certain rain and climate conditions.

I was reading here that also rare kinds of orchids can grow under pines - but I never paid attention to these

(sorry - hebrew text - you can try using google-translate: Myths and realities of pine trees (Hebrew) )
 
pollinator
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
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Gooseberries grow best at the base of large pines, excellent companion plants.
 
John Elliott
pollinator
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I wonder if prickly pear cactus would do on in zone 6. I need to do a little research.



There are many, many species of Opuntia, so there are probably some that do well in zone 6 and in shade. That said, the type grown and sold in Mexico as 'nopal' is usually in full sun and doesn't have to put up with anything colder than zone 9. I would also think that there has been some selective propagation going on with the type that is farmed in Mexico and just any old Opuntia that you find growing wild could have some off-putting tastes. I have noticed that while the fruit of most wild Opuntia are sweet and tasty, the cladodes (paddles) can have bitter or astringent elements to them.

Best thing to try would be to get some food grade cladodes from the local Hispanic grocery store and stick them in the ground and water them. You'll find out next winter whether they can take the cold. The way that climate zones are migrating north (global warming), you may soon be living in a zone where they do just fine. It's also one crop that is definitely drought tolerant.
 
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Hey kim,

In general herbs and root vegetables will do better in shade than most plants.......I plant herbs in the shadiest parts and carrots and potatoes in places of partial shade. They seem to do alright.
You could also put nitrogen fixing plants in just to help feed the soil
 
Posts: 4
Location: Minnesota Wisconsin Zone 2-5
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Kim,

Here are pine understory polyculture plants: there are a lot more and especially if you are in warmer zones than MN...You could also search in Plants for a Future Database for shady, acidic and dry soils. I haven't planted it myself but a Lingonberry too, if you can get more sun and water to the site.

Rhododendron Rhododendron PJM
Cinnimon Fern Osmunda cinnamomea
Sensitive Fern Onoclea sensibilis
Ostrich Fern Matteuccia struthiopteris
Yew 'Emerald Spreader' Taxus cuspidata 'Monloo'
Currant Ribes 'Redlake'
Blueberry northblue Vaccinium 'Northblue'
Blueberry northcountry Vaccinium 'Northcountyr'
Bunchberry Cornus canadensis
Gooseberry Ribes missouriensis
Maidenhair Fern Adiantum pedatum
Wild Ginger Asarum canadense
Bleeding Heart Dicentra spectabilis
Forget-Me-Not Jack-Frost false forget-me-not
Rue Anemonie Anemone thalictoides
Starflower Trientalis borealis
Wintergreen Gautheria procumbens
Baneberry Actea pachypoda
Redbud Northern Tree Cercis canadensis
Speckled Alder Alnus rugosa
 
pollinator
Posts: 363
Location: NW Pennsylvania Zone 5B bordering on Zone 6
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cranberries and wintergreen
 
Posts: 15
Location: Texas, Blackland Prarie, Zone 8a
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Regarding Prickly Pears:
Opuntia humifusa, which Chrissy probably has growing under pines in her area is very cold hardy if sourced from the northern end of it's range, same with O. macrorhiza. They can both have decent little fruits, it just depends on the individual plant. I have an O. macrorhiza that tastes almost like anise, and another one that tastes like green yuck. Get a pad from one with decent fruits if you can. O. engelmanniican be very cold hardy, has beautiful white spines, and is a very large plant. It has the most consistently tastey fruit here in Texas. O. ellisiana is spineless, cold tolerant, and the cladodes are good eats. I cooked some last sunday with eggs and sausage. The nopal found in grocery stores is O. indica. It does have some cold tolerant varieties, but I have only seen them in Europe where it grows right up to the foothills of the Alps as an escapee/invasive. The varieties in grocery stores are all from Mexico and won't survive much north of zone 9b. The larger prickly pears would like some protection in zone 6, possibly a pile of rocks to their north. The smaller ones desiccate in the cold and perk back up in the spring.
 
Posts: 319
Location: (Zone 7-8/Elv. 350) Powhatan, VA (Sloped Forests & Meadow)
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@ Dane

That is interesting. I did not realize they could survive in colder regions (Nor in a pine forest). Of the varieties you mentioned; would any be any good for use on the edges of my outer pines as a natural fence? How well do they hold up to deer? Thank You!
 
Dane Larsen
Posts: 15
Location: Texas, Blackland Prarie, Zone 8a
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Plant O. engelmannii as a fence. If you plant pads every 2 or 3 feet you'll have a fairly impenetrable barrier in about two years. After four years no one will even be able to get over it. Deer might browse new cladodes as they emerge, but the spines come onso quickly and the raw flesh is so acidic they'll quickly lose interest. Planting in zone 6 will definitely be an experiment, but I know they grow well in zone 7a. The only main risk is if the growing season is short the new pads might not harden off before a freeze. The risk you run with a mass planting is it's extremely attractive to sucking insects, and can develop scale if there is limited airflow.

There are low growing prickly pears that make it all the way into Canada:
O. humifusa, O. macrorhiza, O. fragilis, and O. polyacantha which is super spiny.

