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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! long-term lessons from food forests--failures and successes both?

 
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elle sagenev wrote:

Shannon Kim wrote:

elle sagenev wrote:My experience is that there is no real point planting a food forest in WY. I've planted pretty much everything. Some of it has lived now that I've transplanted everything into a heavily protected and watered area. We have 2 plum trees that have survived the wilds for 5 years but they've never had a single plum on them. Ground animals absolutely adore anything you do earth works wise. They're favorite! Having plants under the trees just increases coverage for nibblers from predators. If we had a million cats and watered daily and yeah, probably had less wind, things would grow. It's not meant for our climate.



P.S. The state capitol has some chinese chestnut trees brought from China ages ago growing and producing yearly. They look magnificent. Perhaps blight is only an issue when you have other trees spreading it about. :P



Have you tried growing Serviceberry? How about Strawberry Spinach, Yuccas, sunflowers?
Nanking Cherry can be grown into a tree.
https://wyomingplantcompany.com/product/nanking-cherry/
How about elderberry?
Crandall's clove currant is a shrub that should do well there.
https://wyomingplantcompany.com/product/crandall-clove-currant/
Jerusalem artichokes do well in Montana, according to an article by Paul Wheaton. That would be a good emergency food crop, if you haven't tried it already.
Hope this helps!



I know your heart is in the right place with these recommendations but allow me to assure you there is nothing I haven't done.



It's truly heartbreaking to hear that your orchard didn't work out, since I am in a similar climatic situation. I have been following your story since you posted on greening the desert on the no irrigation thread. I know that you have tried everything, but can you please suffer a few more questions as I am trying to establish a food forest.

-What bushes or shrubs did best even if they weren't fruit trees? I specifically want to know what happened with your siberian pea shrubs and serviceberries.
-Under which conditions did your trees do best?
-Did you try pinyon, honey locust, siberian elm, mountain mahogany, buffaloberries, nanking cherries, or sand cherries? If so, I am assuming they all died? I am definitely not trying to criticize, but rather I am gathering anecdotal information.

Finally, you say that an orchard is probably a bridge too far for the high dry cold prairie, but what about forage trees that help support animal grazing. Do you think that might be possible using honey locusts, pea shrubs, and other tough forage trees. At this point I don't care if I ever get an apple or large fruit, I just want some tree cover and happy animals.
 
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crandall currants and bush cherries and sand cherries are native to those environments.  That's why it's a prairie. There is not enough rain to make a forest naturally.

John S
PDX OR
 
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William Bronson wrote:So many great things shared here, one question comes to mind.
What should a food forest do?
My own land is dedicated to making a living in a way that is sustainable.
That doesn't necessarily mean growing all of my own food.
Selling firewood could be a sustainable way of living off your own land.
So is selling sweet corn and watermelon.
Is there a similar way to look at food forests, but with a communal twist?

My sister is a chef that works teaching people to cook from scratch, so they can eat better for less.
One of the ministers she knows has been asked to take over some land and make it work feeding  the community.
Annual gardens could help, but who will tend them?
Fruit trees could work, but kids in this community throw out apples rather than eat them.
Many of these families that don't know how to take a bag of potatoes and turn it into somethings their kids want to eat.
Because of these facts growing food for direct consumption seems likely to fail.

My suggestion was raspberry bushes, hazel nut bushes and Chestnut trees.
Raspberries can be eaten out of hand, and kids actually like them.
The raspberries and the nuts both can be turned in to value added products.
That's the key to me.
If the church can offer a  place to sell the nuts and berries, the community might have reason to participate.
No long term commitments, just a safe way to make some money.
Turning the raspberries into pies, juices, preserves, and teas can be a job and could  turn into a business.
Roasting nuts can be a job that could become a business.
The target market is well to do people that value fresh, local, artisanal food and social welfare.
Nutella from local bushes ,locally grown roasted chestnuts at served at hipster bars, selling these staples as luxuries might feed the community and promote the food itself.
The church would offer all the means of production, including knowledge , kitchen space and marketing.
Getting people outside and directly involved with plants as a source of money will lead to opportunities to educate.
Some people will want to grow annuals or other plants that can create income, and that can be accommodated, but the base will be perennial foods that require minimal annual investment.
If no one is interested, the wildlife will benefit, with little in the way of waste.
A bumper crop of nuts or berries don't seem leave the waste that a similar crop of fruit does.

What are ways you can think of that would make a food forest an asset to the community as it exists. vs. the community we desire?



This is an excellent question and it goes to the heart of the conundrum here in the US.

