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California Natives Not Good for Food Forest

 
Celia Revel
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Here is an interesting link to a site that shows you how to garden around California Natives. I don't know what it is like in other regions, but it says here the Natives don't like exotic species and don't do well with them. This totally rearranges how I'm going to do my food forest. You have to set many of your drought resistant trees (especially oaks) and plants away from your yummy fruits and vegetables. The two don't mix well. Las Pilitas
 
leila hamaya
pollinator
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Location: northern northern california
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hmmm...i dont know about this. IMO it sounds like she (or he?) has worked out what works for her in her space and thats great.
but i have never used this way, and mixed things up in different ways , or had some things that were just there (like large oak trees or conifers in a spot where i certainly cant move them) and seen other cultivar plants do ok around them, and even seem to appreciate the shade.

also "drought tolerant" does not always mean they are intolerant of extra water. i'm sure theres some like that, but nothing i can think of right now. i've seen some of the plants she mentioned do fine with extra wet spots, like ceanothus and native roses. theres a lot of snowberry, which she mentions, growing along a tiny water feature here, and i have seen it in the wild right on the edge of the river, where its certainly getting an abundance of water.

many of the drought tolerant are just tough all around, tolerant of many variations and still keeping on.

many drought tolerant plants can also be ok with extra water
 
Michael Qulek
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My suggestion would be to spend a litle less time stratagizing over what other people say works, and just get out there and do it yourself. In my own location I'm planting a combination of California natives like California Black Walnut, along side standard fruit trees like peaches and plums. This all interspaced between and under native California Black Oak and Valley Oak. I use the shade of Valley Oaks to shelter Eastern PawPaw seedlings. If there are any compatabilty problems at all, they are far outshadowed by other threats, like browse damage.
 
Celia Revel
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This is a generalization, and if you read the whole article, you'll see that some natives, such as from the riparian communities can tolerate vegetables and fruits better, and those should go into the transition zone between your garden and the drought tolerant plants. California rose is one. I noticed his plan puts the fruit trees in their own section. There are over 70 different varieties of ceanothus all with slightly different tolerances and water requirements coming from different regions of the state. The Las Pilitas site is amazing, full of descriptions of so many kinds of natives. California has one of the most diverse plant communities in the world with some of the most divers soil types, so when you pick a native to place in your garden, make sure you know all about it because many can be quite picky about their locations. The guy who created this site has been a professional landscaper and grower for quite some time. I don't like to gamble on a plant I paid good money for. I want to do everything I know how to make it succeed.

Because of the nature of seasonal California drought every year from May until October, plants have adapted to no water for very long periods of time, although many near rivers don't need to do this. They build mycelium connections to each other, from a unique type of fungi called Frankia, to build a support network to get them through the rough drought season, to stay healthy, and to stay disease free. Water during the summer can damage the mycelium. Exotic plants dead bodies don't work into this system either, their leaves etc. They create a different microbe environment that is not conducive to what the natives need. The great permie thing about this is that there is absolutely no need for drip irritation, fertilizer or amendments. They do need water from time to time in the summer to get established, but from then on rely on mother nature to get them through the season.

I made an infiltration basin and posted about it in the "greening the desert" section. I killed the lawn, put a layer of cardboard and wood chips down, and then placed the natives. Crossing my fingers on how that should fill in. From the presentations by the CNPS, this is how you do it, although some do use drip the first year. I've seen some beautiful landscapes with this method.
 
leila hamaya
pollinator
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Location: northern northern california
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well i still disagree, somewhat.

i also dont always go for the idea of "companion planting" either, or even strict "guilds". in my experience i have thrown all sorts of combos of plants together and havent noticed that they have beneficial or negative actions towards each other, not like they say. i think a guild in a less specific way - plant a bunch of diverse stuff close together, is great, but not like rigid catagories.

theres a few exceptions, but even some of the "bad" plants or trees that get a rap for being allelopathic i have found it is a less extreme effect than stated by others.

anywho with natives its also cool to make the time to go gather seeds from the native plants growing feral. then you can get bags of seed and not maybe be as attached to every single one making it and thriving. i just missed the time to gather ceanothus seeds this past summer, as well as a lot of other stuff i had earmarked for checking back on once they had mature seed, because of the crazy fires. !

but i got a small amount of ceanothus from some spots that didnt burn....
 
John Polk
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I believe that regardless of where one lives, a food forest should contain a substantial proportion of native plants.-
- trees, shrubs, and even ground covers - each of the 7 layers should incorporate some natives.

The advantages are too great to ignore this issue:

* Natives provide food and habitat for the native pollinators
* The symbiotic relations feed the soil food web with bacteria/fungi that belong in that soil
* Many wildlife depend on these species for food - deny them this, and they will eat your crops.
* Many of these plant species will act as a buffer, helping to keep a good balance to your entire project.
* The diversity of manures the attracted wildlife provides will also contribute to a well balanced soil food web

Often the birds, and other wildlife prefer those inedible (to humans) fruits and berries. If they are in abundance, the wildlife is less likely to denude your fruits and berries, and otherwise damage your crops. It is hard to keep the wildlife out of a real food forest (even if you have a huge freezer), and if you can provide food, water and shelter for them, they will actually benefit your forest.

