I'm planning a food forest everyone! Emphasis on planning since trees are rather long lived and take their sweet time getting to maturity. I want to do this thing right and decided to ask all you knowledgeable experienced folks for your perspectives.
My biggest question is: When planting trees in a previously unforested area or adding trees into a forest environment, is there some type of beneficial ratio of edible fruit types and timber type to go with?
I'm trying to keep in mind the importance of biomes and trying to avoid monocultures like say small orchards close together? Is that the right term? I'm referring to the levels at which things grow. Large trees, medium sized trees, shrubs and bushes... I'm sure you all already know hah. Anyway, what are your thoughts? At first I thought I'd just plant whatever the heck I wanted together and see what happens, but maybe that's not such a good idea when there's probably someone who did that before and got results from it? I'd like to take advantage of existing knowledge so as not to make any dumb mistakes, ya know? So thanks in advanced.
Where you are doesn't determine where you will go, only where you'll start.
I recently listened to some of Paul's podcasts and around 350-352 there was questions about ratio of nitrogen fixers to food producing trees. Since I'm sure I'd misquote the ratios (which change as the trees mature, starting with many N fixers per food tree, and that number going down over some time), I would recommend listening to those podcasts to get their exact quotes: https://richsoil.com/permaculture/category/podcast/page/2/
The permaculture orchard video also has some nice suggestions, although being an orchard laid out for ease of picking by customers, it's not laid out ideally in a true permaculture food forest. But gives ideas about pairing trees, shrubs, and ground covers. They have 70-80 tree varieties I think, and plant the rows grouped by harvest dates, so that customers walk down specific rows on given dates to pick ripe foods. They have a layout like apple-locust-pear-apple-locust-pear so if one tree got attacked by bugs the next matching tree is some distance away. But I wondered about the adjacent rows- similar trees could be pretty close in a zig-zag layout.
I personally would prefer to separate out a grove of trees that I would be harvesting wood from each year, to avoid them damaging my other plants when they drop. For example I'm looking at 20 acre spots, and expect I'll have around 1 acre set aside for firewood and construction/crafting, and have that split up into 5 chunks so I harvest a chunk every 5 years (assuming black locust and osage orange here).
In the food forest side you would plant a large number of trees to match up pollinators (some trees self pollinate, others need help from other trees) as well as a mix of nitrogen fixers to nitrogen eaters. Maybe you have 1 tree of each variety of fruit/nut, and focus on spreading out the harvest dates so you can eat off the plant for as long as possible during the year. Some of the shrubs and ground covers also provide nutrients. Specifically for trees, getting everything that will work in your zone and placing them based on the microclimates of your property (either existing or ones you create) and if you do get several of exactly the same variety, then try spreading them out if possible? I'm no expert, just repeating things I've read or heard.
I'm not quite a lumberjack, but that's OK, I sleep all night and I dream all day; I'll coppice trees, I'll grow my food, and compost poo and pee! With a well and off-grid solar, it's a permies life for me! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FshU58nI0Ts
I'm slowly putting a food forest together on three acres with not much other than grass.
When I first learned about Permaculture I purchased Bill Mollison's Book, "Permaculture A Designers Manua,l" the book is basically an encyclopedia. A great reference book but tough to get started with.
I found Toby Hemenway's Gaia's Garden " A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture." and I started planting within a week. This is my favorite book and it really simplified the process of thinking about small-scale permaculture. He talks about Trios or planting nitrogen fixers and food trees in clusters. This really simplified getting started.
I have overplanted nitrogen fixers; black locust, honey locust, willows, Siberian Pea Shrubs etc.. I plan on using them for biomass, to improve soil, and to do some building projects. I planted 40 willow trees for a windbreak, privacy, basketry, root starter, and biomass. All of these nitrogen fixers can be heavily coppiced so you have your biomass or mulching material right there next to the edible.
Mark mentioned the Permaculture Orchard created by Stefan Sobkowiak a Canadian orchard owner. Check out this video if you want to get an idea of the concept.
You can purchase Stefan's movie on this site somewhere. I got a lot out of it, and I enjoyed it.