Some yuccas also grow under pines, and are more cold hardy than one might realize. They're deer resistant and can form an impenetrable barrier as a mass planting.
 
Dane Larsen
Posts: 15
Location: Texas, Blackland Prarie, Zone 8a
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Cortland, sorry just noticed you're in VA. Opuntia stricta is native to your area, or just south of you at least, and can be found well armed with recurved yellow spines, or nearly spineless. Might be better adapted to local conditions.
 
Cortland Satsuma
Posts: 319
Location: (Zone 7-8/Elv. 350) Powhatan, VA (Sloped Forests & Meadow)
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@ Dane

Thank You! Our area's weather is actually 7b-8a; the charts are not quite accurate for where we are. Some excellent information to follow up on; seems like it may be a good option! Sharing with the herd is fine; just do not want to be their one stop shop.
 
Posts: 3
Location: Lyndonville VT Zone Four
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I want to piggy back on this conversation and ask about polycultures with Ramps, Ostrich and king Ferns, yarrow, tea berry, gooseberry, huckleberry, mulberry, wild ginger and since i read the above post maybe some loofahs . If any body has some ideas, recommendations on some pairings i'd appreciate the advice. I was thinking about planting mostly from seed for all of these but I would also appreciate some advice on that as well. I know some maybe better to propagate differently. I'm also open to all different kids of berries but wonder which species will still have an abundant yield under the pine trees and would do well with which.

I'm also wondering if these perennials would grow well in or on the edge of the pine forest?
-Groundnut, Good King Henry, Lovage, Rhubarb, Sorrel, Violet "Rebbecca", Chicory, wild grapes
any recommendations on strains and polycultures?

I have a large old pine forest cupped around our house.  Most of the Pine's green limbs begin well above our two story house in the N.E.K of Vermont. So there is a lot of dapple light. I think they are White pines. We also have a bit of Birch amongst them with a few Maples. On the western slope between the house and pine forest we have a huge maple tree. Ive heard Ostrich ferns grow best under maples? We also have some hostas, bleeding hearts growing in the forest. We are a zone four with slight slopes facing east west and south. On the slope that is south face we have a carpet of moss growing on the ground floor.

Thank you in advance for the help, and i hope this is an okay first post.
Looking forward to hear your thoughts,
-Ash
 
pollinator
Posts: 1018
Location: Nevada, Mo 64772
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I’m trying to grow morels under mine. It’s too soon to know if it worked. I have musk strawberries around the edges. They still have branches almost all the way down so not much grows directly underneath.
 
Ken W Wilson
pollinator
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Location: Nevada, Mo 64772
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Ashley, I think your first post is fine. Welcome to the forum!

 
Posts: 66
Location: western slope of Oregon Cascades/Portland, OR
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Ken W Wilson wrote:I’m trying to grow morels under mine. It’s too soon to know if it worked.



How are you encouraging morels? This is something I want to try with the Douglas fir in my backyard. I have no idea how to begin.
 
Anna Tennis
Posts: 66
Location: western slope of Oregon Cascades/Portland, OR
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So here's my question. This thread is timely for me since I'm planning to plant under the Doug fir in my backyard. How do I get the understory plants in the ground without damaging the roots of the big tree?
 
pollinator
Posts: 518
Location: Redwood Country, Zone 9-10, 60" rain/yr,
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hugelkultur dog duck
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Anna: I would build a hugelkulture bed simulating a nurselog without digging at all near the tree, just going on top of the existing soil. Blueberries and raspberry/blackberries will go well under such conifers on rotting wood, just like they do in old-growth forests.
 
gardener
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Location: Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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As Ben suggested you can add soil, but remember this, roots need air and when you build a raised bed over tree roots you are deepening the soil which means less air can get to those roots.
Tree roots are amazing things, if you cut one, either on purpose or by accident, that root will recover and it will fork and make more roots.
For large trees, just decide where you want to plant something and dig a hole, don't just go at it but rather treat digging that hole like you are on an archeological dig.
It takes a little longer but you won't do harm to the larger roots that way.

Redhawk
 
Ken W Wilson
pollinator
Posts: 1018
Location: Nevada, Mo 64772
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Anna, I bought Morchella Importuna spawn and planted it under the pines. I bought syringes of Morchella rufobrunnea spores and sterilized grain substrate and made more spawn.I planted this around the edges. These two kinds of morels don’t necessarily have to be associated with a tree. They are sometimes called landscape morels.

I hope at least one kind produces.
 
Anna Tennis
Posts: 66
Location: western slope of Oregon Cascades/Portland, OR
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Thanks for your Doug fir thoughts. So far I've planted directly into the ground, but I like the nurselog simulation idea. I may try that as well and compare results.

Excited to try innoculating for morels!
 
Posts: 1
Location: Zone 6b, SW Indiana
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The biggest issue I have had growing edibles under pines is the lack of water.

I've been trying a small forest garden under some white pines for the past two years. The pines seem to deflect most light rains away from the forest floor. These pines were planted 30 years ago with a row of oak trees in front (south) of them. Because of the oaks, these pines grew very tall with few lower branches. Just in the last three years, we had to remove the oaks which has drastically opened up this pine forest. The problem is there does not seem to be much of any pine needle coverage on the forest floor, making it very dry this summer.

