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Converting an old pine (mono crop) forest to a food forest  RSS feed

 
Kris Edler
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My family owns a 40 acre property that has massive sections that were originally planted with white / red pine, intended to be telephone poles and lumber.  However, the original owners died and it fell into mismanagement for about 30 more years.  Now that we own the property, we are integrating permaculture practices to regenerate this forest in Michigan.    We have only managed it about 8 years and are looking at clearing out the mismanaged monocrop (pine) areas and planting a food forest. 

Do you have any suggestions for plants that will tolerate this type of soil and growing conditions?  The goal with the current (dying pines) is to strip them out, burn some, and then pile the rest in hugelkulture swales on contour.  The challenge will be providing proper succession species to heal the land from the overgrown / dying pine trees

Ideas on how to make this transition?
 
Mark Blackburn
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Location: Salem, oregon
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I have a similar challenge.  I can't economically fell too many of my fir trees.  I'm going to scale up into some trees and screw in a lag bolt ring.  Then thread a cable between trees to support vines, Kiwi, grapes and hops.

I am also going to try getting some dwarf fruit trees going in the sunnier patches.  It won't be full sun, but maybe I can get a some amount of yield.  The challenge is acid soil.  Confer forest creates low pH conditions. Most fruit trees like sweet soil.  I might have to routinely add some lime, not my preference, but

Mushrooms - unfortunately not too many edible saprophytic mushrooms like pine, but you could get some deciduous trees going (maple, oak, ash?) in between your pines.  Then get some mushroom logs going.

Berries (goose, salmon, Oregon grape) all grow nicely in shade.  They aren't much good for direct eating, but they process.  Some people make jam from them.  I really like making oxymel with them. You soak the berries in 70:30 honey:cider vinegar.  Tasty stuff!

Pigs!  Pine trees right where they sit make excellent living posts for pig paddocks!

Your problem is your solution.
 
Kim Goodwin
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This may sound a little odd, but I think you may have less of a problem than you think.  I've spent a lot of time in forests in the Pacific Northwest, and they are all in states of change, of course.  For example, as appalling as they are, douglas fir plantations are the easiest place to find certain mushrooms, like chantrelles.  Fantastic food.

Yet our land, not logged in over 80 years, a beautiful diverse setting of mature bigleaf maple, vine maple, hemlocks, huge red cedars, and some remaining large alders - no chantrelles, ever.  Not a one.  In my observation, the chantrelles are part of the system that is re-naturalizing, at least attempting to, the nearby doug fir forests.  Of course, those forests will be cut before that cycle can be accomplished.

Another example, friends have a large mainly doug fir woodlot that they've restored over 40 years.  They harvest a few trees trees each year for their small lumber mill, and sell those as sustainable timber.  The rest are on their way to becoming old growth, if they can keep it going long enough.  The trees are towering, HUGE, with walking distance all between them like a well-established cedar grove - their careful thinning has worked.  The forest now has an amazing understory.  Huge 6' thickets of black huckleberry all around, and lots of other native plants.

If I were to start with a monoculture woodlot, I'd follow their example with careful thinning over time, encouraging of native food understory species, but I'd add in innoculating all the stumps or logs of wood I cut with mushroom spawn.  Whatever will grow in that specific wood. 

On an edge closet to the house, that's where I might explore introducing other species.   But I'd leave the majority of it to recover more naturally.  Spread natives that are missing, and let them take hold and rebuild it. It is so spectacular watching a forest rebirth itself.  Keep us posted, whatever you do!

 
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