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advice for front yard edible landscape

 
Davis Tyler
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I am making this thread to catalog my thoughts and solicit some advice from the permies here.  The project is an edible landscape/food forest in my front yard, ¼ acre total.

I have a fair amount of experience with annual vegetable gardening, as well as landscape maintenance. But little experience with landscape design and perennials in particular.  I’m having trouble moving off the starting line.  We moved into this house a year ago, and I would like to begin installation in Spring 2017.  I understand it will be a work-in-progress over several years, but I need a roadmap.

Goals: establish a beautiful, functional, productive landscape that enhances the beauty of our house in its natural setting while providing a significant yield of fresh fruits and vegetables.  It should also provide an opportunity to get kids involved in gardening, outdoor recreation, and interaction with neighbors.
Demographics: mid-30s couple + 3 kids 1-7 years old.  Professional dad, stay-at-home mom.

Location: Southern New Hampshire, USDA Zone 5b. 350 feet elevation.

Climate: “humid continental”- warm humid summers, cold, wet winters and uniform precipitation all year.  Summer rainfall 3-4 inches per month. I downloaded 15 years of historical data; extremes ranged from -16 to 101 F.  Last frost date has been mid-May, first frost in late-September.  Typical summertime highs are in the 80s, nighttime lows in the 60s.

Context: northern New England, 10 miles west of the Merrimack River, mixed hardwood and pine forest, 1970’s housing development carving 1.5-acre lots out of the woods.  Rolling terrain; my house is near the top of the hill on a cul-de-sac street.  No significant commercial agriculture nearby, some town-owned conservation land nearby to preserve natural beauty and historic features of interest. 

Neighborhood - There are about 75 homes in this subdivision, most built in the mid-1970s.  Four bedroom colonial style houses, well-maintained. Most of the builders only cleared the minimum lot to put up the house; many people have since cleared trees in their front yard to improve the view.  People around here love living in the woods and seeing all the wildlife.  Lawns are mostly small; grass doesn’t thrive around here without extraordinary measures and there aren’t too many Chemlawn devotees.  Most neighbors have some perennial plantings plus native hardwoods.  No edible landscaping that I have seen.

Approach: I am compiling a list of plants that are suitable for my climate, organized by permaculture zone.  I would like to have a couple (multi-graft?) fruit trees as the centerpiece of the landscape.  I suppose these will be “understory” as the existing oaks provide the canopy.  Would really love to plant a chestnut tree but I don’t see it outcompeting the oaks.  I would like to have a cluster/guild of plants around each tree base, with wide foot paths between the plantings.  Also plan to integrate some arbor/pergola, benches, rock walls, etc. to make the space more welcoming.

Soil - This is the Granite State; at one point there were some sheep farms but I guess they got tired of clearing the boulders for pasture and moved south and west.  This ecosystem “wants” to be a mixed hardwood forest, and it will aggressively revert to that state if land-clearing and mowing is abandoned.  Soil seems to be pretty well-drained, lots of sand.  I haven’t seen water stand or puddle for more than a day.  Decent amount of organic matter on top from leaf litter, but it doesn’t go very deep.  I tested pH at 6.5, though I am told by reputation it should be more acidic.  Perhaps a UNH Extension soil test is in order?

Mulch – this area gets a ton of leaf drop that I can shred with my mower and use as mulch.  I can also get wood chips from our town dump (likely a 50/50 mix of pine and hardwood).  I plan to inoculate the wood chips with stropharia mushrooms; I heard they thrive in this climate.

Aesthetics – I want to preserve the natural look and feel of the area.  I don’t want to plant row crops or a linear fruit orchard.  No Versailles Gardens manicured hedges.  I would like to disturb small areas at a time rather than having large wood chip piles laying about.  I have seen many “food forest” projects that I’m sure are highly productive, but look jungle-like and jumbled in appearance.  I want non-permies to look at my yard as a thoughtful, intentionally designed landscape, and be surprised when they learn it also produces food.

