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hi folks,
new guy here.  my name is nick.  i live in southwest virginia and am super excited to have found this forum and i look forward to participating in the discussions!

I posted these links in the self-seeding vegetables thread, but i thought it may be nice to have a thread devoted specifically to forest gardening.  the world of forest garden design is vastly unexplored at this point since it is so new.   i thought it would be great to be able to share forest gardening ideas and experimentation.

Forest Gardening is spectacular stuff!  Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier have done a fabulous job of drawing from a variety of existing disciplines including permaculture, ecology and soil science to further develop this truly ecologically centered design process.  F.G., as i understand it, mimics forest ecology in order to develop self-renewing fertility in gardens that require minimal external inputs and maintainence.  It can be described as gardening LIKE the forest, not necessarily IN the forest. Controlling the direction of succession is a big part of it, but i haven't quite wrapped my mind around this yet. 

Here are the books by these 2 awesome innovators

"Edible Forest Gardening" (Volumes I & II):
http://www.amazon.com/Edible-Forest-Gardens-2-set/dp/1890132608/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262237514&sr=1-2

"Perennial Vegetables: From Artichokes to Zuiki Taro"
http://www.amazon.com/Perennial-Vegetables-Artichokes-Gardeners-Delicious/dp/1931498407

One thing i am especially interested in learning from other forest gardeners is the success or failure of specific experimental Overyielding Polyculture designs.  for those of you playing aound with this, but not calling it by the same name an "Overyielding Polyculture"  a mixture of different plants that create higher yields together than when planted alone in a monoculture.  it's like the concept of Synergy applied to the food, farmaceutical or fuel yields.  one example of a successful polyculture is fruit trees underplanted with comfrey.  the orchard produces more fruit when underplanted with the dynamic accumulator. AND the comfrey can be used medicinally and as mulch.  same area, more yield.  Awesome!

i look forward to hearing from all you forest gardeners out there! -nick



 
Jordan Lowery
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i am in the process of creating a food forest. all i can say for now is it is very exciting!
 
                    
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My partner and I are sooooo excited about this concept too!  We've read book one and we're starting on the nitty gritty design stages presented in book two.  We're designing a smaller forest garden strictly for people in front of our future house site, but the larger acre+ area we'll work on in later years will also need to incorporate various animal grazing routines.  We want to use pastured animal husbandry as part of our soil disturbance and development tools.  The pigs will primarily be our roto-rooters in the field for beginning soil improvements.   David Jacke and Eric lastnametohardtospellrightnowsorry emphasize that a few years spent improving the soil will almost always translate to faster growing and producing trees later, and we're taking that seriously.  We'll be learning about design as we plant the smaller front yard area, and creating a nursery of sorts from which we'll be able to pull stock for the larger site when we get to it and when its ready. 

We can't sheet mulch 3 acres, though this is our plan for instant succession in the yard area.  Our neighbor makes lotions and he has agreed to give us the 2" thick cardboard that encases the giant pallet bags of coconut oil he uses.  That might stop the cowpea for a minute or two.....geeze that stuff is persistant.  But it's good animal forage so we aren't trying to eliminate it everywhere.  Well, we probably won't be able to eliminate it everywhere so it's better to accept its presence, me thinks. 

The most challenging aspect of the whole giant garden-in-the-shape-of-a-forest idea, for us, is succession.  I bought an old homestead with about a dozen giant old apple trees, surrounded by perennial cow peas and other 'weeds'.  So we have to think about the death and removal (or maybe not removal) of these big ol beauties in the next 15 -25 years.  Do we intentinally leave open spots so we can fell them when they're aren't producing anymore?  Do we leave them for dead standing timber habitat?  Probably some of both. 

The apple trees are spaced 25 feet apart (they range between 15 and 30 feet tall), so we have lots of space to develop planted 'nuclei' around their trunks.  But again, these trees are nearing the end of their lives, and we can't plan for them to be there as a fruit producer.  We believe that they are 'own root' trees, meaning the scion was encouraged to root and these became the trees - they aren't grafted onto different root stock.  Their size and age lead someone who knows waaaay more about fruit trees than I do to this conclusion.   We want to try doing that again, using scions of the nicest apple makers.  But - how much fruit can you really eat and store away and sell?  We want to plant more nut trees as they have storeable and therefore more sellable fat and protein.  We have lots of mature black oaks and two black walnut trees, but will probably use those mostly for animal forage.  I think out in the larger field we'll end up with areas exclusively for animal forage, with perennial grasses and herbs that they like, areas that are grazed seasonally (after fruit drop and whatnot), and areas that are fenced off and entirely for human consumption.  We are going to have to pay very close attention to what plants have leaves that are edible for our livestock.  We want to use hedges and fedges instead of permanent fences.....ahhh the possibilities!  And the work!  Good thing we're young. 
 
