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Plant Guilds

 
Mary Leonard
Posts: 14
Location: Jackson, United States
chicken forest garden trees
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I'm looking for information on plant guilds. Specifically plant guilds that include large pines and cedars - we've got lots that are probably at least 100 feet tall. I'm looking to add fruit trees to my acreage. We are on one big south facing slope that is completely wooded and live in zone 8/9 depending on which site you check on. Rainfall average is about 40 inches per year, mostly in the winter/learly spring. We're going to be using dead wood and brush cuttings for windrows so this could make micro climates for more tender plants. We've also already begun adding swales to the more open areas - mainly for our veggie garden.

The trees I KNOW are on the property are oak, pine and cedar of unknown varieties. There's a good amount of manzanita, California Buckeye and some California Bay Laurel. There's other trees as well that I haven't identified yet.

I would love to be able to plant my lemon tree in the ground as well as get oranges and other citrus. I've also got avocados and figs that I've started from produce we got from our CSA box a couple years ago. We would like to add fruits and nuts to the landscape for us, livestock (chickens, goats, sheep, pigs) and wildlife (deer, turkey). There's millions of bulbs/rhizomes of unknown variety already existing. Most have yet to flower. Erosion control mixed in with that would also be great though planting more stuff would automatically help keep the soil in place.

Any advice from those more experienced would be great. Oh yes, and we're in California so they're a bit more strict on the invasive ones.

Thanks!
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An example of what we're working with
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John Elliott
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It's going to be hard to keep citrus and avocados going if you get regular winter freezes. While they can take a light frost, down to 30F, if you get hard freezes, it will kill them. You don't say what your elevation is, but to get citrus and avocado to thrive, you need to be about 1000' below the lowest snowline of winter. In southern California, the lowest snows get down to about 2500', and you don't find many citrus or avocado orchards above 1500'.

Blueberries do very well under pine trees, the partial shade helps them. However, blueberries like acidic soils, and the soils out west tend to be too alkaline. Pine straw helps some, but to get blueberries to thrive, you would have to do some serious soil amendment. That might be an easy thing to do if you have a source of waste drywall. Drywall (gypsum) is very good at lowering soil pH (see this reference: http://vric.ucdavis.edu/pdf/Soil/ChangingpHinSoil.pdf), and if you built your hugelkulture with lots of drywall scraps, that might give you the right pH to make it work.
 
Mary Leonard
Posts: 14
Location: Jackson, United States
chicken forest garden trees
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The bottom of our property sits at about 1800' elevation and the top is about 2000' elevation.

We moved in mid-December and we had ice on the ground less than five times and only got about a 1/2 inch of snow that was gone within about an hour. When the sun comes up on the frosty mornings there's a good amount of steam rising from the hillside and it looks eery or mystical depending on my mood The leaves on my potted avocados didn't turn brown and wither until about the 4th freeze. For the last couple months they've been in the greenhouse but there's a huge hole in the roof so it doesn't provide that much protection and insulation until I do the needed repairs there.

Nights in winter do regularly get to freezing but it's usually just before or after a rain so the ground hasn't shown signs of freezing. We get great streaks of ice crystals in the exposed soil where the seller had a new septic field installed before we closed the loan. I'm thinking I'll experiment with some less expensive and plant them up close to the house for protection and see how they do. We do also get a water effect microclimate that helps prevent freezing as there is a large creek across the street from our house and we're in the bottom of the valley. This is a totally new gardening/growing experience for me even though I've been a gardener to some extent my entire life.

For pine straw, we have pretty much an unlimited supply with 8 acres of land covered in it several inches deep. For every square foot of deciduous tree leaf droop there's about 9 square feet of pine straw. I have no doubt blueberries will grow well but I'm looking for additional plants to add in. Don't need anymore blackberries or honeysuckle either!
 
Mary Leonard
Posts: 14
Location: Jackson, United States
chicken forest garden trees
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And we're in Northern California, kind of between the foothills and the snowline.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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Posts: 8987
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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If you're in Zone 8 or colder, it will be a real challenge to get citrus to produce in the ground. I'm in Zone 8 and creating a special habitat for citrus: http://www.permies.com/t/53597/trees/Lemon-scheme

I'm afraid even the most cold-hardy avocados might not be able to produce in an area which freezes: http://www.chestnuthilltreefarm.com/store/c/41-Cold-Hardy-Avocados.aspx

Avocados are my favorite tree fruit, so I might try to create avocado habitat also, but I would not expect success.
 
Mary Leonard
Posts: 14
Location: Jackson, United States
chicken forest garden trees
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Will avocados produce if they're kept in a pot in a greenhouse but still under 10 feet tall? The greenhouse is about 10x12 though I've thought about enlarging it when I'm replacing the rotted lumber and plastic.
 
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