The Boston Food Forest started because of a gathering of community as it was--for temporary joy, learning, connection, and the satisfaction of working with one's hands in the soil.  It delivered on those things, but not on the other promise of leading to a longterm, functional food forest.

It was a gathering of a "commuter community," in other words.  Meetup.com is a big part of what brought people to the planting days.  So it would be people from many different locations, who might not want ot make that trip frequently or even make it more than once.

Nothing wrong with that, but it didn't work, in my view, to make a thriving food forest.  It had other yields (longterm learning of what doesn't work is one--and this isn't a bad thing at all!), but it didn't yield a food forest that's still going to be producing from the same trees in 100 years, I think.

The points others have made about a core group of committed people and planting more locally adapted species are important, and those things were said often in the planning circle, as I understand, but they still didn't happen.

Now, compare a church community (or synagogue, mosque, etc.) or neighborhood corner lot or something similar, where there's kind of a captive audience.  People walk by it just about every day.  Or maybe cars have just disappeared, gas prices have made it not worth starting the engine anymore, so everyone's just remaining mostly in place like in pre-industrial days.  Now a food forest has a very different context.  If at least people have to walk by it once a week and see what's growing there, there's some feedback.

Marketing to hipsters and foodies is a great idea too.  I think it's worth treating oneself to the foodie experience first, as a community, making a really luxurious meal to share together, some people can be the "wait staff" for the evening and everyone else gets to eat, and then do it again on another evening and switch roles so those who had been waiting the table are now feasting.  Something like that.

And then the idea of presenting it in a "foodie" way for money is a great transitional idea.  That's how you get people to try new things--in fact, they _want_ to try it just because it's new.  They are looking for a novel experience they can boast about or relate to others about, ultimately looking to flirt with other people on the topic of food maybe...whatever the motivations, novelty is a value-add.  Even if the food tastes awful some of the time, it's still a thing you can say, "I tried durian!"  (Blech, don't want to think about that, now I've lost my appetite for a year).  Anyway.

I imagine some people would feel a bit weird about church land being used for making money, even if it's for the community, but if it could be arranged so the profits from the food forest go to the church then you could pitch in in the food forest instead of putting money in the basket maybe.  But if others feel OK about it, then I think it's a fine use of the space.

The horticultural factors are still important, and it doesn't matter how hard you work at a food forest, mostly it's about working smart and what you don't do, what you observe, and being open to accepting feedback from nature vs. doubling down on what you think is supposed to happen.  So in that way it's tricky to mix entrepreneurialism with a food forest.  But not impossible.

One other failure I want to mention--surprisingly--Corsica.  How can that be?  it's got this amazing abundant crop of chestnuts.  Well, to my surprise, according to Ben Falk in the PDC, the young people don't care about the chestnuts.  They want to leave Corsica for the big cities and the more exciting life.  So even though there's the easiest permaculture opportunity in the world (step one, do nothing, step two, eat!), it doesn't matter if people's _thinking_ is not aligned with it.  It's still probably in the back of their minds as a backup option, I would think, but it's important to note how both the horticultural and human factors need to be in place for it to work.

William, have the kids who throw away apples ever tried fresh apples off a tree, or fresh "weird" fruits? maybe they only dislike the supermarket ones for the rubbery reasons someone else mentioned above? if they do like raspberries, that's a starting place. OK, now my mouth is watering!

Can you please say more about how things play out with the food in the actual community as it is? this seems really vital.
 
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elle sagenev wrote:

Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:

elle sagenev wrote:Here is a link to the USDA article on the High Plains Research Center in Wyoming that has Chestnut trees of an age that is unknown to me but if they were planted with all the other stuff are probably 50+ might even be 100 years old.



Thanks again for sharing this information. The article doesn't mention the chestnuts at all--it seems strange that's not the headline! I take if you've gotten to go there in person?



Of course! We picnic there. They have a variety of plants they gathered from all over the world to see if they could survive here. Most are crab apples. There are landscaping trees and shrubs as well.


Wow! that's so strange that a place right near you has thriving huge chestnut trees and your own piece of land is such a puzzle.  I have a feeling you're gonna crack the code one day and it's going to be a really valuable discovery.

 
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This is a good point.  I just saw a clip on the youngest certified farmer in Georgia, and she seems really enthusiastic about eating what she's growing.  

I trust that children's innate instincts are on track, if there aren't too many distracting influences, whether attractive or punitive ones.  It's impossible to shield people from everything, but giving space for gardening is a great thing.  I also think it would have been an amazing thing if my grandmother had taught me gardening and if I coud have created something I could actually eat in childhood.  I had to wait till adulthood for that experience, and it was a sour, green tomato but it was still a moment of giving birth to myself!  

