• Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

2 weeks long enough to establish forest garden?

 
Aaron O'Sullivan
Posts: 12
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I was thinking of buying some land overseas in ireland and im wondering if two weeks would be enough to get a food forest rolling. obviously it wouldn't be as efficient as other peoples since i won't be able to micromanage the growth and look after it in the young stages. But if i spent 2 weeks preparing the soil, planting all the plants i wanted. Leave it and come back in 2-3 years what should i expect to return to?

the land would be about 1 acre or less to start with
 
Peter Ellis
Posts: 1266
Location: Central New Jersey
34
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
You could expect to come back to chaos
While you might be able to get quite a few trees in the ground in that time,the young food forest does actually require some care.
Not even Mark Shepard plants in two weeks then walks away for two years.
 
Aaron O'Sullivan
Posts: 12
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Peter Ellis wrote:You could expect to come back to chaos
While you might be able to get quite a few trees in the ground in that time,the young food forest does actually require some care.
Not even Mark Shepard plants in two weeks then walks away for two years.


but the plants will survive? im not too fussed if it becomes a chaotic mess and the plants have propagated where ever they pleased
 
John Wolfram
Posts: 612
Location: Lafayette, Indiana
17
trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
After three years, I would generally expect the land to look pretty much the same as before you did any of the work.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Pie
Posts: 8843
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
112
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
As I understand it, only a mature food forest can be left alone for that long and be expected to survive. A newly-planted food forest will be overtaken by weeds and grass, and most of the trees will die from this competition.
 
Neil Layton
pollinator
Pie
Posts: 632
Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
105
bee books forest garden fungi hugelkultur solar trees
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Short answer: No

Long answer: In Creating a Forest Garden Crawford gives estimates based on his experience. His figures are for 100m2. 1 acre is just over 4000m2.

Design: At least 2 hours per 100m2, so 40 x 2 hours is 80 hours per acre, minimum.
Windbreak: One day per 100m to plant and mulch. 1 acre has 4 edges of average 63.6m each. In Ireland I would consider windbreaks for strong westerlies (minimum) and cold northerlies and easterlies to be on the safe side), so between 5 hours (assuming just one hedge) and 15 hours, possibly much more if you want internal windbreaks, which is probably a good idea on a large plot.
Tree and Shrub planting: 1 hour per 100m2, so 40 hours
Plant raising (note: this is not something you can do in 2 weeks before going home and leaving it!): 2-3 days per 100m2, so split the difference and call it 100 days.
Planting and mulching of perennial layers: another 2-3 days per 100m2, so another 100 days.

With a good budget to keep plant raising time down and two of you, you could do it in a winter, but not a fortnight.

As other posters have correctly pointed out, you will face a lot of trouble from opportunist plants as soon as you leave it.

Conclusion: don't even try.

Edit: when I was working this out the plan was to do the design and the tree and shrub planting of 0.8 ha (2 acres) in the first winter, then put down around 0.2 ha (half an acre) of conventional annual polyculture for the first summer, while mulching the woodland and growing on annuals probably in a polytunnel for the first year, then plant those out in the second winter/spring. This is why you need two of you with one working off site part time in at least the first year, probably two to five years.
 
duane hennon
gardener
Posts: 644
Location: western pennsylvania zone 5/a
28
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Aaron O'Sullivan wrote:I was thinking of buying some land overseas in ireland and im wondering if two weeks would be enough to get a food forest rolling. obviously it wouldn't be as efficient as other peoples since i won't be able to micromanage the growth and look after it in the young stages. But if i spent 2 weeks preparing the soil, planting all the plants i wanted. Leave it and come back in 2-3 years what should i expect to return to?

the land would be about 1 acre or less to start with


Hi Aaron,

while I think the other posters answers are "perfectly" correct
I'm not sure they get your intent (I'm not sure I do either)

but my first question would be
what's on the land now?
pasture, meadow, grain field, woods, parking lot?
animals eating things a problem?

a Fukuoka style seed bomb of the area might be the thing to get things started while you're away
starting with nitrogen fixers, ground covers, and "chop and drop" plants which can battle it out with the weeds
on your return, you can wack the hell out of it and plant your fruit trees
 
Rose Pinder
Posts: 393
Location: Otago, New Zealand
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Kind of an interesting design question though. If the timing (2 weeks set up, 2 years left alone) is a design limit, how could that work?

I agree looking at the existing site, plants, climate would be crucial, and also what other resources are available to deal with the lack of attention (eg paying someone to come in and chop and drop twice a year).

