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Forest garden on 2.5 acres

 
brian aycock
Posts: 7
Location: Fayetteville GA
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Hi all! I am getting involved in a project that it going to plant an orchard in Fayette County GA. It will be on 2.5 acres.This will help feed families in need around the area. We are looking at planting Peaches, plums ,pears apples, blueberries, blackberries and such.

I am trying to convince them to do a forest garden ,permaculture style. I would love any help as far as companion planting goes and other plants that might beneficent  such a project. I have read on forest gardens and permaculture for about 2 years now , but this is my 1st major project. I would love to get the max amount of production from this 2.5 acres,more so because it is for a great cause. Any ideas or sites that might have charts on how things are mapped out would be great.

My email is brianaycock2@gmail.com. Any info you can send my way would be very appreciated. I have watch tons of videos, and read tons of articles/books. But really would like some more info from you great folks that have already put together a forest garden. Thanks so much =)
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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sounds wonderful, I would suggest in the berry dept you try black raspberries as they seem to bear heavily all season long rather than just a few in the summer like a lot of berries do..and they will provide a lot of baby  plants if you lie them down in the winter along the length of the bed, they can be split apart and replanted, I got about a dozen plants off of one when one fell down in winter by accident..berries make a wonderful hedge around the garden too as in helping to keep out predators

on 2.5 acres you also might want to try semi dwarfs rather than standards, as standards take up so much room..

 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9416
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Will you be including vegetable beds among the trees?

 
Josh T-Hansen
Posts: 143
Location: Zone 5 Brimfield, MA
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Have you seen Martin Crawford's DVD?  It would be useful to introduce people to the concept, and his garden is also in the 2 acre range.  The <1 hour DVD explains the concepts in lay terms and provides great visuals and advice.  Just a warning, certain sections were a bit dry.  I can give you my copy if you want to pay the shipping.

A couple things to consider...
landscape fabric to kill all vegetation with little work or resources
Some nitrogen fixing trees in the canopy where its hard to harvest anyway
Martins book provides information about how much area to devote to nitrogen fixation etc. and I would recommend it over Edible Forest Gardens for unifying a community project because it is very straightforward and a quicker read.
Main pathways mowed
Leaf crops
 
                    
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Bravo on your project!

I took a forest garden practicum a few years ago and now am working on making about 1800 sf of my little wooded acre into a forest garden.  I am using some dwarf varieties to make harvest easier and to maximize use of sunshine.  Two sides of the garden meet the wooded areas, one meets the foot of a 12 foot slope from the backyard garden, and one meets the road.

Anyway, I have been poking around for companion plants myself, recently.  I have already started propagating some hopniss (Apios americana), a legume that produces edible (unless you are allergic) tubers and fixes nitrogen.  Those will be planted into the garden next year.

I have some pussytoes (Antennaria) to attract pollinators early in spring and may even add some grape hyacinths for that.  I have bee balm and lemon balm to attract pollinators and confuse pests.  I'm growing out some comfrey (Bocking 14 - the kind that spreads by root, not seed) as well, as a dynamic accumulator and mulch.  Some nettle growing nearby is slated for a transplant into the forest garden, too.  I'll probably put some nodding onions throughout the garden for more pest confusion. 

Fruit producers include Illini blackberries, black raspberries, fall gold raspberries, and yellow raspberries; elderberry, mulberry, jostaberry, cherry, plum, and pear.  Nuts will be from beaked as well as precocious hazelnut.

It has been a test of creativity and more, and will continue to provide a blessed challenge for a few years at least. 

I also plan to fit in a Holzer-style raised bed or two, with hugelkultur.  I am making sure to use rotting wood all over the place.  I plan to get some edible mushrooms going when some of the other organisms are in place.  My runner ducks have been brought in to balance out the slug population and provide some fertilizer.

I hope this gives you some ideas (I'm in southern New England, by the way).


 
brian aycock
Posts: 7
Location: Fayetteville GA
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Tks for the info! The plans don't show anything for vegi gardens as of now. I would like to implement some edible perennials. I would like to know some good varieties of N.F.T.s I lack knowledge in this department . Are all nut trees N.F.T.s ? Any info in this area would be great! 
 
John Polk
steward
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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Since fruit and nut trees take years to produce food, I would encourage you to get some annual & perennial food crops established in the understory.  They will provide food at least until the trees shade them out.  If you have to wait 3-5 years for food production, many people in the project will lose interest and quit long before the bounty.
 
                    
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(I must confess some ignorance here) Brian, do you mean nitrogen fixing trees?

The nitrogen fixers I think of are black locust, and honey locust.  I am northern temperate-centric, I know there are a bunch of trees and shrubs that are not native to my area that fix nitrogen (pea berry, perhaps?).  So in my experience, nut trees and nitrogen fixers are not synonymous.

