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How to avoid the 'split pea soup' planting pattern on large scale forest garden

 
Travis Philp
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I did post this in another thread but I feel that it deserves its own, incase some people don't even bother going into the industrial scale permaculture thread.

So, the split pea soup thing is mentioned in David Jacke's Edible Forest Gardens book. If I remember correctly, he says that it should be avoided, and instead one should strive for a more naturalized mixed planting. I see this as being easily achievable in homescale gardens, but I have not been able to find any commercial production-oriented, large scale designs which are more naturally mixed.

Here at Greenshire, we're wanting to farm in the forest garden style, on a scale larger scale than Martin Crawfords 2 acres. I intend to use techniques similar to his as the basis for the planting and weed suppression but I don't know that I could make it work to sell a few trees worth of this, that, and the other, and expect to make a living, without the harvests getting too complicated.

Maybe when you're talking large scale, split pea soup is just fine. Maybe I'm over-thinking this. But my feeling is that it's better to emulate nature more closely if possible. I see this helping to avoid passing pests, and diseases between same cultivars. Also, I DETEST looking at row on row of sameness, and would like to avoid having to see that every time I go to the gardens. So here are examples of what I'm talking about:

** The (gc) below stands for groundcover

So this is what I see the split pea soup as, essentially...

A (gc1)  B (gc2) C (gc3) D (gc4) A (gc1) B (gc2) C (gc3) D (gc4)
   
Its got a mixture, but its a  uniform mix, and the 'A' is always found in the same spot in the pattern.

Wheras if you do something  with a seemingly random mixed pattern of trees and ground covers in between:

A (gc1)  B (gc2) C (gc3) D (gc4) B (gc2) A (gc3) D (gc4) C (gc1)
PAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATH
C (gc3) D (gc4)  A (gc1) B (gc2) D (gc4) C (gc1) A (gc3) B (gc2) 

It does contain the same 4 tree species and 4 ground species but I think the planting would appear more naturalized, and make pests and disease travel farther to get from one pear to another, for example.

The possible downsides I'm seeing  are 1) maintenance could get confusing, especially if you're delegating tasks to volunteers 2) )harvesting could take significantly longer 3) pollination could be impeded, depending on the species involved 4) It might not be condusive to a pick-your-own scenario, which I am toying with having.

 
                                      
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Your scenario reminds me of just how things really look in a forest.  Think about it. 

As an Indigenous American, I am also reminded of how my ancestors harvested, and how many of us still harvest large crops in wild forests.  We call it "wildcrafting."  Sure, it's different than picking a row of strawberries, but not necessarily harder.  When we go out to harvest pine nuts, for example, the trees are not all lined up nice and neat.  They're all over the place.  The same applies to huckleberries, black walnuts, pecans, wild persimmon, pawpaw, serviceberry, Mayapple, ginseng, and a plethora of other food and medicinal plants that are currently harvested on a large scale for industry.

As far as difficulty with personnel, we simply make sure that our people are wildcrafters and not just folks off the street.  If you train well, no problem. 

I wonder if the Pea Soup problem really is a problem.  When I walk in the woods and assess what is really happening there, I pretty much see a pea soup, at least until succession has crowded out the early species.  I don't think it is something to be avoided.
 
Jordan Lowery
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even if you start with "split pea soup" plantings, if you maintain the forest garden in a natural way( aka let nature do her thing). things will direct seed, self propagate, and eventually you will end up with a natural mixed diversity. and then things will move to where they grow best.
 
Travis Philp
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Hi Cloud, my experience in wildcrafting over the last few years is a big part of why I want to plant in a more natural pattern. The feeling I have when harvesting in a wild area is so much more peaceful and fulfilling than when I'm in a row on row garden. The downside is that sometimes the travel between harvest areas eats up a lot of time, so I'm trying to keep that in mind when planning a forest garden.

Ah, and one thing I forgot tto add is that though my diagram shows a straight row, my planting would probably be following the contour of the land, except for the many flat areas we have in our fields, which would be in more of a wavy zig zag style I think.
 
Brenda Groth
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Well Travis our property is way far from commercial size and I'm not really that familiar with commercial or industrial woodland farming..however, the forest we have was pulped many years ago, which nearly destroyed it..and we have been replanting and allowing nature to replant it over the nearly 40 years we have owned it...what a mess.

Even though our forest is smallish..I think that if you want a more natural look you need to build winding trails or roads through the forest for access rather than do things in rows..rows never look natural. Around here there are areas that were reforested back in the 50's in rows and they not only don't look good, but they aren't healthy..it basically looks like a very tall monoculture garden.

when a big wind comes up entire areas of trees blow down all at once as there is no real root and there is nothing else growing on the ground under them..sad sad sad


as we have been regrowing the forests here..we try to find as much variation as we can put in..and we put the things that need to be harvested by hand near the paths..seems like this would work well in a larger forest as well..but also maybe making a map of the forest if it is large enough say putting on a map where all the autumn nut crops are, or where all the spring mushrooms would be found..or whatever..and have as was mentioned above..wildcrafters doing the harvesting..

i haven't really got an idea by your post of what types of harvests you are looing for..but in our smallish forest my harvests would be of wild fruits and berries, crafting supplies, firewood and stick wood, mushrooms, grapes mushrooms, herbs and mediciinals..
 
Travis Philp
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Hey Brenda,

Straight rows; I've been in one too many pine and cedar plantations to go that route. They feel kinda like graveyards to me if that makes any sense. On the other side of the coin, when thinking about water retention/irrigation, I was envisioning having most of the plantings on contour, or maybe with our high water table and relatively flat land we could get away with a swale at the keyline, and/or top of the slope, and then the areas in between could be more free flowing.

As for what types of harvests; Maybe I'm naive but I'm looking for a little bit of everything from fruit and nut trees & bushes, mushrooms, root crops,vines (kiwi, grapes, hops) shade tolerant veggies and loving annuals in the first few years at least. I'm shooting for juuust enough of this that and the other plant so that a crew of 3-6 (plus two pigs and a handful of chickens) could handle the maintenance and harvests (minus any U-pick crops, which I'm thinking about gearing towards).
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Another way to mix things up might be to have sections of path consisting of a two-foot-deep trench filled with woodchips, and sections of path that are ordinary soil covered by a lawn or some mix of well-behaved groundcover plants. This would allow for an independent control of foot traffic and water flow, and give a diversity of fungal and bacterial soil ecosystems.

Clumps of a particular species would allow any pest/disease infestation to be localized in a particular clump rather than finding random bridges of vegetation that eventually percolate to the entire field. Each clump can blend gradually into the next, but having a centralized place for the garden cart (and sizing a clump of vegetation to approximately fill up a cart) might save a lot of effort in harvesting.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I'm really interested in ideas for U-pick permaculture garden/farm.  I love the idea but not sure how it would work out....
 
Travis Philp
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I think the U pick thing could work with a little education and maybe a walk-through. Once you get a regular customer base they'll learn the ropes and be able to figure it out on their own.
 
Matt Ferrall
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I generaly plant the same species of trees or shrubs in a line on contour.That,along with spacing them even distances apart,makes it easier to find them when they are young.Chaos happens and some die,leaving gaps so ultimatly it looks pretty organic .Some order in the begining will help with maintnance.Ive mentioned before how my experience picking native fruits for seed showed me that old growth forests were the least productive due to overcomplexification in harvest and terrain.Personally,I prefer to plant more densly with seedling trees(not grafted)and weed out the bad ones later,which makes it all look organic.I think this(the split pea sopu example) is one of the bigger flaws of that Edible Forest Gardening book .But they are located in the east.Furthermore,if wanted to grow good timber,than a densly spaced stand of the same tree would be the most effective at producing a quality product.But the focus of that massive tome is limited only to edibles.
 
Kirk Hutchison
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I don't see any problem with starting off that way. You can always add more plants as you go along. Maybe you will see a need for a certain function in the ecosystem - you can then pick a good plant to fulfill that need.
 
                    
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I think one of the reasons Jacke warns against the "pea soup" thing is that if you plant similar guilds everywhere, you can't possibly be paying attention to the microclimates and subtle site differences between different areas, especially on a large parcel. 

When you walk thru a forest, the north slope is going to have different species dominating than a south slope.  You come across a stream or wet area and the vegetation changes dramatically.  A gap from a fallen tree makes still other species arise.  I think we should strive to design our food forests to be as appropriate as possible for their specific location.

He also warns against "random" guilds (which is not what I think Travis meant when he used the word, but I'll talk about it anyway), because the major holy grail of forest gardening is to create mutually beneficial polycultures.  Randomly throwing things together might be interesting, but it is probably not going to be as productive as carefully thought out guilds of things we hope will benefit one other by growing near one other. 

Maybe a way to avoid the soup texture is to have five or so guilds that are spaced further or closer together?  I like the ideas of significant openings, gaps, meadows, and outdoor rooms. 

Here's my two cents on pick your own commercial food forests:  If you choose species that ripen at different times of the year, it will be really obvious what to pick, because there will be fruits on somethings and not on anything else.  I'd be wary about what is planted underfoot - needs to be sturdy.  Customers who are looking for berries would probably tend to not watch where they are walking. 

I agree with Cloudpiler, it's not any more difficult to harvest things in a naturalistic planting pattern, and it's definitely more fun.  I like the idea that in a food forest, harvesting domesticated species could have the feel of wildcrafting.  It's safe and easy food gathering for people who might not go out to the real woods and do it. 
 
Paul Cereghino
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I'd not underestimate the whole workflow cost of harvest if you are intending to survive in the marketplace.  Not just travel time between harvest sites, but moving the harvest from the site to staging, storage and distribution.

For this purpose... the weight of the crop is very important... many wildcraft items are relatively light.  THis sounds like a 'zone' issues.  with zone 3 to 5 organized around access roads.

I think Marina is on target when she talks about organizing patches at the landscape scale around microclimate.  This is the variation that vegetation ecology is focussed on... moisture, temperature, frost, heat, soil.  In addition you'd want to consider the manipulation of this microclimate to increase the area of protected and fertile sites through planting structure (wind breaks, earthworks.. etc.)

Between zoning based on wheeled access and blocking based on microclimate and microclimate modification elements of the system, I am would think that the structure of the diversity within this matrix may be very minor in effect, and very difficult to predict.  I am not convinced "nature" cares about things like straight vs crooked lines.  Are the spatial relationships we perceive the ones that are important to yield or resilience?!  In addition, I would wonder on the effect of not lumping species on pollination efficiency.

Linear structure may be very important to support the legibility to the system if you labor is seasonal or you-pick.
 
                            
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What about patches instead of rows? We quite often find patches of blueberries in the wild and other plants too. Might help with the harvest too.
 
Travis Philp
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What I'm kinda envisioning is patches within rows, if that makes sense. So I'd have these paths running on contour, with 4-6 foot wide beds between for the trees etc.  So picture this winding grid of beds n paths an acre or two wide, with  suntrap shaped windbreak every 200 feet. Within this I'm thinking of a bit of a shotgun blast pattern, where trees of te same cultivar type are rarely planted one or two trees apart. The herbaceous layer I'm less concerned with but would like to have in  similar pattern
 
                    
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I had the fortune of working with sepp holzer on this issue. After we built terraces on our slopes* (http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=65918&id=542063253&l=80c4677f2e) we planted them up with about 75 trees and several hundred understory plants. finally we seeded with ground cover. (http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=68074&id=542063253&l=6156aac0a0).

*this is a Washington State University site. Sepp told us specifically that the project here is for demonstration purposes only and that he would never terrace this particular hill. I agreed and we talked hog language the rest of the day.


Aside from the way terraces really work, a few things that I gleaned in the works was that rather than planting trees in lines on terraces that they should be staggered to create a wandering path - this in effect creates micro climates even on a uniform hillside if one clumps trees of similar height - it creates, in time, a patchwork of shades and sunspots inside the food forest. Jacke also writes about this in the section of the EFG which discusses variable gap sizes- don't have the book in front of me. so Travis, yes, it sounds like you have the same idea.

Regarding surviving in the marketplace, I don't expect the marketplace will last as long as the planting , but that's another topic.
One of the biggest concerns I've been working with is weather pattern extremes. We can assume the sun will have a fixed pattern of  exposure, and so plant for that- but where I live we have had some mighty horrible weather the last few years. i lost 3 trees this nov to a freak snowstorm of 12", all dumped in just 36 hours. the leaves were still on and I was away for the turkey, and came home to heartbreak. Frankly, I don't expect industrial ag as we know it to survive the decade. Between storms and population burdens, alot of BS and ag loss is going to go down. Were headed back to a more 19c approach for the bulk of us bastards.

If your weather patterns are also getting more extreme (they seem to be everywhere) get some windbreak in there. Something with fiber or textile use, and plenty of it. Ittl blow down and you can use it without loosing food crops. Plant to both extremes of your environment- I'm planting for heavy snow, hard freeze and summer drought. What lives lives. I go back and fill gaps.

Its not going to be a cake walk if you live in an area already prone to weather extremes, or with topographical funnelling like my site.

As far as harvesting, get what you need and then deal with surplus. straight from the principles. Heading into even local markets right off the bat will only narrow your ability to observe what really works in your specific locations. get crazy with it. plant anything remotely possible. Get starts from any neighbourhood specimens that are doing well. I've got an 80+ year old apple orchard about 2 miles from me. Im taking scions and roots/shoots like a madman.  those that thrive will keep you and yours alive.

sounds like you have some slope- one last thought - and this is part of Sepp's success on slopes- ever notice how cane berries cling to slopes in a broad range from upright to horizontal? plant your perennial canes in at 15-45-75 degrees from horizontal (equal distribution), they will decide which way to go individually, and fill the upper and lower extent of the sweep making harvest possible from both sides. birds get the middle.

if you are going to do terraces, drop me a line. Ive been with Sepp as he terraced, and have a BS with a bunch of civil engineering in it, so I might be able to help clarify the process for you a bit.

best!

 
Paul Cereghino
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Deston Lee wrote:
Regarding surviving in the marketplace, I don't expect the marketplace will last as long as the planting , but that's another topic.

Frankly, I don't expect industrial ag as we know it to survive the decade....Were headed back to a more 19c approach for the bulk of us bastards...As far as harvesting, get what you need and then deal with surplus. straight from the principles. Heading into even local markets right off the bat will only narrow your ability to observe what really works in your specific locations.


@Deston  - I am usually not the disagreeing sort, but maybe I don't understand what you're saying.  I have heard these kinds of sentiments before, but not presented as 'Pc principles'.  Here's what I would say:

I think that farmers without oil will be MORE concerned with labor cost, not less concerned.  I that maximizing yield is part of the focus of permaculture design.  I define 'me an mine' pretty broadly to include broad swaths of my community, even people i may disagree with, thus the importance of designing for harvestable surplus to get through hard times together.  I have found Pc principles VERY focussed on labor efficiency for yield.  "The Market" is something that has been with us for millenia.  Not positioning yourself in "the market", and not thinking about how you will trade surplus seems like a approach for those with considerable privilege.
 
                    
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this conversation strays from the topic considerably... iill go there, and Im aware this comment might get shuffled to a new threadie.

there is a difference between maximizing and optimizing yield. it boils down, IMHO to that "is permaculture a biocentric or anthropocentric practice" argument. im squarely on the biocentric side, thou I also do not like to debate- or rather, i wish I could stop myself and listen to me more effectively when I start to.

Optimizing yields creates systems which perpetuate for decades even after the human designer is gone, benefiting all the systems which are enmeshed in the local life web. maximizing yields leads to systems which fall apart within a few years or months of the human designers absence, and then are replaced by seral successions.

if a person wants to farm, they can do it. I can consult on that all day long and WSU paid me to do it for a spell.  It only lead to systems which were degraded the moment a knowledgeable operator left them. not my idea of an enduring design.

the industrial ag market, which I refereed to in the intro, is not the local farmers market where your hand picked produce can be exchanged with neighbours for their produce and goods. The industrial ag  market is one which exchanges commodities and and pools produce and product,  leveraging value away from the knowledgeable worker of the land.

