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Gardening in the forest  RSS feed

 
Marie Meglic
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Hi,

I'm totally new to permaculture and am extremely fascinated and motivated to jump in.  I'm saving and looking at land because I want to grow my own food and learn more about plants and how to work with them.

On the other hand, I seem to be very attracted to trees and some of the lots that are affordable to me have little or no area that isn't at least partially shaded by trees.  In addition, the growing season is very short as I am in Northern, WI. 

Is there a way to produce enough vegetables in a shaded area?  I'm open to building a greenhouse.  I explored growing some vegetables in a partially shaded area near my apartment last year and they blossomed like crazy, but didn't produce much, or what was produced was very small.  (I tried pumpkins, cucumbers, peas, tomatoes (these actually did pretty well), eggplant, and peppers (these did well too).  (Ironically, I'm not really a big tomato and pepper person, but those did great and I grew those in pots.)  This year, unless I get some land, I will only be able to pot garden on a sunny deck.  (I could rent a garden space, but find that I don't make the time to get to the garden with my schedule unless it is right outside my door!)

Anyway, it will help me make a decision on the land if I know of some ways to produce vegetables and other edibles in the forested area.  If I really need some open sunny space, then it will be really helpful to know how much sunny area I would need to produce enough variety of vegetables for 2-3 people.

Thank you!
 
                            
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Hi Freespirit,
    There are lots of potential topics in your posting... we could take many days answering and still not be done.

    There are some great videos of Skeeter Pilarski that Paul has posted on Youtube showing how Skeeter does alley cropping. If you do some searches for that elsewhere you will come up with some additional info on it.

    There is lots of information about huglekultur that you may find interesting.
 
    There are so many variables in growing that it's tough to say how much land you would need for 2-3 people. Are you wanting to provide ALL of the vegetables, or is it a going to be a supplemental type garden (rhetorical), land varies in the richness and texture of the soil (production potential), availability of water.... etc.  It's lot's of fun to make  plans and probably the easiest part of the plans are to figure out what you like to eat, how much you will need... but then the difficult part is figuring out how much to grow and how to get that much production. Hope that made sense.

    You may want to check into Wofati building for greenhouses (mike oehler).

    I live in a short season forested area also, with very poor sun exposure due to the shape of the terrain. I love it. I'm still working out challenges and it seems like every year there is a new one. Finding plants which are reliable short season producers has been a bit of a challenge. I'm fascinated with the many heritage seeds which are becoming more accessible and hoping that they will help solve some of my plant problems.

    One area that has lots of potential for me and I'm becoming more and more intrigued with is fungi and mushroom growing.....

 
Anyway, some thoughts there that may help you get started.

Good luck!

   
   
 
Marie Meglic
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Thank you Feral.  The references are helpful, especially since I'm completely new to researching in this area.

When I was growing up, we (A family of 4) had a traditionally grown garden, probably about 40x40 feet.  We pretty much never bought vegetables from the store as what wasn't eaten in the summer was canned or frozen.  When I went to college and had to learn how to eat store-bought frozen and canned vegetables.  It never tasted the same.  I find now that I need to eat a good amount of vegetables to feel good and feel deprived if I don't get a good daily supply.  The price of food is really increasing and there is very little variety of produce in the area where I live.  I would like to return to producing as close to 100% of my food as possible.  I don't eat meat and am unable to process gluten, so I don't eat most of what is offered in stores anyway. 

With that said, my budget is small and I have a lot of student loans (mortgage deterring), so I will have to buy land with cash.  So, I want to factor the type of land into the decision of what I can afford, maybe giving up other comforts to get the right land to begin with.  As you say it is complicated.  And yes, I can work with local CSA's, which I have done a little bit, but I'm really in love with the land and would like to steward a small piece and learn more about what it has to offer.  I would also like to learn more about a less labor intensive way of food gathering than conventional gardening.  From what I know, permaculture gardening seems to offer that with a little more knowledge about what you are doing perhaps.

Anyway, I'll look into what you have offered for resources.

Cheers!



 
Marie Meglic
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hm... interesting videos.  Thank you Feral.  I think I just want to grow and sell herbs and trade harvest.  (Yes, this is all while I'm earning a Ph.D. in a completely different topic as my true being starts to emerge as being in love with the the Great Mother Earth.)

