• Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Starting a Food Forest in the PNW

Meg Harris
Posts: 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hello permies,
I apologize in advance if there is a thread on this topic that I missed during my search of the forums. Please direct me to any previous conversations on this subject if there are any.

My inquiry:
I will be moving from an established food forest farm in south-central Kentucky to an acre plot on Chuckanut Bay in Bellingham, WA, and am curious about the cultivars of primarily native fruit/nut-producing perennials that would succeed in this new-to-me PNW climate. I should note that our property is approximately 50 meters away from the water's edge and has a south to southwest facing slope that takes up a 1/4 of the property. I'm anticipating planting the majority of trees/bushes in swales on the lower, flatter, south-western side of the property that is partially shaded by neighboring conifers. I'll try planting the majority of my annuals in hugelterraces on the sunny slope. The swale portion on the flatter area should receive ample water in the wet season and is within reach of a water hose should irrigation be necessary during the dry season.

I'd especially be interested in knowing the PNW-friendly cultivars for the following species (if there are any specific ones):
- Elderberry
- Seaberry
- Currant
- Mulberry
- Fig
- Serviceberry
- Hazelnut
- Apple
- Pear
- Cherry
- Blueberry
- Blackberry (they are already prominent on the property)
- Paw-paws
- Persimmons
- Strawberries (biennial, not perennial perse)
- Chokeberry

I'm aware that the coastal setting makes fungal-resistant varieties prefferable, if not necessary. Apples, pears, and cherries may be too susceptible to such issues to make them viable options. Has anyone had exceptional success with any above-mentioned or other particular fruit/nut-producing perennials in the PNW?

I am also interested in hedging the road-side portion of the property with native conifers, perhaps hemlock and staggering them with a faster-growing species. Any suggestions? This would be more for privacy than a windbreak since the wind comes from the western side of the property nearest the water.

Thanks in advance for your time and help! I feel a bit like I'm out of my element having been an inlander my whole life.

One last request:
When I was planting a food forest in Kentucky, I sourced native saplings through the Missouri State Nursery. They were extremely healthy saplings and super inexpensive. I recommend them for anyone in the eastern broadleaf forest region. Does anyone have a source for healthy and inexpensive native fruit and nut saplings in the PNW area?

Thanks again!
Meg Harris
Event coordinator, Radicle Gathering

Nicole Alderman
Posts: 1005
Location: Pacific Northwest
duck forest garden hugelkultur
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Welcome to the Puget Sound! I'm still relatively new to gardening, though I've lived my whole life here.

For fruit tree varieties, I've based by buying decisions off of this this list by David Bullock: http://www.permies.com/t/9214/plants/Douglas-Bullock-Fruit-Tree-Recommendations, as well as this list here: http://nwfruit.org/recommended-fruit-trees/. If it's not on those lists, I just don't buy it!

For non-perennial varieties, I base my selections off of what Erica Strauss at Northwest Edible Life suggests to plant: http://www.nwedible.com/seed-selection-made-very-very-simple/. She also frequesntly post monthly "What to Do in the Garden" guides, so I follow those for what to plant each month. This should link to here list of them (http://www.nwedible.com/topics/gardening/to-do-lists/). I also use Seattle Tilth's "The Maritime Northwest Garden Guide" for the same reason (http://www.seattletilth.org/get-involved/gardenstore).

As for affordable native varieties, I don't know if we have a state nursery (that'd be great if we do!), but most counties around here have yearly "Plant Sales" around February. Here's King County's http://www.kingcd.org/pro_native.htm and here's Snohomish COunty's (http://snohomishcd.org/annual-plant-sale). They don't seem to currenlty have lists of their plant's but I know they have mountain huckleberry, red hucklberry, serviceberry, bunchberry, dogwood, salmonberry, lingonberry, thimbleberry, wild strawberry, the coastal strawberry, and even echinacia. Those are all edible. They also have hemlocks, noble firs, indian plum and other non-edible natives. The plants are small and bareroot, but they all seemed healthy.

As for roadside protection, remember that we don't get as much sun here as you did in Kentucky. My property is surrounded by trees and is north-facing, so I fight to get enough sun. You might not want the tall hemlocks. I don't know your property, though! For a fast-growing native tree, elderberry and alders are great. They grow fast, and the alder's fix nitrogen. Be aware, though, they both like to fall down. That makes timber harvest easy, but not so great for being by a road. Maybe someone else knows a good fast growing tree? Maybe non-staining mulberries, so you can eat them, too? Or make a hedge of salmonberries or thimbleberries. They get around 6-10 feet tall. The salmonberries are more vigorous than the thimbleberries, and have thorns, which the thimbleberries do not. I love the taste of thimbleberries!

I hope some of that helps you!
Dillon Nichols
Posts: 596
Location: Victoria BC
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Meg,

Nicole has provided some excellent resources there. A couple things I would add:

For some trees, apples and figs come to mind, there are many more options, and you can find more information from someone obsessive about that particular fruit. For example, this post has a list of other breba-bearing fig options for the Seattle area. Since you're in the states, you'll probably have better luck than I in sourcing the less common ones. http://seattlegardenfruit.blogspot.ca/2015/07/my-visit-with-kiwibob.html

I would expect you could find an apple specialist or three in the area; there a couple on Saltspring up here, but I'm not familiar with Washington state options. As far as apples go, while we are a few klicks from the coast, we have plenty of scab/fungus issues on our trees, but they still produce well enough considering the lack of soil and sun, and we haven't lost a tree in the ~16 years we've owned the place. Cherries seem much less troubled.

Beware of Eastern Filbert Blight when it comes to hazelnuts; apparently even resistant cultivars are at risk from newer strains of EFB, but non-resistant should be avoided.

I would plan to irrigate your trees in the summer while they are establishing, at a minimum. It's been damned dry in the summers here lately, even more than usual. Getting caught out with no irrigation beyond a hose or a bucket can be pretty problematic depending on the scale of your system.

Beyond that, if you have the patience/time, I'd suggest seeking out orchards and food forests in your area to gather cuttings of the most successful/appealing cultivars, the more local the better.
  • Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic