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The Permaculture Shade Grown Forest Garden - inspired by Permaculture Orchard

 
pollinator
Posts: 223
Location: Western North Carolina - Zone 7B stoney
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I have a tract of Forest land in the mountains, that I intend to make into an efficient garden space.  The one difficult part (aside from the terrain), is the amount of shade.

I would classify my land as dappled.  This is a high amount of shade.  I will be cutting down many trees on my property to build with, but I do not want to clear cut my land, simply so that I can get more sunlight.  I enjoy having a forest floor that is shaded by a canopy.  After all, the shading is not complete.

To envision this land, think of the typical Appalachian mountain forest.  This describes me perfectly.  As for the terrain, I have several well thought out plans on how to deal with this.  For the shade, I have decided to embrace it, and think of it as beneficial.  

In my research toward efficiency for this farm, I found myself surprised at the species of plants and vegetables that were reported to grow well in the shade.  I decided that it was best to compile the information that I found, and I authored a topic about it here on permies.  https://permies.com/t/71394/Shade-Tolerant-Edible-Cooperative-Community  Research is great, but I understand that personal experience trumps someone else's knowledge.  This year, I am lucky enough to be able to experiment with the theory that a shade food garden can create an efficient growing system.

Shade has now become my ally, and I have the end goal of creating a farm that boasts that it's crops are grown in the shade.  The plan is to specialize in plants that exhibit the red color denoting antioxidants.  There are several studies pointing to the the claim that shade will help the antioxidants, as there is less radiation and heat on those vital compounds.  I also imagine that many crops will have a different (and possibly more desirable) taste when grown in the shade.  This is the foundation of my desire for my land.  
As a farm,  my land is in it's infancy.  There is not a single structure on it.  I have a detailed development plan drawn up, that includes things such as keyline irrigation, and hugelkultur.  Since I do not have a keyline plow, I will construct small swales in parallel to the keyline, so that they can act in the same fashion.  I also plan to incorporate the plethora of dead tree material into hugel kultur beds.  These will likely not get planted this year, but this year is for experimentation anyways.

I found some super cheap shade wildflower boxed seeds at dollar tree.  They were marked 3 bucks each, so I thought that one dollar was a good value (at least to experiment for my first year).  The box said that it contained at least 5,000 seeds, but they weren't apparent when I looked.  The majority of the box seems to be dried up dead earthworms, so I thought that was a clever planting substance.  Then, I remembered Sepp Holzer's way of planting his terraces.  I had no less than 70 of the normal seed packets of vegetables, herbs, and a few wildflowers.  Into a single box of shade wildflowers, I dumped each and every packet of seed that I had.  

Initially, I held out the Beans, Peppers, Corn, Lettuces, and a few other vegetables.  I then realized that I would be losing out on the opportunity of experimenting how those select crops do in the shade.  So, everything went into the same bag.  Aside from large seeds (Pumpkin, Bean, Squash, Sunflower), I couldn't notice many of the other seeds.  This gave me a little more faith that there was indeed a mixture of wildflowers in with the dead worms.  My plan is to prepare a variety of planting areas, by pulling the duff away, roughing up the top inch of the soil, and broadcasting a variety of seed along the swales that I create.  I then will give it a very light covering of topsoil that is taken from an area that I am not planting.  I may also experiment with covering it just with the duff of another area.  

This is my year to try different things. What type of experiment would you like to see ran?  I plan on testing out the majority of the plants listed in my shade edible topic.  I can't wait to append it with my notes of what worked for me in my 7b region.  
 
Posts: 39
Location: san diego ca
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cool project wonder if some plants taste alot better in the shade  too.
 
William Wallace
pollinator
Posts: 223
Location: Western North Carolina - Zone 7B stoney
62
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scott porteous wrote:cool project wonder if some plants taste alot better in the shade  too.



Indeed, I can't wait to see the difference of taste .... but there are several other factors that I will be looking at.  I talked about them possibly being healthier, but I also think it will be easier upkeep.  I hope that less weeds grow in the shade, and that there is less need for watering because of less evaporation.  

I am using super cheap bargain brand seeds, as I bought them all from dollar tree.  However, this go around has only cost me 20 dollars in seeds.  This should at least give me a good idea of where things grow or not, but I do not expect a super high germination rate.  

Growing tactics such as keyline and hugulkultur both reduce the frequency of irrigation needed to grow, so I see this as a natural fit for shade growing.  I understand that some varieties of vegetables will not flourish in the shade, but I am excited to see the results.  Usually shade is the leftover plantings, but I want to make mine a priority.  
 
master pollinator
Posts: 3050
Location: Officially Zone 7b, according to personal obsevations I live in 7a, SW Tennessee
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Oooo, fun! A season of experimentation without a dependence on the outcome. I look forward to your updates.

As to weeds, you may want to look into chickweed for future ground cover in the shade. I think it was all the way into mid June in Petit Jean State Park, AR that I saw lush, yummy chickweed in the understory. (Apparently they are in7b)  I've attributed it's lushness to all that shade. Here in 7a land, without shade, chickweed is already on it's way out, bolting.
 