Forests go from bare ground to climax without human intervention, so isn't it more about what can be done within the design limitations?
 
Rose Pinder
Posts: 393
Location: Otago, New Zealand
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
"As other posters have correctly pointed out, you will face a lot of trouble from opportunist plants as soon as you leave it."

In many places here that would be broom. I don't know if anyone has used broom to establish a food forest, but it's certainly been done with native forest restoration.
 
Zach Muller
gardener
Posts: 772
Location: NE Oklahoma zone 7a
35
bike books chicken dog forest garden urban
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Given the constraints of 2 weeks and 2 years i dont think you would come back to find a forest garden. But I know from experience that certain trees can establish themselves with no care. If you came back to the land in two years i bet you could find a few very hardy members that competed and got above the ground cover.
I had a small plot i did this with. There were baby pecans, baby mulberry and a small hawthorn that survived the lambquarter, chinese sumac, broomsedge, trumpet vine, mornining glory, and johnson grass onslaught. It was not pretty, and from that point it took some high energy work to get back to even being able to walk around in. But still those few useful trees did get established. I would never consider putting plants that cost any money into this scenario.

I also found that giant chard was able to compete as it was a wet season and it was started with mulch around it, before everything was left to take over.

I am unfamiliar with ireland or else i would reference some plants. Whatever ends up taking over will depend on whats been there in the past and the local seed bank in the soil.
 
Aaron O'Sullivan
Posts: 12
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Rose Pinder wrote:Kind of an interesting design question though. If the timing (2 weeks set up, 2 years left alone) is a design limit, how could that work?

I agree looking at the existing site, plants, climate would be crucial, and also what other resources are available to deal with the lack of attention (eg paying someone to come in and chop and drop twice a year).

Forests go from bare ground to climax without human intervention, so isn't it more about what can be done within the design limitations?


The land is pastureland. not sure what type of grass. I thought that if i tilled all the grass under and then planted in tree's with strong cover crops and annuals that they would propagate year after year and so kill out any "weeds". Aswell as planting perennials such as sunchokes
 
Neil Layton
pollinator
Pie
Posts: 632
Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
105
bee books forest garden fungi hugelkultur solar trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Aaron O'Sullivan wrote:
Rose Pinder wrote:Kind of an interesting design question though. If the timing (2 weeks set up, 2 years left alone) is a design limit, how could that work?

I agree looking at the existing site, plants, climate would be crucial, and also what other resources are available to deal with the lack of attention (eg paying someone to come in and chop and drop twice a year).

Forests go from bare ground to climax without human intervention, so isn't it more about what can be done within the design limitations?


The land is pastureland. not sure what type of grass. I thought that if i tilled all the grass under and then planted in tree's with strong cover crops and annuals that they would propagate year after year and so kill out any "weeds". Aswell as planting perennials such as sunchokes


First, you still don't have the time to do the job in the space of a fortnight.

Second, you are still going to face competition from seeds in the soil and whatever blows in. Forest gardens, at least mature ones, need less maintenance than conventional ones, but that is not the same as just leaving them alone to get on with it.
 
Rose Pinder
Posts: 393
Location: Otago, New Zealand
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Aaron O'Sullivan wrote:The land is pastureland. not sure what type of grass. I thought that if i tilled all the grass under and then planted in tree's with strong cover crops and annuals that they would propagate year after year and so kill out any "weeds". Aswell as planting perennials such as sunchokes


As others are saying, the strong early succession plants (the ones evolved to come into disturbed soil and survive harsh conditions) will out compete most of the things you want to grow that are less hardy and less well adapted. You can't go from paddock to forest in one step unless you are there to intervene in the natural processes of succession.

I still like your question though, and to what extent it is possible to design very low maintenance systems that evolve. It might be worth looking at what you could achieve on the land untended for two years that would bring you ahead for when you return and can put more maintenance in.

Is the 2 years absolutely no visiting? Could you get someone else to do minimal work occassionally?

Do you have gardening or permaculture skills?
 
Rose Pinder
Posts: 393
Location: Otago, New Zealand
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Zach Muller wrote:Given the constraints of 2 weeks and 2 years i dont think you would come back to find a forest garden. But I know from experience that certain trees can establish themselves with no care. If you came back to the land in two years i bet you could find a few very hardy members that competed and got above the ground cover.
I had a small plot i did this with. There were baby pecans, baby mulberry and a small hawthorn that survived the lambquarter, chinese sumac, broomsedge, trumpet vine, mornining glory, and johnson grass onslaught. It was not pretty, and from that point it took some high energy work to get back to even being able to walk around in. But still those few useful trees did get established. I would never consider putting plants that cost any money into this scenario.