I started with haskaps (Lonicera caerulea) last year and got a good harvest the following spring, tho the berries are quite tart. Also planted ostrich ferns, hardy kiwi (just south of the pine forest for better sun), and blueberries (also south) last season. The kiwis look good but the ferns, haskap, and blueberries are suffering because of too little water. It seems as tho this forest could use a light layer of mulch until the pines can better cover the soil. This season I added a salal (Gaultheria shallon), sorrel, grape, smooth sumac, mulberry, and claytonia. Again, the lack of water is stressing them, in fact all of the claytonia has died. Just recently, I noticed some type of physalis and several small pawpaw trees growing wild in this pine forest so i may try more of them. Plans for next year include better ground coverage to hold the water in and more pawpaw trees deeper in the pine forest.

The idea to put a yucca under the pine trees sounds good but I'm out of space where it could get decent sun. Also, someone mentioned gooseberries; my understanding is they can harbor white pine blister rust, so they should not be planted anywhere near pines. Anyway, back to the topic:

Edibles under pine trees:
Pawpaw: Growing natively
Physalis: Growing natively
Kiwi: Need decent sun for a good crop (According to other growers)
Haskap
Osterich Ferns
Blueberries: Need decent sun for a good crop (According to other growers)
Salal
Sorrel
Grapes: Need decent sun for a good crop (According to other growers)
Sumac: Need decent sun for a good crop (I have seen this)
Akebia
Comfrey
Mulberry
Udo
Wintergreen
Yucca
 
Posts: 16
Location: Piedmont, North Carolina - 7b/8a
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forest garden fungi urban
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I'm not sure about Virginia, but in North Carolina all Ribes are illegal to buy and sell due to them hosting pine diseases.  I can say from my own experience that even dappled pine shade really cuts down on blueberry production.  I just moved some plants to try and get them more sun.  I have a fig and some yucca on the southwestern edge of the stand that do pretty well where the high limbs let in a fair amount of sun.  The deeper shade is where I keep my shitake logs...  The pines in my area, southern yellow, slash etc. drop a lot of needles in the fall.  I have heard people having success growing greens like kale and spinach when the canopy thins out.  I tried this once without success because the lower sun angle became an issue for me.  Other than that, I have seen paw paw, all sorts of wild grapes and black cherry growing in pine stands, but as with the berries, the heavier the shade, the lighter the fruit seems to be.  The margins are where you have to focus your attention.  I might try a few of the other ideas already put forth and see what works.

Another thing that interests me is silvopasture under pines.  Where pines are thin enough, forage can be grown.  The pine savanna is the natural state of things here in the southern coastal plain and silvopasture could take advantage of this.  I know there is a lot research going on, but I have not seen it done near me.
 
Posts: 8
Location: Western Oregon, Zone 8
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Josh Kirksey wrote:This season I added a salal (Gaultheria shallon), sorrel, grape, smooth sumac, mulberry, and claytonia. Again, the lack of water is stressing them, in fact all of the claytonia has died.



Claytonia is one of my favorite wild greens - the Siberian variant is native to this region. It's one of the earliest greens in springtime, is packed with Vitamin C and has a wonderful citrus flavor. It is a tender springtime annual and so it's perfectly normal for it to have died back by mid-August when you wrote this post. I would look for it again next spring. :)
 
Posts: 82
Location: Kitsap Penninsula, WA
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PNW - here's what is growing under our pine and fir trees on the farm (we have pine and fir ringing our entire farm in groves ranging from 30 feet wide to 120 feet wide and larger):

Blueberries, native huckleberries (blue and black), salal, all sorts of ferns, mushrooms (wild and accidental morels!), herbs like thyme and mint (lot's of mint and on the south side of pine trees where they get the sun), rosa rugosa (south side as well).

Huckleberries do the best, we get loads of berries every year but mostly feed them to the chickens,  and I've also underplanted in areas that get dappled sun with perennial spinach (new zealand spinach), swiss chard that just naturalizes and goes crazy, and perennial leeks. The rabbits love the leeks and so I've been planting them along the edge of our furthest stand of trees - to lure them away!(Spoiler: doesn't work. But whatever). We are trialing lingonberries under the trees as well....

I have also planted comfrey all over the place, but that is new and don't know how they will do in the soil directly under the pines. They get leggy in shade around here, so thinking they might not do so well.

I basically went on hikes around our area and just took notes on what was growing naturally, then thought about native species that have the same growing habit as the plants I was seeing and then just started experimenting. Fun!
 
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Hey I'm new and was doing research when I found this gem of a site.

I was wondering (as I've always been told otherwise) will huckelberry bushes produce at low altitudes. With that said I'd like to utilize some shaded spots under pine trees at low altitudes here in Washington (Seattle) in zone 8B. Ideas, suggestions?
 
Posts: 203
Location: NNSW Australia
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I have mugwort happily growing under pine trees, its edible, but I favour it for biomass production, aroma and medicinal properties.
 
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