Microgreen popcorn is good, and you can also plant some lambsquarter and harvest those seeds.

I wonder about the "Julia Child" move here--how Julia Child would have two ovens, one where the dish goes in to get baked, and one to take it out of right away already done so she can show it.  It's instant gratification, but it is informative.  How to do that with nature?

One of the best things about the Boston Food Forest planting experiences was the snacks.  People brought really good quality things from the store or sometimes from their gardens.

On other outings we went to old, neglected apple trees in random spots int he neighborhood and picked or gathered.  That was less ego-rewarding than "I planted a tree!," but it was more tangible and taste-able, nourishing.  There are some really great apples in Dorchester, Roxbury and Jamaica Plains.  


Shannon Kim wrote:

William Bronson wrote:So many great things shared here, one question comes to mind.
What should a food forest do?
My own land is dedicated to making a living in a way that is sustainable.
That doesn't necessarily mean growing all of my own food.
Selling firewood could be a sustainable way of living off your own land.
So is selling sweet corn and watermelon.
Is there a similar way to look at food forests, but with a communal twist?

My sister is a chef that works teaching people to cook from scratch, so they can eat better for less.
One of the ministers she knows has been asked to take over some land and make it work feeding  the community.
Annual gardens could help, but who will tend them?
Fruit trees could work, but kids in this community throw out apples rather than eat them.
Many of these families that don't know how to take a bag of potatoes and turn it into somethings their kids want to eat.
Because of these facts growing food for direct consumption seems likely to fail.

My suggestion was raspberry bushes, hazel nut bushes and Chestnut trees.
Raspberries can be eaten out of hand, and kids actually like them.
The raspberries and the nuts both can be turned in to value added products.
That's the key to me.
If the church can offer a  place to sell the nuts and berries, the community might have reason to participate.
No long term commitments, just a safe way to make some money.
Turning the raspberries into pies, juices, preserves, and teas can be a job and could  turn into a business.
Roasting nuts can be a job that could become a business.
The target market is well to do people that value fresh, local, artisanal food and social welfare.
Nutella from local bushes ,locally grown roasted chestnuts at served at hipster bars, selling these staples as luxuries might feed the community and promote the food itself.
The church would offer all the means of production, including knowledge , kitchen space and marketing.
Getting people outside and directly involved with plants as a source of money will lead to opportunities to educate.
Some people will want to grow annuals or other plants that can create income, and that can be accommodated, but the base will be perennial foods that require minimal annual investment.
If no one is interested, the wildlife will benefit, with little in the way of waste.
A bumper crop of nuts or berries don't seem leave the waste that a similar crop of fruit does.

What are ways you can think of that would make a food forest an asset to the community as it exists. vs. the community we desire?



Wanted to mention that if a child plants and grows something themselves, they will be much more likely to eat it and enjoy it. If you started a program for kids - a quick, simple, inexpensive way to get them excited about planting and growing is to plant popcorn seeds for microgreens. Only takes 2 weeks and it's done! Then you could work up from there. But I think the quick turnaround in the beginning helps get them hooked. :D

I remember watching a video where they taught preschoolers or kindergarteners about how important it was to get more fruits and veggies, and this program led to the kids making healthier recommendations to their parents while shopping! I thought that was pretty amazing.

I like how you're proposing to work with what is, not what we want it to be. I think sugar consumption is one of the big problems - varieties with a higher natural sugar content might help convert more people to seeing fruits and veggies as good options.

 
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Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:

she seems really enthusiastic about eating what she's growing

This! You don't just need a food forest, you need a kitchen in it (preferably with a rocket stove top and oven - might as well have a use for dead branches). I can remember taking a course years ago where a guy kept mentioning uncommon fruit and veg - yeah, so *he* thought they were delicious - other people are less convinced! Being able to taste things *in season* (nettle it not so good to eat in the fall - only the new growth in the spring for example) and being given simple recipes for how to use things makes a lot of intuitive sense to me. Another example - I just read that early Mulberry shoots are a good vegetable. OK, how, cooked, raw? Substituted for spinach in quiche or lasagna?

Yes, much of that knowledge used to be passed from Grandmother to grandchild, but we've lost that link a generation ago. We not only need to be taught how to grow a food forest, we need to actually learn how to use the products as part of a healthy diet.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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another factor I'd forgotten but is mentioned on Perfect Circle's site, and is a part of how they source their material: mother trees.  anyone have info to contribute on this? observations?  
 
