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planning a food forest in Equador

 
                                
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Hello all,
I will be starting a food forest in Ecuador with the land I have bought but will not be living there for about 2 years.  I have about 2 hectares and plan to have mostly fruit.  What I am wanting to ask is how should I begin here?  I have considered planting an orchard of fruit trees (jackfruit, passionfruit, custard apples, etc.) and let them grow themselves until I return and upon my return possibly try to drown out the in between plants with mulch and start productive shade tolerant guys on top of that.  I would like to get to be self sustainable as quickly as possible, hence the desire for the head start.

I have read some (not all) of Bill Mollison's Permaculture I and some other literature.  Most seem to deal with barren land and seem to always recommend starting with nitrogen fixing leguminous plants.  Is it a problem to begin with an orchard?  Is this not providing me with enough diversity?  I would like to have several layers to my garden but I am just unsure if letting the canopy layer have too big of a headstart would make it too difficult for my other plants to get established.  Maybe this is a dumb question?  I have no real experience so I apologize if this is nonsensical...  Anyway, I would appreciate any advice on my getting started..
 
Jordan Lowery
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Location: zone 7
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when i set up forest gardens and help other set them up. the first thing is doing all the earthworks. and unless your in a perfectly flat valley, and even still. chances are you could do rainwater harvesting earthworks, erosion control earthworks, paths, etc... this your not dealing with problem spots after everything is planted, and trust me working around all the trees rather than planting them after is a lot of work.

and as always encourage as much of a diverse understory ecosystem possible, even if its 90% different weeds.
 
Matu Collins
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As I understand it, planning a design before planting trees is a good idea.  However, I did not know this before I started planting trees.  In some ways this is bad, because I lost one tree which was in a bad place and was mowed down by an overzealous helper, and I have had a lot of deer and rodent damage which could have been helped by more thoughtful planning.  I don't consider it a terrible mistake though, because I have learned since then (learning is not always free) and the trees that have survived have had the extra time to mature.
I agree that the designs always seem to assume bare land or lawn or something simple like that.  I have more land than I can manage right now because it is covered with weeds and I have limited time and funds.  I am not turning a desert into a lush jungle, I want to turn a lush bindweed jungle into a jungle of non-poisonous plants and trees. 
I share your question- where to begin?
I am going to try to start close to the home (zone 1) and try to create bo undaries, but in the meantime what to do with the field of weeds? 
 
insipidtoast McCoy
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Before going any further in your planning I highly recommend reading, from cover to cover, Lost Crops of the Inca
 
nancy sutton
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Location: Federal Way, WA - Western Washington (Zone 8 - temperate maritime)
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geoff lawton's 'Establishing a Food Forest' dvd is very inspiring and instructive.
 
Jeff Hodgins
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A good % of the dominant trees in Ecuador are probably nitrogen fixers. I recomend "guanacaste or elephant ear tree", and "luceanaea"  as nitrogen fixers because you can eat the seeds and pods. Asuming there is a dry season, if your not going to be there I would recomend easy starters like dragon fruit, siruela (not plum), pinuela, nopal (optunia), and chaiyote. All the plants I have mentioned are very drought tollerant and easy to grow, If you have no real dry season these plants may be choked out a bit other wise they're great.
 
George Lee
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Location: Athens, GA/Sunset, SC
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It's hard to go wrong with these informational segments by the man, Micheal 'Skeeter' Pilarski on agroforestry (this can and does work in a forest garden enviro as well).

http://www.youtube.com/user/willowrichrd#g/c/A3863B3F886E247D

Underplant your trees with legumes, or leguminous grasses. A nice lush clover base can be essential in keeping the ground cool, holding water for extended periods of time. I know there's quite a bit of humidity there, yet another intriguing element to work along with.

I know a bit about Ecuador, it's known for it's extensive microclimates. Identify your microclimate and go from there.

I too encourage the earthworks as a genesis to your project. Identify key water collection areas and mold your land accordingly. Swales, hugel beds, terracing if you're working with contour.

I'm in the process of working in a 'forest garden' site as well..

Peace -

Let us know how things progress.


 
Lee Einer
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matumama wrote:
I have more land than I can manage right now because it is covered with weeds and I have limited time and funds.  I am not turning a desert into a lush jungle, I want to turn a lush bindweed jungle into a jungle of non-poisonous plants and trees. 
I share your question- where to begin?
I am going to try to start close to the home (zone 1) and try to create bo undaries, but in the meantime what to do with the field of weeds? 


Lucky you! When I started my backyard garden, the soil was so poor even the bindweed couldn't make it there. Once I started working with the soil, the bindweed came. Much of it is now receding.

Bindweed likes compacted soil and calcium-deficient soil. It puts down roots as far as 30 feet, so on the upside it's one hell of a dynamic accumulator. I pull mine and use it for mulch; I also put loads of it in black contractor-sized garbage bags and just leave them sealed, in the sun, for a year. This rots it down and hopefully kills any seeds. Then it goes back on the soil.

I also spread gypsum on the soil. Turns out calcium is essential for interaction between bacteria, fungi and roots that help fix nitrogen; bindweed and a few other "weeds" don't form these interactions and hence have a competitive edge in calcium-poor soil. Adding calcium and innoculating the soil with compost and/or compost tea will remove that competitive edge and, once soil microorganisms get going well they may attack the roots of the bindweed.
 
John Saltveit
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Remember that you can move trees and you may want to as you begin to understand your land. I have set up two food forests and I have moved trees both times. If you're reasonably strong you can move anything up to fully grown semi-dwarf. I moved 5 fully grown semi dwarf trees from 13 to 18 feet tall. Its hard, but I didn't want to lose the grafted and mature varieties on those trees. You will gradually understand your land as you live there, so I would get trees in the ground that could survive in your absence, and wait on the finickier (is that a word?) trees until later. Also grow what you want to eat.
John S
PDX OR
 
Hansel Bierjardin
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ecuaforest McCoy wrote:Hello all,
I will be starting a food forest in Ecuador with the land I have bought but will not be living there for about 2 years.  I have about 2 hectares and plan to have mostly fruit.  What I am wanting to ask is how should I begin here?  I have considered planting an orchard of fruit trees (jackfruit, passionfruit, custard apples, etc.) and let them grow themselves until I return and upon my return possibly try to drown out the in between plants with mulch and start productive shade tolerant guys on top of that.  I would like to get to be self sustainable as quickly as possible, hence the desire for the head start.



Ecuador does have many micro climates. Reason for the biodiversity. This Country, Ecuador, I live here too, depends on elevation for sure, and then humidity is an important factor as well. I know we can grow apples here, but need to be high enough for a frost. Does custard apple need something similar? Where are you growing here?

I am just starting to compile a list of crops that do well at different climates. I am outside of Cuenca 8,000-9,000 feet, so working in that elevation. I Would love to compare notes on micro climates and plant accordingly. Best of luck!
 
Xisca Nicolas
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My place also have micro-climates, that is fun...

Custard apple has nothing to do with apples, and no chill requirements.

Chayote does not like drought, they like water and grow like cucumber.

This part of the world has edible legume trees as it was mentionned.
Guama (i even have one here!), can't remember in latin...
and erithryna edulis, that is the biggest seed you will find!
You can ask around with what they shade the cacao or coffee plantations.
 
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