Water – The house has gutters but no rainwater catchment tanks. There is a hose bib at the front of the house (well water).   Septic field is in the back yard.  I would like to avoid the expense of installing an irrigation system but I can do a drip system if necessary.  I don’t mind hand-watering a couple days a week for a month to get new plantings established, but I’m hoping I can build enough moisture-holding capacity into the soil over time that irrigation won’t be necessary.  Is this a fantasy?  Am I setting myself up for failure?

View – our dining room looks onto the front yard and I would like to preserve an “open” feel to that view.  I would like to preserve a welcoming entrance from the road to the front yard, and I’m hoping I won’t need to put up a deer fence.  There are some wild lowbush blueberries along the road and I plan to encourage them as part of the new entryway.

Pest pressure – I have seen some deer tracks in the front yard, mostly late winter/early spring when they are pushing through the snow for those last few acorns.  I have heard of others locally who have had trouble with voles, chipmunks, and squirrels – digging up bulbs or girdling trees.  I plan to use tree-tubes to protect young tree trunks.  I am skeptical of pepper/garlic/predator urine-based sprays; I know I won’t have enough time to continually reapply them. 

Sunlight exposure – the front yard faces mostly west, then the cutout for the street, then my neighbor’s front yard (he has some 80-foot white pines).  My trees were thinned several years ago, with two large (70 foot) oaks left in the center, and a perimeter treeline.  There are some white pine saplings emerging on the south edge of the lawn; I may remove them and begin my garden installation there.  Sunlight exposure seems relatively full, but I’m not sure how to quantify it.  The lawn grass is not thriving; I have expended zero effort on it (besides mowing).  I’m not sure if it is the thin topsoil, lack of fertilizer, lack of water, or what?  When the oaks are fully leafed out, they do throw a lot of shade, but it moves quickly throughout the day.  I’m not sure if I should be restricting myself to lists of “shade tolerant” plants or do I need to cut down some trees to have any hope of success?

Succession: I’m struggling to figure this out.  Should I start with fruit trees, then fill in shrubs and groundcover later, or plant one entire guild/cluster as I have time, then the next?  I plan to use cardboard and sheet mulch to kill the grass incrementally as I plant out perennials.

References: I have read Gaia’s Garden and found it inspirational and approachable.  Should probably read it again.  I have also read Edible Forest Gardens and found it in need of some serious editing.  I did appreciate the author’s warning to avoid planting too densely.  Is there some software that I can use to visualize the 2D and 3D layout of my planned landscape? I would like to drop in 3D trees and bushes onto a 3D projection of my existing yard.  Is this something Sketchup can do?

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Davis Tyler
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should have photographed the front yard in summer before leaf drop, but didn't get around to it...
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Davis Tyler
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more perspective photos of front yard
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Casie Becker
pollinator
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Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
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With that many trees in a 1/4 acre lot, I think you're probably limited to shade tolerant plants, unless you remove some trees. Yards with that many trees here are usually too shady for most vegetables.

I showed my mother your photos and asked her more experienced opinion and she suggested you try growing plants in pots that you moved around to find the areas with sufficient sunlight. She also talked about how much difference removing one tree had in a home when I was a child.

As far as attractive design for your edible landscape, I was lucky enough to find this book https://www.amazon.com/Edible-Landscaping-Rosalind-Creasy/dp/1578051541 in a used book store. It's filled with full color photos of well done edible landscape. Her web page http://www.rosalindcreasy.com/ has more pictures, and a lot of helpful information. This includes some basic plant lists, organized by climate zone.
 
Davis Tyler
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Casie Becker wrote:With that many trees in a 1/4 acre lot, I think you're probably limited to shade tolerant plants, unless you remove some trees. Yards with that many trees here are usually too shady for most vegetables.

I showed my mother your photos and asked her more experienced opinion and she suggested you try growing plants in pots that you moved around to find the areas with sufficient sunlight. She also talked about how much difference removing one tree had in a home when I was a child.

As far as attractive design for your edible landscape, I was lucky enough to find this book https://www.amazon.com/Edible-Landscaping-Rosalind-Creasy/dp/1578051541 in a used book store. It's filled with full color photos of well done edible landscape. Her web page http://www.rosalindcreasy.com/ has more pictures, and a lot of helpful information. This includes some basic plant lists, organized by climate zone.


Thanks for your reply.  I checked out the Rosalind Creasy site - I like her arrangements and it certainly adds to the beauty of her home.  However it looks like she is mainly doing annuals, which I handle at my community garden plot.  I'm more interested in perennials which will require less frequent planting and replacing than the annuals would.

To be clear on the plot size, my entire property (mostly trees) is 1.5 acres; it is the front lawn area (1/4 acre) that I plan to put in edible landscaping.  Do you think that front area still has too much tree cover for fruit trees?

The mobile pots would be a good way to evaluate the sun exposure, but it would only be temporary.  I don't want to be out there hand-watering dried out potting mix during a drought.  I want to take advantage of the moisture-holding capacity of the native soil, and amend it with compost so I can put in deep-rooted perennials that require less watering attention from me.
 
Casie Becker
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Yeah, I was thinking the movable pots would make a good testing technique to determine where you did have enough sunlight for permanent plantings without having to remove trees.

I also tend to use my annual vegetables in my garden like many people do their annual flowers and so don't mind planting new things each season. Signs of a short attention span, but I like to change the look of the yard frequently. I intersperse evergreen herbs, perennial flowers, bulbs, shrubs and fruit trees to give some continuity between the seasons.

Many annuals actually perennializes well in my climate. I have one garden bed that is in full shade during the summer where I plant heat sensitive plants. They are sheltered from the summer heat and I get a harvest from them all winter long.

Something I think is true of most trees is that the can start growing under the shelter of other trees. I have seen a productive orange tree growing under mature oaks here. I think if you start planting fruit trees now they would grow. It might even be to your benefit if it causes the trees to focus their energy on growing roots and branches. If fruit production isn't satisfactory as the trees get larger, you could tackle removing or limbing up nonproductive trees at that point.

Could I be wrong in a assuming then, that one of the things you are in need of is a comprehensive list of perennials that do well in your climate? Plants for a Future http://pfaf.org/user/Default.aspx has a very searchable database. As far as I can tell, they aim to include every edible and medicinal plant humans can grow.

I'd list what I grow in mine, but I have full sun beds in a mediterranean climate that seldom freezes. Every time you mention watering issues part of me is going "what watering issues" as your natural rainfall sounds better than what my plants get when I irrigate. Yes, that's a little bit of envy going on there.
 
Davis Tyler
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Thanks for the link to the database. I have my own short list going but I can use some more ideas

I understand the "climate envy" - I lived for almost ten years in Tucson, Arizona.  I applied heroic amounts of water to support a few vegetables in a 4x8 raised bed.

The northeast ecosystem is amazingly robust.  You could bulldoze a piece of ground down to mineral soil..walk away... come back in 3 years and it's a meadow...5 years it's a young mixed pine forest...10 years it's a mature hardwood forest.  Without any human intervention.
 
Angelika Maier
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Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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The trees are really beautiful and chopping them down would be awful. I think an annual veggie patch is always a good idea and you won't buy veggies ever again but it has to go in full sun, front or back.
I haven't tried it but mushrooms would be good under the trees. And of course a lot of medicinals. I don't know weather it is a good place for chicken or ducks in your climate. Find out the more sunny patches you could plant blueberries there or alpine strawberries, maybe some greens. In my climate I can plant jerusalem artichockes and maybe potatoes there, maybe celer, but the tree roots will grow into the beds. Some more ornamental flowering shrubs won't hurt either. Were will you put your orchard? With the setting you have - a fence won't look good and you would lose the natural feel of the place. Maybe some thorny to keep deer away?
 
Ken W Wilson
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Your trees are going to be growing fast. I think you'll have full shade in 5-10 years. I love trees, but I'd make a clearing. I like variety.  Blackberries and raspberries, like some shade. Strawberries can stand some. I believe musk strawberries can stand more than some. Mushrooms are good.
 
Angelika Maier
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Maybe you're right. It depends how big the trees grow and how much sunny spots there are on the other sides of the house. and your climate is different.
 
Dee Kay D'Stuph
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I recommend the Permaculture Orchard video for some ideas, it is more of a production-based view, but people desiring production have a very objective viewpoint which can help simplify things. My take on it is that first you need to have the place for the plants and then maybe they will produce. If you are not doing earthworks or taking down the shade trees, you will have limited options to get a vibrant little patch. If your goal is to produce and understory with an upside, that can be done with the cover you have. Based on the pictures, that is pretty shaded. The list of shade-tolerant perennials is not robust, but it does exist. First thing is water, sunlight, and soil.

Chestnuts are the native mature boss tree in many locations, so you may be underselling them! I like oaks just fine, but you can't eat their produce without a lot of work. I have thousands of unproductive trees that I am gradually replacing with stuff I want. My suspicion is that you would benefit from some nitrogen fixation, it's seldom optimized for production. Honeylocust can get pretty big and be an area boss tree, or you can use smaller siberian peashrubs or goumi. There are others, depends on whether you want overstory, understory or herb layer. There are fixers at all levels, and can tolerate some deer pressure.

Not to be a downer, but I predict a short life for an unprotected fruit tree. If you are seeing deer tracks (unless you are a hunter who notes that kind of thing) there are probably a surplus of them waiting for the big reveal. If you really are jonesing for one, check out sepp holzer's bone sauce. I am in Virginia, and I wouldn't want to drive any distance with that stuff, but someone up there may be making it. Fencing is very VERY hard to keep deer out. There are lots of threads on here about it. I had three ten foot trees gone in one night with a giant dog in the yard. Blueberries/aronias get some browsing but not as bad and they like oak/pine areas often. Cane berries are physically resistant. Once you have other browsables they may not persecute the fruit trees as much, but it's hard with limited sunlight.

Best of luck! Let us know good or bad, we all learn from success and failures, and we hope we don't have just one of the two, because that's guaranteed to be the failures!

 
Kate Muller
Posts: 179
Location: New Hampshire
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Hello Neighbor,

I am in Southern New Hampshire about 5 miles west of the Merrimack River.   My husband and I have been working on our place since 2014.  It sounds like you have glacial sand for soil. It is very common here.  You will want to get a soil test.  The glacial sand tends to be very low in nutrients. You may discover that it drains too well.  You will find lots of rocks when you put a shovel in the ground.

The lack of sun and the competition for nutrients are going to be a big problem if you want fruit and nut producing plants. I can't even get Jerusalem artichokes to grow more than 2 feet in a spot that only gets 6 hours of sun.  With 2 to 4 hours of full sun you are looking at herbs and leafy greens in terms of edibles. My old house in Manchester had partial sun at best and I major trouble getting anything to fruit. I would consider removing some of the oaks to allow more light in.  If you want to grow mushrooms on the logs cut them down in the late winter when the maple sap is flowing and inoculate them right away. 

We built a bunch of hugelkulture beds and the rodents love them. I have wood chucks, ground squirrels, rabbits, voles and moles living in them. They also dry out fast with the sandy soil.  This year with the drought we had to water quite a bit even with 4 to 6" of mulch because everything drains too well. The wood chips from the town dump is the way to go. We started mulching everything with them this year and it has helped.  I also use mulch hay and fall leaves to mulch everything.

The deer have been a major issue for us. This year they have jumped over our 7 foot fences and nibbled on everything.  I think they have killed our cherry trees.  Do not underestimate the deer. 

Feel free to ask me questions.


 
Michelle Bisson
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Our land has lots of trees - red maples & balsam fir in Quebec, Canada.  Like your property, it is a challenge to find enough sunlight.

Any sunny area that is on the south side of your trees (edge planting) is valuable real estate for sun loving plants. Some of my plants are not growing much for lack of sun, so we will transplant them next year or cut down some more of the balsam firs with hopes that we will have enough light.   We want to keep our mature maples for harvesting maple syrup, so it is quite a challenge finding enough sun.  I will plant more black currents & gooseberries.  We definitely have to be creative.  Some perennials are, hostas, rhubarb, chives, wild garlic. We are still learning what will grow where in dappled sunlight.

Please share your story as you progress in your project so that we can learn from you.

Our story:
Go Permaculture Food Forest - our suburban permaculture journey
 
Davis Tyler
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Kate Muller wrote:Hello Neighbor,

I am in Southern New Hampshire about 5 miles west of the Merrimack River.   My husband and I have been working on our place since 2014.  It sounds like you have glacial sand for soil. It is very common here.  You will want to get a soil test.  The glacial sand tends to be very low in nutrients. You may discover that it drains too well.  You will find lots of rocks when you put a shovel in the ground.

The lack of sun and the competition for nutrients are going to be a big problem if you want fruit and nut producing plants. I can't even get Jerusalem artichokes to grow more than 2 feet in a spot that only gets 6 hours of sun.  With 2 to 4 hours of full sun you are looking at herbs and leafy greens in terms of edibles. My old house in Manchester had partial sun at best and I major trouble getting anything to fruit. I would consider removing some of the oaks to allow more light in.  If you want to grow mushrooms on the logs cut them down in the late winter when the maple sap is flowing and inoculate them right away. 

We built a bunch of hugelkulture beds and the rodents love them. I have wood chucks, ground squirrels, rabbits, voles and moles living in them. They also dry out fast with the sandy soil.  This year with the drought we had to water quite a bit even with 4 to 6" of mulch because everything drains too well. The wood chips from the town dump is the way to go. We started mulching everything with them this year and it has helped.  I also use mulch hay and fall leaves to mulch everything.

The deer have been a major issue for us. This year they have jumped over our 7 foot fences and nibbled on everything.  I think they have killed our cherry trees.  Do not underestimate the deer. 

Feel free to ask me questions.




Glad to have a local resource who's been where I'm going!

Do you have any photos of what's working on your property?  Sounds like it is a limited set of plants that thrive in this environment. 

Would you not recommend hugelkulture on our well-drained soils?  Would the "buried wood" approach (as used in dry climates) work better?  Or skip the wood altogether to avoid attracting rodents?
I have been making a lot of leaf mould, hoping this will improve the moisture-holding capacity.

Regarding the deer fencing, surely someone has solved this problem in the past?; I drive past 100 year-old apple orchards around here.  How did those farmers nurse those trees along until to maturity to keep the deer at bay? The vegetable farmer adjacent to our community garden uses a temporary fence with 8-foot conduit poles and black mesh fence.  Doesn't look too nice but keeps the deer out.
 
Davis Tyler
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Regarding the sunlight limitation, has anyone used any of the tools in this article to understand the sunlight on their land, and take advantage of those patterns? https://www.milkwood.net/2015/06/01/design-basics-mapping-the-sun-on-your-site/

I'm wondering now if this is even feasible if I were to remove my own oak trees; I can't move my house and I can't cut down my neighbor's trees.    According to those calculations, the shadows from the house and trees would be covering the lawn area, even if I removed my own oak trees.
 
Kate Muller
Posts: 179
Location: New Hampshire
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Glad to have a local resource who's been where I'm going!

Do you have any photos of what's working on your property?  Sounds like it is a limited set of plants that thrive in this environment. 






This is picture of one of my garden beds at my old house. It was a small shady yard with a large maple tree on the east side of the garden. It received 2 to 4 hours of full sunlight a day. I could grow greens and some spring snap peas and not much else.  The tree roots from the maple trees loved the raised beds and filled the beds with roots.  The tree also developed quite a thick mat of roots at the base of the compost bin too. I gardened in this tiny shady yard for 4 years till we moved 3 years ago.

Would you not recommend hugelkulture on our well-drained soils?  Would the "buried wood" approach (as used in dry climates) work better?  Or skip the wood altogether to avoid attracting rodents?
I have been making a lot of leaf mould, hoping this will improve the moisture-holding capacity.

Now I have a very sunny large yard that we built hugel beds and swales.  If we had to do it over again I wouldn't have buried wood in the beds.  We have had to reshape them after the first year and we need to do it again. We use these beds for annual veggies so the reshaping is not a problem.   These beds are loved by burying rodents.  They are filled with wood chucks, rabbits, voles, moles, and mice. We easily lost a 1/3 of our garden to nibbles this year.

The other problem we have run into is they dry out very quickly and needed a lot of water this year even with 6" of mulch hay on top.  Most of the beds are sandy subsoil due to the lack of top soil.  Crab grass has been a huge long term battle. It loves the garden as much as the voles do.  We are currently working on adding wood chips to all the pathways between all the beds and it seems to be working on holding moisture, suppressing crabgrass, and growing mycelium.





Here are of some of the hugel beds after reshaping them.  We used a backhoe to dig trenches to bury wood, leaves, and grass clumps because I wanted the beds to be about 2 feet high to make them easy to work on.  These photos were taken last spring and we have since started adding wood chips between the beds. 



These beds are closer to the house and are just raised beds.  The one in the center is a swale.  These beds have much less predator damage than the lower garden beds. 

Regarding the deer fencing, surely someone has solved this problem in the past?; I drive past 100 year-old apple orchards around here.  How did those farmers nurse those trees along until to maturity to keep the deer at bay? The vegetable farmer adjacent to our community garden uses a temporary fence with 8-foot conduit poles and black mesh fence.  Doesn't look too nice but keeps the deer out.

Deer.  We have found the black mesh netting does not hold up and the deer keep tearing openings in it and getting through and nibbling my fruit trees.  We put up cattle panels with wires running up above them to create a 7 foot fence and it worked great where a year.  With the drought this year they have jumped the fence and enjoyed the buffet that I was hoping to eat. We will be getting a dog to help keep the deer out of the garden.

 
Davis Tyler
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Thanks for the photos; you have a great place there!  I am envious of all your space and sunlight....

Hope you have more luck keeping the hugel beds moist once they are heavily wood-chipped

I like your last photo  - that is the look I am going for

I would suspect the deer are jumping between the top of the cattle panel and the wire.  Most fence contractors I talked to recommended an 8 foot fence continuous from the ground up
 
Kate Muller
Posts: 179
Location: New Hampshire
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The last photo is the view from my front door.  The swale berm is my favorite part of the garden.  It is full of flowers from May to October.  We are hoping to finish the garden pond this coming spring. It will be to the left of this photo.
 
Michelle Wilber
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Location: Anchorage, AK
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As far as some specific plant suggestions, I really like black currant for its smell, pest resistance, shade tolerance, growth habit, look and taste, but I think they are highly restricted there because of White Pine Blister Rust?  I think I read that there are some, like Crandall, approved with a permit though?  I think you are on to something with the King Stropharia shrooms, they do great in my forested north yard in Alaska - they like a shady, moist-ish spot.  You could probably get some other good edible mushrooms going there too - something to investigate for the future, but the Stropharia are easy.  Strawberries do pretty well under the trees for me, and could be a great groundcover on sheetmulched islands.  This is regardless of whether you leave the existing trees, or do some selective felling to replace with nut or fruit trees of your choice.  I'm not an expert, but I think you could start some of these trees now and they might appreciate the understory placement now, but as they mature, most would want a little more light for themselves, especially to produce.  I have successfully started with the whole sheet mulch bed (trees and other layers planted all at once) and planting trees first and filling in the lower stories over time.  I haven't tried it the other way around.
 
Carla Resnick
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Location: Northern California
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I am in a totally different climate/soil area, and my food forest is quite diverse. Our "native" habitat is oak grassland, and the oaks come up on their own, but I cut them fairly young to keep light for my food trees. What I do is let the oaks grow a while, then pollard them. That way I still have the leaves and some shade, where I want it, but not a giant oak if left alone for many years.
I think some of these things might work for you: Currants, black, red, white, and gooseberry. All are easily propagated from cuttings. In shade they will not produce as much as in full-sun, but the plants are quite nice year-round.
Perhaps some hazel/filbert shrubs? Not sure how the deer with like those though, and not certain of cold tolerance.
Apples, protected from deer, could be espalier shaped, for keeping with nice aesthetics. I have my apples with bulbs (paper whites, which came with the property) as in gaia's garden layout.
Can you grow fruiting Mulberry there? A few dwarf types are available. I have one that makes mulberries as thick as my thumb. It is called "Pakistan" and I also have "Black Beauty," which has yet to fruit as it is still young.
Can you do Elderberry in your climate? They are classic understory plants, and quite drought tolerant, and many improved varieties are available. They too are easily propagated.
Persimmon might be a good addition for a replacement tree. If planted in a space with your other trees, you could let it grow to a certain size before removing a non-food tree.
For vines I have mainly grape and passion vine. I think perhaps passiflora incarnata might work in your climate (not 100% sure on that).
I always plant fava beans around everything. Annuals, yes, but so easy to plant and the harvest is delicious. I save seed each year too.
My main perennial/evergreen shrub is rosemary (also very easy to propagate), and doesn't need rich soil.
Other plants that work for me, but possibly not in your climate, are: peach, apricot, pineapple guava, nanking cherry (this might work for you), olives, bamboo, collards, arugula (self-seeders), a good winter squash let to run rampant all summer (harvest young for summer squash--let mature for keeping squash--I like a good butternut for young and keeping).
Medicinals include: mint, catnip, agastache, hyssop, & yarrow. 
Wishing you the best on your project. You will see that as you add more species of plants, you will get more species of animals. My yard has turned into a bird paradise (and not only because I have added chickens). Wild birds come to roost in my yard, and visit the improvised bird baths I've put out for them. I watch the yellow-rumped warblers come and snap up insects in the morning and evening.
I also recommend a brush pile, if you can afford the space. I've got a small brush pile and the sparrows simply love it.
 
Kate Muller
Posts: 179
Location: New Hampshire
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Currents, Jostaberry, and gooseberry are not easy to get.  You can't buy them in NH and I haven't found a company that will ship to NH either.

Elderberry grows everywhere here.  American Hazelnuts suffer less deer damage than European varieties. Both types grow here and you can get them and other shrubs from the state nursery.  I don't know how well they will do in partial sun.

http://www.nhnursery.com/uploads/2017%20catalog%20and%20%20cover.pdf

I want to try mulberries but I am hoping to find a variety that doesn't stain that will survive a NH winter.

 
Michelle Bisson
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Maybe you'll need to go to another state to get these plants: Currents, Jostaberry, and gooseberry.

 
Susanna Pitussi
Posts: 14
Location: Nova Scotia, Canada, Zone 6a, Rain ~60"
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I'm working with some not-so-well-drained woods in Zone 6a in Nova Scotia. Similar climate, but mostly softwood and little soil depth.

You might want to check out the book "Integrated Forest Gardening". It's worth it just for the 15 case studies in the back, with 15 complete forest garden guilds including planting diagrams. They focus equally on medicinals, so their guilds might not be as food-focused as you are. I got a lot of ideas for plants from their book.

One of their guilds features a "North Star Cherry" hardy to zone 3 (I think).

Also, I haven't seen elderberry or paw paw mentioned here yet, and both are under-story plants that can handle some shade. I've also heard there are raspberry cultivars out there that will fruit in the shade, too. The authors of the book above show Paw Paw as hardy to Zone 4.

I'm wondering if it might be possible to do some selective limbing of a few of your oak trees, to make some holes in the shade without taking the whole tree down?
 
Angelika Maier
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Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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Currents, Jostaberry, and gooseberry are dead easy to propagate if you have a neighbour growing them.
It seems to be a difficut environment and here everyone who is serious about growing veggies has a fully enclosed patch because of cockatoos and other parrots.
P1050610.JPG
[Thumbnail for P1050610.JPG]
enclosed veggie patch
 
C Jones
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I love your well thought out approach here, and all the stuff you're documenting is helpful for the rest of us as well as for you.

For the deer… depending on conditions and what time of year, you could consider getting one or more of those motion activated sprinklers that are meant for keeping  deer and other pests away. I got one on Amazon several years back for about $50 for friend. Don't recall the name offhand but I'm sure you can find them. They had very good reviews and many people saying they worked well. I think my friend moved before another gardening season passed so I never heard how it worked for them.
 
Davis Tyler
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I love the idea of a motion-activated sprinkler, but it would have to be circulating antifreeze in my climate.  The deer are hungriest in late winter and early spring and will move into backyards in search of anything edible

I wonder if I could plant some sacrificial plants along the backyard fenceline, to give the deer something even more attractive than my front yard?  Persimmon or plum trees?  Something that bears quickly, if I could nurse it to adulthood with chicken-wire cages?
 
Davis Tyler
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Kate Muller wrote:Currents, Jostaberry, and gooseberry are not easy to get.  You can't buy them in NH and I haven't found a company that will ship to NH either.

Elderberry grows everywhere here.  American Hazelnuts suffer less deer damage than European varieties. Both types grow here and you can get them and other shrubs from the state nursery.  I don't know how well they will do in partial sun.

http://www.nhnursery.com/uploads/2017%20catalog%20and%20%20cover.pdf

I want to try mulberries but I am hoping to find a variety that doesn't stain that will survive a NH winter.



I see some (conflicting?) information from the NH Forest & Land Division that there are some varieties of currants and gooseberries approved as disease-free: http://www.nhdfl.org/forest-health/white-pine-blister.aspx

Yes hazelnuts are on my list

Elderberries I have mostly seen growing in very wet areas - do you think they would grow in my well-drained front yard?
 
Davis Tyler
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Susanna Pitussi wrote:I'm working with some not-so-well-drained woods in Zone 6a in Nova Scotia. Similar climate, but mostly softwood and little soil depth.

You might want to check out the book "Integrated Forest Gardening". It's worth it just for the 15 case studies in the back, with 15 complete forest garden guilds including planting diagrams. They focus equally on medicinals, so their guilds might not be as food-focused as you are. I got a lot of ideas for plants from their book.

One of their guilds features a "North Star Cherry" hardy to zone 3 (I think).

Also, I haven't seen elderberry or paw paw mentioned here yet, and both are under-story plants that can handle some shade. I've also heard there are raspberry cultivars out there that will fruit in the shade, too. The authors of the book above show Paw Paw as hardy to Zone 4.

I'm wondering if it might be possible to do some selective limbing of a few of your oak trees, to make some holes in the shade without taking the whole tree down?


yes I like the idea of selectively pruning to let more light through while keeping most of the trees . I'm hoping to use these sun-surveying apps to help me decide which ones to cut back (some of the trees on the south side only restrict sun during winter, which doesn't bother me)
 
Ken W Wilson
Posts: 339
Location: Nevada, Mo 64772
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Edible Lanscaping Nursery rates all their plants for deer tolerance, shade tolerance, and a lot of other factors. They are a great company to buy from too.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
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