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How would you start planting an 10-20 acre food forest?

 
Jason Padvorac
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I recently got permission to plant stuff on a bit of acreage that was logged a few years back, in Washington State USDA zone 8. The landowner is familiar with permaculture, and is generally okay with me planting stuff on his land. I'm doing a fair bit of traveling this summer, so for now the plan is to start what I can that will hopefully survive neglect.

Here's what I'm planning so far, and I would love feedback!

On about an acre suggested by the landowner: Scattering various herb and vegetable seeds for breeding purposes, in seed balls if I have time to make them. I will completely neglect this area, and if any of it survives the summer and goes to seed, I'll use that seed to do the same next year.

On the rest of it: I plan to buy and scatter bulk seeds from https://www.treeshrubseeds.com/. I'll be ordering at least about 800 seeds for anatovka apples, and maybe mulberries, pawpaw, hazelnuts, and walnuts. The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the second best time is now, right?

That's the plan. Any advice?



 
Tyler Ludens
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I would first install rainwater harvesting earthworks and then I would follow geoff lawton's model:


 
Jason Padvorac
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Thanks Tyler! I'll check out that video.

A little more information -- this year, at least, there isn't going to be anything too much in the way of earthworks, etc. The landowner and I are just getting to know each other and I don't want to push anything that changes the property too much. Also, maybe more to the point, this season I don't have time or money to do much more than scatter seed.

I figure if I can get some trees started this year, that gives a year head start to whatever the future brings.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Unless your climate has consistent rains and never any droughts, I would strongly advise against planting anything without installing earthworks first. It's likely to be wasted money and effort, in my experience.

Also, if there are deer in the area, fencing will be necessary.

 
Dan Grubbs
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I would even back you up one step farther to better understand what your goals are, and what kind of "main frame" approach would best be suited to what you want to achieve, what kind of resources you have to apply to it, how many people are available to help now and in the future, what your long-term objectives are and what kind of time you (and others) have to put to planning, implementation and maintenance. Jumping right to planting, at least in my mind, might be a bit premature. Maybe you have all these things figured out. If so, if you shared them with us in your question, we could more accurately assess and then provide a more meaningful set of suggestions.

There are some great examples of client questionnaires out there that would be good to go through yourself.

Best of luck.
 
William James
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Ditto Dan Grubbs.
You should really have more of a plan than "scatter some seeds". Even if that plan seems sucky, at least it is a plan and (hopefully) doable.

Start from your needs (food, money, shelter, wood for heat, etc, whatever it is...) and work step-by-step from the ground up, going almost too slowly. It's really the only way to make something long-term happen.

If one issue is the guy being untrusting, one first year goal would be making that person appreciate your presence. Find out what he needs while you're at it.
William

 
Marco Banks
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Agree with the posts above: you always start by building in the order of greatest permanence. Thus, start first with shaping the land and capturing water. Swales, ponds, etc.

Everyone wants to start planting stuff right away, but you've got to be patient. Earthworks, followed by nitrogen fixers, before you then plant your trees, and then finally annuals.
 
Dillon Nichols
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While all responses provided are IMO technically correct and should be carefully considered, I don't think you have to do *nothing* until you can put in earthworks or major infrastructure, as long as you consider the time/money to be expendable without any expectation of success.

I see nothing wrong with the idea of seeding things to see what survives, as long as you are prepared for the answer to be 'very, very little', or possibly 'nothing'. Spending time this year getting to know the land is important anyhow, if you can spare the money for the seeds you may as well spread some about while you walk the land.

I would be inclined to put in a bit of fencing and start most of your trees inside that, so that at least the poor odds are about the summer drought rather than that AND deer. Even a very small area could serve as a deer-proofed nursery for quite a few trees, and survivors could be transplanted or used to propagate from. This would also allow for very small earthworks or irrigation systems to do a lot of good, if/when those become feasible.

You can call it 'temporary' fencing to sell the idea; of course it is, all fencing is temporary!

 
Mary Leonard
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Location: Jackson, United States
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I agree with those that say use this first year to get to know the property, figure out your needs and goals, figure out the landowner's needs and goals, begin at least mapping out some earthworks. Find a small promising looking spot, add some hand dug earthworks then plant the seeds for a guild or two.
 
Jason Padvorac
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Many thanks, everyone. Lots of good thoughts. Point well taken that some initial investment in understanding the land, understanding the point, and preparations like earthworks and fences will be needed for real success. Dan (or anyone else), can you point me to one of those client worksheets you like?

Dillon Nichols wrote:While all responses provided are IMO technically correct and should be carefully considered, I don't think you have to do *nothing* until you can put in earthworks or major infrastructure, as long as you consider the time/money to be expendable without any expectation of success.

I see nothing wrong with the idea of seeding things to see what survives, as long as you are prepared for the answer to be 'very, very little', or possibly 'nothing'. Spending time this year getting to know the land is important anyhow, if you can spare the money for the seeds you may as well spread some about while you walk the land.


Well put, Dillon. I have some bulk seeds already, and will have more next year, it won't take much time to scatter, and I really have no time for more than that right now. So if nothing grows, I've learned more about the land from walking it, and I've learned that nothing will grow without help. Fukuoka talks about scattering tons of seeds, and expecting most of them to not grow. But the right seeds in the right places will grow. I'm hoping there are going to be a few right seeds and right places.

I will be holding back several hundred apple seeds to plant in a protected area in my yard. If drought and deer prevent any from surviving in the acreage, in a few years I can transplant some over.
 
Mick Fisch
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Since you've stated your zone 8 I'm assuming your on the green side of Washington. That makes water issues less critical. Since you don't own the land and are still getting to know the owner, I wouldn't invest excessive money, work or dreams on this land (yet). It sounds like a fun project though, and if understandings between the owner and yourself move forward, might be wonderful, even if it's 'guerilla' permaculture and harvesting with the owners agreement. Look around the property and see if there are any erosion issues that need to be addressed as well as what the possibilities are for a dam or pond. Dams and ponds are definitely something the owner needs to be brought in on (and probably pay for). One cheap possibility for erosion issues is bales of straw slowing the water flow. Drive some good willow stakes through the bales into the ground. drive more willow stakes into the ground where you need things stabalized and slowed down. Most of the willow should root and start stabilizing ground/slowing water. (Not the only solution, just a fairly cheap and easy one).

Try some local natives like yampah or wapato. They should grow there easily in the right spot and are said to be good eating. (I view lots of wild edibles on my property as my semi-secret emergency food supply as well as a normal supplement to my diet.

You might also try some plum, pear, apricot, cherry, persimmon and pawpaw seeds. Like the apple trees, if they take off and you don't want that particular variety, they will provide established rootstock for grafting on a named variety you might like better. You probably already have plenty of scotch broom and alder on the property for nitrogen production. Bamboo will grow in that area if you can find a cheap source, but be careful of the running varieties.

I would plant tomatoes and an annual garden. The tomatoes, squash, peas and beans will self seed next year if you don't do anything more. Several bales of straw around them as mulch (I like around a foot of mulch, but I'm in a different area) should suppress weeds and not cost too much.

I would definitely introduce salmonberries, raspberries blueberries and huckleberries. I like blackberries, but I also like my hide intact so I prefer thornless varieties like triple crown (a good tasting variety). All of these should take off like a shot in your area. The little six packs for some of these can be fairly cheap and should do well.

Overall, I think I would start most of my seeds, (you might want to scarify some varities). Get them going at least a few inches high and then transplant them later in the year with some mulch (cardboard under straw or woodchips to give them a fighting chance, woodchips last longer, but they are heavy in quantity if your nonmotorized) and place a marker so you can check on your trees occasionally. That way you'll get a better idea of what is working and what isn't and can adjust quicker than waiting a few years and saying "not many trees made it, guess it's time to try something different".

By all means try the seedballs. Treat them as an experiment and keep track of things you vary. Mark the areas so you can see what your success rate is. If it's successful, forget what I said about starting seeds. I would really love to hear you had an 80% success rate on the seed balls by doing X thing. It would mean less work for me (I'm looking at relocating in about 2 years and will need to start over on a new property).

 
William James
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I saw a fukuoka-inspired video about seeding trees with seedballs. They were able to do it.
Maybe try youtube.

Also if I were doing it I would want a cement mixer to do the seedballs for me. More seedballs, less work.
William
 
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