I also found that giant chard was able to compete as it was a wet season and it was started with mulch around it, before everything was left to take over.


Nice story. I was thinking about using local naturalised plants and trees to start the transition from paddock to forest garden. eg would hawthorns survive and eventually start self seeding, which provides multiple benefits (food, medicine, habitat, timber, root stock for grafting).

Lambsquarter, yum

 
Joseph Lofthouse
pollinator
Pie
Posts: 1587
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands
274
bee chicken food preservation fungi greening the desert
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I visit a piece of property from time to time, and I plant things: trees, bulbs, seeds, seedlings etc... I don't care for them after planting. A few of them survive from time to time. Most of them die. I don't worry about the failures. I take joy in the (mostly temporary) successes.

Neil Layton wrote:First, you still don't have the time to do the job in the space of a fortnight.


Aaron: Knowing nothing about you, I'll add that farming is HARD work. You might ask yourself during your planning stages if you have the physical strength to do two weeks worth of hard manual labor. People come out to help me in my garden. Very few of them can do more than 20 minutes worth of light work before they are worn out.

Even if you bought the land and left it fallow, something would grow. Those growing things might be bushes or trees, they might be forbs or graminoids. Around here, many tree seedlings are less than 9 inches tall after two growing seasons. It's very easy to not see them amidst the other plants in a meadow. If there is already a hedgerow around the property, then it will encroach a little bit into the pasture. Perhaps birds will leave a few tree seeds. Perhaps some of them will grow. Perhaps if you scatter seeds or plant seedlings, some of them will still be alive in two years.

 
Peter Ellis
Posts: 1266
Location: Central New Jersey
34
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Aaron O'Sullivan wrote:
The land is pastureland. not sure what type of grass. I thought that if i tilled all the grass under and then planted in tree's with strong cover crops and annuals that they would propagate year after year and so kill out any "weeds". Aswell as planting perennials such as sunchokes


This suggests to me that you would have access to some equipment - a tractor with a plow, at the minimum. It also suggests that you are not very familiar with what tilling does. Tilling destabilizes the existing pattern of plant growth and in so doing creates tremendous opportunity for other kinds of plants. Other kinds of plants that are well adapted to succeeding under the new conditions and that are already present in the soil, unless it has been pretty well sterilized.

Tilling will not create optimal conditions for the plants you are going to introduce. It will create conditions under which a somewhat unpredictable array of effective competitors will show up and, most likely, compete with your intentional plantings.

Planting perennials is a reasonable idea (you did say forest garden, after all, so perennials are really a given), but what perennials? I do not know how sunchokes would fare in the place you are thinking of planting them. One hears horror stories about their invasiveness (which I generally consider a positive trait in something I want to grow with minimal effort and harvest for me to eat), but my personal experience has been that they do very poorly in my crappy New Jersey sand. Point being, you need to do serious groundwork in terms of figuring out what is likely to be successful in your location and what those things will need in order to get the best possible start.

Looking at the question as a sort of exercise, as someone suggested, I had the following thoughts:
First priority is pretty much always water assessment - how much does the place get, at what times of the year and how does it move across the land?
In line with water assessment comes an examination of the topography - I would map out my highest contour line(s) on the property with an eye to doing a swale, possibly two depending on the constraints of time, labor and equipment available. With heavy equipment a few hundred feet of swale can be created in a day, by hand, there went your two weeks. I would seriously consider (as in almost certainly try to get done) keyline plowing the entire parcel to decompact the soil, provide aeration and help with water infiltration and movement out into any ridges.

I would Not till - I would try not to destabilize the existing pasture as a whole, because what happens next is very difficult to predict accurately and it will be two years before I can do anything corrective. I would go along the swale berm and plant trees - all the trees I could possibly afford and manage to get into the ground. I would sow the swale and berm with loads of locally appropriate nitrogen fixers. I would then plant bunches of perennial food producing plants chosen for their local adaptation and habits that will not compete with young trees. Mulch about 3 feet in radius around the trees to give them a headstart on the returning grasses.