Okay, I think this more focused question will help me clarify my needs:

What can I grow/harvest/steward besides mushrooms in a small forested area.  (Think 1/10th acre or 2 acres the two pieces of land I'm looking at.  Note: the two acre piece of land has a nice sunny clearing a low functioning well and no house/cabin and is beautified by a lot of oak and ironwood with little undergrowth.  The smaller piece is a city lot with a mobile home and all utility hook-ups available and mix of beautiful trees and questionable sunny patches.  They are about the same price.)

Or...

Where can I find information about what I can grow/harvest/steward in a northern forest climate?

The next question just arose:  Is there something that I can grow/harvest/steward in this climate that can help me pay off my student loans?

My thoughts go to possibilities such as ginseng....?  Other? 

Thanks a bunch for any help with this.

 
Marie Meglic
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Okay....for those of you who have similar questions, I just found this article on what kinds of vegetables can be grown in the shade.  It's pasted below for whoever is interested.  It helped me understand that I can at least have some vegetables despite a shady lot.  I also thought of building a pyramid structure upward to make greater use of any sunny patches.

***
Ten Vegetables You Can Grow Without Full Sun
By Colleen Vanderlinden, About.com Guide
See More About:vegetable gardenvegetables for shadeshade gardenpart sunvegetables

When most people picture a vegetable garden, they imagine a spot that bakes in the sun all day. For some vegetables, such as tomatoes, peppers, and squash, this is the ideal site. What if we want to grow vegetables, but don't have a site like this "ideal" one available? There are plenty of vegetables that will grow well without full sun. Those of us who have shade can grow vegetables, too.

Basically, a good rule to remember is that if you grow a plant for the fruit or the root, it needs full sun. If you grow it for the leaves, stems, or buds, a little shade will be just fine.

Keep in mind that no vegetable will grow in full, dense shade. The following crops will produce with three to six hours of sun, or fairly constant dappled shade, per day.

Salad Greens, such as leaf lettuce, arugula, endive, and cress.
Broccoli
Cauliflower
Peas
Beets
Brussels Sprouts
Radishes
Swiss Chard
Leafy Greens, such as collards, mustard greens, spinach, and kale
Beans
In some ways, growing in a site with part shade is easier than growing in full sun. You won't have to water as often, and crops that are quick to bolt in hot weather, such as lettuces and spinach, will grow quite a bit longer given some shade.

The best thing about knowing that these crops will successfully grow with some shade is that you'll be able to get more produce from your garden. Even if you're lucky enough to have an area with full sun that you can reserve for a vegetable garden, knowing which plants will take some shade will help you get the most out of your space. You can use that sunny space to grow the sun-lovers: peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, corn, and squashes. The other crops, those that do well in the shade, can be tucked in anywhere. Grow some beets or swiss chard in your part-sun perennial border. Grow some lettuce or radishes in a container or window box. Make use of the space you have, in both sun and shade, and you can easily double the amount of vegetables you would usually get.

Having a shady garden doesn't mean you're destined to live a life devoid of fresh garden vegetables. By making the most of what you have, you can harvest lettuces, peas, and other tasty veggies from spring through fall.
 
Marie Meglic
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One more reference to growing edibles in the shade for others to reference is below.  Note:  I don't have any books on permaculture yet and will need to look at those as well.  It seems I will have to adapt to whatever land I'm working with, however.


***
Herbs and Vegetables

Some herbs, particularly those in the mint family, seem to do quite well in a shaded area, though they prefer light rather than heavy shade. Their requirements also include adequate moisture and relatively fertile soil, which rules out locations where tree root competition would be a problem.

Vegetables all do best in bright sunlight from early morning to nightfall, but a few of the leafier types can be tried in light or partial shade. These include plants that are grown for greens rather than for fruits or roots. Vegetables such as leaf lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, kale, mustard greens, and beet greens will be thinner leaved and less robust when grown in light shade rather than full sunlight, but they will be tasty even though their growth is not luxurious.

A final suggestion for making use of the shady garden concerns putting houseplants out for the summer. Nearly all indoor foliage plants will benefit from outdoor growing conditions if they are protected from the hot midday sun, in such locations as a spot under a tree or on the north side of a house. Pots may be sunk into the soil to conserve moisture, but with frequent watering they also could be set right on the soil surface, an ideal way to make use of those shade areas that are compacted with tree roots.

