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Forest Gardening in Weird Climates

 
Kirk Hutchison
Posts: 418
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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  The climate in my area (Los Angeles) is somewhat odd - dry years are desert-like, average years are Mediterranean, and wet years are almost tropical. What are the best forest garden assemblies for such a situation?

Note to moderators: I put an identical post in the Southwest forum, but it got no responses, so I am moving it here. You can delete the other one.
 
                          
Posts: 211
Location: Northern California
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Hi, Kirk--my thought would be to look at what permaculturists are doing in Israel and Jordan. For one thing, even beyond what species you select, clearly it'll be important to improve the soil's ability to capture and hold rainwater and do some earthworks, if possible, to keep rainwater from running off the site or being destructive in wet years, and help the site store it up for dry years. In terms of species selection, geoff lawton's Jordanian project might be instructive: http://ecolocalizer.com/2009/11/14/turning-desert-into-a-garden/
 
                              
Posts: 63
Location: North West PA, USA
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Maybe Pain's book would be helpful...

http://www.permies.com/permaculture-forums/3528_0/permaculture/another-kind-of-garden-jean-pain
 
                    
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Southern coastal California IS a Mediterranean climate. Not every year is perfectly representative of the pattern - all climates have lots of variability, drought years, wet years, hot years, cold years.  Overall, it is very much a wet, mild winter place with warm, dry summers. 

Xeric oak landscapes are one good source for building a guild  - (acorns, etc).  And the olive-grape-artichoke-purslane-goat group is pretty common in the settled parts of the Mediterranean.
 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
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i know how you mean about southern california weather being a bit "off" sometimes. are you in a city or out of it? when i lived down there you could grow just about anything if you set it up right and of course had enough room.
 
Paul Cereghino
gardener
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Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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I seem to recall that Pain was in chapparel and he was harvesting the brush before fire could take it, replacing a fire cycle, with planned carbon concentration and digestion... neat idea conceptually.  You'd need a donor site...
 
Kirk Hutchison
Posts: 418
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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  I'm in the middle of L.A. and garden in my backyard, so earthworks aren't really in the works. I have two huge trees in front, and I collected all the leaves that fell this fall and used them as mulch. Beneath then is still moisture, which is good. Also, livestock is out - I want chickens, but my family is not supportive of this idea, and one of them is has bee allergies. Therefore, I am stuck with plants. I am pretty good on trees, but was looking for other good plants.
 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
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you would be surprised how much food you can grow in a single LA backyard. start at the top ( the canopy) and work your way down to groundcover. before you know it you wont know what to do with all the food.

a few fruit trees that grew exceptionally well when i lived in socal were peaches, pomegranates, and figs.  and yields were always above average. all would grow with no care and maybe one watering a summer once established( and yea i know it gets HOT) but they thrive on it.
 
Kirk Hutchison
Posts: 418
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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Indeed. My peach tree is doing great. As a matter of fact, several fig trees have popped up as weeds and I am taking full advantage of them.
 
Aljaz Plankl
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When you guys mentioned peach tree - from logic i can see that if it tolerate hot it also tolerate drought?
 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
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Location: zone 7
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once it has an established root system it will be tolerant. for the first few years your going to have to keep up with at least some watering, once the tree is of a good size and age your good. i never watered our mature tree, and we get VERY little rain in southern california. and just before i moved, our last harvest was about 1200 lbs from one tree.

also any kind of citrus will do well. we had everything from lemons, to calomondin's to kaffir lime trees. they can also all be kept to manageable size so you can fit more variety's.
 
Aljaz Plankl
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Thanks.

What about sowing seeds in dry places like socal? How would you sow trees on none diverse land for example? Seedballs? Mulch? Is it possible to retain moisture in first few weeks after rainy season, so the seeds can germinate and grow a bit before heat comes?
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
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Location: North Central Michigan
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my guess would to be to use items that are native to your area..they will generally always survive no matter what the quirks of weather are
 
Aljaz Plankl
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I am in love in local stuff!  Just a little bit careful sowing and that's it, probablly?
 
rose macaskie
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      The local stuff is good but if you read about plants you have found in woods and such , then you get the authors talking of climax vegetation and sublclimax and such. They say that you find these plants if the soil has been degraded and these others if it is the best it can be for the district. so the things that grow in a place vary according to  how well or badly treated the land is. and can change by the same difference, if you do a good permaculture bit on your land  lots of nitrogen fixing plants and organic matter then you will be able to grow what would be the climax vegetation for that place. agri rose macaskie.
   
 
rose macaskie
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My garden is in an areae that is  being considered for a natral park i have been told and so there are those who would have you only plant the plants of the region this is not a permaculture goal so i have a clash of interests.
  I think some people pull up anything they don't know because they consider it is not natural to the place greatly reducing the natural variety of plants someone pulled up a bush that grows on the corner of my land and just beyond they pulled up what grew beyond and i suspect it was because they did not recognise it as being natural to the place, but it is in my book of plants that are natural to that part of Spain. It is i suppose funny if keen ecologist start uncounsciously reducing the natural diversity. A bit annoying and worrying too.
      In permaculture you are meant to have an enormouse variety of plants the monkey puzzle tree is one tree that produces and enorouse quantity of nuts and it is not native to England but its high potential for fattening us makes it a good permeaculture tree. so th etrees natural to a place are not permaculture goal. production and saving soils is the goal and independence. rose macaskie.
   
 
Kirk Hutchison
Posts: 418
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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Indeed, I've always felt that some of the native plant zealots went overboard.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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i am doing forest gardening her on our property in Michigan and i read a similar story in this mo's permaculture magazine about a family doing a forest type garden in England.

I guess you are best off looking for native trees that will grow in your area and native understory..that is the way i tend to go here..however i also try to put in a few non  natives, such as cherries, to provide foods that we can eat and preserve for winter..

as they are native to a similar temperate zone (Japan) they also do well here..so if you can find a similar nonnative zone as yours you might find suggestions from that area.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
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Plankl wrote:What about sowing seeds in dry places like socal? How would you sow trees on none diverse land for example? Seedballs? Mulch? Is it possible to retain moisture in first few weeks after rainy season, so the seeds can germinate and grow a bit before heat comes?


I'd plant a little before the rainy season if at all possible, and irrigate a little to establish the root structure and soil ecosystem so that the rain is as useful as can be.

Doing the math one night with a chart of average and extreme temperature & rain for Oakland, and some studies of how things grow in other parts of the world, I came to the conclusion that the first week of February is the best time to plant corn here. (Corn can produce well in Northern summers that are colder than my winter, and farmers in India get good results during a dry season that resembles my wet season.) You're a lot farther south than I, and so you have even more of an option to schedule everything around moisture, rather than warmth.

The methods you mention are also good. Since it's an urban area, I'd be tempted to mulch with scrap dimensional lumber courtesy of Craigslist, and either use poultry or foster local predators to control the slugs that will accumulate underneath. Maybe nail together 2x4s into planks a couple feet wide and of a length you can easily flip end-to-end; like a digging board, they'll prevent compaction, and you can use one year's paths as the next year's beds. Don't put too much work into them, though, because they'll rot after a couple years, and any uneven edges can be filled in with other sorts of mulch.

If you choose poultry, it might also be worthwhile to start them off on beds planted with bad-tasting plants like sesame, so that they get into the habit of focusing on the crawling things you've uncovered. Salamanders have started doing that work in my garden, and I'm pretty excited.
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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