Hi recently watched a presentation by Toby Hemenway "How Permaculture can save the World but not Civilization" (may not be exact title). In it, he mentions that it appeared the ancient cultures of the Amazon created food forests and of course the Native Americans did the same. So I thought why can't we do the same. I know many are already doing food forests but I don't mean going out and buying a plot of land or using your own backyard. Simply use existing forest in your area. It's free. Find a wooded area within walking distance and start planting. When I drive along my wooded areas they appear already in need of rehab, trees in bad shape or fallen, overgrown thickets. And there would be no limit to what you could plant ie dwarf varieties or avoiding nut trees due to lack of space. I see a lot of interest in acquiring land to do this but to me the land is already available to us.
Those cultures managed the forest and you probably can't do that if you don't own the land.
I own many acres of forest and it may look like there's plenty of light now, but when the leaves come out it's pretty dark. Planting trees without protecting them from animals is tough.
Might be easier to plant fruit trees in communally owned land like town square or parks.
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posted 5 years ago
Thanks for your response CJ. I don’t think it would be easy. But given the alternative of purchasing land this could be possible. Plus I don’t think anyone would even know. Most people stay on the walking trails. It could be a secret place all your own that could be managed as if it was purchased land. Here in CT we had an early Oct snowstorm in 2012. I’m sure VT was affected as well. But this “opened” up many wooded areas since the tops of trees cracked or fell. Since we can’t use fire to manage the land this might be a good opportunity. Plus the investment is minimal compared to owning the land. Buy a couple of trees and plant. If it works fine it not fine. Just trying to think of alternatives.
You might try guerilla grafting in a local park instead. There is a whole movement of city dwellers who want to grow fruit but don't own land. They graft branches of edible varieties of fruit onto flowering ornamental trees in the same group. For example, grafting a Spartan apple onto a flowering crabapple. This video shows how people are doing this in San Francisco.
"In a fruit forest everyone is happy"- Sepp Holzer
I should think that the more "management" you do, the more likely you are to attract unwelcome attention. In these times, even a mere trespassing citation can create serious difficulties for a person. But if you don't manage your plantings sufficiently, they won't thrive. It's a bit of a dilemma.
I'll tell you what strikes me as a more immediately-rewarding endeavor in the same spirit. If the forests near you harbor unloved and untended wild fruit or nut trees already, you may find that they are impossible for anyone to harvest because of undergrowth and rough terrain. They may also be unproductive due to the same undergrowth or to shading out by nearby trees. I currently have many trees on my own acreage (pecans and persimmons) in this condition.
Rather than invest all that effort and time to plant a tree that may not thrive at all, why not invest it in improving an existing tree? Much of the work is similar, but the rewards are much more immediate and the effort less likely to be wasted. You can clear out undergrowth and conceal or bury your cuttings, level the area and introduce native groundcover species that don't interfere with the tree's productivity or with harvest of its produce, plant or transplant some inconspicuous native nitrogen-fixers, very discretely reduce shading trees by judicious pruning, make useful but inconspicuous improvements to local groundwater flow, capture, and storage -- you get the idea. The nifty thing is, you can develop a food resource in just a few seasons this way. And if you "get caught", you can make yourself scarce for a couple of years, secure in the knowledge that the tree you improved is certainly still alive and likely flourishing -- whereas if you planted a sapling, you might feel pressure to return and further nurture, irrigate, et cetera.
Obviously this is not an option if the forests near you don't include any native or introduced food trees.
Other good resources on this subject would be M. Kat Anderson's great work Tending the Wild, which describes native american indigenous land management practices, which were large scale and all over, in contrast to the "garden plot." I would also recommend Samuel Thayer's works on foraging, since knowledge of foraging (as well as hunting) opens your perspective to the possibilities of wild food, and once you can reliably identify wild foods it's a much smaller leap to begin cultivation of wild spaces for the purposes of increasing the abundance of the already present wild food species.
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