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ideal conditions for growing orchard / permaculture foodforest / fruit guild

 
sonny gonza
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Hi! I'm about to start up an orchard but don't know for sure how to prepare the site/soil
nor which fruit trees to chose for a symbiotic guild relationship. I have read some people
on the forums say that hugelculture is awesome while some say that planting trees into
hugel beds is not a good idea. the winter is almost here and i wanna get started soon.

I'm located in a subtropical climate with low rainfall.
The trees that grow natively and are found at the plant nurseries are as follows:

cherimoya tree
fig tree
orange tree
pommegranate tree
avocado tree
peach tree
lemon tree
nectarine tree
apricot tree
plum tree
walnut tree
almond tree
membrillo
apple
pear

the site where I'm planning on planting the orchard has a bunch of wild growing plants and a deep rich dark brown hummus underneath with a fantastic smell. the site has not been worked or touched by any human for over 20 years!

I'm thinking I should just clear an area big enough to start one fruit guild, but I'm not sure if hugelculture would be a good idea or not. a drip irrigation system will be installed. any ideas on which fruit species to select for my guild? Cherimoya, pommegranate, orange, figs and avocado is a must for me, would these work well together? ideas on nitrogen fixers that work well with these fruit trees listed would be much appreciated. stay tuned for video

 
Dillon Nichols
pollinator
Posts: 596
Location: Victoria BC
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Hi Sonny,

Your climate is quite different from what I am used to, but I have a few general suggestions.

1) As far as site prep goes, Hugelkultur is awesome, AND planting trees into hugel beds is not optimal, because of the settling that generally occurs. For trees, a swale system is more appropriate, or if using hugel-mounds as a component of swaled system, planting the trees downslope or upslope depending on their preferences.

2) As far as soil prep goes, a soil test is the starting point here.

3) Hopefully some of those wild plants on your fairly pristine site are useful! A good look over what you already have would be an excellent start.

4) The circular guild pattern is not the only way to plant a guild; you could also plant the largest trees in rows on contour, interspersing nitrogen fixing trees between the fruiting trees, then slot in smaller trees and shrubs. Either way, it's worth sketching out a map to help visualize the layout. It always changes a bit as things go on, but this can be a big help.

5) When starting small and expanding over time, I would prioritize two sorts of trees; those which you can easily propagate from to help establish the rest of the orchard, and those which take a very long time to fruit, mostly nuts.

6) I don't see any obvious problems with any of the trees you list, except walnut; this is allelopathic, which discourages growth of other plants. However, only Black Walnut is very strongly allelopathic; the allelopathic effect of English walnut, Persian walnut, etc is fairly weak. Also, not all plants are equally affected.

I do note there are no nitrogen fixing trees on your list!

There are probably more trees that would work; based on the others you mention, I would expect mulberry to be an option.


Hopefully someone with more experience of your climate will chime in. Sounds like a lovely site to work on, enjoy!
 
sonny gonza
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Dillon Nichols wrote:Hi Sonny,


Hi Dillon, and thanks for your awesome reply! I have a better understanding now and will adjust my plans for the orchard.

i was wondering whether a swale system would be beneficial on my site due to the low rainfall, we get about 80-100mm of rain anually
and it rains about 3 times per year. would you still recommend digging a swale in my situation? wouldn't it be safer and easier to rely
on installing a drip irrigation system and have the trees watered this way instead of swales? the thing is we have huge amounts of water
underground, the water table is fairly high and we have dug out a well and meet all our water needs this way. let me know what you think
 
John Wolfram
Posts: 613
Location: Lafayette, Indiana
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sonny gonza wrote:i was wondering whether a swale system would be beneficial on my site due to the low rainfall, we get about 80-100mm of rain anually
and it rains about 3 times per year. would you still recommend digging a swale in my situation? wouldn't it be safer and easier to rely
on installing a drip irrigation system and have the trees watered this way instead of swales? the thing is we have huge amounts of water
underground, the water table is fairly high and we have dug out a well and meet all our water needs this way. let me know what you think

With only 3 rain events per year and each averaging about an inch and a half (sorry, my brain works on imperial non-metric units) putting in swales will help capture and store that rainfall in your soil and reduce the amount of irrigation that you need to do. If you can easily rent/borrow equipment for digging a swale, it would probably be a worthwhile investment. However, if your budget is such that you can only put in a swale or only put in an irrigation system (EVER!), I would probably go with the irrigation system.
 
Dillon Nichols
pollinator
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Location: Victoria BC
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What John said is bang on in my opinion. Low rainfall means it's extra important to capture every bit that you can, and clearing an area to plant will cause the disturbed area to be less capable of absorption and more vulnerable to erosion from the additional runoff, unless swales or other preventative measures are taken. Unfortunately it does also mean that depending ONLY on swales is risky/limiting, especially while establishing trees.

If we're talking one guild/smallish section at a time, you can swale by hand, even alone. All you've really need is an A-frame level that you can build out of wood and a bit of string, and a shovel.

If you want to swale a larger area all at once a bunyip level and a helper would be better, and machinery can save a tremendous amount of time.

How large is this site, and how large do you want the orchard to be?

With sparse rainfall, making sure to get your soil covered in vegetation promptly after working it is important... well, that's important everywhere, but in your case it may be difficult to re-establish ground cover if you don't have water available, so I would suggest doing as much preparation as possible before beginning to clear for planting. This would definitely include having from understory and ground cover plants ready to go in alongside the trees, and having water ready.
 
sonny gonza
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thank you guys for your replies, feeling grateful. yes, the idea was to first just make one fruit guild to see if I have what it takes to pull it off, if everything goes well i will do more, I have already cleared an area of about 30 square meters for my guild (hope this is enough). I covered the area with the twigs and clippings that came of when clearing, so that the sun doesn't bake and destroy the soil.

which of the trees listed would be suitable to have as the canopy layer?
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1355
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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It sounds like you are in Australia, probably in a zone 9 similar to conditions in Las Vegas, NV, USA.

I would make the overstory all nitrogen fixing tree. They will provide shade, mulch and fix nitrogen.
If you can get a few edible palms such as jelly palm and dates, that would also be good too.
Due to your soil 'high fertility' and very little cloud cover and the fact that you have to use supplemental irrigation, I would plant things closer than the avg humid american zone 9.

I would use three with a mature height of 10m+ as the overstory, then the next level down would be 7m, then 4m

33%+ of the trees should be nitrogen-fixers
33% at the 7m (20ft) which will be mostly tropical plants such as cheromoya, fig
33% at the 4m (15ft-12ft) which will be the stone fruit family of plum, apricot,
 
sonny gonza
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cool, and thank you for taking the time, Bengi.

I'm located in south america, Chile. no problems to just plant the trees straight into my soil without firstly preparing it or doing something to it? as mentioned before, the soil is undoubtly very fertile already
 
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