                          
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hi marina,
it's nice to share my enthusiasm for forest gardening with someone!  i just wish u all were closer.  u have to post more pics of ur land!  it sounds amazing. i'm so jelous of the gravity fed spring water!

i hear ya about not being able to sheet mulch multiple acres.  here's what i'm doing...i'll let u know if it works out the way i plan.  im taking the soil improvement very seriously, too.  as much as i hate to admit that i'm no spring chicken anymore and want to get all of my late succession woodies in now (nuts, fruit, etc) so i can enjoy them before i'm 80, i have chosen to really prepare the soil well. here' what i'm doing...i smother out sod and perennial weeds with either used carpet or poly-underlayment fabric (for gravel driveways).  martin crawford is referenced by dave and eric to have done this.  the stuff isn't cheap; i dropped $400 on a 12' wide 350' roll of the stuff.  i find that it doesn't take an entire year to kill what's underneath if it's hot and moist.  i really didn't want to try to plow under the sod the conventional way farmers approach a fallow field with a mouldboard plow.  i think it kills the soil life and burns off nutrients more than anyone wants to admit.  and the erosion is another thing entirely. but, hey, when ur throwing down chemical fertilizer to feed the plants and not the soil, who cares, right? when the sod is good and dead i subsoil the ground with something like this:

http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.kingkutter.com/images/SubSoiler.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.kingkutter.com/WholeGood.asp%3Fitem%3DSubSoiler&usg=__1ZYjJyzwUPAQlKIUcS5GvX0v_0s=&h=325&w=300&sz=8&hl=en&start=9&sig2=UJdDczMlVCpYmFNKXhzkow&tbnid=fhjO80VvJUTRwM:&tbnh=118&tbnw=109&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dsubsoiler%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DG&ei=-nY-S5TAEoyVtge6woXPCA

then, add ammendments according to my soil tests. i adjust PH with a 50/50 mix of dolomitic and calcitic lime, deal with clay-ey soils with pelletized gypsum that passes organic stadards (the binding agent that makes the dust pelletized in some gypsum products can be really toxic so be careful!).  my land needed boron really badly, and was deficient in phosphorus so i add elemental boron and two different kinds of phosphate rock.  subsoil again, then seeded cover crops;  crimson clover, winter rye and hairy vetch and the appropriate inoculants all at once.  i hear that rye is an excellent weed germination suppressant in the spring.  thanks for the heads up about the cowpeas.  i was going to try that next season.  i guess hairy vetch can be very hard to get rid of, too.  with my tri-mix i think i will just mow and use it as mulch around plantings, and allow the plantings to grow into the cover crops as dave suggests in the book. i went with crimson clover over something lower like white because it breaks up clay better with it's deep roots.  my mountain land is serious clay a little way below the topsoil.

what is ur soil like?  are u planning on adding soil improvers or dynamic accumulator plants in with the cover crops?  i want to put in comfrey asap since it's allegedly the "kind of DA's".

don't give up on ur ancient apple trees just yet.  michael phillips, the author of The Apple Grower, has apples that are over 100 years old at his place.  what kind of apples do u have? is fire blight an issue where u are?  we have it bad in sw va.

u mentioned lifestock...i just learned that cattle can die from eating the leaves and limbs of wild cherry trees.  just an FYI.  hopefully u won't be raising cattle, but i thought i would mention it.

do u have deer pressure?  what is a fedge?  i'd love to hear more about ur design ideas and what else ur doing.  what cereals did u grow?  did u cultivate with a tiller or tractor? what zone r u guys in?

one other thing, u mentioned black walnuts...i haven't tried it yet, but u can graft english walnuts onto blacks!!!  it takes a special grafting method because the walnuts bleed so badly and make it hard to get the union to stick.  all i know is from what i've seen online.  it's a similar method to grafting cultivated  grapes onto wild grapes.  the bleeding cause a real problem.

if u guys want to trade seeds or seedling stock i am growing wild persimmon and paw paws and will have a bunch extra.  i also have wild pears (which can be used as root stock for asian pear and pear scions).  they can be shipped as soon as i can get into the ground to dig them. -nick
 
                              
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Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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Some one mentioned using underlayment as weed barrier.  I don't recommend it.  I hate all Perm weed barriers because they don't work forever and once something does grow through one, it is even more difficult to get rid of because there is now a barrier in your way!!!  Even worse you are talking about a poly barrier (you mean like plastic) Ok, that is not gonna let the water into the ground and won't let the ground breath.  If you don't want to kill off the soil life, don't smother it with plastic, that kills microbes too.
I've tried to solarize sections of garden in the summer before (I'm in a hot climate) it didn't slow down the grass that much.

As to cow peas, there are different varieties.  Annual southern peas like cow peas and crowder peas and black eye peas etc can make great nitrogen fixing crops that can provide some fodder for animals as well as food for people!  The are definitely a good hot weather nitrogen fixer for a food forest.

I don't know much about perennial cow peas, now you got me interested.  Do they produce any good pods?  I'd never actually heard of perennial cow peas before.  Perennial food crops are of definite interest around here.  I wouldn't go trying to irradiate them unless they are truly a problem.  What sort of trouble do they cause?  I could see them tending to smother small plants in a garden plot but that should be fairly easy to reclaim using the thick cardboard method.

