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Planning a food forest in Kentucky

 
Creighton Samuiels
Posts: 174
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Okay, I've bought my plot of dirt in the outskirts of Louisville, Ky. It has 9 acres fairly heavily wooded, that was mostly used as a firewood lot by previous owners. I still intend to use it for that purpose, but this house needs only between 2 and 4 cords of wood per year (house is large ranch, it's impossible for the woodstove to heat the whole house, so I use it as main room comfort heat and to reduce my propane consumption) and the lot can certainly outdo that kind of demand. (have probably 2 cords of deadfall alone right now, that I have yet to cut up.) I wish to make a plan to convert this (mostly hardwood) woodlot into a productive food forest. I'd like some suggestions from the experienced among the crowd.
 
Cortland Satsuma
Posts: 319
Location: (Zone 7-8/Elv. 350) Powhatan, VA (Sloped Forests & Meadow)
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I suggest you first ID what you have growing on your land from soil up. Spend your first year studying every aspect of your land. If you are itching to start; buy native seedlings and start them potted or in a temporary zone 1 area. You will save thousands by knowing what you are actually working with vs what you think you are working with. Our day one plan on our Virginia acres looks nothing like our plan today; reality has shaped it. We are working with the nature we have, not against it. We are saving as much of our fruiting and nut trees in our natural forest as possible, working our layouts around the good features that are already here. We are adding our waterways off existing; and, ponds where water already naturally ponds vs. filling up the area and placing a pond where we would if the land was as flat and blank as a piece of paper...which it is of course is not. To work with the land you have, you must, first observe it.
 
wayne stephen
steward
Posts: 1793
Location: Western Kentucky-Climate Unpredictable Zone 6b
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Apples : Arkansas Black does great .
Pears : They were genetically destined for Kentucky ! Great producers , fast growth . Ayres , Bartlett , Keiffer.
Peaches : They flourish but the fruit is under constant attack by plum curculio and unless you find a way to curtail these buggers you'll be spinning your wheels .
Bramble Berries : Naturally appearing everywhere {blackberries} at the leading edge of every woods in KY . Cultivars that do well are numerous .
PawPaw : You can buy 100 - 2 yr old seedlings for $40 or so from the KY Forestry Dept . Same deal for Mulberries , American Wild Plum , Hazelnut .
Comfrey thrives here , spearmint , Amish pie pumpkins . The herbs in the Shaker Herbal Pharmacopia are well proven to grow in our climate .

A link to Dept . of Forestry :

http://forestry.ky.gov/statenurseriesandtreeseedlings/Pages/default.aspx




 
Creighton Samuiels
Posts: 174
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As for ID of the trees, I had a forester walk the property in the fall. I was considering a selective cut, but he said I'd get about $10K which I didn't consider worth the agravation. He did note that I have several oaks, ash, hedge apple/black locust and black walnut. All of which make excellent firewood but only the black walnut produces an edible fruit. I was looking for suggestions about what kinds of fruit trees to plant (thanks wayne!) but also what kind of underbrush to plant. Can I even plant guilds into an existing woodlot? Parts of this lot are so thick that there is zero sun during midday in mid Summer. The forester said that I have several oak that are just a bit less than the minimum marketable size, and thinning out the thick for use in firewood might result in those oak filling out over the next several years to a marketable size. However, my understanding is that oak is a particularly bad choice for a food forest, because it poisons the dirt around it's roots for other plants. Thus, I might prefer cutting down all of the oak and burning it sooner rather than later. Also, the ash borer bug is already in my area, and the forester said that I have a near zero chance of those ash surviving to a marketable size, so they should be coppiced (young ash trees tend not to get attacked) for firewood as well. Following his advice would not only result in 6+ cords of ash, but open up the thick canopy for the growth of other trees and perhaps some useful underbrush. Any suggestions of choices for underbrush in Kentucky?
 
Jen Shrock
pollinator
Posts: 363
Location: NW Pennsylvania Zone 5B bordering on Zone 6
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Oaks produce acorns which can be a source of edible nuts. I have a hickory tree that is growing rather happily amongst some oaks. Do a little research before taking them out. Many of the berries (raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries, etc.) can take a lot and might just work too. Also might want to take a look at Pawpaws because they can survive happily in black walnut guilds so they might just work with your oaks too. You might find that you only need to selectively harvest a few oaks to achieve the best results instead of clear cutting them.