To me, the benefits far outweigh whatever issues they may cause.

 
leila hamaya
pollinator
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Location: northern northern california
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i also disagree with this idea:

Exotic plants dead bodies don't work into this system either, their leaves etc. They create a different microbe environment that is not conducive to what the natives need.


rotting organic matter is rotting organic matter, i dont think the native plants will turn their nose up at non native plants rotting organic matter. and i dont think the indigenous microorganisms are harmed by non native plant matter decaying.
the IMO (indigenous microorganisms) will be around in the soil, and if you build and environment they like with decaying organic matter (which could come from native plants, naturalized feral plants aka "exotic" and highly cultivated plants alike) they will come and expand. you might enjoy looking into natural farming's methods of cultivating IMO. the simplest of which is to get some soil from different fertile spots and to grow the IMO gathered in a medium, then add it to your soil.

this is actually pretty complicated stuff, i dont think many people have a grip on the particulars exactly, even someone who makes a case that sounds logical. just how do they know about all the particulars that are happening in the soil? how really can they tell, that non native plant matter decaying is causing some problems for the native plants. this statement doesnt make sense to me and seems to be more about a native plant enthusiast bias than the fact. i suppose my bias tells me something different, the more different kinds of rotting stuff you have the better, including non native plants/tree leaves, etc. i really cant say for sure i know what exactly is happening deep in the soil, but thats what my experience tells me and it works, and that whether a plant is native or not doesnt matter to the soil.

i do like that website for their information pages, but i still disagree with most of what they are saying in that particular article.
and hey you may throw whatever i am saying out the window, thats fine, i can just say what i think, and what experience tells me.
i say plants TONS of stuff, mix in natives with feral naturalized plants, let your desireable volunteers grow where they will, add in good cultivars as you see fit. sure theres some rhyme and reason to putting certain things together, but i think you cant get too rigid about it ONLY being this plant with this other plant, its much more open and free flowing than all that.
i am also not a native plant ONLY type gardener, and i tend to think people on this wave get some funny ideas that i dont think are entirely accurate. plants want to grow anywhere they can, and they are good at it =). and native plants are particularly good at growing in their native region, this is true, but i dont think its also true to say they couldnt adapt to another locale/ soil conditions/water amounts and do great as well.

i am also fond of both naturalized "exotics" that can grow prolifically with very little inputs (another words- all feral plants whether strictly native or not) and cultivars, at least good, non fussy, tough cultivars. things like lemon balm, chicory and plantain are common naturalized NON NATIVE plants that grow as well as natives and are very non picky about soil type, mycorrhizal connections, while also being medicinals/edibles that can keep on even in adverse conditions. plantain is so foreign that the native peoples called it "white man's foot" which is pretty clever since it does look very footprint like, and used it to track white people's movements during the early settlement. all of these are welcome in my gardens =)

the beauty of native plants and naturalized feral plants is that they are so prolific that its hard to kill them even if you wanted to! so i dont think some of the other things you are stating are accurate IMO, like you have to be really particular and careful about not putting them in the wrong soil type, and only native plant matter/leaves can support IMO and proper mycorrhizal connections, or that they have to be isolated in native only groupings.
 
Matt Banchero
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One thing to consider if you're going to be doing gardening or landscaping around California oaks is they do not do well with irrigation. Oaks like to have dry roots through the summer. During hot droughty conditions the occasional deep soaking is appreciated, but regular water, especially sprinklers, within the drip line of many California oaks will support rot decaying fungus and shorten the lifespan of the tree.
 
Alder Burns
pollinator
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Location: northern California
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I think some of this thinking comes from the scenario of fully-irrigated suburbia expanding into, say, an oak savanna, such that all the landscape around and under the oaks is converted into continuously irrigated lawn. This is a recipe for disaster for the oaks.
But a bit of observation, as Leila intimates, will show that many of the dry-adapted natives will also grow, and even thrive, in moister niches. So there's a balance to be struck. If you want to go-all native for food in CA, then best get used to eating a lot of acorns. I eat them, but I like other things too.
In 3 years on this site my observations include oak roots readily invading irrigated garden areas well outside the canopy dripline, and even greywater mulch pits similarly sited. The blue oaks in the yard, adjacent to irrigated plantings and also receiving the runoff from the un-guttered mobile home and barn, produce higher and more regular crops of acorns than other oaks, at a distance from all this human intervention. Stone pine (a Mediterranean tree from a similar climate regime) roots came up and all through an irrigated edged raised bed within two years.....
So I do not site plantings under the canopy of the trees, as much for light as for the moisture issues. The tree roots will search for the moisture in any case, which I may attempt to resist or not. But I would not attempt anything like a summer-moist shade garden right up under the trees.....
 
Matt Banchero
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Alder...true. Perhaps I should have been even more specific. Older oak trees and trees in general do not adjust as readily to change as younger trees. So young trees that were established in wetter environments may well thrive but older trees are set in there ways. Going from 300 years of seasonal drought to full summer irrigation has caused many of these great trees to rot from below ground and tip over. Sorry if I hijacked this thread with my oak agenda.
 
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