• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

No idea how to start a Food Forest  RSS feed

 
J J DuBay
Posts: 12
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
So I've wanted a food forest for a while. I watch videos of these lush paradises with a bounty only a step away and they say it's little work, and it's about working smarter not harder. The only issue is there is very little concrete examples of how to do it. I get the idea, but the application seems to be over my head. I'm hoping you all might help me. I have a half acre of land I'd love to turn into a giant natural garden. It's the front of my property, currently hosting my small goat herd. I reside near Floral City, FL. Most places rate this area as zone 9A, but some classify us as 8B. We have sandy soil. Here is the local yearly forecast: http://www.intellicast.com/Local/History.aspx?location=USFL0148

I have taken pictures of this parcel of land from various angles.
https://imgur.com/a/Fz3wj

My neighbors both garden, but only in raised beds. It disheartens me to think I might not be able to grow anything here without having to do a very structured garden.
 
Casie Becker
gardener
Posts: 1477
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
116
forest garden urban
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Everything I hear about gardening in Florida suggests to me that one of your biggest hurdles to most gardeners is the sand. Your neighbors raised beds could very possible have more in common with very large pots that in ground gardens. You would probably find this thread https://permies.com/t/51454/building-soil-sand useful.

What things have you actually already figured out? Are you still figuring out your local resources, plans for irrigating, planting lists, ect? How much time do you have to devote to this project, both for maintaining it and how long you'll have the property? Many of our answers and suggestions need to be tailored to the circumstances, so more detail can help get more useful responses.

You can absolutely have a food forest. In fact, looking at that climate data and adding it to what I know about Florida's conditions, you're starting out in much better shape than many of the success stories on this site.
 
J J DuBay
Posts: 12
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Casie Becker wrote:Everything I hear about gardening in Florida suggests to me that one of your biggest hurdles to most gardeners is the sand. Your neighbors raised beds could very possible have more in common with very large pots that in ground gardens. You would probably find this thread https://permies.com/t/51454/building-soil-sand useful.

What things have you actually already figured out? Are you still figuring out your local resources, plans for irrigating, planting lists, ect? How much time do you have to devote to this project, both for maintaining it and how long you'll have the property? Many of our answers and suggestions need to be tailored to the circumstances, so more detail can help get more useful responses.

You can absolutely have a food forest. In fact, looking at that climate data and adding it to what I know about Florida's conditions, you're starting out in much better shape than many of the success stories on this site.


I haven't figured anything out, I don't know where to begin. I just arrived at this property, and I intend to live here for the rest of my life. I know that building the soil is the first step, but there are a hundred, expensive and extensive working solutions to this that I'm not sure which will be suitable. The neighbors say that mulch doesn't last even a season here, and the other neighbor says he added compost to a hill for years and saw no significant difference in viability. The main complaint seems to be lack of water retention in the compost hill, though I am not sure. He had soaker hoses up there, and said it was never very viable.

I don't mind hard work and time, but we are attempting to pay off the house in 5 years so I won't have much money to work with.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9734
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
180
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think geoff lawton's soil is mostly sand.  Here's his method short form:  


Long form:  
 
Regan Dixon
Posts: 133
Location: Zone 4b at 1000m, post glacial soil...British Columbia
8
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hello there!

If you've just arrived on your property, you'll have the opportunity to practise the first principle of permaculture:  to observe it for at least a year, seeing its patterns and changes throughout the seasons, learning its water and wind flows, its flora and fauna.  The first step is to relax and observe.    And take notes.  Beating one's self up because one doesn't have the answer immediately, having just learned about permaculture and just purchased a property, is a misuse of the land's human resource.    Be kind to yourself!  Take this time to get to know your property, and what the natural, wild state of it used to be and ultimately wants to be: forest, savannah, ...?  Understand that you may be a pioneer in permaculture in your area.  Consider that exciting! 

I live in a vastly different climate from yours, but also have loose, mineral soil, with little organic matter.  I've come to the conclusion that I need to dig trenches and fill them with woody debris to let rot, sort of a buried hugelkultur, because organic matter is missing from the soil in the formerly tilled garden--and I'm sure it used to be there in the form of tree roots, which got pulled up for said garden.  I've been trying to avoid this because it involves toil on my part initially, but taking this step should slow down the flow of water and nutrients in the long run, so I can stop wasting my labour trying to grow things in their absence.  Maybe digging in organic matter will help in your case, as well--put a sponge inside the soil, to hold water for the plants you wish to grow.

 
Nicole Alderman
pollinator
Posts: 1293
Location: Pacific Northwest
146
duck forest garden hugelkultur
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm not familiar with Florida, but you might be interested in http://www.thesurvivalgardener.com/abou/. He's a Florida permaculturalist, with lot of article and youtube videos about growing food forests.

Here's a link to a series of articles on setting up a food forest in southern Florida :http://www.thesurvivalgardener.com/the-great-south-florida-food-forest/
 
Casie Becker
gardener
Posts: 1477
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
116
forest garden urban
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Something that many people don't realize about tropical soils (including the one that supports the Amazon rain forest) is that they usually have very little organic matter in the soil. They warm conditions allow the soil organisms to eat through any organic matter at a rate that seems nearly obscene to someone from a temperate climate. Organic conditions in tropical soils are maintained by root exudates, which the plants put out to attract and maintain a community of soil organisms that support their growth.

That's not to say adding organic matter isn't still a good idea. Even in these circumstances it can be a way to jump start those soil communities. Hugelculture is a popular method that is valuable for quickly building soil. There's an entire forum on this site devoted to just that technique.

I like stalking tree trimmers and landscapers. Many of them have large trucks filled with wood chips that they pay to dump. If you can offer to accept a full truck load they are often happy to dump these on your property. If you were to buy this quantity of wood chips, not only would it be expensive, they'd also be poorer quality. Tree trimmings include a much higher ratio of green matter from leaf and bark which has more nutrients than dead wood from the trunk.

If I were starting from scratch in your circumstances I would be mapping the contour lines of the property to plan out some earthworks to slow the flow of water across the property. Sandy soil in Florida tends to be deep and well draining. If you can slow water flowing across the surface, much of it will soak deep into your land. Even shallow swales can have a huge impact. Look at the results of the brush and rock dams Tyler has put on her Texas property https://permies.com/t/53556/Creek-repair-rock-dams https://permies.com/t/51421/Creek-repair-brush-dams One great advantage of deep sandy soils is that deep rooted plants easily penetrate to reach down to the water table. Many of those plants will pull water to the surface where shorter rooted plants can benefit. Start from one area of your property and move progressively across. That way you can start planting the completed areas sooner.

In the mean time I would plan what to plant. Trees first, because of how long they take to produce, and how much they influence what can grow in the future.
As you decide each tree you can plan out the surrounding guild. You're lucky at your latitude that many plants will thrive in the partial sun under a tree. Just remember that if you want to grow vegetables you need to allow enough space between the full growth of your trees for sunlight to penetrate. You don't want a complete canopy in those circumstances. As you plan the guild remember you'll need to support the tree (nitrogen fixers) the beneficial insects (flowers) as well as yourself (edible, medicinal, industrial).  Often plants will cover more than one of those needs at the same time.

I'm working with a half acre of property myself. I started with a Zone one next to the driveway and front door so that I passed by it every day. I often experiment with new plants here where I can see exactly how they are doing in my conditions. At the same time I started just a couple of trees in more distant zones. Just a few, so it wasn't hard to give them special attention as they got established. Since I'm looking for a very open canopy in the end (I'm 8B/9A and I grow many vegetables) I'm getting close to done with my tree planting. Eventually some my trees will be supporting edible vines, also.

Beneath them I plant combinations of edible and ornamental plants based on the the available sunlight at different times of year. As examples: winter greens can survive full shade in the summer and then produce enough for eating after the leaves fall in winter. When it is time to divide my saffron crocuses, I plant to try some of them deep in the shade of my pecan tree, also. They are dormant while the pecan is leafed out, but grow during the winter. The more sun loving or sun tolerant the plant, the further from the trunk I plant them. There are some plants that will never be happy without full sun, so between my trees I am developing garden beds. Some of these are planted with mixed annuals and perennials. Some of these are still in purely annual rotations. Eventually I plan to have all my annual rotation plots surrounded by low hedges of edible, medicinal, and native subshrubs that will keep a living root close to where I'm gardening even when I pull a crop.  I'm a big fan of deep mulching, but in my old age I don't want to spend all my time shifting materials around, so I'm also experimenting with allowing native ground cover to grow across annual plots in the front. I've been liking the results, so far.
 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
pollinator
Posts: 1422
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
17
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My house is in the sandhills of South Carolina. It took aprox 8 years to build the soil on my last property from sand to 6-8 inches of black earth.
Here are some of my practices.  I am starting over again in a new property and doing these things again.

1. Bury wood and kitchen waste.  It is a type of inverted hugelkulture.

2. Plant trees.  Find those trees that produce something something you will eat or feed to your animals.  Citrus, nuts, apples (yes there are apples that do well in your area.  I like mulberries planted over the chicken pen (free seasonal food).  When you plant your trees bury a log in the hole with tree.  Some trees are nice to have just as a top layer (google allelopathy and make sure you don’t plant trees that have those properties).

3. You need layers in a food forest.  Your tallest trees are your top layer.  This is where the birds will hang out.  If your tallest tree your favorite fruit or berry expect the birds to have a field day with whatever is growing on it.  The next layer down has a better chance of giving you more food. 

4. Your next layers are shrubs, bushes, then ground covers etc.  You can also google ‘layers of a food forest to get ideas’. Just replace any of the plants shown with plants that will do well in your zone.

5. As mentioned above, spend time watching your land.  If a plant works in one are but not in another – let it grow there.

I once had a beautiful carpet of oregano growing in the shade of a row of camellia bushes.  I moved it into my food garden because I wanted it to be in a ‘food’ place and not in an ‘ornamental’ place.  It died.  So I replanted in the original spot, in the shade (where oregano is not supposed to grow) and it grew like crazy. 

You should be able to grow all mints, oregano, rosemary, and many other herbs.

Bananas leaves make excellent mulch for building soil and cooking food even if you don’t get fruit from them.

Mustard (I prefer smooth leave) is a good green to eat fresh or sautéed, it is a good soil builder, bees love the flowers, and will usually reseed itself. 

Peppers, every type.  In your climate they can sometimes overwinter and become almost like pepper shrubs

Don’t water so much; I don’t water at all except at first planting. Bury wood and kitchen waste, it holds the moisture.  You will lose plants from not watering, but save seeds from those that survive and you will have plants that have acclimated to your area and have learned to put down roots to go look for water.
 
David Livingston
steward
Posts: 3416
Location: Anjou ,France
161
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
this might help too https://www.ft.com/content/db556ddc-a54e-11e4-ad35-00144feab7de
 
Regan Dixon
Posts: 133
Location: Zone 4b at 1000m, post glacial soil...British Columbia
8
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
And, please forgive my ignorance about different Florida biomes, but David Goodman (David the Good) did permaculture at his place in Florida.  He's made instructional videos which you could google, or maybe find here.  His techniques may be applicable to your place.  You will be able to judge that, better than I can.
 
J J DuBay
Posts: 12
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Regan Dixon wrote:And, please forgive my ignorance about different Florida biomes, but David Goodman (David the Good) did permaculture at his place in Florida.  He's made instructional videos which you could google, or maybe find here.  His techniques may be applicable to your place.  You will be able to judge that, better than I can.


You are correct. I ended up getting in touch with mark hale, one of David's friends and he gave me some cuttings. It was an informative tour and I learned a lot.
 
Shane Webb
Posts: 2
Location: Sinton, TX
books chicken forest garden
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I highly recommend the Permaculture Jax videos on YouTube. Particularly the ones with Val. I've learned so much from them. I'm in Texas but my zone is the same as theirs 9A and the climate is similar. I believe they have a meetup group too. I'm also starting my food forest this year. Good luck!
 
David Good
gardener
Posts: 522
Location: Equatorial tropics
30
books forest garden
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
JJ - drop me a message. I'll send you a copy of my Create Your Own Florida Food Forest booklet. There are species lists in there that will help.

Basically, the biggest thing in Florida is to get a lot of plant mass growing fast. The soil isn't fertile and a lot of the good stuff is in the plants and trees themselves. I built a great food forest over time. Plant lots of nitrogen fixers and Tithonia diversifolia for chop and drop - it will help immensely. Trying to get fruit trees established in the sand is a pain without that support.

I'll help you - it's a great place to grow a food forest.
 
Shane Webb
Posts: 2
Location: Sinton, TX
books chicken forest garden
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
^ What he said! That's David the Good from YouTube. I've read the book he just mentioned along with a couple of others he wrote. They are all awesome! Very informative. His videos are also very very helpful and entertaining! David, btw I'm growing Seminole pumpkins and Everglades tomatoes this year thanks to you! Keep the "Good" stuff coming!
 
David Good
gardener
Posts: 522
Location: Equatorial tropics
30
books forest garden
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thank you, Shane - that's kind of you.
 
J J DuBay
Posts: 12
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
David The Good wrote:JJ - drop me a message. I'll send you a copy of my Create Your Own Florida Food Forest booklet. There are species lists in there that will help.

Basically, the biggest thing in Florida is to get a lot of plant mass growing fast. The soil isn't fertile and a lot of the good stuff is in the plants and trees themselves. I built a great food forest over time. Plant lots of nitrogen fixers and Tithonia diversifolia for chop and drop - it will help immensely. Trying to get fruit trees established in the sand is a pain without that support.

I'll help you - it's a great place to grow a food forest.


I actually have it! A previous poster had suggested you, I bought the book, found permaculture facebook page, and I have a whole room of cuttings from Mart Hale growing right now. He gave me mulberries, bolivian sunflowers, air potatoes, chaya, tree collards, everglades tomatoes, etc. They're just about ready to go out. I'm considering putting in some swales before they go. And I need trees. I've not found anyone with fruit trees to take cuttings from.
 
David Good
gardener
Posts: 522
Location: Equatorial tropics
30
books forest garden
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Very good - Mart is a great guy.

Peach trees will start from seed and can bear in 2-3 years in Florida, so that's one option. There are some good permaculture Meetup.com groups in the state with people trading scion wood, cuttings, seeds, etc. And since you know Mart, ask him about cuttings. He knows almost everyone.

Mosswood Farm Store in Micanopy has a lot of my old plant varieties, too.
 
duane hennon
gardener
Posts: 750
Location: western pennsylvania zone 5/a
43
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator


https://permies.com/t/62549/Amazing-Year-Public-University-Permaculture

Amazing 6 Year Old Public University Permaculture Food Food Forest

Florida Gulf Coast University Permaculture Food Forest that was established in 2011.
 
J J DuBay
Posts: 12
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
David Good wrote:Very good - Mart is a great guy.

Peach trees will start from seed and can bear in 2-3 years in Florida, so that's one option. There are some good permaculture Meetup.com groups in the state with people trading scion wood, cuttings, seeds, etc. And since you know Mart, ask him about cuttings. He knows almost everyone.

Mosswood Farm Store in Micanopy has a lot of my old plant varieties, too.


I haven't seen any decent Meetup.com groups here, what ones do you recommend? Additionally, do you have a list of idiot proof fruit trees and guilds that could work on my property (9a)? I've been saving starfruit and lemon seeds. I know the starfruit is slightly out of my area, but it seemed to do decent at the old house. We also have a crudton of tangerine saplings that we've brought over.

Would this be a decent list to work off of if I just disregard all the no cold tolerant list?

http://aaronjerad.com/plants/subtropical-plant-list/
 
Permaculture isn't that hard to understand. Sometimes a little bump helps: richsoil.com/cards
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!