I have chosen precocious hazelnut which is a hybrid of native (to north America) hazels and filberts.  I also have beaked hazelnut, definitely a native.  Those do not fix nitrogen, but they are not very tall and one consideration in my food forest is that I, the main labor force, need to be able to reach the fruit and nuts to harvest them!

We already have some hickories (pignuts are tasty if one has a little patience with cracking them) and beech.  But those are just treats - not a main source of calories or nutrition.

Have you looked into sunroot (Helianthus tuberosus)?  Opinions on that plant seem to me to be all over the map.  Some consider them a worthless invasive, some don't digest them very well, and some, like me, consider them a great blessing.  For calories, an easy plant to grow, vigorous, spreads, can tolerate a bit of shade, as well as a pretty, fragrant flower, sunroot is my choice.


For nitrogen fixing, I think of plants other than trees - Baptisia (false indigo, a native), Apios americana (vine, produces edible tubers), and hog peanut (need to find a source for those).  I could also use peas and beans, which I probably will do in the years before the perennials become productive.

Another note about nitrogen is that animal urine contains it, and there are annuals (clover, for example) that fix nitrogen, too.  I realize that a guild is supposed to contain a nitrogen fixer.  But my approach is to get the fruit trees in, provide them with what they need as I subsequently locate and/or propagate helpful guild members.

At this early stage I am filling in many spots with annual flowering plants and as I wrote, plan to put in a number of beans to take advantage of the sunny area until the trees fill out and fill in a bit.

 
Isaac Hill
gardener
Posts: 356
Location: Beaver County, Pennsylvania (~ zone 6)
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Sure, but if you want to improve the soil deep down you've gotta at least have some Eleagnus or Pea shrub or something, if not Acacias and Locusts.
 
            
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Ente wrote:
(I must confess some ignorance here) Brian, do you mean nitrogen fixing trees?

The nitrogen fixers I think of are black locust, and honey locust.  I am northern temperate-centric, I know there are a bunch of trees and shrubs that are not native to my area that fix nitrogen (pea berry, perhaps?).  So in my experience, nut trees and nitrogen fixers are not synonymous.


I'm not Brian, but nitrogen fixing trees are useful and common in all but the smallest forest garden - some fruit, some don't, but even if they don't they can still be well worth it to fix nitrogen for other trees/plants.

Martin Crawford's Forest Gardening book (for temperate climates in the UK but applicable for the US too) suggests the following nitrogen fixing trees for the canopy layer: Wattles, Alders, Siberian Pea Trees, Redbuds & Jadas Trees, Eleqagnus, Sea Buckthorn, Amur Maacka, Bayberries / Wax Myrtles, Black Locust / False Acacia and Buffalo Berry. You can see a video of him and his forest garden here and I recommend his 2010 Creating a Forest Garden book - it's 380 odd full colour A4 pages and the best resource I've yet seen on the subject (and I have a few books on it).
 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
pollinator
Posts: 1422
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
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Bryan,  I am in your region and thought I would give some input here.

Peach trees were such a magnet for every pest and desease that I pulled them out.  I could not find an organic farmer anywhere around that had success with peaches.

Plums, muscadines, apples, pear, quince and pecan do REALLY well.  The clemson extension website has great recommendations for varieties of apple for the specific part of each region (i.e., coastal, midland, hill piedmont).  All of these basically grow themselves.

Thornless blackberry would be a great understory addition, all blackberries do well but the thornless are easier to deal with.

Watermelon and butternut squash have done great on the ground floor.  People think they need a lot of sun but I think they underestimate the hot humid sun that we have here.  Mine do fine in shade. 


Peppers, especially bell peppers do well with some shade.  They may not be as hot but the plants last longer if spared the afternoon sun.

I could go on and on so if you would like somemore plant ideas for the south east just let me know.  My main interest is in plants that can take care of themselves.
 
Jonathan Byron
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Loquat is a good one to consider - some cultivars are larger and more delicious than others. Most people in the Carolinas think of it as purely ornamental and call it "Japanese Plum." 
 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
pollinator
Posts: 1422
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
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Jonathan, I'll have to check into the loquats - might be a good addition for me.

P.S. on watermelon and butternut squash:
If you just toss some old fruit out on the ground and cover it with leaves and grass clippings you will probably have plenty the next year.  I do save seed but I usually have very productive volunteers.
 
Helen Deergrove
Posts: 10
Location: Ouachita Mts. - Ar.
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Something to consider with orchards is the timing of nitrogen.  I haven't  tried this yet myself- but I was told that planting some spring flower bulbs around the base of the tree is protective of the trees. This apparently works by absorbing some nitrogen in the early spring when the trees are still barely waking up. Too much nitrogen available at that stage,  makes lots of tender growth that the last freezes can damage easier.

Higher nitrogen after the spring frosts are passed is okay.  Alliums (onion and garlic family) near the trees is a possibility for protection. Clover or orchard grass are used in some groves. If you time it well, they could be cut and stored for hay or grazed sometimes.
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