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Support species for dry food forest

 
Tyler Ludens
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I am planning a small (less than an acre) food forest in a patch of existing woodland where the oaks are dying from disease. There are still cedar elms, juniper ("cedar") and possible one or two gum bumelia and hackberry. Periodically this area has fast-moving run-off from a small field uphill, so I plan to put in a few small swales. Digging will likely be by hand because of close quarters and tree roots. My scheme is to grow nothing but support species for at least one year before even thinking about putting in any fruit trees or other food plants. This cool season will be spent fencing the area from deer, and making the swales, with planting of support species seeds beginning in late Winter/early Spring.

Here's my beginning list of support species:

Trees - Thornless Honeylocust, Palo Verde, Redbud

Shrubs - Esperanza, Leadplant, False Indigo Bush

Herbaceous - Bluebonnet, Illinois Bundleflower, Purple Prairie Clover

Annual - Black eyed pea, Cowpea, Hyacinth Bean


Any suggestions are welcome!
 
Steve Farmer
Posts: 365
Location: South Tenerife, Canary Islands (Spain)
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forest garden greening the desert trees
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Here are my 5 main desert support species:

Gliricidia Sepium
Moringa Oliefera
Leucaena Leucocephala
Mesquite
Acacia

The above are nitrogen fixers.

I am also putting in delonix regia and hybrid poplars as wind breaks
prickly pear and aloe vera are going in to provide fencing & more ground cover without needing irrigation
I'm just starting to try blackberries out as a ground cover/mulch. Not sure if they will get eaten, the lizards and rabbits here are pretty tough and desperate for anything green

Not a support species, but am putting in figs. As well as providing fruit, they hold the world record for having the deepest roots, so I'm expecting them to be beneficial, so maybe should be classed under "support"?
 
Tyler Ludens
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Thanks for those ideas. Maybe I should include Prickly Pear which I can chop up as mulch. The soil definitely needs more organic material.
 
Abe Connally
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Location: Chihuahua Desert
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definitely Prickly pear, because they grow relatively fast and can protect saplings from grazing.

I like native acacias and palo verde, really fast, hardy N fixers. Mesquite is also good, if it grows in your area.

I like mulberries, they establish and grow really fast, making micro climates in as little as a year. They need a little water to get established, but once they get those roots down, they grow really well on their own.

Also look into some of the native currants, blackberry, agrita, 3 leaf sumac (companion to Junipers), and manzanita for shrubs

Sage and lavender grow well here without any water. I also like Johnsongrass in certain areas. I know most people don't like it, but it is really good for producing biomass (mulch) and wind break for small plants.

Tepary beans are more hardy in dry lands and produce well.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Thanks, Abe, I will definitely be looking to include those in the forest. Anything that can grow on its own in your area should do well here.



 
Abe Connally
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Location: Chihuahua Desert
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Thanks, Abe, I will definitely be looking to include those in the forest. Anything that can grow on its own in your area should do well here.



There's also Texas persimmon, the black ones, they grow in washes, but in very dry areas, they might do well in your area.
 
Tyler Ludens
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We have those all over the place, but we rarely get to eat the fruit because the critters like it so much.

 
Cal Burns
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Hi Tyler, we are in a similar area as yours (around Austin) and have some esperanza growing. Are you planting for the bees? They are pretty blooming now as well as the Texas sage.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I definitely plan to include many native flowering plants in the food forest area.
 
Cristo Balete
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Tyler, if I had it to do again, I wouldn't put off planting the fruit trees. They can take 3-5 years before you should allow the fruit to form, depending on how old the tree is when you get it. Don't get all of them the first year. Leave yourself some room for experimentation in the future so you can try new things.

I wouldn't get any semi-dwarf trees, I'd get them on full-size rootstock because they live longer. You can trim them to the size you want each year. Or I'd start them on their own roots (which these days I think need to come from cuttings in the spring and no grafting). I would plant them twice as far apart as recommended, and fill in between with the support plants.

I try to collect seeds from local vetch and nitrogen-fixing native plants, the birds don't eat those seeds. Whereas I tried to put out a lot of buckwheat seed, and they got it all.

Unless you plan to coppice them, be sure your support trees that might outgrow your fruit trees won't put them in the shade.

And fruit trees don't get any cheaper, so get them before they get even more expensive. Be sure to get the appropriate chill hour varieties for your zone, and don't fudge! I screwed up in that category, and lost valuable time growing a worthless tree that couldn't produce fruit in my zone.

 
Tyler Ludens
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Thank you for that advice, Cristo, especially about getting standard size trees. I would love to be able to get the fruit trees soon, but there is so much work to be done in the food forest area, I certainly won't be able to plant the fruit trees this dormant season. Next dormant season is the earliest I'll be able to do it. I need to clear a bunch of dead oaks from the area and put in swales, install fencing and irrigation. Just too much to do in a hurry. I would rather pay an extra $5 or even $10 a tree than to plant them prematurely. I plan to coppice the support trees, though some shade is usually not a problem here, the sun is so intense and hot.
 
