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Input and Advice for plant-guilds in new forest garden!

 
Stephanie Hobbs
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Hi everyone!

This is my first post here and I've been loving what I'm reading. I'm designing my first small forest garden and looking for some advice on plant combos. I'm honestly not much of a gardener, I've always worked with livestock and just in the past couple years have gotten into wild harvesting and foraging. Any input and constructive criticism is much appreciated!

Some details of the spot:
-Zone 5a in the finger lakes region
-Gap in white pine/hemlock dominated forest that is approximately 50' by 120'
-SE facing gentle slope gets pretty good sun in the middle of the clearing for most of the day
-the "bad" news- fairly compacted wet clay soil
-We have put about 8 inches of compost and mulch on a 30' by 30' spot at the top of the slope (and plan on adding two more sections of the size down the slope)
-Plans to lime and add more mulch

Our goal for this year is to get some edible produce but focus mostly on improving soil and encouraging benefical critters. Start with an early succession herbaceous layer and later plant in some shrubs so that the final spot will have more of an oldfield/thicket feel. (we're planning on doing more of a mid-succession plot elsewhere on the land) But maybe we should start some shrubs in now? I'm not sure.


Possible Plant Combos

1) good king henry
chichory
chives
sorrel
birds foot trefoil or clover (GC) (credit to edible forest gardens volume 2)

2)Carrot
Beets
onions
lettuce
chamomile (GC)

3) Corn
Squash (hubbard and delicata are a fav but maybe others would be better for the soil?)
beans (fava?)
Sunflower/beebalm
lambs quarters (GC)

Also would maybe through in a borage plant to this mix? idk I just like borage haha

4) Anise hyssop
laborador violets
miners lettuce
nettles
tarragon

maybe also zinnas for some fun and color?

I don't have enough space right now for all of this obviously but these are my brain storms.....Thoughts, opinions?

Thanks for reading I'm excited to hear what you all have to say!

 
Jim Tuttle
Posts: 42
Location: Southern Oregon
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If you've got poor drainage, may I suggest radish? I've used a layer approach to heavy clay that goes like this: small twigs/leaves/thin branches, followed by horse manure (somewhat aged), followed by a sprinkling of radish and clover seed, covered by about 1/4-1/2 inch of bark fines. In the first year, this resulted in lush growth. That fall we knocked it over, and covered the downed vegetation with more horse manure, probably about 4 inches. The following spring we grew squash there, which did outstanding. No tilling or broadforking. The radish made roots that were 1 to 2 inches in diameter, which punched numerous holes in the clay.

8 inches of compost is enough for many annual edibles to grow well in without ever having to punch through the clay. We used to do 12 inches of horse manure over clay, then simply plant. It worked well, but not great, it's better to have a cover crop first.
 
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