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Planting a forest

 
Heinrich Kegeldank
Posts: 12
Location: New Jersey, Zone 6b
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If I had to establish a 2-acre food forest with all kinds of plants, would it be best to plant everything right into the ground? Fruit trees not breeding true is not a problem for planting from seed. Taking into account germination rates and casualties I was thinking I might need twice as much initial seed as planned survivors. The problem I see happening is having "bald spots" where trees and shrubs just don't take off. Can I mitigate this by starting trees in pots so I can guarantee I transplant an established plant into the ground? It seems like more work and space. Could it be easiest just to plant maybe three germinated apple seeds in every desired apple tree spot? Seeds being cheap, any plants in the same bunch that survive the first few months would eventually harmlessly graft together, right? The soil would already be in the process of being conditioned with living mulches, green manures, and a bucket of the amazing paul stamets' MycoGrow. No specific property has been singled out so there's space left in the plans for swales or other earthworks.

I ask because I'm coming up with a plan on behalf of a group. I'm tasked with finding the cheapest way to establish a food forest. Our goal (more like an ideal) is to be able to feed at least four people off the food forest (excluding annual vegetable beds) within 10 years of growth. That's more of a production quota than a mission statement; we would probably end up selling/trading/sharing a lot of it if we did make that much food. If you have any experience or insight to contribute, it would be very much appreciated. We plan to include fruit, nut, and nitrogen-fixing trees as well as a variety of understory shrubs. We will carefully broadcast an even greater variety of ground-level herbs the following year to give the saplings time to grow a canopy and build root systems before risking overcrowding and overcompetition from thousands of supportive "weeds."
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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Posts: 8982
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Keep in mind fruit, especially apples, grown from seed might not be fresh eating quality, but might be ok for making hard cider.

If you want predictably edible fruit, you might want to invest in known cultivars of fruit, which can be expensive per tree ($30 for instance, per tree).

For general information about growing a food forest, I can't too highly recommend geoff lawton's Food Forest DVD.

 
Steve Farmer
Posts: 369
Location: South Tenerife, Canary Islands (Spain)
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forest garden greening the desert trees
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Heinrich Kegeldank wrote:If I had to establish a 2-acre food forest with all kinds of plants, would it be best to plant everything right into the ground?


It depends.

I can't plant directly into the ground because of these things:

- lizards, rabbits & goats will eat the young trees
- there is not enough rainfall and the plot is 20 mins drive from where I live
- the seeds I plant do much better with assistance (on wet paper towels in a plastic tub in the sun, checked every day)
- some seeds have low germination rate. I could plant 3 seeds in a location but some locations would get 3 trees and some zero

Another problem I don't have but you might is frost killing young trees that aren't in pots inside over winter.

I could plant more seeds directly in the final spot to try to fight these problems but experience tells me the lizards would eat them all, and anyway I would have to water them every day when they are young.

Your conditions are different so you might be ok. Why not plant some directly in the ground but also plant some in pots as an insurance?
 
Heinrich Kegeldank
Posts: 12
Location: New Jersey, Zone 6b
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Keep in mind fruit, especially apples, grown from seed might not be fresh eating quality, but might be ok for making hard cider.

If you want predictably edible fruit, you might want to invest in known cultivars of fruit, which can be expensive per tree ($30 for instance, per tree).

For general information about growing a food forest, I can't too highly recommend Geoff Lawton's Food Forest DVD.


I appreciate your suggestion to use known cultivars, but I'm not a picky eater at all and I love experimentation. It isn't about the price although that certainly makes it worthwhile. If I gather many seeds from several types of apples, pears or whatever, I will have a diverse and unique collection of fruits since every fruit tree will be a genetic reroll of its parents' genes. I might not be able to guarantee that a certain percentage of my apples are cider or storing apples but then worst case scenario is the local bird population booms and I'm left with some decent firewood. Even very bad apples can still make good vinegar. If I'm planting 15 apple trees and only 3 produce "viable" fruit and make it to full maturity, wouldn't the trees still be producing enough apples for their share of the diet of 4 people? In other words, anything more than 20% success becomes excess to be sold or given away. Even then, any failure just invites another form of profit. I could leave plenty of fruit for the wildlife and coppice a few trees for firewood. I'll still have several types of other fruit/nut trees, then berry bushes and everything else. I'm aiming for a lush, fertile forest the just happens to contain a bunch of food-producing plants. If half the food turns out not to be human food I'll still be very happy.

Steve Farmer wrote:
Heinrich Kegeldank wrote:If I had to establish a 2-acre food forest with all kinds of plants, would it be best to plant everything right into the ground?


It depends.

I can't plant directly into the ground because of these things:

- lizards, rabbits & goats will eat the young trees
- there is not enough rainfall and the plot is 20 mins drive from where I live
- the seeds I plant do much better with assistance (on wet paper towels in a plastic tub in the sun, checked every day)
- some seeds have low germination rate. I could plant 3 seeds in a location but some locations would get 3 trees and some zero

Another problem I don't have but you might is frost killing young trees that aren't in pots inside over winter.

I could plant more seeds directly in the final spot to try to fight these problems but experience tells me the lizards would eat them all, and anyway I would have to water them every day when they are young.

Your conditions are different so you might be ok. Why not plant some directly in the ground but also plant some in pots as an insurance?


I don't plan to start planting until I live on-site with at least a dog and another person. That should keep some animals away. I like the idea of starting some insurance plants in pots and I'll probably end up doing that.
 
Sean Henry
Posts: 74
Location: Louisville, KY Zone 7
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Just go ahead and plant the seeds, do not worry about stratifying the seeds as winter is cumming and that will do the work for you. It might be a good idea to mark the places that you planted the seeds using flags tractor supply has them in 4 colors.

When planting seeds in one "spot" space them a few inches apart. When you have a location that no trees sprouted in you can transplant in the fall from one of the other locations and limit damage to the neighboring trees.

If the fruit is not good on one tree there are several options for it like feeding to pigs or chickens even using the wood to smoke and grafting on to the tree.

Check out getting cheap trees.
 
Do not set lab on fire. Or this tiny ad:
The stocking stuffer game for all your Permaculture companions
http://www.FoodForestCardGame.com
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