It sounds like you've got a wonderful place to be doing this, and a good start with your new plantings and upcoming chickens.
I'm nominally somewhere around 8A/7B myself, but the details of my west coast climate are quite different, so I'll hold off on specific plant advice in hopes someone closer to you will chime in on that. I do have plenty of more general suggestions and thoughts.
3-4 acres is a lot of food forest. Working out from the treeline sounds great, but I'd really suggest making up a site plan as early as possible.
Read the Permaculture Designers Manual! It's a big dense textbook, but if you only read one book about permaculture, it's hands down THE thing to read in my opinion.
I really can't emphasize enough how pivotal I consider the 'zone' concept, and how important placement of the various elements is. I'd go so far as to say layout is the biggest different between good intentions and a successful permaculture site.
When looking to ultimately grow nearly all your food, you might want to think about saving some of that pasture for grazing animals, if you are folks that eat meat. Or you may want milk producing creatures of some sort? Decisions that are definitely best made early on! Enlisting some pigs to help prep the ground for planting of trees and shrubs can be very effective.
Think about what you want to eat; planting out dozens of gooseberries is not the greatest if you've never eaten one!
Consider the lay of the land; do you want some swales? Some ponds? This will impact what should be placed/planted where...
IMO, the second worst mistake when establishing a food forest (after putting things in the wrong places), is planting too much, too soon. And it's really easy to do. You want your food forest ASAP! And some of these trees take ages! So you plant and plant and plant! And then the fence that was a bit rushed turns out to be inadequate and something walks through it and munches your trees, or there's a dry summer and you lose half your trees because your only irrigation is via buckets and it's just not possible to water them all often enough... and the money that could have provided water infrastructure was spent on your now dying plants... This is a painful thing to see happen; please spare yourself!
Plant a bit less than what you are sure you can care for... and if you are then left with extra time, it's certain you can find other projects to move ahead with. At least, I've never seen a homestead where there was nothing to work on! Plus, spreading it out will let you produce more of the trees yourself. With that much space, learning to propagate your own trees/shrubs will be really useful; obviously you're already starting that with the figs, and your new grape vines can be another on-property source. I get cuttings locally from public food forests, other permaculturalists, and wild trees.
Sorting out some good understory plants would be a very useful thing; the tightly organized guild type plantings often done on a smaller scale don't make as much sense on the multiple cares scale, since usually you just don't need that much of the understory plants relative to the tree crops. So, that leaves you with lots of the herbaceous layer that mostly needs to be beneficial to the layers above, or at least not detrimental, while simultaneously being robust enough to compete with the other less beneficial plants...
Hope something in there is useful, and look forward to seeing how things progress; got any pictures?
Dillon Nichols wrote:Plant a bit less than what you are sure you can care for... and if you are then left with extra time, it's certain you can find other projects to move ahead with. At least, I've never seen a homestead where there was nothing to work on! Plus, spreading it out will let you produce more of the trees yourself. With that much space, learning to propagate your own trees/shrubs will be really useful; obviously you're already starting that with the figs, and your new grape vines can be another on-property source. I get cuttings locally from public food forests, other permaculturalists, and wild trees.
This seems like good advice.
I'm in a somewhat similar situation to Ned, and I've been putting in nursery plots of perennials easily propagated by seed in places where I think I might want to establish zone 2 and 3 food forests. I've got a few years where they'll still be easy to move around if I decide I don't want them there, and I'm hoping to thin them out and sell some of them at my family's nursery. Even if I end up cutting them all to the ground or something eats them it's not a big deal since seed is cheap. I have bought a few more expensive plants (grafted trees, bulbs, etc.) that I've been integrating into our zone 1. I'll use those for source material in the outer zones once I have a better plan.
Pomegranates can be grown as a small multi trunked tree but are also very easy to prune to shape. They're a semi popular hedge plant, which is how I'm treating mine.
Pineapple guava is a medium to large evergreen shrub, also suitable as a hedge plant. It has the added interest that you can eat the flower petals without sacrificing the fruit.
I think you're in the natural range of the American Persimmon, but if you don't like extra squishy fruit (feels almost overripe when they're actually ripe) there are Asian persimmon that become palatable before they soften. I'm probably getting one of these next year.
I haven't tried them, but Jube Jube is supposed to taste like an apple, then dry on the tree into a date like fruit.
We're on the alkaline side here, but if your soils are acidic you might be able to grow blueberries. If you can, I envy you. I'm going to great lengths to make a garden bed suitable for growing these.
There's new named varieties of citrus now coming out that can handle freezes down to 14 degrees (I have personal experience of this in my own front yard) I don't know if they're available outside of Texas. General rule of thumb is that mandarin and satsuma varieties of oranges are more cold tolerant.
You'd need to observe your own conditions to determine if any of these would work for you, but maybe I've given you at least one idea you hadn't seen yet?
Thank you for the ideas on trees! I'm still exploring potential trees for my site. The blueberries should do well. Several people near me have bunches of them. I planted mine under the drip line of a mature pine and mulched with needles, peat moss and wood chips. Planted them last month and they seem to be nice and healthy thus far. Time will tell. I tried to upload a pic of my site but no luck yet.
If you have deer in your area, be sure to fence your trees well.