About those old apple trees.  I didn't know there was a specific life span to an apple tree.  I've seen some that become like a stump with an apple shrub attached that don't produce well but some yearly pruning could probably even bring them back.  There is an old apple tree at my great great grandmother's house that really gets no attention and the apples are rarely exciting but if some one were to prune the thing, it usually produces more the year after pruning.  I'm sure that tree was probably planted by the 1890's and probably not grafted.
 
                          
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hi TCLynx,
the  underlayment is used to kill the sod and then is removed so that cover crops can have a head start in the "succession race".  i put the fabric down until things look dead and then subsoil, ammend, sow covers.  were u thinking that i was leaving this stuff down permanently?  that would kind of F-up the whole process of mulching to ammend the soil.  i get that part at least.

what did u"solarize" with? and for how long?  did u plant anything after removing it?  i think the key to making this work is immediate niche replacement with plant analogs, then giving that replacement a helping hand to get a serious jump on the competitors in the succession race.  that is why i planted three cover crops.  dave talks about resource partitioning; planting things together with different different architectures, nutrient needs and root patterns together so they don't compete as much and they take up niches that would otherwise be filled with unwanted "weeds".  i have been suprised at how well the rye, crimson clover and vetch have inhibited other things from growing.  i have some perennial docks and something that looks like goldenrod that i'm hoping they won't return in such force.

marina's apple trees:  i think u guys could try to revive these trees.  compost rings with soil improving herb layer beneath, trim out dead wood at first.  if they need serious trimming do it in stages over a few years.  pruning super heavy can be hard on them...so i have read.  i pruned some old volunteer seedling trees on my property very heavily and they haven't fruited since.  i think the tree responds by putting all of it's energy into limb and leaves after a heavy pruning.  if it were me, don't cut those things down until u are certain they are completely dead. i bet u can get a lot more productive life out of them!

lynx, where r u located?
 
                              
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Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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I'm in Inland central Florida along the Florida Ridge.  It's too hot here without enough stead cool weather through winter to really count as a temp climate and we get enough freezes to not be tropical.  So Sub-tropical it is.  Since it is Florida I don't usually see the extreme temp variations like one might in the desert but I'm not near enough to the coast to get the extreme moderating effects that allow some of the coastal areas to have some really good spring gardening.  My weather the last few years seems to go from still chances of freeze to too hot too fast to grow much in the way of frost sensitive but cool weather crops without some sort of frost/freeze protection.

Anyway, that is where I'm at.

As to after solarizing, I wasn't planting an orchard or anything like that (I'm only on a small lot) so I was really just working on some garden beds and didn't do long term cover crops after that experiment.  I think we had the plastic down for 6 weeks June into July.  The grass I have here isn't really what I would call sod,  The annoying grass here has deep rhizomes that did survive the solarization. 
 
Jordan Lowery
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i have just chopped the weeds down where they grew and mulched over them with homemade leaf mold, around 5-6 inches. haven't had a weed pop up and its been a few months since i have done it. there were some hardy plants there too. its also improving the soil at the same time, increasing the worm population, and keeping the soil moist when its hot( just not atm because it is winter)

i wouldnt chop the trees down either, there is a apple tree down by the road, an old timer here says its been there over 100 years. long before he was a little boy hes 89. this year they got a little supplemental watering in the summer, they produced more fruit than he has seen it produce in years. simply with giving it a little water in the summer heat.
 
                          
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soil:  wow, that sounds great.  i would love to try that in a few spots, but the area i'm working on is about 3 acres so i had to do something that would cover more ground.

lynx:  yeah, 6 weeks wouldn't do it.  martin crawford leaves his on for 12 months before planting into it. i left mine on for about 5 months before removing it.  is ur ground very sandy?  when i think of florida, i think of sand.
 
                              
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wolfmtn wrote:
soil:  wow, that sounds great.  i would love to try that in a few spots, but the area i'm working on is about 3 acres so i had to do something that would cover more ground.

I think the trick here would be doing small sections at a time rather than trying to clear and cover the hole thing at once.


lynx:  yeah, 6 weeks wouldn't do it.  martin crawford leaves his on for 12 months before planting into it. i left mine on for about 5 months before removing it.  is ur ground very sandy?  when i think of florida, i think of sand.

Yea, I just don't think I can leave large areas of ground smothered under plastic long term.  I think 6-12 weeks depending on weather can help against certain soil pests but it will still kill off many beneficial ones too.  As to leaving for 12 months.  I suspect that will kill off many weed problems by smothering them beyond dormancy, unfortunately, some seeds will survive and simply wait till the covering is removed or disturbed.  5 months of simply covering may not be effective unless you are targeting a very specific weed and know how to time the covering to deal best with it, then be ware of new weeds that will take advantage of the loss of competition.

Sandy, yes very sandy here.  I have created some very nice soil by adding huge amounts of organic matter but it is still sandy.  Not all of Florida is sand but my area is very sandy.
 
                    
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Well, does this site have photo hosting or does it need an external host?  This is a link to the set of our farm photos at my flickr account, more than you'd ever care to look at. 

http://www.flickr.com/photos/fishermansdaughter/sets/72157605315077337/

And yes, I wake up every morning and ask myself "do I really get live here?  Wow!"