No doubt you'll choose a combination of different types of plants to create the effects you desire in the shady areas of your yard. Your local County Extension Office can supply you with additional materials on specific shade -tolerant plants. The following chart is only a partial listing of some of the more common plants that will grow in shade.

Annuals
balsam begonias, wax browallia catharanthus (vinca) coleus
feverfew fuchsias impatiens lobelia mimulus
salvia, dwarf torenia (wishbone flower)


Bulbs
begonias,tuberous crocus daffodils grape hyacinths scillas
snowdrops species tulips


Groundcovers
ajuga (bugleweed) *barrenwort *ginger, wild and European *goutweed (bishop's weed) *hosta lilies
*lily of the valley *pachysandra (Japanese spurge) *periwinkle *wild violets

Herbs
basil chervil chives coriander mints
parsley sage sorrel tarragon

Perennials
astilbe bergenia bleeding heart columbine coral bells
*daylilies *ferns forget-me-nots *hosta lilies leopardsbane
meadowsweet monarda monkshood trollius (globe flower)

Woodland Flowers
*bellwort bloodroot cardinal flower *Dutchman's-
breeches *foam flower
fringed bleeding heart harebells hepatica *jack-in-the-pulpit Jacob's ladder
*lungwort *meadow rue rue anemone snakeroot, white or black *Solomon's seal
spring beauty *trillium *Virginia bluebells wild columbine *wild violets

*Denotes plants suitable for heavy shade; the rest need light or partial shade.

Deborah L. Brown
Extension Horticulturist
Department of Horticultural Science
 
                    
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I'm not well versed on your climate, I'm sure it's harsher than mine(southern PA).  But here's a few things I like to plant in shade(dappled)...

pawpaw
ramps (wild leek)
ostrich fern
ginseng
goosberry
mulberry


Just some ideas..
 
Marie Meglic
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Thank you so much for sharing Serj. 

I've never heard of pawpaw before and looked it up.  It sounds awesome and also that the multitude of deer should also leave it alone from what I've read.  Does this fruit keep well like apples?  Or do you have to dry it or preserve it in some other way?  It sounds like it has been successfully grown in Albany, NY, so it should do okay in WI. 

I had completely forgotten about ferns!  I love ferns and enjoy eating the tender fiddle head ferns in the spring.  Thank you for reminding me.  I've never planted them before, do you buy these as small plants, seeds, or do I need to find a patch and transplant some?

I have no experience with growing leeks either, but would love to try.  Any other wild edible suggestions would be welcome. 

Ginseng is a definite yes for me.  Even if it takes me a while to produce just enough for personal use.  It sounds like it's quite a production to sell it with protective laws.

I also need to use licorice root daily for my health needs.  (It's really been helpful for stressed adrenal glands and muscle spasms!)  Has anyone experienced growing licorice in a colder environment.  I've read that it needs to grow about 4 years before harvesting, but I can't seem to find information on whether it needs full sun and whether it survives the winter.

I also just found that raspberries will do well in shade!  Yay....a favorite of mine.   

I'm delighted that I'm getting ideas even though I have so much to learn! 
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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you need to read a few books on forest gardening, they will give you more knowledge about gardening in forest type conditions..

if you look for land with a fairly open canopy of trees and some that are falling leaving gaps, then it will give you a little more opportunity than if you buy land that has a very darkly wooded closed canopy with very little shade.

if the land has a variety of trees rather than all one kind it will also give you more options.

the edges that face south, or even east and west will give you some sunnier options as well, you should be able to put your sun lovers in those edges and still get a really nice crop..and then save the shadier areas for your shade lovers..you are getting quite a list going but there are lots more..the appendix in Edible forest Gardens vol 2 has an extensive list of over 600 species..and what conditions they need to grow in, pick it up at your library..there are about 26 pages you can photocopy in the appendix or just take notes..that is what i'm doing.

both volumes have good information about woodland type gardens..also the best book on the market in my opinion is Gaia's garden by toby hemenway..pick up a copy of this one cause you won't want to have to borrow it all the time you want to re read and refer bacck to it.

I have a partially wooded property and have trees planted in the non wooded areas that are babies to try to grow more..in the future most of my food will come from my property as I'm planting mostly fruit, nut trees and shrubs and perennial foods, but I do always keep a few sunnier areas and a greenhouse for my annuals as well..like those tomatoes you were spaking of.
 
