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Edibles for under pine trees

 
Kim Hill
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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
 
John Elliott
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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.
 
chrissy bauman
Posts: 131
Location: Sunset Zone 27, Florida
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here, prickly pear cactus thrives under the shade of pine trees.
 
Kim Hill
Posts: 78
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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
 
Asaf Green
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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) )
 
Jordan Lowery
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Location: zone 7
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Gooseberries grow best at the base of large pines, excellent companion plants.
 
John Elliott
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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.
 
Mark Mcgoldrick
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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
 
Lindsay Rebhan
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
 
Jen Shrock
pollinator
Posts: 363
Location: NW Pennsylvania Zone 5B bordering on Zone 6
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cranberries and wintergreen
 
Dane Larsen
Posts: 13
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.
 
Cortland Satsuma
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: 13
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: 13
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.
 
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