Take a look at this website and it might be helpful when making some of your decisions. I typed oak in the search for that site and a number of plants came up that grow uner oaks and have different uses. http://practicalplants.org/wiki/Practical_Plants
 
Sean Banks
Posts: 153
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deer are going to be an issue so be ready to invest in a deer fence or caging to put around young trees. But before that draw out a plan that incoroporates all plant species and thier place in this food forest. As you know food forests should be layered. Start off with natives first since they are typically disease free and adapt well.
Native Edible plants that will work for you:
-American Persimmon
-Pawpaw
-American Plum
-American Hazelnut
-CranberryBush viburnum
-Blueberry
-American Chestnut hybrids
-Elderberry
-Maypop
Non natives:
-Apple
-Pear
-Peach
-Grape (concord+european varities)
-Goosebery
-Currants
-Seaberry
-Aronia
-Goumi
-Honeyberry
-Figs (chicago hardy+Brown Turkey)
-Strawberries
-Hardy pomogranates
-Janpanese Raisin Tree
-Blue Bean
 
Peter Ellis
Posts: 1304
Location: Central New Jersey
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I know about black walnut being allelopathic, but have never heard that oak had such a problem.
There are definitely quite a number of understory choices that can handle shade, to varying degrees. Things like ramps (a wild leek) are adapted to full shade, they appear in the spring before the trees leaf out and then fade away by July.

Martin Crawford has good discussion of what works in what degree of shade and how well.

If some of those ash are grouped such that taking them out produces a clearing or clearings, then you're going to be in good shape for doing things like hardy kiwi to run up some of those trees at the edges of the clearing.

Black locust is a nitrogen fixer and great for long lasting fence posts and such. Also a very high energy fuel wood.

Do not forget to use some of that wood you cut down for growing mushrooms. It's a whole industry in and of itself that you can run as part of a woodlot operation.
 
jay william
Posts: 12
Location: Stokes County, NC
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In the understory of your hardwoods herbs like ginseng and ginger will do well, also some ferns have edible portions but keep the ferns away from your ginseng because it may disadvantage it.

I'd focus on edges. Your forest edge is great for things like elderberry, currant and gooseberry. Vining plants also love these edges. Things like kiwi, schisandra, and passionflower depending on your zone. These vines can also be trellised up your house.

Sometimes it helps to start closer to home, more zone 1 or 2, before tackling some of the bigger projects. That's what we're doing. Focusing on the area closest to the house, our veggie garden with contour paths, vines to shade the house from the NC sun, and improving our lawn/pasture with perennial bushes and herbs for us and the chickens.

 
David Goodman
gardener
Posts: 496
Location: Zone 9a/8b
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In TN, I planted a variety of pears... they did very well. Seem to be a lot tougher than apples (with the exception of crabapples). Understory: Nanking cherry, Jerusalem artichokes, figs, gooseberries, thornless blackberries, horseradish, comfrey, lemon balm, various mints, oregano, rosemary. Depends on how cold it gets where you are. Goumi berries might be a good nitrogen fixer... the berries are delicious. I also scattered around a lot of flower seeds and bulbs to bring beauty and pollinators... plus I went crazy with having the kids blow dandelion seeds everywhere.
 
Robert Jordan
Posts: 32
Location: Dublin, Ireland
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I'm reading a great book by 'Aranya' called Permaculture Design. I recommend it for where you're at. His main point has already been made above: observe your site for a full year and see what you've got. However, he does make one suggestion that might suit you if you're impatient to start. He says "get the plants to tell you" i.e. plant a few (say) apple trees in various alternative sites around your plot and allow them to grow for the year and see where they do best. They'll still be small next year and you can then move the poorer performing ones to the better site. Good luck... sounds fun.
 
Creighton Samuiels
Posts: 174
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Well, it's been more than a year. This past winter I planted several dozen black walnut seeds, and waited to see what happened. Five of them sprouted, and are all about 4 to 6 inches tall. They all seemed to sprout late, so late that I thought they had all failed. Such as it was, I planted more than 20; so a sprouting rate of 25% isn't exactly something to crow about.

What I need to know now, is what I should plan to plant around the black walnuts as they grow. Any suggestions?
 
Sean Banks
Posts: 153
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pawpaw can grow under black walnut
 
Terry Paul Calhoun
Posts: 29
Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
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Creighton Samuiels wrote:Well, it's been more than a year. This past winter I planted several dozen black walnut seeds, and waited to see what happened. Five of them sprouted, and are all about 4 to 6 inches tall. They all seemed to sprout late, so late that I thought they had all failed. Such as it was, I planted more than 20; so a sprouting rate of 25% isn't exactly something to crow about.

What I need to know now, is what I should plan to plant around the black walnuts as they grow. Any suggestions?


I have 20 acres that partly wants to be black walnut. Around my black walnuts I've been planting hazelnut, persimmon, red cedar (juniper berries), daylily, and black raspberry.
 
David de Waard
Posts: 3
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Anything whith thorns will keep deer at a distance,
in old british landscapes they used to make hedges by bending and weaving thornbush.
A shitty job to do but it works.
Sometimes with an edible fruit or tree growing in between the bushes.

Another option is sepp holzers bone sauce, it keeps most critters and deer away.

 
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