I have a 1 hectare field in south of France, planning to turn that into a food forest.
I’ve decided that my first step would be to sow a bunch of good pionneers species on there first.
I had a list pionneers trees from the permaculture course I took. And it turns out that I was able to find a bunch of these trees from the list in my city, all I had to do is come there with my ladder and collect all them seeds. The rest of the list which I couldn’t find, I ordered it from sandemanseeds.
Hence, here is what I’m going to sow:
— several species of pines
—— Pinus pinea (stone pines)
—— Pinus wallichiana (Himalayan pine)
—— Pinus sylvestris (Scots pine)
— Ailanthus altissima (tree of heaven)
— several species of fraxinus (ash trees) [not sure which]
—Albizia julibrissin (Persian silk tree)
— Acacia spp
—— A. dealbata (silver wattle)
—— A. karroo (Sweet thorn)
—— A. melanoxylon (Australian blackwood)
— Virigilia divaricata
— Styphnolobium japonicum (pagoda tree)
— Melia azedarach (white cedar)
— Gleditsia triacanthos (Honey locust)
— Caragana arborescens (Siberian peashrub)
— Robinia pseudoacacia (black locust)
— Catalpa bignonioides (cigar tree)
— Paulownia tomentosa (empress tree)
— Alnus cordata (Italian alder)
— Mespilus germanica (common medlar)
— Cedrus deodara (Himalayan cedar)
— Sequoia sempervirens (California redwood)
— Sequoiadendron giganteum (giant redwood)
— Cotinus coggugria (Eurasian smoketree)
I also have collected some seeds from other species, which are not necessarily pionneers, but why not have even more diversity ?
— Platanus × acerifolia (London plane)
— Aesculus hippocastanum (horse-chestnut)
— Acer spp (I must have something like 10-ish different species of maples)
— Gingko Biloba
Here is my plan to this day :
The idea is to go really super duper crazy overboard with the amount of seeds I put out there. I want this field to be flooded with tree seeds. each one of these seeds is like a little fertility/biomass machine. the first year, the density is going to be huge, and the function to build biomass is going to be supported by a crazy lot of elements (A lots of small is better than a few bigs) Obviously, not all of them are going to survive (Or maybe I can reach a 100% wood dense forest, the entire field becomes a big cube of wood, but I don’t know, it feels like it’s not going to go this way), the system is going to regulate itself, but what I learnt (from Éric Escoffier) is that there is not really a limit to how much density you can put, the only limit is how much sun there is, how many photons can be captured and turned into sugar through photo synthesis. there is not going to be a competion for the nutritients if there is enough diversity. the waste of some is going to be the food of others. the system is closed, and there is no need for any intrans.
And this is just the list of companion species. I’m planning to add 3-4 times as many fruits trees. I that young jungle of pionneers species, I’m going to plants a tons of fruits trees, liane, creepers, bushes, herbaceous. Everything that can possibly grow in south of france is going to be there.
I don’t even have a really solid design, I don’t really know where to put everything yet. I don’t really know which species needs more light/more water, etc… I just know I want to grow a huge huge diversity of fruits. I did a PDC 2 months ago, I did one exercise of design, but that’s it. I don,t have much experience. Do you think I should actually wait until I have a finished enough design to start sowing ? I was thinking I could sow first (sowing is not that much work, and then I can always remove/replace, do a bit of earthwork (I think I need to do some swale in the curves, could be could for the citrus trees)
I know that Stefan Sobkowiak (the miracle farm in southern quebec) is using mostly honey locust for the nitrogen fixing, and It’s not densified and multilayered as much as it could be. I’m going to use 30 times or more as many companions species and densify everything quite a lot more, and use all the possible layers. I’m flabbergasted just to think of the yield that could be possible, if I push every single limit to the maximum. I don’t know about you but that sole idea makes me crazy excited
So here is my thinking for the sowing (and a few questions)
Some seeds require a frost treatment (2 months of cold stratification/vernalisation at 2/4°c)
The amount of seeds I have is quite huge [I don’t have really weighed everything, but just the honey locust, I have 32kg of pods (8kg of seeds). Yeah… there are the pods as well, and I really don’t plan to remove the pods before sowing. (the easiest way I have found is to crush everything in my hands, for example with the robinia pseudoacacia, I do that, and since the pods are super dry, it makes some kind powder and the seeds are in there (intact) I just sow the seed+the pods powder and that works just fine, much less work than if I had to remove the seeds 1 by 1 from the pods)]
With some many seeds, I really don’t know how I can possibly put everything in stratification/vernalisation in damp sand. What kind of result can I expect if I sow these seeds direct in my field ? They are going to spend the entire winter out there, in the cold. Do you think I can get a decent number of seedlings in the spring ?
Should I sow everything before winter, and then hope for the best ? or try to put ¼, ½ of them into stratification (so then what’s the solution if you have several tens of kg of seeds to stratify ?)
Same problem with the seeds that require 24h of soaking or so in really hot water. I tried to put some of my honey locust seeds in boiling water, and something like half of them swelled and sprouted, but heating water requires a crazy big amount of energy, Do you have so tips on how to scale up the process of soaking (to minimize the energy input) ?
Thanks for your attentions, and for your precious time answering my questions, I know it’s a long post.
Love and light !
Howdy Val, welcome to permies!
I don't have much advise but I love your enthusiasm and I am looking forward to seeing some pictures of how things work out for you.
It seems that if you have a large amount of free seeds that you have collected, it wouldn't hurt to sow them all and see what happens.
The only thing you loose is the time it took to collect them and sow them.
What is growing there now? If its a thick perenial grass like fescue, even huge amounts of seeds might not work too well. If there are any trees there now you might want to encourage them.
One hectare is not a huge amount of land. It depends on what your main goal is. If I was doing this, I'd plant mostly good, named varieties of fruits and nuts and wild fruits and nuts. I'd pick varieties that need the least care. I'd plant some trees and some seeds. It also depends on how soon you want it to be productive. If you want to just scatter seeds and let nature take over from there, it's going to take a long time. I'm too old for that approach, but I like the idea if you have the patience.
I'm not an expert. This is how I'd do it on a hectare. This is what I'm doing in my fairly large yard. I'm anxious to hear other ideas. I'm also not trying to discourage you in any way. I'm big believer in people doing things their own way.
Ken W Wilson
Location: Nevada, Mo 64772
posted 2 years ago
I forgot to address the seeding questions. Here in MO, seeds planted in the fall and early winter don't usually need stratification. I think you don't have much winter so it could be different there. With such large quantities of seeds, I wouldn't worry about it. Hopefully someone from your part of the world will give some local advice. If the trees are adapted to your climate, nature should take care of it. I wouldn't plant them all at once though. I would sow some of them soon. I'd actually plant some and bury the seeds a little bit.
Is there any chance you could do some "main frame" work before you plant all of those seeds? I'm thinking swales, berms, or keyline ripping, or something. I always think water first, that's just me. It seems like the biggest limiting factor is often moisture. You will get a lot higher success rates in your seeding if you incorporate some initial passive water harvesting into your plan. As far as the seeding goes, if you plant them all out now (just chuck the seed around all over the place) they should get all of the stratification they require just by being out over the winter. The one's that don't aren't appropriate for your site and likely wouldn't reproduce so you don't want them there any way. If you can do the earthworks first now would be the time to get that done though.