John Suavecito
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I don't claim to have deep insights into mother trees. What I will say, that is related to that topic, is that I have planted some diverse, semi-dwarf trees that are very productive and healthy in my food forest.  They seem to be the kind that are producing a lot of the good exudates that lead to positive forest health.  There are a wide, changing variety of mushrooms that seem to grow symbiotically in their drip line.  After a few experiments, I have found ways to keep them healthy and productive over a long period of time.  They seem to be in harmony with the guilds around them.  Many diverse plants, microbiota and bushes surround them, and the soil is improving. I realize that this is not evidence that they are mother trees but it is related to the topic.  

John S
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On long term outcomes, see this paper from Tomas Remiarz and Jon Kean https://www.researchgate.net/publication/354551542_Robert_Hart_revisited
Revisiting Robert Hart's forest garden. Robert Hart was a pioneer of modern forest gardening in the UK.

My key takeaways: a garden needs its gardener(s) & plan for succession of plants and people.
 
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I suppose it's worth pointing out as well that one of the things Permaculture is about is using natural patterns to create resilient and productive (for us) ecosystems. It will be a lot easier to model a natural system of climax vegetation for your area. For much of the temperate zones this is forest. A Forest garden mimics this natural ecosystem, maybe with extra edges because the sun is not as strong as in the tropics where these gardens are also traditional. However if your natural climax vegetation is prairie, then you may be fighting against nature a bit, rather than working with her.
 
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Nancy Reading wrote:I suppose it's worth pointing out as well that one of the things Permaculture is about is using natural patterns to create resilient and productive (for us) ecosystems. It will be a lot easier to model a natural system of climax vegetation for your area. For much of the temperate zones this is forest. A Forest garden mimics this natural ecosystem, maybe with extra edges because the sun is not as strong as in the tropics where these gardens are also traditional. However if your natural climax vegetation is prairie, then you may be fighting against nature a bit, rather than working with her.



This is a very good point. It's difficult to assess what the climax ecosystem should be sometimes, because of the shifting climate and other huge environmental changes that have gone on in the last few hundred years. Where I am used to be a very diverse forest type, with vegetation changing based on topography and hydrology. Now it's all douglas fir monocrop for timber. But it's difficult to say what the ideal would be because it is now very hot and dry in the summer, and many plants that did well here ten years ago (or even five) now struggle.
 
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A lot of these posts are pointing to the same thing: humans are a natural part of the food forest.  In the book 1491, the author shows that Native Americans cultivated many nut and fruit trees to help them be in harmony with that forest.  A Mediterranean open forest is a little bit different.  The Native Americans here in the PNWet didn't cultivate douglas fir. It is a huge,  200' tall tree, that doesn't give a lot of food to people.  They burned the valley floor. leaving an open oak savannah, like what Mark Shepherd has in Wisconsin.  Robert Hart's forest garden has trees that are so tall that they shade the whole forest, so maybe it's better for squirrels than people.  My tallest trees are about 15 foot tall semi-dwarf fruit trees, so the open forest can let more light in for smaller plants, pollinators, and bushes.  It's built for humans to live in harmony with nature.  That's what works for me.

John S
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Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:another factor I'd forgotten but is mentioned on Perfect Circle's site, and is a part of how they source their material: mother trees.  anyone have info to contribute on this? observations?  



Thanks for bringing up mother trees/ hub trees. I'd never heard of them. Was just reading about them on https://mothertreeproject.org/about-mother-trees-in-the-forest/ . Sounds like mycorrhizal networks play a big part.

Saw this, which I thought was fascinating: "Through the network, trees under stress can transfer resources, such as water, and can send chemical signals that trigger defensive mechanisms in other trees."
 
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Professor Suzanne Simard out of UBC has done a lot of very influential experiments about how trees cooperate with fungi, covering a lot of these topics. I think she has a TED talk.  When you add phosphate fertilizer from another place, you discourage the mycelium from gathering the phosphate in the ecosystem and distributing it. Elaine Ingham has also done a lot of research in this area.  Also adding pesticides kills a lot of the microbes that are cooperating to develop these systems of sharing nutrients.  The mycorrhiza can actually communicate among several different species, warning each other that an animal is munching a non-related tree leaf too much, thereby signaling to the other trees to add more foul-tasting antioxidants into their leaves so that the animals will stop eating so many of the leaves. Our current forestry practices are not developed on this important information, and they will need to be changed soon.

John S
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Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:

elle sagenev wrote:

Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:

elle sagenev wrote:Here is a link to the USDA article on the High Plains Research Center in Wyoming that has Chestnut trees of an age that is unknown to me but if they were planted with all the other stuff are probably 50+ might even be 100 years old.



Thanks again for sharing this information. The article doesn't mention the chestnuts at all--it seems strange that's not the headline! I take if you've gotten to go there in person?



Of course! We picnic there. They have a variety of plants they gathered from all over the world to see if they could survive here. Most are crab apples. There are landscaping trees and shrubs as well.


Wow! that's so strange that a place right near you has thriving huge chestnut trees and your own piece of land is such a puzzle.  I have a feeling you're gonna crack the code one day and it's going to be a really valuable discovery.


Well they had a bunch of volunteers and canals built. I'm limited on ability to water, in a very flat windy place with more rabbits and ground squirrels than I can manage. That's my problem for sure. When I put tree guards and cages up the wind rattles em around and strips the bark anyway.
 
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Skyler Weber wrote:
It's truly heartbreaking to hear that your orchard didn't work out, since I am in a similar climatic situation. I have been following your story since you posted on greening the desert on the no irrigation thread. I know that you have tried everything, but can you please suffer a few more questions as I am trying to establish a food forest.

-What bushes or shrubs did best even if they weren't fruit trees? I specifically want to know what happened with your siberian pea shrubs and serviceberries.
-Under which conditions did your trees do best?
-Did you try pinyon, honey locust, siberian elm, mountain mahogany, buffaloberries, nanking cherries, or sand cherries? If so, I am assuming they all died? I am definitely not trying to criticize, but rather I am gathering anecdotal information.

Finally, you say that an orchard is probably a bridge too far for the high dry cold prairie, but what about forage trees that help support animal grazing. Do you think that might be possible using honey locusts, pea shrubs, and other tough forage trees. At this point I don't care if I ever get an apple or large fruit, I just want some tree cover and happy animals.


Caragana work well and they don't at the same time. I've had a mass die off of them and I have no idea why. I still have a lot of big caragana bushes but I also have a ton of dead in the group.    

Our pines were doing well but then pine beetle and yeah.....

Same with the lilacs. They've been on our property forever and now they are infested with emerald ash borer. Dying a bit.

I have a bunch of choke cherry. They do alright. I mean they live without water but they aren't huge or anything. Still they produce enough choke cherries to feed the animals and please the kids.

Gooseberries are doing alright but I get random die off I don't understand there.

As far as trees I've planted, like I said, I have 2 plums from my original planting that are doing well. No plums ever and not big growth but they are growing out there and I am pleased about it.

With bushes I've planted I've had mass failure with elderberry and raspberry. Most blackberries also do poorly. Goji berries do alright. The drought tolerance has them doing well for years in spite of being eaten down to nubs every single time. Aronia do alright. I actually had success for several years with osage orange. It grew well in the worst part of our property but rabbits ate it to the ground every year. It grew back for several but couldn't handle it long term.

Pears didn't grow at all. Ever.

Contender peaches did ok. They'd grow a year or two and then die.

I have quite a few apples doing ok right now but they're in the heavily watered and protected area.

I have some hops doing alright.

Grapes have never come back after the winter, no matter the variety. But I have a neighbor who has them growing like bonkers. Of course my neighbors house is in a hill and the grapes are growing right in front of their very wind sheltered porch, so that likely has a lot to do with it. Our property is very flat.

I bought a ton of blueberries last year. Let ya know how they do.

Seaberry hasn't been doing very hot.

Cranberry might live one year, but not more than that.

Cherry hasn't done well.

Apricot does ok.

 
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elle sagenev wrote:

Shannon Kim wrote:

elle sagenev wrote:My experience is that there is no real point planting a food forest in WY. I've planted pretty much everything. Some of it has lived now that I've transplanted everything into a heavily protected and watered area. We have 2 plum trees that have survived the wilds for 5 years but they've never had a single plum on them. Ground animals absolutely adore anything you do earth works wise. They're favorite! Having plants under the trees just increases coverage for nibblers from predators. If we had a million cats and watered daily and yeah, probably had less wind, things would grow. It's not meant for our climate.



P.S. The state capitol has some chinese chestnut trees brought from China ages ago growing and producing yearly. They look magnificent. Perhaps blight is only an issue when you have other trees spreading it about. :P



Have you tried growing Serviceberry? How about Strawberry Spinach, Yuccas, sunflowers?
Nanking Cherry can be grown into a tree.
https://wyomingplantcompany.com/product/nanking-cherry/
How about elderberry?
Crandall's clove currant is a shrub that should do well there.
https://wyomingplantcompany.com/product/crandall-clove-currant/
Jerusalem artichokes do well in Montana, according to an article by Paul Wheaton. That would be a good emergency food crop, if you haven't tried it already.
Hope this helps!



I know your heart is in the right place with these recommendations but allow me to assure you there is nothing I haven't done.



I certainly didn't intend to make you feel worse about things.

I really appreciate you sharing your experience. We learn and grow best by hearing from people who have actually gone out there and tried it. I applaud your efforts. It really stinks that things didn't turn out like you'd hoped.
 
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My most successful food forests have arisen through a process that I think of as guerilla gardening.

For example this fall, I scattered/planted hundreds of Carpathian walnut seeds into an existing forest. In 20 years, some of them may have grown tall enough to break through the canopy of the existing maple forest. The forest is huge, and my seed stash was small. I planted the seeds close together (100 foot diameter) so that they will have a better chance of pollinating each other. I expect to scatter walnut seeds into the area for as long as I live. I also planted perennial and annual food species into the same area. Eventually, they might get established.

When the canals were built 160 years ago, the workers buried their apple cores in the freshly dug earth at the edge of the canal. Today, feral apple trees grow along the entire length of the canals. Because they are seed grown, each tree is a unique variety. I haven't found any that are unpalatable.

Asparagus grows wild along the ditch banks here. They are remnants of asparagus that was planted before anyone now living can remember.

Apricots, pears, and plums grow in the wildlands, and as weedy trees in town. They were planted intentionally, or volunteered. They are generally not cared for. They produce an abundance of great food year after year.

There are a lot of purely wild species of trees, perennials, and annuals that grow around here. Harvesting them for food, is as easy as paying attention to their life cycle, and where they are growing.

I plant oyster mushroom spores onto likely logs, then visit them during appropriate times of year.

To me, growing a food forest is more akin to foraging than it is to farming.

nopales.jpg
Nopales from the food forest
Nopales from the food forest
 
pollinator
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In my area, people are the primary problem for anything that wants to live, which is relatively  easy to do here. Thieves, poison proliferators,  and simply people with their heads up their ass are the main barriers to nature taking its course here, which historically provided the people living with it  food and beauty. Del Norte County… where the only problem, is the people!
 
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isnt the Amazon supposed to essentially be a human curated food forest? apologies if it's been mentioned in the thread, hadn't seen it discussed as i made my way down the thread.
 
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We are in Mississippi, in an area with 90% acidic clay soil...we are (now, after 30 plus years) 2 older people are on an old family farmstead of 86 acres; I have many wicking beds and a greenhouse; we have been steadily planting things here and there for decades and have some points to bring forth. specifically about our clay soil and climate, but also extending some helpful generalities.

It is lovely to get a bunch of happy volunteers together to plant a food forest;  but it's mostly only lovely for the volunteers, unless you consider season and microclimate.  We lost many small fruit trees here, because we planted them when they appeared in the stores (Springtime).  In our location, things have a far greater chance of survival if planted right at the start of the winter rainy season; they can get their roots into the clay a bit before things dry out.  The Summers are hot and droughts happen.

Hard soil (clay, or just compacted walked-on land) sheds rainwater;  look for, or create, little trenches or dips in which to plant.   One post mentions successful sites in Vietnam and Morocco: Vietnam is a green country anyway; but I expect they created depressions in Morocco in which to plant, for trapping rainwater.  In some sites it may be good to create a terrace or a shallow bowl-shaped area for this purpose.

We are looking forward, but not back/around: realize that if you want to see a "forest" in a site that is barren now, something will have to change there first, or else the site wouldn't be barren to begin with.  Nature is an Opportunist: if it were able to support vegetation, it generally already does.  If you want a food forest in a city lot, look for one that is already overgrown with grass and weeds; success is built-in.

Create a favorable microclimate first, if you are starting with Bare: this may entail some work, maybe an earthmover to create a wide, shallow bowl and then a Big hole in the middle where you will plant a Large Tree.  This will hopefully thrive (throw in a lot of composted manure) and create some noontime shade and protection for smaller plants.  Then, right next to it on one side, make a Hugelkultur area, and plant into that some bramble fruits, and if it is well covered on top, some perennial or self-seeding broadleaf plants.  Be sure to include Mustard, as it not only self-seeds but also is deer-proof.  Wait a year. (I know, you want an Instant Forest, but let's be real).  Add a fruit tree to the Hugelkultur area, maybe a blueberry bush (here or in New England) or currant or gooseberry (Pacific NW) or in a really dry and well-drained area, go with other plants.