Oh geese, those trees.  It's going to be a multi-year project to get them rehabilitated.  Many of their main trunks are hollow, they've all had their branches pulled down and off by bears doing their thing for 30-40 years, they're really big but pretty scruffy looking.  We're definitely going to start the pruning process this winter, but you're right, on old apples - especially if you cut too much - overstimulation of the sucker growth can kill the tree or set it waaaay back in productivity.  Soooo.....we're starting with the dead stuff and there's lots of that do deal with.  Several - like 6 or 7 - of them have very nice apple varieties, and we know this because almost all of them produced at least a few apples, and a few of the healthier trees produced a whole whole lot.  (We were given a huge fruit press this summer, that also needs some work but we'll be in the cider trade before too long.)  The ones that didn't fruit are the ones in worse condition, and we plan to try and coax some fruit before we make any removal decisions.  They're really neat old trees, and we're going to help them out as best we can, but what is certain is that they are definitely closer to the end of their lives than to the beginning.  We probably shouldn't count on them being our apple producers in 60 years, you know?  But you're right, with some TLC they might just live on and on.  We're going to have to take it year by year, and we will plant their replacements sometime in the next five years, but that doesn't mean we'll cut anything down before we plant new ones.  We want to construct little 'hats' to keep the water out of the hollow trunks....talked about that this summer but didn't get around to it before the rain.  I think keeping moisture out of there will help slow down their internal decomposition. 

Wolfmtn:  Oh we totally want to trade!  I want paw paws for sure.  And the pear stock sounds nice.  Not huge fans of persimmons are we.  I've tried, I really have. 

Regarding plastic weed barriors.....I'm kind of a plastic snob and try to avoid it, so that's my main reason for the cardboard.  I guess if it's just for solarization (although I have my doubts about the actual effectiveness of that....but I guess with any disturbance method the most important thing is to plant as soon as you remove the barrior) it's not so bad but I'm with Lynx on how it can make things worse in the long term if it's supposed to be a "permanent" barrior.  There is no such thing. 

I've never seen anything like the peas we have (but I'm new to california - grew up in colorado).  I call them cow peas because that's what the old timer neighbors here call it.  From the ground up they look like any vigorous pea, except they have a....grassier looking stem?  I'm not a horticulturist unfortunately.  They have purple and pink flowers in june (the field looks just gorgeous that time of year) and yes, they make copious amounts of pea pods - making them excellent animal fodder.  Ok, but when you dig them up!  You'll trace a giant bush of them back to a large, usually 2-3" diameter tough, woody root that goes down for 4-6 feet.  And because of these roots they grow back from under whatever mulch you put on top of them.  I had a car parked all last winter, and in the spring the peas had grown in the dark all the way up through the engine and out the hood, looking for light.  They can grow a really loooong ways in the total darkness.  So we've been using it as chop and drop mulch in the garden.  With a taproot that big they are probably dynamic accumulators.  Except for getting tall and shading things, they don't actually seem to compete with soil surface roots.  Our garden this year did very well even in the place where we just rotitilled and mulched, with no cardboard.  I'd just go through with my sickle and drop the pea every other week.  We intend to practice no-till farming, and used the tiller this first year to turn the field into a terraced garden.  I seeded clover and buckwheat everywhere there wasn't dead mulch.  I can't stand bare dirt!

We have volcanic, silty soil with tons of organic matter - thanks to those same peas.  The field has been in continuous cover cropping for a long time.  Nearly toxic levels of magnesium, and we're in the "red" zone on the soil chart for iron.  In areas with less orcagnic matter it's bright red, which I thought was going to be like "georgia red" clay, but it's not clay, it's silt.  I have to try and convince neighbors that on a semi-regular basis.  Not much calcium, no nitrogen, not much phosphorous.  I don't think the peas are nitrogen fixers - no nodules on the roots, and again, no nitrogen in our soil.  Most of our gardening books have a east coast bias - all about limestone and clay, and we have nothing of the sort.  We had to add 25 bags of bentonite to the pond to get it to hold water...

We're so far north in Cali we're almost in Oregon.  We can see Mt. Shasta on the drive to our town with a population of less than 200.  We get between 60 and 80 inches of water a year (and can get over 100 in wet years) - but it all comes between september and june.  Gets very hot and dry in the summer - no humidity to speak of and highs in the 100+.  We're a warm zone 6, probably a 7.  We're still eating completely unprotected brocolli and kale even though it's snowed a couple of times, the brussel sprouts I have in barrels in front of the cabin are still growing....might get to some edible size by spring (if they don't get crushed by snow off the roof)?!  I'm not very scientific about amendments....hope to get better at this.  I added some bat guano and oyster shell to everything and that seems to be working? 

Wolf, I'd highly recommend buckwheat as a cover crop for warm weather.  They can't handle any kind of frost, but the seeds sprout in 12 hours and have huge flat leaves in their young life - perfect for shading out other things.  If you chop it before they seed all the way they'll accumulate phosophorous in the soil.  They're amazing bee fodder.  And we harvested just some of ours (it grows so fast you can get several crops a summer here) and got 4 gallons of buckwheat seeds, to eat and replant!  Freshly toasted and ground buckwheat pancakes are probably the best thing ever. 