I did mention holding back on going to local markets for a bit. If a person wants to go to the local farmers market right from go I wont stop them. I do see alot of start ups that  fail to observe the site specific  production patterns in favor of  economic extractive values. heading to market even with best intentions before looking to see what kind of weeds show up in 3 or even 5 years of native successions, where water pools in a 10 year vs a 50 year event, when parasitic wasps are most active and what conditions bring them about.,  etc.,  failing these observations merely shunts human intent on a system that is much more complex than we can actually grasp. I suspect that we can live longer, and more happily, on less than many of us anticipate. and I also suspect that that kind of small, limited impact coupled with observation of the ever more dynamic changes around us are the key to getting past  coming storms.

rather than considerable privilege I come from Americas lowest economic rungs.  ive lived on about 8k annually since 2004, and only spent about 10 years not living at less than half the poverty level. the last 7 years have been intentional, where as the first 16 were not. Im 40, and in between I had the poor kids dream. I made it out and was busting 40k a year. I left that life when the oil wars started. I made a down on land and have been poorer than a pawn ever since. Ive lived in monasteries, practised martial arts and lived in national forests as a wild-crafter and refugee from the concrete jungles. Now my income of 8-10k annually pays a mortgage and student loans. Im living mostly off my land, about 4 months a year directly from my gardens and so on, and supplemented year round by wild crafting, hunting, etc.  im not working from privilege. im interested in how little we need to maintain our mind body health. where we seem to be poorest in in spirit and self awareness. Im no exception. That is where my comments come from. Lately, with winter, and some injuries I sustained last year, Ive found I 'need more'. I have to be where people are, to get medical care, etc. There is a reason neolithic man died earlier than modern man. I do not confuse that for quality of life tho, only quality of health care- and water quality, but again, thats a different story...

thank you for asking me to clarify that, i do think it is important that those "with"  distribute their privilege. Had I health care I could go another 20-30 years out here. If I get it, I probably will. I like the wilds and edges. Its not for everyone. But I speak of it because its for me, and Im for it. and the forest garden is a nice edge between that world i don't go to so much, when I have the choice, and the one I long to live- and die- in. but my 2-3 week solo hike days are numbered. Perhaps having had that life is the greatest privilege I can think of.

If any monied privilege ever comes my way, Ill do what Ive always done: take only what I need and find someone who needs the rest. That's the PC principle - and in fact, ethic, I was referring to.

thank you for asking me to clarify my statement. Its good for me to write this way and consider my thoughts and words deeply. there is more to do. I appreciate the opportunity.

 
Travis Philp
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Deston Lee wrote:
I had the fortune of working with Sepp Holzer on this issue. After we built terraces on our slopes* (http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=65918&id=542063253&l=80c4677f2e) we planted them up with about 75 trees and several hundred understory plants. finally we seeded with ground cover. (http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=68074&id=542063253&l=6156aac0a0).

*this is a Washington State University site. Sepp told us specifically that the project here is for demonstration purposes only and that he would never terrace this particular hill. I agreed and we talked hog language the rest of the day.


Why wouldn't he normally terrace that site? Did he stay what he'd do instead?

Deston Lee wrote:

Aside from the way terraces really work, a few things that I gleaned in the works was that rather than planting trees in lines on terraces that they should be staggered to create a wandering path - this in effect creates micro climates even on a uniform hillside if one clumps trees of similar height - it creates, in time, a patchwork of shades and sunspots inside the food forest. Jacke also writes about this in the section of the EFG which discusses variable gap sizes- don't have the book in front of me. so Travis, yes, it sounds like you have the same idea.


You're saying that the  that the trees should be staggered to create a wandering path? I don't follow, I thought the path was determined by the contour, not where the tree is planted.

Deston Lee wrote:

get crazy with it. plant anything remotely possible. Get starts from any neighbourhood specimens that are doing well. I've got an 80+ year old apple orchard about 2 miles from me. Im taking scions and roots/shoots like a madman.  those that thrive will keep you and yours alive.


While I do plan to do some experimentation with pushing the zone boundaries, I'm on such a tight budget that I need somewhat of a safe bet for anything beyond home scale , and I'm not really plugged into the farming scene here. Permaculture is but a whisper in these parts and its usually whispered by people without land or much of a garden beyond a community garden plot. I'm trying to branch out and find those hiding in the woodwork. There's a guy growing apricots, hardy table grapes, and hardy kiwi among other things just south of me, and a lady with a peach tree nearby. Might sound like nothing to those in warmer zones but as far as I know, these are plants that are ushing the zone boundaries here in central ontario.

Deston Lee wrote:
sounds like you have some slope- one last thought - and this is part of Sepp's success on slopes- ever notice how cane berries cling to slopes in a broad range from upright to horizontal? plant your perennial canes in at 15-45-75 degrees from horizontal (equal distribution), they will decide which way to go individually, and fill the upper and lower extent of the sweep making harvest possible from both sides. birds get the middle.


There’s actually not much slope here that could be described as anything beyond gradual. Thanks for the tip either way
 
                    
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He would not have terraced that site for many a reason, most of which I understood through pantomime rather than translation.

first, its to small and there is plenty of flat land around it. second it is a cut remnant of larger woodlot that wants it back. third, its a north facing slope and so production would tend to be less intensive and more forest oriented than a south facing slope.

he and I agreed the best thing WSU could have done to make the terraces would have been to fence it on contour and use hogs to make the contours and eat the huge vole population. WSU wasnt ready to hear about hogs on the site at all.

staggering trees- Yes, the spacing should clump along the terrace and move abck and forth from front to back, creating a meander rather than a line. the terrace is 15'+ wide, so there is plenty of flat to do this on. the top edge (headscarp) and bottom edge (toe) of the terraces are planted profusely with shrubby berries and so on. The terraces themselves are patchwork of copses, openings for annuals, and thickets, creating a meander on the rather even (2-4%) grade of the 15'+ wide terrace. the narrower the terrace, which happens on steeper slopes, the less meander. (the one in the photo is about 12-15% grade)

you dont have to call it anything. im sick of the permaculture word, the permie stars and the money cussing from all sides. dont make enough for what Im doing, they make too mcuh blah blah blah. hell, I made $3300 last year. Im alive. 'f' it.  PLANT UP! just plant stuff and design stuff. call it space junk if you want~! just plant. and if you own the land, who cares what people think. in 15 years they'll be following your lead and asking you how. invite them in without permaculture as a word in the mix. I regret registering my website with the moniker now. too.... confining to be labelled.

if you dont have much slope- on average less than 8% or so, just use swales. much less work and same effect in terms of stabilizing soil.

PLANT UP!
 
Travis Philp
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Hmmm, we tried using 'pigtail' electric fencing to put our two pot-belly pigs to work clearing some land but one of them kept trying to escape by kamikazi-ing the fence, getting stuck, and zapped repeatedly. She didn't learn her lesson and tried again. Any suggestions for low cost/low tech portable fencing solutions?

When I say "permaculture is but a whisper in these parts' I mean it in the general sense of taking organic and conventional one step further. Anyone doing farming outside the box. I use the term for convenience in this case I suppose. I'd venture to guess that 99.9% of the farmers here are doing either GMO conventional corn/wheat/soy, cattle, hay, or organic veggie market gardening. It's epidemic.

Could you elaborate what you mean when you say, 'just use swales'? Are you referring to makinging a swale only at the high elevation point on contour, and then making the beds below in whatever shape you want but not necessarily digging in paths? Or should they follow the same contour? Or am I way off?

Thanks for the help
 
                    
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just use swales... Id have to see the land.

but if your not dealing witha slope of 8% to 30% you dont need terraces. they can be convenient for moving about, esp if you have farm rigs or want to use mobile chicken coops, outhouses, etc.  ect.

a pig that kept at an electric fence? thats a strange thing in my experience. I haven't done pigs since the mid 90's and I was doing it all wrong. pigs are smart. they train easy. they love affection. that said, I havent run them the right way and ive got alot of considering to do before i go there again, so im not gonna be qualified to say much more than love em and see what others say. I saw some stuff in cali that seemed to be on the right track, cant say how to reach those folks tho. IM sure theres' people here using mobile pig paddock - mine were stationary and horrible. holzers ideas about pigs convinced me that I should do it again; general permie ideas werent enough cause I know pigs too well the wrong way and the big book didnt dive into specifics.. pigs arent  my shortsighted list, though when I have the money and time to go there... but that isnt this winter.

but a whisper? maybe dont call your practice anything. let people look at you like a fool, get crosseyed and laugh. so what. follow the land. listen to the soil and trees. observe. observe. take a nap and dream. then use the tools. dont call it anything.

or say you had a visit from a mysitical angel and are following divine instruction. that'll get em straight

give yourself 10 years. then see what they say. be patient with yourself and others, even and especially  the gmo epidemic types. I tried the other way (convert and preach..blech!)  it didnt work...love your soil and it will love you.

IM just on the machine right now. Other folks will have other ideas. were all here helping each other. you helped me, too. thank you!
 
Travis Philp
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I'd guess that the slope is more in the 8% range and with a couple of exception areas nowhere near 30%. In one of the more steep spots (calling it steep is a bit of a stretch) I put a swale near the top of the elevation, and then ran slightly raised beds along that contour below the swale. I have not dug out the paths yet, they are slanted with the original slope. I was thinking of carving them til they are level, though I'm not sure if this is necessary. I constructed the swale because there is a lot of erosion due to the previous farmer tilling the land and not planting it up. Hardly any grass came in, just sparse patches of wildflowers, alfalfa, and mustard. The soil is very sandy and erosion was quite obvious.

I once worked on a farm that kept pigs in a 3 line temporary electric fence system and though they did get out the odd time (due to vegetation grounding andshorting it out) it worked well for them for the most part. I'm thinking now about having a permanent 'wheel' of paddocks using the many fallen cedar rails on the farm, with each fence-line creating a spoke, much like the illustration in the Mollison Designers manual. We could rotate the piggies, and maybe the chickens if we add chicken wire along and above the rails to keep them from flying out and through.

I want to use the word. It sets us apart and shows people there's something else out there besides annual crops and tilling. I want to put up a big flag and expose people to new ways of farming, and people around here like things packaged and labelled. We're a very  domesticated bunch for the most part. The movement here for out of the box natural farming (or whatever you wanna call it) is growing here but it is still in diapers.

We wer part of our regions farm tours this year and it went great! Such good response from both average citizens and conventional farmers who came through to see our budding forest garden by the house. And if we get laughed at and called freaks, I don't give a crap. I know that the direction we are taking here is a good one, even if we fall on our face with some of the experiments. I'm not actively trying to preach and convert. Just opening our farm to others to come see, and showing them in a matter of fact way.

I am constantly observing my surroundings natural and otherwise, and trying to adapt that to the farm if possible. Its funny, one of our members was asking a farmer neighbour about what grows here and what doesnt. He said don't bother with cherries, he's tried for 10 years or so with no success. We planted a cherry tree this spring and it's kicking ass. Already had cherries on it, though I picked em off at the green stage so the plant could focus on roots and leaves.
 
Ed Waters
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A very important point is brought up.  How do you survive while you establish your forest garden on a scale that can then support you and your family.  Martin Crawford said that he could probably feed 11 people per acre on his two acre site, but he also has a very large orchard near by and he teaches, and writes books.  Mark Shepard http://www.forestag.com/Home/tabid/38/Default.aspx

is trying to make the change from traditional farming to forest agriculture on a large scale.  He says it is incredibly difficult because you are trying to do two jobs at one time.  We can appreciate this.  We are transitioning our 34 acres into something.  I like the idea of not calling it anything.  While I appreciate the concept of taking alot of time to understand what is going on all around you, I have to earn money to pay taxes, alimony, kid's education bills. Most of those expensives are part of a former life.  We have listened to Jacke lecture on numerous occasions, and read his books from cover to cover, and we have  started a good portion of the plants in his top 100.  Everything from Goumi to sweet cicely, to
highbush cranberries.....  All of this costs money, and with each year that passes by, well you have lost a year.  Most authors that are energy aware give us a couple of years at the most before it's basically light's out.  So we make alot of mistakes, but we keep putting stuff in, and it slowly begins to look like something.
We make a living selling greens and herbs to restaurants. It pays for the farm and a little bit more.  We don't feel we know enough to teach anyone else, and if we did we wouldn't charge for it, we've learned too much from people that don't charge.
I guess what this ramble is trying to say is that I am very happy to have found a group of people that are struggling with the same problems as we have.  We believe in this something, and will share as much as we can.
Hopefully that wasn't too stupid.

Best hopes,

Ed
 
                                          
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what is meant by split pea soup planting?
 
Ed Waters
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Hobb here is what you are looking for.  Look down to the paragraph under the picture of a plum tree w/ coltsfoot for your explanation. http://www.nofa.org/tnf/sp02/supplement/edible.php

Cloudpiler: a question for you.  I'm reading a book called Everyday Life of the North American Indian by Jon Manhip White.  In this book he states on P. 96 :"When Columbus reached the New World, he found cornfields that were 18 miles long."  Does this mesh with what you know? 

This is off topic for Cloudpiler, but I was wondering if you could recommend books.  I've read alot the obvious ones: Black Elk Speaks, Geraniums for the Iriquois, The Way of the Human Being, and I'm trying to find inexpensive books by John Trudell.

I would be very grateful for any information that you could provide.

Best hopes,

Ed


 
Emerson White
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Those natural planting patterns are all about how the different plants compete with one another for light and water and minerals. While the natural distributions may be very stable (so long as appropriate predators and diseases get in there to kill and maim the plants occasionally) they aren't necessarily optimal.
 
Travis Philp
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One thing I've just read from Jacke's 'Edible Forest Gardens' which illustrate why one should aim to avoid split pea soup and go for lumpy texture instead:

"...Researchers analyzed insect populations in vineyards with varying plant diversity in the ground layer. They found that as botanical diversity and the quantity of flowering plants increased, the diversity of insects increased overall, but not evenly within the trophic levels. While the diversity of beneficial and "indifferent" arthropods increased as botanical diversity increased, the diversity of pests remained the same, while their populations fell to lower levels. The predators were able to use the diverse  resources of the plant community...to meet their diverse needs, to reduce the pest-insect populations. Many of the additional arthropods in the diverse vineyards were spiders, which were attracted not by specific plants species but by the structural features of the diversified ecosystem. More plants meant more variation in texture, height, and density, allowing more niches for these generalst predators, whether web builders or hunters. A similar story is told by research in apple orchards, where parasitism of tent caterpillar and codling moth eggs and larvae was eighteen times higher in orchards with rich floral undergrowth than those with sparse undergrowth."
 
Travis Philp
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Ed wrote:
A very important point is brought up.  How do you survive while you establish your forest garden on a scale that can then support you and your family...

We make a living selling greens and herbs to restaurants. It pays for the farm and a little bit more. 


I think the answer is right there in the second part of your post that I quoted above. To establish some type of short term income while you research and put your forest garden (or whatever you want to call it) together.

This may take more time but unless someone is able to take out a huge loan or has access to a massive amount of free plants and seeds, I see it as the only viable solution. In my mind this can be done by growing  shor term yielding fruits, herbs and vegetables, (and maybe mushrooms) in the beds which will one day be full blown forest gardens. Plant the trees vines and bushes as you can come by them, and as the woody plants start to come into full production the short term crops can be scaled back.
 
Travis Philp
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marina phillips wrote:
I think one of the reasons Jacke warns against the "pea soup" thing is that if you plant similar guilds everywhere, you can't possibly be paying attention to the microclimates and subtle site differences between different areas, especially on a large parcel.


on page 105 of Volume One of Jacke's book there is an illustration showing the difference between lumpy and split pea soup plantings. In the caption he says "We want both high diversity of foliage height and low evenness of texture (lumpy), not high foliage height diversity and high evenness (pea soup). Such structural diversity appears to enhance bird and insect diversity regardless of plant species composition.”

That last sentence was what spurred me to seriously consider ‘naturalized’ planting arrangements to be more important than I had previously thought.

marina phillips wrote:
I think we should strive to design our food forests to be as appropriate as possible for their specific location.


I agree. It is the structure and planting pattern within these locations that I’m trying to figure out how to balance.

marina phillips wrote:
He also warns against "random" guilds (which is not what I think Travis meant when he used the word, but I'll talk about it anyway), because the major holy grail of forest gardening is to create mutually beneficial polycultures.  Randomly throwing things together might be interesting, but it is probably not going to be as productive as carefully thought out guilds of things we hope will benefit one other by growing near one other. 


He does warn against random guilds but IMO he also says that the structure/planting pattern of a guild is more important than what makes up the guild, with the exception of allelopathic plants. I forget what page its on but much like the long quote in my previous post above, Jacke sits a study of regenerated rainforest plots, and says that they found better resiliency in plantings that had varied plant structure no matter what the species chosen. (eg. all forest garden layers represented)

marina phillips wrote:
Maybe a way to avoid the soup texture is to have five or so guilds that are spaced further or closer together?  I like the ideas of significant openings, gaps, meadows, and outdoor rooms.
 

