So a few questions I have:
When choosing plants, do I first choose the trees I want and build my plan around those?
What tree spacing is best?
What are the steps in preparing the land? For example, do I need to plant some ground cover to prep the soil before I start planting?
What time of year is it best to start?
Plant hardiness zone map: http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/#
This was a forum for the Dallas area that had some links and advice from local growers: http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/fruit/msg1109574330812.html
The one commentor on the above mentioned forum mentioned Womack's Nursery by De Leon, TX, said anything they had would do well in Dallas area. Peaches, plums, pecans, almonds, pears, nectarines, plus more... makes me want to move. hehe Another commenter mentioned all the various berries they were growing including strawberries, blackberries, figs, blueberries, raspberries, jujubes, apricots, elderberries, cherries, grapes, pomegranates, persimmons, pluots, shipova, juneberries, pineapple guava, kiwi, and wolfberries. http://www.womacknursery.com/index.html
Here is a Youtube video from the owner of Womack being interviewed by Central Texas Gardener show, talking about planting trees and when to do it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKPaWLCgA6c
Mentions selling 40000 grapevines per year.
More videos from the interviewer at Central Texas Gardener: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgmihDgYcKMfJV3zCXGmFvA/videos
A planting guide for veggies in the area: http://dallas-tx.tamu.edu/files/2010/06/Vegetable-Planting-Guide.pdf
Here's a link to Texas A & M for some color, not necessarily to eat http://texassuperstar.com/
All thing's plants website http://allthingsplants.com/apps/calendar/?q=Dallas,%20TX
August 14-16, 2014 a Nursery Expo at San Antonio, TX http://www.nurserylandscapeexpo.org/ Here;s some of the presenter/exhibiters http://s19.a2zinc.net/clients/TXNLA/NLE14/Public/floorplan.aspx?ID=3403&sortMenu=104000
A blog on Dallas fruit growing http://www.dallasfruitgrower.typepad.com/
The area extension office is a great resource, even talks in detail about growing things like bananas: http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/ Video archive from the same: http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/archives/video/
This site mentioned needing to plant two of a variety for "cross-pollinating": http://plant-shed.com/planting-fruit-trees-in-north-texas/
Heirloom seeds http://www.seedsavers.org/ Texas specific http://tinyurl.com/texas-heirloom-seed-links
Mother Earth News asked "What's your favorite seed company?" Followers name off dozens, a person from the U.K. mentions liking to buy from here for quality and price: http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/favorite-garden-seed-companies-zb0z11zalt.aspx#axzz365WHqJdN
You can find the link to subscribe to their free email reports at the above link. Various topics.
Hope this helps you some and I hope others from your area chime in.
So once I've decided that I want a pear tree and an apricot tree for example, do I need build the system around those?
Also, what is a good distance to space the trees in order to allow enough light in to the understory?
Here's a different vid to watch:
I would start doing earthworks now if possible, building swales on contour, depression basins, collecting woodchip and such from landscaping companies, straw from farms. Next I would plant cover crops I am particular found of dutch white clover at 10lbs/acre 3 times a year (30lbs/acre) they fix alot nitrogen. dutch clover is a cool season "grass" so you will probably have to use different N-fixers.
Space everything according to their mature height, but while they are young and short fill the extra space with nitrogen fixers that you will prune and then kill as the productive trees get bigger. If you buy some 3ft tall apple trees that is suppose to be 18ft at maturity plant the 3ft whips 18ft apart and the extra space between them plant a Nitrogen-fixing shurb/tree that you will prune and later kill as the fruiting trees get bigger. Maybe some palms would make a good overstory for you.
Make a list of all the plant that can grow in your enviroment including created micro-climates. Then check off the ones that you dont like, maybe circle off the ones you like the most. That will be your plant list.
Figure out the ratio of support species (n-fixers) to productive species (fruits) at maturity aim for at least 25% up to 90%.
Brandon Greer wrote: once I've decided that I want a pear tree and an apricot tree for example, do I need build the system around those?
My big question would be: what do you know grows well in your area,
taking into account that your climate may well get hotter and drier?
In my experience, pears like quite a lot of moisture-but I've never been to Dallas...
Brandon Greer wrote:what is a good distance to space the trees in order to allow enough light in to the understory?
I have limited practical experience, and I'm learning a lot as I put together a reasonable sized 10 764ft2 food forest (ff).
I can only refer to my temperate, fairly high-rainfall climate, which makes tree choice and food forest design pretty simple.
I've just done a ff workshop where I learned that there's a lot more to it than I'd previously understood.
In a temperate climate, the teacher recommended the heavy-producing trees' mature canopies
should cover no more than 50% of the total ff area (unless it's grown by an expert)
Every square m of mature canopy needs its area X .8 of nitrogen fixers in full sun
For example, an apple of 28m2 will need 28x0.8=22m2 of nitrogen fixers in full sun
They also suggest one comfrey plant for every m2 of mature canopy, on the sunny side at the mature canopy dripline.
So it's really important to know/write down the root stock to gauge mature canopy size.
That's not even getting into the complexities of guilding...
Thank you all for the information. Special thanks to Benji for sending over the pdf!
OTOH, it's not reasonable to expect all your trees to make it to full size, especially if planting from seed. It also doesn't take into account the role of N-fixers or nurse trees. That's why Geoff Lawton plants 9 support trees to 1 productive tree. When the system is mature that ratio might be reversed.
I read a great book on just that 'Permaculture design' by Aranya (yeah funny name)!
Step by step. Good stuff. Worth the small money.
Map your site. Observe your site. Plan what you and your family require from the garden. Watch lots of YouTube!!!