THANK you for the tip about wild cherries - we have three cultivated ones and probably a dozen more wild ones, but we don't really have the acreage for cattle.  We dream about a milk cow but in reality we'll probably have to have a deal with one of our neighbors that have big ol pastures. 

There are many old forgotten or out of use farms and ranches up here in the cascades, but I think I'm seeing a trend of people who want to bring the land back to life moving here.  My place is one of four properties that have sold in the last 18 months, and all of the new owners are fairly young or very young and have permaculture-y plans or intentions.  The newest arrival just moved in a week ago and they actually want to have a permaculture education center there.  We'll see how that all works out.  I hear a lot of things and see proportionately way less action, generally. 

A single patch of comfrey was growing when I moved here, and I divided the old plant into 27 new ones....I'll have more to trade by spring I'm sure.  That soil ripper looks interesting.  Are you dealing with lots of compaction?  We're lucky to have pretty ok soil and I'm completely tyrannical about preventing cars going anywhere other than the roads. 
 
Jami McBride
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Posts: 1948
Location: PNW Oregon
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Great slide-show of pictures marinajade..... I really enjoyed them!

My aunt used to live up your way, but has since moved to Idaho.  You say land is selling so I guess the reality recession hasn't affected that area much, interesting. 

I subscribed to your flicker and hope to see more photos as your plans unfold.


 
                              
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Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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Those peas sound more like what I know as sweet peas except for the big root you describe, I've not gone digging for the roots of the sweet peas I remember growing up in Michigan.  Plants look like pea plants, get pea pods and have pea like flower that are bright dark pink. 

The Cow peas I'm used to now here in the south (Southern Peas as many call them) actually look like bean plants to me with the three leaves and twining vines instead of grasping tendrils.  The pods on southern peas are skinny and long more like beans and can be dried like many types of beans for storage.  Think black eye peas when talking of Southern Peas (they also like hot weather while most other peas like cool weather.)
 
                    
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Thanks for the interest and encouragement, jami!  I upload pictures all the time now that we have DSL in the cabin.  haha.  Not really roughing it anymore, though we still don't have a shower in the wintertime.  But it's hard to get dirty in the snow...or when I spend hours parked in front of this machine.  It's ok, it's educational! Right? 

I'm no economic analyst, but I suspect that other people buying land are also considering it to be one of the few very safe investments.  I had other reasons besides investing for wanting to buy land and live out away from a city somewhere, of course.  I didn't think I could afford california but as I searched for places with spring water this place popped up within my budget...first and only place I looked at in person (the internet is so awesome) and I love it more every day. 

I had inheritance money that enabled me to buy it outright, and apparently that's what the owner was waiting for (it was on the market for several years).  There's no real house here to borrow against and he didn't want to carry....I don't know what my new neighbor's financial details are, that's something I don't generally ask because eventually people vollunteer.  Two of them are group endeavors, I think. 

And not to put it in terms of capitalistic growth, but I think a forest garden can be viewed as a long term investment as well.  Back before everyone had to have a six figure salary to be successful, wealth was viewed in terms of tangible goods - the woodshed full of fuel, the grainary bursting with seed, the cellar containing crocks of ferments, ciders, veggies.  We see our forest garden as a tangible, edible retirement plan.  We're spending time and money today so that we can feed ourselves with less effort when we're old.  I want to die out here, and make it so awesome that my kids are excited to live here too.  Our forest garden is central to this dream. 
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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Marina, you aren't really all that far from us, though it looks like you must be on the west side of the mountains -- we can see Mt. Shasta on our way home from town if it isn't too hazy or cloudy.  Your pictures are beautiful -- you get a LOT more rain there than we do here!

Kathleen
 
Jami McBride
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Location: PNW Oregon
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And not to put it in terms of capitalistic growth, but I think a forest garden can be viewed as a long term investment as well.  Back before everyone had to have a six figure salary to be successful, wealth was viewed in terms of tangible goods - the woodshed full of fuel, the grainary bursting with seed, the cellar containing crocks of ferments, ciders, veggies.  We see our forest garden as a tangible, edible retirement plan.  We're spending time and money today so that we can feed ourselves with less effort when we're old.  I want to die out here, and make it so awesome that my kids are excited to live here too.  Our forest garden is central to this dream.



Exactly the way I look at it, and my plan for retirement too 

How did you search for your land - google?
 
                    
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Hmm....I'm sure the search started with google!  My ex-boyfriend found it on a realty company's site.  I was drawn to the big old fruit trees, but really, it's the spring water that's the value.  Can make anything grow with that! 

Yes, Kathleen, we're on the western slope.  A little bowl of a valley, I guess clouds get stuck here.  We get more precipitation than most places around us.  You're more high-dessert, right?
 
                                          
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marinajade wrote:
I've never seen anything like the peas we have (but I'm new to california - grew up in colorado).  I call them cow peas because that's what the old timer neighbors here call it.  From the ground up they look like any vigorous pea, except they have a....grassier looking stem? 


