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Support tree ratio

 
Cj Sloane
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I know geoff lawton likes to put in 9 support trees/1 productive tree. Does it need to be that high in the fertile cold temperate?
 
Topher Belknap
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It really ought to depend on the nitrogen produced by each support tree, the Nitrogen needed by the productive tree, and the available Nitrogen in the soil. If your soil is already at an ideal Nitrogen level, you should only need the number of support trees that Geoff recommends for long-term maintenance. Medium levels of Nitrogen would of course need some number in between, for support trees.

There is also the issue of filling the space with trees, such that as they grow, some can be sacrificed to make room, while keeping that layer full.

So all we need is data, and we're set. Anyone have any?

Thank You Kindly,
Topher
 
R Scott
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I don't think so, but it also depends on the fertility of your ground when you start. I think you can count non-tree support, too. Like comfrey.

I keep looking for productive support species--things that have a crop or forage yield. Bee fodder in a relatively low season in the area, cattle/goat fodder, etc. Something you can count as a half support in the end system. The ones you never completely remove. I am still looking for winter-drop (or winter browsable) trees to help get to hayless.

I also wonder about a trap crop for deer--trees/shrubs that they prefer over your productive species or mechanically protect them during the first few winters--and if that is better/cheaper than tree tubes or fencing.
 
Cj Sloane
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Topher Belknap wrote:
It really ought to depend on the nitrogen produced by each support tree, the Nitrogen needed by the productive tree, and the available Nitrogen in the soil.


So many variables. And variables within the variables! Like the N-fixing tree putting out more N if they are chopped & dropped.
 
Cj Sloane
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R Scott wrote:I don't think so, but it also depends on the fertility of your ground when you start.


That's what made me wonder. My fertility is so spotty. Are those cheap soil tests OK for checking N? I mean, I know they're not great in general, but I wonder if they're OK for lots of spot testing.
 
brad millar
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I think it would be better to over stack the system now and thin later, then to under stack now and try and play catch up later.
 
Cj Sloane
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I just bought the Permaculture Orchard (click on the link at the top of the screen!), and he recommends 1 support tree for 2 productive trees & his climate is very similar to mine.
 
S Bengi
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If your productive apple/pawpaw trees are 30ft apart but you just bought them and they are only 3ft tall what are you going to plant in the extra space until the trees fill out and get to there mature hheight. You could let nature fill that spot with Japanese knot weed or you could plant a better support species
 
John Polk
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Another variable to consider, is whether your support trees also produce a crop.

For example, if you planted enough Siberian Pea Shrubs to produce 100 pounds of nitrogen, but harvested all of the pods for chicken fodder, then the trees themselves would only add a few pounds of nitrogen to the soil. Over 90% of the nitrogen would be harvested with the pods. You now need the chickens to recycle that into the ground. With each exchange, there will be some loss. So, the 100 pounds that the trees originally produced, will probably end up being closer to 60 pounds that actually makes it into your soil.

One hundred pounds of nitrogen from a field of peas would probably be less than 10 pounds if you picked all of the peas and sold them at the farmer's market.

So, 'dual purpose' N-fixers are only beneficial if all of the nitrogen stays on the property. Any crop (animal or vegetable) that you sell off site is reducing the amount of nutrients within your system. Every nutrient that you export, needs to be replaced by an import, if you want true sustainability. Whatever small amount of nutrients that the plant consumed to produce that product is no longer in your soil - you have sold it.


 
brad millar
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Another variable to consider, is whether your support trees also produce a crop.


Like cow feed. your thread
 
Cj Sloane
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Right.
But...if the cows are self harvesting the honey locust, or the chickens are self harvesting the Siberian pea shrub, you're back in the black.
 
Topher Belknap
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Cj Verde wrote:I just bought the Permaculture Orchard (click on the link at the top of the screen!), and he recommends 1 support tree for 2 productive trees & his climate is very similar to mine.


But is his soil very similar to yours? That would seem to me to be a more pertinent question.

Thank You Kindly,
Topher
 
Cj Sloane
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He's had 20 years of improving it. As mentioned above, my fertility is spotty. Some areas are very ledgy. On the other hand, I'm not putting in an orchard with rows, more like a food forest.
 
Cj Sloane
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Topher Belknap wrote:
Cj Verde wrote:I just bought the Permaculture Orchard (click on the link at the top of the screen!), and he recommends 1 support tree for 2 productive trees & his climate is very similar to mine.


But is his soil very similar to yours? That would seem to me to be a more pertinent question.


I have now watched the whole vid and his soil is not like mine, though the climate is. He said his soil is sandy and mine is heavy clay. He sounded like he wished it had more clay. Honestly, I don't know what that means in terms of support tree ratios but I suspect I will need much less water.
 
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