• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Cluster of large pine trees near house site. Can't grow stuff. What to use it for?  RSS feed

 
N Taylor
Posts: 36
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm trying to get started on my zone and sector planning and I'm looking for ideas on what I can do with a cluster of large Norfolk Island pine trees which are right near my planned house site.
If I'm following my Permaculture Design Manual right, usually one would utilise the space closest to their house to plant annuals, main crops, and a few frequently used fruit trees etc.
In my case I expect the pines are going to make this quite difficult, not so much because of their shade - they are on the southern side at least (southern hemisphere) - but because the roots of these trees travel vast distances, sucking up most of the nutrients and water nearby, and the locals have told me that anything I try to plant nearby will likely struggle at best.
If you look at the attached aerial contour you will see that no matter where you are on the relatively flat part of the site the pines are rarely more than 20m (65') away. I'm not sure how far exactly I need to be away from said trees before I can successfully grow things, but some locals have indicated it could be more than 20m (65').

So is this area really a write off for growing stuff?..leaving me only with the steep section on the north side (which is about 40% / 22 degrees) for growing everything?

If so, what else can I utilise this space for?
Would it make a good chicken run? Pigs?
Perhaps I could use the shaded area under the trees as a "natural shade house" or nursery or something?
Something else?
House-site-3.jpg
[Thumbnail for House-site-3.jpg]
 
Peter Ellis
Posts: 1432
Location: Central New Jersey
40
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
First question - what is growing within twenty meters of those trees now? is it actually bare ground? People know lots of things, but what they know is not always what is true. So the first thing is, do your observations tell you what "locals" tell you?

If it is true that these trees inhibit growth of other plants, then you may have found your optimal mushroom growing yard. Mushroom logs want to be kept in shaded places with relatively high humidity, which can be well provided by evergreens blocking out sun and reducing evaporation.

I would do some focused research on these trees, look at their natural environment and what fits in with them there, figure out whether any of those plants are useful and available and then start looking for others with similar growing conditions. Say the naturally occurring companions are edge dwellers that want some sun and acid soil, then you look for plants that are acid soil loving edge dwellers for choices that interest you.

Local knowledge should never be ignored, but you also want to do your own independent research to verify, or you could get caught up in a local tradition that isn't really valid.

And back to the first question, what do your observations tell you about things growing near these trees?
 
Meryt Helmer
Posts: 395
Location: west marin, bay area california. sandy loam, well drained, acidic soil and lots of shade
15
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
if you have any interest in mushrooms and mushroom hunting, I have been finding that the pine trees around my house have mushrooms that grow with them, ones that are hard to find in stores and that are very yummy!. I recently discovered cauliflower mushroom and it is so easy to identify and so giant when found and they grow with pine trees, they are parasites to the pine trees. a few trees out front of my house have them and it is so cool. lots of other yummy mushrooms. I would find out what is growing with the trees before deciding to remove them and also be aware of there impact on preventing erosion right now.

I live in a pine forest and the pine trees here have shallow roots everyplace but so far it has not prevented me from gardening at all really. I even find sunny spots for my fruit trees and I am surrounded by forest. my entire property is a forest that has never been cultivated unless the Miwoks that used to live here cultivated it (they probably did) so it is all well established trees with roots everyplace. I just find spots for my plants and am thoughtful about which plants I remove to make space. I am being slower than a lot of people are with their gardens. I take my time and we spread the garden larger each year. it will take longer before I have a lot of production but this is less stressful for me and I feel better about being thoughtful on how my presence is impacting the forest that was here long before I was.
 
N Taylor
Posts: 36
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Peter,

For approx the first 3-5m out from the base of each tree nothing seems to grow - it really is just bare earth and scattered pine needles. Beyond that kikuyu grass is growing, sparsely at first and improves as you get further away. About 8m away there is a sickly looking avocado tree that doesn't yield fruit and another few metres away a mulberry, which also barely yields fruit. There are mulberries and avocados 20m+ further away that seem to yield quite well, so this tells me it's probably to do with the pines rather than soil/wind/etc.