And then, if I still had any time, money and energy left , I would crimp the remainder of the pasture and broadcast something like field peas - a nitrogen fixer capable of producing significant biomass and with potential for reseeding itself - but I would put that out as a throwaway, not relying on it to succeed.

All of these thoughts would need to be adjusted appropriately according to the timing of the project - you don't do the earthworks in a rainy season when the ground is soft, you would change your planting choices if it were spring versus fall, or summer or winter.

But the basic ideas - improve water infiltration, produce a localized impact that gives your chosen plantings their best advantage, choose your plantings for their suitability to both the location, the abandonment and your long term needs - those would remain goals whatever time or conditions might dictate.

I would try to time the project so that the earthmoving aspects (swale, keyline plowing) could happen. They are, imo, the critical elements.
 
Mike Haych
Posts: 216
Location: Eastern Canada, Zone 5a
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
In my experience, the following pattern manifests itself with all woody and herbaceous perennials: first year sleeping, second year creeping, third year leaping. Woody and herbaceous perennials usually do very little in their first year because they are attempting to establish their roots and to get over transplant shock. They are very vulnerable to competition from already established plants. If some of those already established plants are aggressive, then the new plantings will likely fail without regular intervention to reduce the competition. We have to have a wood chip mulch that is both thick and of appropriate diameter. Then we have to scythe at least once a season around each planting to allow light and air circulation for the plant. Our goal for the first year is plant survival. In the second year, we start to see some slow growth but we still have to maintain the scything because the established plants are still likely to overpower those that we have just planted. In the third year, IF we have done what we should have done in the first and second years, we usually start to see good healthy growth although we still scythe and continue to do so until the plant is taller than the dominant meadow competitor - goldenrod. Once the plant is taller than the goldenrod, it has air circulation and access to sunlight without us intervening. In fact, it starts to dominate the goldenrod. Notwithstanding what I've just posted, the time frames associated with the sleeping, creeping and leaping vary greatly and are a function of some combination of plant, soil, wind, sun, rain, winter conditions, and stuff that I don't know about.

WADR, your questions say that you don't have a lot of first hand experience. In light of that and despite what I have said in the first paragraph, I would recommend that you go ahead and do it. Take notes and pictures of what you are doing. Record your thoughts on why you are doing the various things you are doing. Work with Nature. See what she allows you to do and what she doesn't. If a plant does survive, see if you can figure out why. Is there something(s) about that particular plant or its location that is different from those that didn't survive. Use this as a learning experience. Horticultural learning is a never ending process so the sooner you start learning the sooner you'll start benefiting. Most of my horticultural aha moments result from something that didn't work out the way that I did it.

And who knows that you won't get the results you are looking for. I don't know your conditions so I won't comment on what you should or shouldn't do other than to say that disturbing the soil will wake up the seed bank which will give you immense quantities of very vigorously growing competitor plants.
 
Todd Parr
Pie
Posts: 553
Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Don't plow, plant a metric shit-ton of autumn olive cuttings and let it go.
 
Neil Layton
pollinator
Pie
Posts: 632
Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
105
bee books forest garden fungi hugelkultur solar trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Todd Parr wrote:Don't plow, plant a metric shit-ton of autumn olive cuttings and let it go.


I'd be careful with autumn olive: it has its good points, but a bad habit of becoming opportunistic.
 
Todd Parr
Pie
Posts: 553
Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
That is exactly why I would plant it. It won't be a food forest by any definition, but it won't die and in two years it will have taken over and the soil will be great. Then you can plant a food forest.
 
Steve Farmer
Posts: 365
Location: South Tenerife, Canary Islands (Spain)
2
forest garden greening the desert trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I reckon if you planted 55x 3 foot high hybrid poplar cuttings and 20x small blackberry bushes in the spring that 3 yrs later you'd have 50x big poplar trees and 50x heavily fruiting blackberry bushes. That's a food forest isn't it? Easily doable in a fortnight and probly cost you less than €300 in plants. It's not very imaginative but it would work. I think more imaginative scenarios would work too.
 
Marija Mikolajczak
Posts: 5
Location: Connecticut
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Aaron. I just wanted to ask if there are people near the property that you could build a partnership with? Perhaps someone who would want to use the land and steward it for you during these two years, who understands and supports your long-term goals? If you are planning to eventually move to this property, it will be very beneficial to have started to build a community. I do not know about Ireland, or the area where you are looking to buy, but in many parts of the world there are a lot of people who want to grow food who do not have access to land. You could stack functions by working on social permaculture while the land would benefit as well.
 
  • Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic