I am going to be homesteading soon on a pine/oak/beech wooded area in South East Oklahoma with moderately acidic soil.
Average annual rainfall for area = 45 inches Updated Arbor Day Hardiness Zone = 7-8 (basically looking at plants for zone 7) Average low Temp for January = 28 Average high for July = 95
Given all that what would be your approach to doing a food forest conversion there? You know, how does one get from just boring old lumber trees to a wonderful food forest full of nut and fruit trees and lots of other edibles?
I have no preconceived notions about plant choice, I know some of you will decry this but I really don't care if the plants are native or not as long as they are not (weedy, invasive, GMO, or disease prone.) I just want the thing to be as diverse and resilient as possible, and provide maximal food for minimal effort (at least in the long term.)
I have five acres and will be living there (on the weekends to start off) in an RV and besides the building permanent shelter thing as a necessary delay I really want to go ahead and get started on the first stages of the food forest conversion and wanted to know how one should proceed? I have seen no detailed examples so far that include comprehensive plant choices for Pine Oak areas?
In my mind the options for first action (in no particular order are...)
a) Trim trees back to allow in more sun and introduce nitrogen fixing ground cover plants (cow peas, comfry, or something else?)
b) Build a bio-char reactor (and after suitable pretreatment with composting introduce it as a soil amendment?)
c) Perform micro-survey and landscape to add swales to existing pond, perhaps add additional ponds and swales?
d) Plant fast growing nitrogen fixing undergrowth trees?
e) add soil amendments (what are best for long term soil improvements)
I know it would be too hard to do a real analysis of just my land but what I really want to talk to others in a similar situation about the order for...
1) Large tree trimming/pollarding/ and or felling (and associated timing for this operation) 2) Landscaping timing (for ponds and swales) 3) Early mid and late conversion process process plant choice 4) Planting order 5) Many other considerations
Most importantly are you aware of any successful food forest examples in similar climates? Ideally ones in the US so I can visit.
Sepp Holzer's wonderful examples seems at first to be sort of close to the mark but he is a lot higher and a lot cooler than I am, he has a lot more hills and he has a heck of a lot more rain to work with so other than dealing with pine I am not sure his example is going to be all that useful?
Or maybe I got it wrong?
Your comments will be valued.
Other tasks on my mind...
Do micro-terrain survey for future additional ponds and swales
Various green houses, build your own "grow boxxs"
Hundreds of other ideas...
God I wish I knew other permaculture people in South East Oklahoma area.
I would probably drop some trees for building material. beech and oak are good candidates for coppice, which could provide a steady supply of more building material/firewood/mulch.
I don't think I would bother with char, but there are plenty of folks who like it. char seems like it's best suited for the humid tropics. in temperate regions, I don't think nutrients typically leave dirt quite so quickly, so adding organic matter and living roots should be sufficient to hold the goods, especially if what you're aiming for is a food forest, with multiple layers of perennial roots all over the place. other folks will likely disagree. I'm not saying that char isn't effective, just that I don't think it's worth the trouble.
the amendments that will be most effective will depend on the particular dirt you've got. is it deficient in anything? is it drain quickly or slowly? what plants are growing currently? I favor running minerals through animals first instead of adding them directly to dirt. I use kelp and sea salt.
if you want to clear the understory, both pigs and goats can be a big help.
just a few things that came to mind. I'm only a few years in, so I don't have any grand success to point to. not at all familiar with your region, either, so I'll resist trying to make more specific suggestions.
What is the slope of the land like? The more it slopes, the higher priority the swales are. If fairly flat, you should first trim back the large trees and then sow cover crops. After the first generation of cover crops dies back you can get some more permanent stuff into the ground.
i started my forest garden around pretty mature oak trees, the things that do best under the oaks are blueberries. i would personally take out the pine trees and replace them with much more productive plants. but if you cant or dont want to, goosberries do GREAT at the base of pine trees( its actually where i find the healthiest wild gooseberry plants) currants also do well.
oh and comfrey is not a N fixer. think of it more as a soil miner, its roots go deep, take nutrients which most roots cant get to, and when the leaves decompose( or you chop and drop mulch) your adding those subsoil nutrients to the topsoil in an organic matter form.
The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings. - Masanobu Fukuoka