The trees do of course coexist with other native trees such as White oak (Lagunaria patersonia), but I'm sure they compete heavily for nutrients and water in any case, and none of these native trees provide much utility in a permaculture sense (aside from habitat - but this I'd rather designate further from the house!).
 
N Taylor
Posts: 36
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Meryt.

The land is actually located on Norfolk Island, so I will have to chat to some folk and find out if there are any edible mushrooms on the island at all - there may not be. If there are I will certainly add this to my list of potential ideas.

The pine trees are protected so don't worry I won't be removing any of them, whether I manage to find a use for them or not
 
Peter Ellis
Posts: 1432
Location: Central New Jersey
40
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Did some reading about your Norfolk Island Pines. How tall are yours? They can get well over one hundred feet tall and as they get taller the lower branches will self prune, resulting in tall trees that won't produce much shade. They are not true pines and their natural environment was a tiny little thing shared with fewer than two hundred varieties of other plants.

Did not see anything suggesting allelopathy, but it would seem they are not likely to be adapted to working well with the vast majority of other plants, coming themselves from such an isolated environment.

With them getting so big, and some implications from Florida experience that they are not very strong, I might have concerns about having them near my house.

Interesting history they have.
 
Meryt Helmer
Posts: 395
Location: west marin, bay area california. sandy loam, well drained, acidic soil and lots of shade
15
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
do you know the ph of the soil around the pine trees? I have to add rock dust or lime to my soil for plants to do well. it is very acidic. we get heavy fog here and it forms dew on the pine needles so my plants along that dew line all do better than any other plants seem to do. I am thinking the avacado and mulberry tree may make fruit if you give them rock dust and or lime
 
Meryt Helmer
Posts: 395
Location: west marin, bay area california. sandy loam, well drained, acidic soil and lots of shade
15
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
the pine trees on my property are protected as well. I am allowed to remove young ones and under some circumstances can remove older ones. we cut a baby one down for our christmas tree this year but it was in a location with so many baby trees and with fire suppression here it seemed like it might be more beneficial than harmful to take it. I hope you find good mushrooms growing with your trees. the more I find them the more excited I get about pine trees
 
N Taylor
Posts: 36
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Peter Ellis wrote:Did some reading about your Norfolk Island Pines. How tall are yours? They can get well over one hundred feet tall and as they get taller the lower branches will self prune, resulting in tall trees that won't produce much shade. They are not true pines and their natural environment was a tiny little thing shared with fewer than two hundred varieties of other plants.

Did not see anything suggesting allelopathy, but it would seem they are not likely to be adapted to working well with the vast majority of other plants, coming themselves from such an isolated environment.

With them getting so big, and some implications from Florida experience that they are not very strong, I might have concerns about having them near my house.

Interesting history they have.


They are probably about half the height of the tallest ones around so perhaps 30 metres? I know they are about 30 years old and have plenty of growing left in them. I'd prefer not to have them near the house either, but given how common they are on the island almost everyone has one within falling distance of their house, so it is just a risk we take. No matter where I position the house on my block there will be one nearby. They seem a bit safer when they are clustered together...perhaps a feeling that they might help "hold each other up"
 
Peter Ellis
Posts: 1432
Location: Central New Jersey
40
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
So you are on Norfolk Island. Ecologically isolation creates special circumstances. I would not think so much in terms of plants competing, with all the evidence of how so many perform better in mixed populations, but rather look into the soil chemistry. PH, organic matter, moisture, soil biology.
If those are all in a good range, then the search for compatible plants really kicks in.
You also might reach out to the conservation people working to preserve the native species for advice about what will grow with your trees.
 
I'm a lumberjack and I'm okay, I sleep all night and work all day. Lumberjack ad:
Book Review Grid
https://permies.com/wiki/31762/Book-Review-Grid
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!