Cristo Balete
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Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
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I hear ya, Tyler. I had to clear pine trees for my orchard, the first half without a chainsaw. Blew out the engine on a ride-on mower hauling those things out of there.

One thing that gives you options, I have a small nursery area where I start fruit tree clippings and bare root trees in 3 gallon pots to make sure they have a big rootball before planting them. So if your neighbors or local people have any heirloom trees you want clippings from, particularly apples that have a track record in your area, starting those clippings in early spring in big pots and having them ready a year later works well. I start bareroot blackberries, asparagus, etc., this way, too, so if the rodents put an air tunnel by the roots, there is a bigger root system to save them. I put at least 2 inches of mowed weeds over the top of the soil of the plants in pots so they won't dry out quickly.

So if you spot a good sale or just happen to be somewhere where you see something you want to try, you don't have to pass it up. Some of my most interesting fruit trees are from car trips, and I always remember the place I got them and the trip that went with it. Or the people I got the clippings from, and what kind of history the original tree had.

The only reason I keep mentioning this is I am on the other end of, why didn't I get some of these in sooner, push these trees more to get them bigger and better so they can handle droughts and bad wind storms, or finding out it just took 6 years for a tree to finally have a crop.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Thanks for those thoughts, Cristo. I'm just about as good at killing trees in pots - or maybe even better - as I am at killing them in the ground!
 
Mk Par
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Curious as to which oaks are dying? I'm in Bexar County and I'm scavenging chinquapin and bur oak acorns to propagate in case you need some. Pineapple guava, cape gooseberry and goji grow great around here as does pecan.






 
Tyler Ludens
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The live oaks are dying. But we expected that when we bought the place. We're fortunate to have many elms and other trees. Thank you for the information about what does well, that's extremely helpful!

 
Patricia Mitchell
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Tyler,

I am new to permies.com and a complete forum idiot (below novice), having never posted anything anywhere, ever! I have read your posts about basic permaculture. I know this is off topic but I wanted to say that I am Dripping Springs, fell into permaculture earlier this year and I want to hugel and swale our entire six acres!!! For now though, we are hugeling our 1000 sq ft garden. All the garden hugels are made with deadfall live oak and/or ashe juniper. I have gotten offers from my neighbors to collect their deadfall. I felt bad for taking it, but I explained and they are not interested so...I took it....mwahahaha.
I wanted to let you know that we are trying to change the World, 1000 sq ft at a time. If I can convince just one other person to see the potential through my eyes (spouses notwithstanding and mine is sold) then I will consider this adventure a double success!
Go permies!
 
Tyler Ludens
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Good for you Patricia! Are you making piles, or are you burying the wood below ground level? I had no success with above ground piles, but mine were not large.
 
Patricia Mitchell
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I am not doing above ground hugels because I don't have enough top soil. We had added 7 cubic yards of compost to the garden last year(when we were still toiling the old fashioned way) so we tilled that about a month ago, moved the soil and then tilled again in trenches until we hit limestone. After clearing the soil out of those trenches, we laid down cardboard, then the logs, then smaller logs and sticks. We then back filled with the second layer of rocky soil, then 1" coffee grounds and sulfur pellets, then the remaining top soil. The trenches are very close so that it is almost like one 500 sq ft hugel. 12 trenches in all when done. I finished #9 on Tuesday. The logs are laid perpendicular to the slope of the garden although not necessarily on contour. I am only doing the west side of the garden this season as it is back breaking work and thus slow going. I did do one hugel on the top end of the east side for strawberries that I had to transplant from the west side as the bed was not on a hugel and was invaded by twisted yucca from residual root pieces. What do you think? Thanks for answering!
 
Tyler Ludens
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That sounds similar to what I did in my kitchen garden, mostly by hand, and yes it is stupidly hard work, but I've found it an almost miraculous improvement.

 
Cameron Dalton
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Steve Farmer wrote:Here are my 5 main desert support species:

Gliricidia Sepium
Moringa Oliefera
Leucaena Leucocephala
Mesquite
Acacia

The above are nitrogen fixers.

I am also putting in delonix regia and hybrid poplars as wind breaks
prickly pear and aloe vera are going in to provide fencing & more ground cover without needing irrigation
I'm just starting to try blackberries out as a ground cover/mulch. Not sure if they will get eaten, the lizards and rabbits here are pretty tough and desperate for anything green

Not a support species, but am putting in figs. As well as providing fruit, they hold the world record for having the deepest roots, so I'm expecting them to be beneficial, so maybe should be classed under "support"?


Moringa does not fix nitrogen but is a good choice for other reasons.
 
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