Hi Marinajade!
Those "cowpeas" are wild vetch, an excellent nitrogen fixer and compost material

Waving from further down the coast
lc carol
 
                    
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Well after seeing some pictures I think it is indeed wild vetch.  Thanks very much siderea!  I had a feeling that wasn't quite right calling them peas.  Never seen a pea with a root like that. 
 
Heda Ledus
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I am so jealous!!! I fear by the time I get all the things I need done to get my forty acres all you older people will take the best land 

At any case I am one who loves farming; loves seeds, fruits and nuts, and I love Temperate Rain Forests which just so happens to be what this ebook I have deals with:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/2029243/West-Coast-Food-Forestry

Its for the west coaster; but it might not be compatible elsewhere since no place in California has humidity in the summer nor does it have much to worry about with crazy weather.

I don't like that Eric Toeinser book much; I thumbed through it but from what little pratice he himself has done aswell as the (I believe) outrageous price on the books I find it to be on the levels of pure extortion. (So said since there is very little knowledge of this kind of growing )

Which is why I am learning about the forests themselves and am focusing on Non-European/East Asian crops which are quite expansive when it comes to their various environments.

 
Travis Philp
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I've just moved onto a 100 acre piece of land and plan to use the forest gardening model to produce most of my food and income. I'm a bit overwhelmed at all the possibilities and my lack of experience with forest gardening but luckily I have the winter and a nearby library at a college of natural resources at my disposal.

My biggest hurdle will be getting the funds to buy the trees and other plant/seed stock. I have a lot of wild plants to draw from but around here its mostly pioneer species. If only buying trees could work like buying televisions or furniture " buy now, pay later"
 
                              
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I know what you mean about coming up with the money to buy plant stock.  But It is probably good to start small and do it a little at a time anyway!!!  Now my location, I don't even have an acre to work with but I'm also saving up money for building a house on another lot so everything I do, I will probably have to do again after we build and move.

Anyway, I spent a little time yesterday moving volunteer Loquat seedlings to new locations.  Hay free!!! And I know the tree can do well here with not extra attention because the adult hasn't gotten any.

I also do some dividing of banana clumps (or mostly removing the suckers and planting them elsewhere.)  I have had one of the free bananas actually fruit last fall.

Now as you can tell by some of the plants I mention, I'm in a sub tropical climate.  This has some huge advantages but probably just as many disadvantages.  It seems there are plenty of things appropriate to temperate climate and lots of info on gardening there and Tropics have had lots of permaculture done in them.  However, sub tropics get too cold for most truely tropical plants but are too hot or too few chill hours to grow most of the well known temperate fruits and nuts.

But I have the benefit of gardening year round so I guess it gives me more time to experiment each year.

So how much time Have you gotten to spend exploring your 100 acres to see what treasures might be living there?
 
Jordan Lowery
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travis, learn propagation skills. most of the plants for a food forest can be acquired by cuttings or root divisions. leaving you with only fruit trees to buy, or if you have time you could even do that on the cheap by grafting your own rootstocks. youll be surprised how many people are willing to share a cutting of some berry bush they have, or some seeds of some veggies.
 
                          
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soil, GREAT advise!  dansgarden.com has a terrific seed and plant exchange forum.  for the price of shipping people will send u all sorts of plants.  is there a seed/plant exchange on here?  maybe we could do it the way they do....each person has a "want" list and a "have" list.  i will make my lists and post them as soon as i have some more time.
 
                              
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Exchange good idea.

It would be helpful if people on here were to note on their profiles where they are located though so we could tell what climate the plants would be coming from to know if they would be likely to survive the exchange.
 
Brenda Groth
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well you mentioned not necessarily gardening IN FORESTS ..but LIKE FORESTS....and I'm attempting to do both here..and have been for 38 years..but a housefire (lightening) in 2002 caused a major reconstruction of our property as we moved the house and drainfield and some of the gardens and trees.

we lost nearly all of our fruit trees and some other trees during that period in 2002 so those areas are being redone now with baby trees..however..we took a totally bare front yard and side yard and turned it totally into a forest of mixed trees, perennials, vines and ground covers..and it is pretty much full grown now with even an oak we planted from an acorn that is now quite large.

around the NEW house since the housefire, and our other buildings..we are putting in mixed beds of  fruit and nut trees with vines, perennial and a few annual crops, ground covers..etc..

we have a few larger trees somewhat close and one is a self seeded apple that is around 20 years old..a catalpa and some ash trees. we also planted a windbreak of black spruce along our west property line picket fence.

in anothe garden we have planted a lot of nut and fruit trees, berry plants and some herbs and perennial plants and grape vines..

but then beind that we have our actual forest that we have allowed to grow from aspen trees with mixed maple ash and oak trees and a few wild cherrieds..we have planted the edge with 3 nut trees there too and are working on building up the soil so that we can plant more and more plants at the edge of the forest in thenext few years.

 
Jami McBride
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Posts: 1948
Location: PNW Oregon
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Try your local freecycle (yahoo group) or (craigslist) and post a WANTED in myarea - list of plants.  Also search yahoo groups for gardening clubs in your area.

Like others have said, people over run with this or that plant are happy to share (you dig, you haul) and then their are others (going urban) that are happy if you take away all the plants in an area!  The trick is to be specific so those reading don't have to read between your lines.  Say you want a fig tree - live twig for planting, etc.

Best of luck ♣
 
paul wheaton
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
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wolfmtn wrote:
dansgarden.com has a terrific seed and plant exchange forum. 


I just tried to go there and it didn't work.  ??
 
                              
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Perhaps he meant http://davesgarden.com
I did find a dansgarden member page on Davesgarden.com
 
paul wheaton
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I would like to advise that you research sources for tree and shrub seeds.

And when you are thinking about how close to plant stuff, I would not want two apple trees closer than 100 feet unless I had a powerfully compelling reason to do otherwise (like a tiny lot).    So if you shaped the land to have a terrace, on the slope between terraces, you might have:  apple, nut, legume, cherry, nut, legume, mulberry, oak, legume, apple ....

Diversity!

 
                              
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Paul,
100 feet apart on apple trees?  Does that mean that you might only plant one?
    They make note of growing two different types of apples together for cross pollination I think (at least for one of the varieties of apple I've looked at, low chill due to my climate) so I would think I would want them a little closer together than at opposite corners of my property.
I am dealing with what you would call a small lot though.  A little more than 1/3rd of an acre at the moment and the next property is almost one acre only a few blocks away.  (Perhaps I'll take over the neighborhood.)

Who has advise for small lot forest gardening and still getting diversity etc?  I already have a fair amount of stuff growing and I generally only cut things down when I decide they are in the way, as I get more diversity planted, oak trees are being cut back to share the light.
 
Travis Philp
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TCLynx wrote:
So how much time Have you gotten to spend exploring your 100 acres to see what treasures might be living there?


I've spent a bit of time and explored most of the property but I've only seen it in fall and winter so the herbaceous layer is a mystery to me aside from the evergreen ferns, grasses, and poison ivy that I've seen.

Thanks for the suggestions on propagation and leads as to how to find free or bartered plant stock. I have some experience taking cuttings and plan to do so in a big way, as well as trying grafting. There's a farm nearby who I hear offers cuttings for free and they apparently have some exotic stock including several grape varieties, hardy kiwi, and apricots of the top of my head. There's also a native plant nursery just down the road who has offered their stock if I want cuttings and they have a red mulberry that I've got my eye on, among other plants.

I do wish to go big on a few tree crops that I don't think I'll find anywhere else including asian pears, hardy fig, plum, apricot and seaberry among others so I'll probably have to bite the bullet and shell out some dough for those. I fond what seems to be a great source for these types of trees and more in Quebec.

http://www.greenbarnnursery.ca/Products.page


Paul...have you or someone you know planted a commercial stand of trees with 100 foot spacing? I agree with you that diversity in an orchard is important but that seems inefficient in terms of travel time for both harvest and care. Maybe I'm wrong. My plant was to have something like:

Pear Alder Pear Alder Pear...
PAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATH
Seabry Apricot Seabry Apricot...   
PAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATH         
Pear Alder Pear Alder Pear... 

Every 200 feet or so there'd be a solid windbreak line of eastern white cedar or possibly white pine or spruce. I also would like to incorporate gooseberrries and/or currants on the south side of each row in between each tree. Oh, and the Seabry stands for Seaberry or Sea Buckthorn

 
                    
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Is there a thread about do-it-yourself cartography?  We spent yesterday tromping all over with tapes and a measuring wheel, creating a map of the apple trees.  Now we're using the known tree points to figure out the subtler slopes that are all over this "flat" field.  We're letting the lay of the land inform our design - there are already natural high points that we can encourage into swales, and we discovered a natural bowl that might turn into a shallow or seasonal pond.

Any information about standing water near or on apple tree roots?  This bowl touches three apple trees, I'm concerned about a pond causing rot from below. 

Triangulation and figuring out contours with an A-frame were the most yawny parts of my PDC (for me, and mostly because it feels like math), but they've turned out to be the most useful things I learned!  Planning on paper makes you quite literally see what's there from a new perspective. 

The most important part of creating a map of where you live is that it forces you to notice everything in detail.  I've lived here for over a year, walked around the field we were working in yesterday countless times, and at the end of the day I felt like I know it so much better than I did, it's like discovering something totally new. 

Thanks for sharing about davesgarden!  We plan to order a couple of each plant we want and propagate ourselves from there. 
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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marinajade wrote:
Yes, Kathleen, we're on the western slope.  A little bowl of a valley, I guess clouds get stuck here.  We get more precipitation than most places around us.  You're more high-dessert, right?