Marie Meglic
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Thank you for the guidance Brenda.  This is exactly what I am needing confirmation about and it is definitely changing how I look at the land.  We have a lot of dark forests here with little undergrowth.  They are awesomely beautiful, but the large trees pretty much take all the sun.  I will now think about less trees and more variety as well as open space. 

I think there are some plain open fields that I haven't looked into as well.  It would take a while to develop it, but it would offer more options with gardening.  I just have to be careful in my area as it difficult to get water above the traprock and a well can easily cost $20,000 if you have to go below the traprock.

I'll look into some books reference, however, and see what happens!

Thank you.
 
                            
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My questions would be:

What already grows in the nearby forests (preferably of similar tree-canopy mix)?
What of that can I eat, use as medicine?
How can I propagate these plants?

Sun-facing edges provide a lot more opportunity for food in terms of pure calories.

The thing to remember is that sunlight is energy, and plants convert that energy into a form we can take in, so if a plant gets less sunlight it's going to have less energy to offer. While you might be able to get away with growing typical annual vegetables in part shade, the yields will be much less than if they were in the sun. But consider too the various tree-foods that might already exist -- Hickories, Oaks, etc.
 
Jamie Jackson
Posts: 202
Location: Zone 5b - 6a, Missouri Ozarks
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Also, instead of just focusing on what you can plant and how you can change the land to suit your needs; think about what might already be in place that would suit some of your needs.

Our land is mostly woods and we have a few nice open areas near woods.  I started a chart of every plant, herb, vegetable, fruit that we wanted to grow and have a column for their shade tolerance.  That way I can layer plantings and save no-till garden space by planting some stuff in the fertile soil of the woods.  However, you don't' want to kill something that works and is already there.  So learn to identify medicinal herbs and such that might already be there so you can protect those patches. 

Being an herbalist, I had certain native species that I wanted to plant.  Some were already here.  When planting solomon's seal, I knew a good place would be a north facing well drained slope that gets water.  I ordered the plant's first, when they arrived, I made the hike to the perfect spot.  Guess what, they were already there! 

We also have a patch of the most lush, huge self-heal that I've ever seen and it's in the shade of the woods that grow over an old logging road. 

If you are good at identifying mushrooms or know someone who is, maybe you could make some money growing those.  I understand it's quite profitable
 
Marie Meglic
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It sounds like I should invest a good amount of time this spring and summer studying the area's native plants.  We have some knowledgeable people in the area.  I would love to really understand what grows well in the forest as well as in the full sun. 

I used to pick mushrooms with my mom when I was young, but she is no longer confident about identifying the right ones, however.  I'm sure I could find someone to verify my picks in the community.  I know what I'm looking for, but don't trust myself enough.  I never thought of marketing them.  Would people trust buying wild-picked mushrooms?  There are also morals that are native to the area, but I know nothing about encouraging either the right kind of mushrooms or morals.  Do you have any recommendations on mushroom harvesting for sale.  I'm perfectly okay to just harvest for myself and family and hadn't thought about selling them.  However, in the area that I live in, mushrooms would grow extremely well.  I had them all over my yard in my last apartment.

I'm also interested in working with nut trees.  As far as I know, hazelnuts will grow well here.  I would have to do some research to see what else would be doable short-term and long-term.

Thank you!
 
                            
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There are some really great and informative videos on Youtube for us beginners.

I did searches for "edible forest" and "food forest" and came up with several videos I found super intriguing.
 
George Lee
Posts: 539
Location: Athens, GA/Sunset, SC
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Broccoli does well, spinach, chard... In an area that gets shreds of light, a little over 3hrs per day....This is a sheet mulched bed of mine, but the natural lighting regiment is similar..
I'm also working a forest gardening situation at my land in SC which I intend to post on..

Great thread.

Peace -
Broccoli2.jpg
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Jordan Lowery
pollinator
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
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well for a start i would see what eatable and useful plants grow in the surrounding forest for one. collect seed, take cuttings or root divisions to get them established on your property.

around here we grow all kinds of greens in the shade during the summer.

two crops that do very well in the shade here are gooseberries and currants. another that does quite well are blueberries. if you like onion greens they do fantastic in the shade.

strawberries do good in part shade, not the dense stuff.

there are tons of herbal use plants that grow in the shade, you could literally run out of room going through them all.
 
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