Do you mean tree based guilds, and taking say, a whole bunch of pear trees guilds and varying the distances between each, sometimes dramatically?

marina phillips wrote:
Here's my two cents on pick your own commercial food forests:  If you choose species that ripen at different times of the year, it will be really obvious what to pick, because there will be fruits on somethings and not on anything else.  I'd be wary about what is planted underfoot - needs to be sturdy.  Customers who are looking for berries would probably tend to not watch where they are walking.


I’m glad to hear you say this, because it’s crossed my mind too but I thought it too obvious and easy to be a real solution. As for worrying about plants getting stepped on…I think this can be mitigated by signage (eg. Keep to the path) and making paths obvious compared to beds. This could be done by having clover or woodchip paths (even leading right up under the fruit trees) or by lining beds with rocks.

marina phillips wrote:
I agree with Cloudpiler, it's not any more difficult to harvest things in a naturalistic planting pattern, and it's definitely more fun.  I like the idea that in a food forest, harvesting domesticated species could have the feel of wildcrafting.  It's safe and easy food gathering for people who might not go out to the real woods and do it. 


I don’t see it being any more difficult but I could see a lot more time being eaten up by traveling between guilds. If you’re doing largescale and/or long haul harvesting (using an ATV, truck, or tractor) you could have a lot more idling, or stop/starting, or traveling with an armload of produce for longer distances to centralized locations.
 
Matt Ferrall
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Unless you know for sure that the plants you are planting will thrive on your site,lumpy happens.Plants die or just suck and have to be removed.Conditions like shade change and with that guilds change.After gardening in the same place for 10yrs,I am just now learning how to assemble a functioning guild from the start.
 
Ed Waters
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Mt. Goat, how much land do you forest garden or something similar to it?

Thanks Travis:  The short term income stream is our plan, though it may become medium term, and maybe longer.  We gross around 18K from our short term stream.  18K goes all towards the present farm and then the long term forest ag plan.  We totally believe in the concept, and I keep searching for someone that has made FA work on a commercial scale.

Robert Hart's property was 3,000 square ft.  Martin Crawford is 2 acres, and I can't remember what Ken Fern's property size was.  Mark Shepard said that he was only getting 5% of his income from FA and the rest was rowcropping, plus he is a consultant to Organic Valley so money isn't a huge issue.

Please don't get me wrong, I am sold on the concept, but I have two acres of English Walnuts that are 2 feet high, and 12 Chinese Chestnuts that are years away from anything close to being productive.  We lost 50 hazelnuts in the stupid weather that we had this spring, so we will have to start those all over again in this spring.  We are just searching/experimenting for a proven way to get to an income producing situation as quickly as possible.  If it takes hashing it out on sites like this, great.

Here's something for this coming spring.  The 50 walnuts are in rows 60 feet apart, and spaced 25 feet on center.  Originally we were going to run two rows of hazelnuts down the middle of the walnut trees, but now are considering two rows of fruit bushes, with a lifespan of maybe 6-7 years so when the walnuts produce too much shade the berries will be finished.  We have loads of Good King Henry and Sorrel (Profusion) that we can begin splitting this coming spring and working in between the rows.  If this is stupid please tell me.  Time doesn't allow us to make any more mistakes.

Best Hopes,

Ed
http://luckydogfarm.wordpress.com/



 
                    
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I remember wehn time didnt allow me for any more mistakes.. That was about 6 years ago. Im way out the other side of that,

ive got two walnuts planted 20 feet apart and ostensibly on the same rootstock. my mom grafted them

one is 30' and the other 15' at 15 years. the one that is shorter does get less sun, but the difference is more than I can account for in light alone. micro climate, soils, exposure...

the outside of the story is that ive got wild berries growing right up under the big walnut, and shade is not a problem 15 years in. just to add to your mix. I also know a location where @35yo semi dwarf apples (@15-20' are growing directly under 70' walnut (albeit english, and I'd assume yours are? blacks are pretty tough nuts) the apples are immensely productive. almost bizzarely so, even last year, which in general was a wash for western Washington.

food for thought.
 
Ed Waters
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Good points Deston.  We have quite a few black walnuts growing and propogating in a 5 acre spot, and we want to do more with that.  The wet freeze this spring meant we didn't get a single black walnut.  We are working to fill in where the bw are with camus and comfrey and others that endure the wet feet and can stand to be around the bw.  Will probably work high bush cranberries over into that area as we go forward.
What do you mean when you "are way on the other side of that"?  How long have you been at what you are doing? 15 years?
With all the heat and nonsense of the summer the ancient apple trees produced like champions.  We tried grafting once and failed.  Probably time to give it another shot.
Best to all,

Ed
 
                    
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"way on the other side of that"- I left real estate in 2003 (right after my PDC) , put a down on the wrong piece of property, failed at several ventures, and am sort of 'fell off'. I am fortunate that im a disabled vet, were it not for the disability I'd have lost the farm.... the farm that I am leaving this winter cause there is but one neighbor within 30 miles who is interested in what Im up to, and Im finding out that im needing a community. so by way on the other side of that, I watched dreams and all my income streams crumble and found out we keep going. and it aint so bad after all. we need people. I know for folks with family and especial;ly kids its different- but not entirely. I made my gardens here, and thell grow, and probably outlast me. I keep at the woodlot- most of the 16 ac is woodlot. its ready for harvest in about 15 years, I pull firewood and some millable alder from it now and then. i live a simple subsitence life. after being a run around back woods feral bear for most of my youth and mid 20's, I got some education and ended up running $20M worth of real estate companies (not owning, just managing). poor kids dream.  I went  toe to toe with Lloysds of Londonin a lawsuit and took them to task for my clients, taking 105% of the claimed value. I was high. It was 2002. I though I could do anything. I wanted to go back to the woods. I was right-  i can do anything- go broke, re-vision myself and keep going. so that's way on the other side of that. I cant say I wish it on anyone, especially kids. then again, we can all afford get alot simpler and happier. I sure have.

HBcranberries- so good. have you considered running animals under the orchards? ive seen duck/chook combos under orchards in Oz that were outstanding. rotations of the fowl and the abattoir truck every other month, then fallow for the next greening up of the understory, 2-3 rotations a year. 400 birds a shot on @16ac...all under nets... very doable, if you can afford the nets.... I cant farm where I am. I can barely garden.  a steep woodlot with water weeping from the hills. might be able to raise goats, if I stay around. cheers!
 
Burra Maluca
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Mt.goat wrote:
Unless you know for sure that the plants you are planting will thrive on your site,lumpy happens.Plants die or just suck and have to be removed.Conditions like shade change and with that guilds change.After gardening in the same place for 10yrs,I am just now learning how to assemble a functioning guild from the start.



I am *so* with you on that!  The stuff we have tried and failed with is incredible.  We seem to be ending up just sticking in loads of almond, apricot and plum trees, mulching like crazy, and waiting to see if the shade and soil ever build up enough to have any success with anything else.  I'm most of the way through an on-line pdc but I've totally stalled on drawing up the 'final design'.  How on earth can I draw up what the final design will be like without another five years of experimenting to find out what I might finally be able to grow...
 
Matt Ferrall
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Making a desighn is great to get inspired and its important to figure out the overall property flow.I find it amusing  when people have detailed desighns without years of experience."the cataloge says it grows good here"and perhaps it does with fertilizer and irrigation.A larger scale(approx 25ac.for me) means less attention to each plant.About half the plants that they said they would grow well here ,didnt.Its fun to fantasize though!.Anyway,it seems like making the canopy of a diverse forest garden uniform would be very hard.
 
Ed Waters
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Well put mt goat.  We have a big picture design of our 34 acres with contours, and then we try to attack certain smaller areas such as a full shade area and then a fringe area.  That ends up being kind of designed during the winter months.  We can get seeds started, and plants ordered for those areas.  Once we see what grows in our climate and we have had some pretty miserable failures, we can then begin propogating from the orginal plants and expand into other similar areas.
This spring we're going to focus on getting medicinal plants in.  Bought 55 different seeds and now have to figure out what needs to be cold stratiphied or cold warm cold stratiphied.
If we get 25% success out of these we'll be happy, and then try and fill in the gaps with plant purchases.
Burra Maluca: This is what I love about this site.  People actually doing it, and having the same problems that we have had over the last 4 years.
Deston: we keep at it for two reasons.  I'm 55 and in a couple of years I won't be able to do the work necessary when dealing with annuals.  Having the nuts, berries, and other perennials will be less of that type work once they are established.  We have 3 kids between us and if we can get this going it will be a better life for them once the other world out there falls apart for good.
We have considered running critters down in the orchard area.  Right now the whole area is being overtaken by wild carrot, which we understand is good, because it doesn't compete with the fruits for minerals.  Right now we have about 20 comfrey plants down there too.  Worried the chickens would eat them to the ground. We will get those busted up and into another area and just pretty much row crop them, and at some point start selling the tea.  Ragman's Lane Farm in England had a spot which was like a half acre that they would cut a couple times a year, and then sell as fertilizer.
We're like you, if we didn't have outside income we wouldn't be able to be doing what we are doing.

Best Hopes,

Ed

 
Travis Philp
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Before I go all out with planting acre upon acre of food forest, I'm going to take some other steps first:

-Ask people/observe nature around us to find out what plants are growing well in the area, which will help to better determine what similar crops will thrive here

-Figure out what our farm owner/members like, and don't like to eat

-Figure out what will sell by contacting stores, restaurants, distributors. Looking at what is and isn't being offered at farmers markets,

-Coming up with a planting plan and associated costs. Sourcing free plants and seeds

-Cover cropping/mulching/rock and log distribution on the areas slated for future forest gardens

-Planting sun trap style windbreaks every 200'

-Planting a small amount of each type of forest garden plant and giving them a year or two to see if they work. Unless I'm pretty sure that they'll work out. EG. I know cherry, apple, currants, gooseberries, plums, mulberries, blackberry, raspberry, strawberry, globe artichoke, and many varieties of vegetables will work well here

-Once a couple years go by I'll start planting all planned varieties in a big way. I realize there will still probably be losses, and that I've lost a couple years but I think its worth taking the steps and time rather than trying the shotgun approach.
 
Matt Ferrall
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In the Edible Forest Gardening book they critique Robert Harts garden for being too densly planted with trees.Well if Robert was growing apples for their wood,than the closer spacing would be appropriate.Roberts book is called Forest Gardening(note the lack of the word `edible`)so Robert really made no mistake.He also could have thinned it out so its not that they were spaced to close any more than that he needed too thin(IF fruit was his goal).I plant seedling trees too close(according to Jacke)but there is such variability that I plan on thinning them out later.When it comes to nut trees,for example,if you want to get a nice saw log out of it `they`recomend a much tighter spacing to encourage upward growth.Thinning later (20yrs or more).Now if I start with the `proper`EFG  spacing,it will be much harder to get quality wood out of those trees.But yea,Ed economics has a big hand to play in desighn.
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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