Yes, we're high desert here, with about 17 inches of annual precipitation (and none from mid-June to around October).  The water table isn't too low here; our well is only about eighty feet deep with water about half-way up it (there are areas where the water table is so deep that people can't even have wells), but no springs or ponds.  The soil is heavy and turns into rock in the summer if it isn't watered.  It's probably a bit alkaline, too.  So there are some challenges.  One encouraging thing, though, is that I've seen a couple of producing black walnuts in town -- I wasn't sure they'd grow here!  And fruit trees will grow and produce, most years, if you can keep the mule deer from killing them!  So far, in the five years we've been here, I've got an apple tree and two plums, and a lilac bush, that have survived -- not doing very well (my goats got one apple tree, and the deer or a disease killed most everything else -- I'm going to have to plant stuff that's fire-blight resistant). 

Kathleen
 
                              
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Regarding the apple trees around the natural bowl.  You might want to research into it a bit further.  I was under the impression that apple trees on a hill side was a good thing to make sure the soil would be well drained.  That bit of information kinda tells me apple trees don't like wet feet.  So definitely worth deeper research to see if those trees would be in danger or if there are some things you can do to protect them or if it is worth protecting them.

I agree that mapping can really help get one's mind around things.
 
                                          
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DON'T KILL YOUR WEEDS!!  Of all the various problems I've read in this thread, almost ALL of them can be solved with adequate weed growth.  Soil too dry?  Weeds.  Soil too wet?  Weeds.  Soil Ph bad?  Try some weeds.  Plants getting eaten?  I hear weeds help with that.  In short, there is no reason to cut down you weeds or pull them out.  The fact that they are an 'unwanted' plant is entirely your opinion.  Nature puts things there for a reason and if your non-native plants can't out compete the weeds then they might not belong there in the first place.  Just a thought.
 
Jami McBride
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From what I've seen on weeds and grasses you don't want to kill them.  Just cut 'em and leave them as mulch, so you can see and plant.  The space you open to put your plant into should be enough for it to start and grow in it's own right.  If it is struggling, growing slowly and/or weakly then something is wrong with your soil and your plant won't hold it's own against the weeds that are thriving in the area.

Shaman is right - address the soil and plant issues don't attack the weeds.  Definitely don't remove or pull them, they are there to balance some soil problem out.  Just make room for your plant in the mist of them.  If they are causing some kind of physical problem or just to ugly, lay them over and cover with some compost.  This way you retain the elements in the weeds plus get the healthy boost of the compost.  When new weeds appear do research on them to find out why they are thriving - what does you soil need.  Weeds are a tool, a means to your end - learn to use them.

 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
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Novella Carpenter's most recent blog entry mentions the local scion exchange.

She uses the Berkeley one, but there's one in San Jose, too.

http://novellacarpenter.com/2010/01/04/animal-hide-tanning-vegetable-fermenting-and-fruit-miracle/
 
                    
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Nature puts things there for a reason and if your non-native plants can't out compete the weeds then they might not belong there in the first place.


native plants are all well and good, but we can't eat very many of them.  Every single plant uses some nutrients, water, and sunlight to grow - the forest gardening books refer to this as "partitioning."  As humans using an area of dirt for a garden, we decide which plants we want to have the lions share of these things and which ones we'd rather turn into mulch (ie food for the other plants).  Culture often dictates what we want to nurture into existence, and over the centuries plants use humans to preserve and modify their gene pool.  Nature doesn't tolerate bare soil and sends in the nearest troops to take over in the event of any sized clear cut (or pull), but you can 'akido' any polyculture you want by replacing plants that you can't eat by ones that you can.  In my situation the "weeds" are perennial (and I bet came from Europe somewhere), and some other human planted them there for animal fodder a long time ago.  I'd rather have something I can eat growing in its place. 

Regarding "native" plants in general.....very few plants today are found only on the continents to which they are "native."  The whole idea of "native" is an anthropomorphic idea imposed on the plant world.  Plants' survival strategy is to use animals for locomotion and they've been doing that long before we were around to notice it happening.  If you were to take a yard by yard section of dirt anywhere in the US and catalogue where the various plants growing on it came from, a bunch of them would be european.  People have been spreading around seeds for as long as we've been growing things on purpose, and before we did it intentionally, other mammals, birds, wind and water did it.  Just because we decide that one plant should take the place of another does not mean the original plant is inferior, it just means that the second plant is more useful or desireable by humans.  I'd rather be surrounded by a bunch of tasty non-natives that I have to put some work into than a bunch of natives that leave me feeling hungry. 

We're not talking about typical agriculture techniques of ripping everything up (or burning it down) and replacing it with a mono-culture.  In those instances what I quoted becomes closer to truth.  Forest gardening is the attempt to create a complete ecosystem of plants that we can eat, and this method of growing food also supports a wealth of other equally important life.
 
                              
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When establishing a food forest to meet our needs, we sometimes have to help out the plants we want in the beginning.  We don't necessarily want only the over aggressive/invasive plants so sometimes we need to pull/cut or smother "weeds" to let the less aggressive/invasive plants to get a foot hold.

I mean, just because an apple tree seedling can't out compete kudzu, does that mean that the kudzu should be allowed to have the entire property because other things can't out compete it when they are young?
 
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Ernie and Erica Wisner's Rocket Mass Heater Everything Combo
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