I imagine that in the Moroccan food forest, there is Sea Buckthorn, Gojiberry and Black Goji/Russian Boxthorn, Capers, Figs, Dates, Olives, molokhia/edible jute.
But for me, the molokhia is a no-go, except in the greenhouse: besides climate, we really need to know what and how much Wildlife we are sharing with.  The deer are ravenous for molokhia, and once they find it, you will never have another leaf of it; unless you create a deer park by planting acres of it.  Just saying...

 I recently spoke w a friend who had moved to Arizona; he was saying that Winter is the time to plant tomatoes.  If you MUST have tomatoes, go ahead, but imho, that is what a wicking bed is for, because not only can they be tricky without it, but the squirrels, coons, and other wildlife love them as much as you do. In a hot, dry and sandy area like that, think about the plants that do well in Morocco.  Beach Plum or Rockrose would work well there, too, as well as Pistachio.

It is extremely important to remember that the world is full of plants we are unfamiliar with.  

I must reiterate: when choosing plants and seeds, think outside the Traditional Box.  My personal illumination came from reading the amazing catalog from Richter's Herbs in Canada.  Get one, it's free: they are a second-generation business of Plant Geeks; they sell many hundreds of different plants and seeds for various zones, from tropical to arctic.  The catalog opened my eyes to the reality that the "classic plants" were classic for certain locations, but for MY location, there are better choices.  I chucked my old herbal-healing books, because they were written by people in England or at least, New England.  Comfrey, Chamomille, even Stinging Nettle do not like Mississippi; Chickweed loves it here but only for a couple or three months in Winter.  In my area, Turmeric is perennial; and did you know that its leaves are a tender and delicious green vegetable?  Yeah I didn't either, but in that Vietnam food forest mentioned earlier, you can bet that turmeric is everywhere.  Learn your Zone, and then look globally.  Plant for your Zone.

So that is my contribution, after years on the learning curve; I hope it is helpful to someone.  
 
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Here's a video update from 10 years working to create a practical forest garden on 10 acres in Bowie, Maryland.

It's been challenging at times, but overall very rewarding.
Forest gardens are about people as much as they are about plants.

We're now systematically measuring all harvests, to help document the effectiveness of the system.





 
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Lincoln Smith wrote:Here's a video update from 10 years working to create a practical forest garden on 10 acres in Bowie, Maryland.

It's been challenging at times, but overall very rewarding.
Forest gardens are about people as much as they are about plants.

We're now systematically measuring all harvests, to help document the effectiveness of the system.







Fantastic - I learned a lot!
 
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Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:Can anyone tell what made these long-term successful ones work:

--300-year-old food forest in Vietnam. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZO0Nco2t5g
--2,000-year-old one in Morocco: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKIgqa49rMc
--John Hershey plantings/breeding research, from the 40's or so and abandoned for many decades now:
--Helen Atthowe's food forest
--whatever the heck Sepp Holzer does
--your own experiences
--random trees in someone's yard that always kick ass
--any other food forests or just individual trees that have passed the 10-year mark, or ideally the 50-year mark, and are productive of a significant portion of at least one person's nutritional needs per year

Social factors as well as physical.

Also, please specify if you're describing your own direct observation, video observation, reading, or other.  Thanks!




The thousand + year old food forests are doing better than urban forest gardens I suspect because of the animal life.
The complaints I've hear regarding issues with crop production and establishment are always in places that don't have the same traffic as a real forest might. Silvopasture is the complete cycle for efficient forest gardens.

Not only do they need proper species selection but also the unique organic processing done by animals cannot be replicated unless you regularly haul in manure and compost. The trees will always thrive better with movement below and the addition of animal wastes and they ecological services performed
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Good point.  I do think about the same deer presence in the semi-urban lot food forests as in the woods, though, there is only sort of fencing around it plus the deer did eat some of the plantings.  I think silvopasture is more like the plains density(millions of buffalo, isn't it?)  A balance, hershey used animals in paddocks.    

Sky Adams wrote:

Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:Can anyone tell what made these long-term successful ones work:

--300-year-old food forest in Vietnam. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZO0Nco2t5g
--2,000-year-old one in Morocco: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKIgqa49rMc
--John Hershey plantings/breeding research, from the 40's or so and abandoned for many decades now:
--Helen Atthowe's food forest
--whatever the heck Sepp Holzer does
--your own experiences
--random trees in someone's yard that always kick ass
--any other food forests or just individual trees that have passed the 10-year mark, or ideally the 50-year mark, and are productive of a significant portion of at least one person's nutritional needs per year

Social factors as well as physical.

Also, please specify if you're describing your own direct observation, video observation, reading, or other.  Thanks!




The thousand + year old food forests are doing better than urban forest gardens I suspect because of the animal life.
The complaints I've hear regarding issues with crop production and establishment are always in places that don't have the same traffic as a real forest might. Silvopasture is the complete cycle for efficient forest gardens.

Not only do they need proper species selection but also the unique organic processing done by animals cannot be replicated unless you regularly haul in manure and compost. The trees will always thrive better with movement below and the addition of animal wastes and they ecological services performed

 
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My experience in the mediterranean climate is

Seeds beats everything.

So the challenge is how to create the best conditions for seeds to thrive by direct planting.

I had lots of things going on on the last 2-3 years. Citrus, wich were the main crop here, are being harder than I thougt, very delicate. Olives, you can stick them werever and almost forget them. All the prunus family can thrive here. Chestnuts suffer a lot with the mediterranean sun, but they recover.

I planted super high density in the syntropic way. 4 support trees for each fruit tree. Hundreds of seeds between all the trees. Things that I plant in between when I feel like doing it. Flowers, perennial vegetables, new trees.

If observation is key, I feel like making seeds thrive is key. So, a little bit of STUN and a little bit of planning. Create better soil conditions so seeds can have a better start, this is my obsession now. And protection from ants (I have found nothing for this) and snails (now we have ducks, absolute snailslayers). Then, more and more and more seeds, super dense. Things that I planted from seed two years ago are now way bigger and healthier than trees that I planted digging holes. If seeds are not possible, then the smaller the better.

And then, observe, manage, observe, manage, think. The best thing I do is a weekly walkaround. I go solo, no wife, no kids, observe all the plants and think. And, always my conclusion is: seed everything if you can
 
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The main problem with volunteer planted tree planting projects is people don't know how to plant and care for a tree, they are not horticulturalists. The reason the food forests you mention that are ancient exist is because those ancient people lived outside in nature growing their own food and were experts on planting and caring for plants. Most often, as a professional market gardener/farmer, I cringe when I see the majority of people planting things, even those who claim to have experience with gardens, and the massive mistakes I see made constantly on homestead level projects. It is like this, you can make one or two mistakes and a tree will still grow, but as soon as the mistakes start piling up on top of eachother, the long term prospects of a plant of any kind goes way down. It has gotten so frustrating that I hardly even try explaining to people anymore unless they are really open to advice; somehow gardening is the one subject where people who don't do it full time really struggle to understand that they could possibly know less than someone who works with plants all day every day.

Just as a small example, you will constantly read "prepare the soil one year in advance with compost, lime, other amendments and cover crops," yet how many people just show up the day of and dig a hole straight into sod/old pasture? Have you ever seen how long it takes trees from the edge of pastures that are self seeded to struggle for many years against heavy sod growth before transitioning to a woody ecosystem, besides things like willow, aspen, blackberries etc.? It will be decades possibly before you get a tree of any height when things are left to their own on degraded pastureland, possibly never depending on the distance to bedrock/water table/a million other factors. And these are native trees, not fruit and nut trees with even higher requirements. People love to go on theoretically about ecosystems and how land regeneration functions, has anyone actually ever looked at it, or does everyone just read the same books that give a nice fairy tale picture of how land goes from pasture to scrubland to forest, completely ignoring what actual reality looks like?

I have seen people do really dumb things when planting trees. Mixing half clay with half fresh manure and soaking the roots in this mixture, shoving all the roots down into a hole in a bunch and not compressing the ground, wrong height in the ground, planting trees in wet spots, planting too old of stock, planting potted plants that are rootbound... there is an inumerable number of errors an unskilled person can do when planting something. Not to mention somehow people seem to think a degraded pasture that can hardly grow grass will somehow magically feed a conventionally grown 3 year old fruit tree.

Its not hard to learn how to plant things, but a person must come in with an open mind and be willing to learn, I have planted thousands of trees but am always happy to meet someone new that actually knows what they are doing and has a pointer for me. Normally people with a 40 square foot garden come into a volunteer day and assume because they know how to (poorly) use a spade they will be fine.

Give me a volunteer labor force in June to weed around the trees, cut off diseased branches, spray with things like whey, spread compost around the trees etc. any day over a volunteer planting force. I have given up trusting other people to plant anything unless I am certain they have some commercial or very serious hobby level experience; planting a bunch of trees doesn't take so long and I'd much rather take my time over a couple weeks in november alone and ask volunteers to help me in the summertime to actually care for the things.
 
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