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Starting Food Forest

 
Mike Tsmith
Posts: 2
Location: Zone 9b
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First post been visiting site for couple years. Finally joined. I have just moved to Central Florida from Southern Colorado. I am planning to grow food forest on my 1acre lot. I have started my mulching and compost bins but my question is how do I start. I understand the basics of food forest and the aging of the forest. Do I plant everything I want in the forest at the same time or do I just start with n-fixers. I'm still trying to catalog what is here. I have some type of orange tree but has not been taken care of so it will need help. There is some small clovers like 4 leaf type not sure if that compares to red clover. Lot is sand with little bio-mater has a vine grass cover. Lot has couple large oak trees. A bottle brush bush few other small plants I have yet to identify as it is still winter all may start changing soon. I want to get fruit trees in the ground as soon as possible but want them to have healthy ground to grow in. Sorry this post is all over the place guess what I'm really asking is can I start planting long term fruit trees now or do I need to wait till I build up the soil. I should also mention I have a black thumb I have a lot of trouble growing anything. That is why the food forest appeals to me it takes care of its self for the most part.
 
Dave Burton
pollinator
Posts: 1026
Location: Greater Houston, TX US Hardy:9a Annual Precipitation: 44.78" Wind:13.23mph Temperature:42.5-95F
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Welcome to permies Mike!

The most economical way of starting a food forest is to begin from zones 0 and 1 and gradually expand yourself out to zones 4 and 5. While you are actively developing zones 0 and 1 (the home and area surrounding the home), it is typically advised to sow zones 2, 3, 4, and 5 with your nitrogen fixers and bioaccumulators so that the soil is prepared and ready to go when you have the time and money to expand yourself into zones 2, 3, 4, and 5. The farther you go away from the home, the less managed the zones become because it takes more work to visit those areas.

For more information, Jack Spirko of the Survival Podcast has a wonderful YouTube Playlist about Permaculture, Open Permaculture has a great free online permaculture lecture series, Bill Mollison has a nice online lecture series, Paul Wheaton has tons of podcasts and YouTube videos, and if you look around on YouTube there are tons more gobs of information by other wonderful people out there!

If you choose to listen to some of Paul Wheaton's podcasts, Podcast 057 talks about preparing a food forest; podcast 070 is a review of geoff lawton's Establishing a Food Forest DVD; podcast 195 is a discussion with Geoff Lawton about his Food Forests DVD.
 
Mike Tsmith
Posts: 2
Location: Zone 9b
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Thanks Dave
I appreciate your input.
 
Jeff Mullins
Posts: 1
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I just recently moved away from my fledgling food forest in central Florida. I started with grass on my tiny lot. Slowly but surely as I had money I added fruit trees to the garden. Then as I learned more about the types of plants available (moringa, for instance) I sought those out. As an example, I planted internet purchased comfrey roots below some fruit trees 2 years after the fruit trees were first planted.

To save some money I also started experimenting propagating things. Not only is it fun, I was able to give away dozens of little mulberry trees, lemon grass and dragon fruit. Don't be scared to grow from seed either.

I can not wait to get a house to start again in my new home of TN.
 
Sharon LaPlante
Posts: 26
Location: Brooksville, Florida - Zone 9a
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Welcome to Florida!

The first thing I would do is to not mow anything until you see what you have growing. Well, if your home owner’s association allows it. You may have all sorts of wonderful plants in the ground that have been mowed off or just need to be identified. I understand it’s sand and grass, but you never know. When I bought my place I let it go for the first few years and only mowed walking paths … within several years I had large hickories and mulberries that the previous owner had kept mowed down. My walking paths also changed as things sprouted and I started putting things in the ground.

Second suggestion I have is to get some plant identification books for Florida. You will amazed at the amount of things you might already have on your property once you learn what they are. Also once you begin to recognize things you can dig them up by the side of the road. I usually find the edges of parking lots a great resource. I’ve found tons of plants behind my local lowe’s store.

I would suggest citrus trees right away because they don’t need amended soil. I tend to plant those on the perimeter … sun permitting … because they are trees I don’t have to fuss over. I even have several planted very close to my large oaks and they are producing really well. My Walmart had citrus last week for $20 each … they weren’t as tall as the ones at lowe’s, but a third of the price. I do tend to plant lemon trees closer to my house because it's easier to just step out the back door for the one lemon i need for dinner.

In the areas where you want to plant other fruit trees, like pears or plums start adding piles of organic matter like leaves, moss, twigs … even limbs … look for bags of leaves the neighbors put out for trash pick up. You can also lay down cardboard and then add on top of that. Once the worms find they have a source of food, and moisture, they will begin to populate those areas and help with aeration and amending without any work on your part.

A great trick to save money at the start is to buy roots and shoots from the store. I have started several gingers that way and am attempting a cassava root right now. I'm not a fan of mint, but you can usually start that from fresh cuttings from the grocery store. Ask neighbors for cuttings or seedlings. Most people love to share their favorite plants.

The bottlebrush will be a great pollinator attractor … start mulching it and it should appreciate it.

Enjoy your forest gardening journey.
 
Lisa Allen
Posts: 221
Location: San Diego, CA USA
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Oh, neat tip on bottlebrush, we have one of those here in the yard in San Diego Thanks Dave for lots of info links! We are looking at our small yard thinking what we can do without disturbing too much, as well as possibly nurturing some wild land nearby - not as much moisture as you may have in Florida, but I know things can be done! Thank you again!
 
Tom Lindsey
Posts: 4
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Dave's recommended stuff is great! Eric Toensmeier's Edible Forest Gardens (the book) and Bill Mollison's Permaculture: A Designers Manual are also great (but pretty dense - or maybe that's just me).

I am letting a small piece of land undergo succession. 7 years ago the land was being farmed (corn I think). 6 years ago the land was growing ironweed (and a few other things). Now there are locust trees, blackberries, wine berries, raspberries, autumn olive trees, burdock, and hundreds of other plants of varying degrees of usefulness. The place is alive with birds, bugs, deer, and more. I planted some fruit trees 6 years ago and they died. Everything that is doing well is nature's doing - not mine. I think the wildlife have been propagating stuff (that they like). A grove has grown up on part of the property. I was in there two days ago. It was 10 degrees cooler in there compared to the agricultural fields neighboring me. I haven't made any strenous efforts to shape the direction of succession. Instead I am learning all I can about what grows here without any effort on my part and then learning what it can be used for (the work of Thomas J. Elpel, Samuel Thayer and others have helped in this regard). I have sown a few things (burdock, wild cherry, a few different nuts, and a few other things), but nature has been doing all of the heavy lifting.

I may run pigs ala sepp holzer's approach as described in sepp holzer's Permaculture: A Practical Guide to Small-Scale, Integrative Farming and Gardening and then sow more useful (to me) tree seeds. I may also try to terrace it. But it is doing so well without me doing anything I may just keep letting nature do its thing and continue to observe and learn from it. I think I want to keep it in mid-succession though, so I will have to start making more efforts soon.

 
Joshua Parke
Posts: 75
Location: Northern New Mexico, Latitude:35 degrees N, Elevation:6000'
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I just saw "citrus" and wanted to add....dogbane around young citrus trees helps them grow. <----not from experience, but something I learned a couple months ago from Geoff Lawton.
 
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