William Wallace
pollinator
Posts: 223
Location: Western North Carolina - Zone 7B stoney
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I will definitely look into chickweed.  I am going to be planting a ton of strawberry, as well as I believe there's lots of berry brambles already on the property.
Yep, there's no outcome needed this year, which is one reason I am looking forward to it.  I feel that too many people put stress on things that they must have, rather than finding out how things work.
 
gardener
Posts: 522
Location: Sierra Nevadas, CA 6400'
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Best of luck! I struggle with the shade a lot living in a conifer forest, but I'm starting to figure out how to work with it well.  One thing I haven't seen you mention is fencing — what's your plan there? Last year I learned that shade tolerant greens might as well be shorthand for bunny food. I didn't manage a single harvest of non-head lettuce or spinach. The rabbits would let them get to about 1" high and mow them down.
 
William Wallace
pollinator
Posts: 223
Location: Western North Carolina - Zone 7B stoney
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I do not have any fencing plans.  I will eventually need some for the livestock that I intend to keep on my land, but fencing my veggies would make quite a tough job for sure.  Perhaps if I find some tomato cylinders, I would use those, but I plan to simply see how they work out.  Maybe they will be good attractant for me to kill some rabbits for food.  We will see.  I'm okay for donating some food to wildlife, and I would simply plant more than they could eat if they grow adequately in the shade.
 
William Wallace
pollinator
Posts: 223
Location: Western North Carolina - Zone 7B stoney
62
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Joylynn Hardesty wrote:Oooo, fun! A season of experimentation without a dependence on the outcome.



One of my favorite aspects of this way of experimentation, is how little thinking and planning that I need to put into the plantings themselves.  Sure, I have some elaborate plans on how I am going to plant, but I have not tried to decide where I will plant. This method of broadcasting all types of flowers and vegetables will allow me to test different locations and situations without having to plan each and every one individually.  I will get to see how a variety of plants grow all over my property.  Granted, I don't have enough seed to test my whole property, but I can choose some test locations like North Slopes, South Slopes, Creek beds, and Gullies.  If I just tried planting one type of crop in one location, I think it would be less successful.  Sepp Holzer said something about letting the seeds decide which work for which situation.  He does have a more narrow selection of seeds, but I feel this method of testing is the best.
 
Posts: 10
Location: Transylvania County, Western North Carolina zone: 7B
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Sounds fun! I moved to a small mountain town in Zone 7B about a year ago and look forward to benefiting from your experiments :)

In the dappled areas we have done well by creating mounds (hugelkultur or otherwise) that face the sun.... and creative trellising. We get so much rain (with clay soil) here that we have benefited from installing small raised beds with repurposed materials or making mini swales and the hugelkultur things.

Those slugs are no joke, I am finding out. It seems like the shade creates the perfect environment for them to thrive on tender annuals.

Miner's lettuce, that might be an option?
 
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I know this is an older post, but I'm so curious about the results of your experiment!
I have a shaded/dappled lot in 7b, plan to experiment with growing chicken forage in combination with movable coop.
This will be my first full growing season here, but last summer I had some interesting results with container gardens I moved onto this property. Container grown arugula when placed in shade grew big leaves and never flowered... good for eating, not for seed-saving Container garlic chives are up this year with big succulent leaves, big difference from past years when they got ~4 hours direct sun/day. A local organic farmer I've worked for has so much expensive shade cloth to protect leaf crops planted in full sun in the summer... I'll just use the trees, and figure out where the sunbeams move during the days and seasons...
 
Posts: 79
Location: Haida Gwaii, British Columbia (7b)
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I’m also in zone 7b and struggling with slugs, excess moisture (rain, rain, rain!), and mild temperatures.

This will be my second full growing season with real gardens and I’ve been able to complete a few experiments, and grow some things successfully despite the constraints.

Looks like I’m finally going to commit to staying here, so I’m looking to expand our production with new experiments over the coming years. We do get a good amount of forageable items around here (So many mushrooms), and there is salmon and halibut and cod to be caught right across the road from my property, and so many berries to collect throughout summer and fall (crow, salmon, salal, blueberry, huckleberry, thimble, Wild strawberry, lingonberry). We do alright in that regard, and enjoy making fermented beverages and baking with this surplus through the rest of the year.

Things that grow well, despite slugs and rain:
- arugula
- chives
- kale
- rhubarb
- raspberries
- plum (green gage, Italian plum)
- apple (Frankenstein)
- strawberries
- mint
- lemon balm


Useful green things that grow wild, and fill in the wild areas:
- red alder
- salmon berry
- thimbleberry
- salal
- stink currant
- pearly everlasting
- curly dock
- red huckleberry
- rhododendron (many types)
- miner’s lettuce
- pacific crab apple

Other things that I haven’t found use for yet:
- sedge
- buttercup
- 9,000 types of grass
- western hemlock
- red elderberry

Some things I’m experimenting with:
- carmine jewel cherries (growing and green for past 18 months, but still young)
- hazelnut shrubs (about 2 years old, still young and early to tell but most look happy)
- Saskatoon berry (still young, but some of them are growing very quickly)
- apples from seed
- Greenhouse growing annuals that don’t like being wet all the time (tomatoes, squash, cucumber, lettuce, spinach, carrots)

Some experiments I’m planning:
- growing loads of crabapple starts on which to graft more tasty varieties
- found a pair of old 25 ft tall green plum trees in overgrown field, attempted grafting onto my plum tree, and attempting to root some more of it
- French drains/micro swales on contour to guide water off low points
- capturing runoff into tiered rice garden


What works for you in your 7b? Any nuts or fruits working for you?
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