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Hi Paul,,,lately i've been being flooded with people trying to sell me books on survival gardning , starting with food forest's and raidiating out through zones of berries , root veggies, then other anuales,,,[ sorry bout the spelling] ...My question is ,,being over 60 years old, how long do you think it would take to be able to start harvisting  a food forest??? if it take's 15 or more years for the fruit and nut trees to mature and start produceing. there's a good chance that i'd never live to see them produce...Ed Benfer
 
gardener
Posts: 398
Location: SoCal USA
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If you can purchase fruit trees in 5 gallon pots that are a few years old, they usually start producing fruit within 2-3 years after planting at home. Some nuts also produce soon after planting like chestnuts.

Combined with perennial and annual plantings you can grow plenty of food right away. Don't let the idea of a perfect setup prevent you from starting a good setup, it can be very productive for you.
 
Posts: 39
Location: san diego ca
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yah i agree if you start with a area that you can concentrate resources(manure, compost, water if needed, mulch, fertilizer) to and protect from animal a couple years defentily   . 10 to 15 years is for broad scale where you just plant seedlings and dont do  anything to speed it up and even then thats seems long,

even in a year youll have anuals berries mulberry grapes



 
garden master
Posts: 329
Location: Maine, zone 5
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Ed, my favorite thing about my food forest is that every year new things start bearing that I've never tried before.  It's better than Christmas!  If you only plant the short to bear plants you will not ever get to experience so much.  Worst case, if you don't get everything you planted, then there's the chance that others will enjoy what you created after your death and the environmental and health benefits from your labor will live on long after you've left us.....but hopefully you'll get the direct joy/blessings as well.
 
pollinator
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Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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Ed, I'd look for grafted trees. In my own experience, they produce quicker. In my early and mid 60s I planted several types of citrus,  macadamia nuts, avocados, apple, peach, and mangos...all grafted trees. I also planted 3-4 year old seedlings of mulberry, Surinam cherry, guavas, and sapote. I'm now pushing 70 and all the trees are producing except for the sapotes. Not big crops yet, but it's a thrill to pick my own dozen or two of apples, 2-3 dozen each of the various citrus, a five gallon bucket of macnuts. Every year the trees double what they produced the year before. It's thrilling.

My suggestion is to get those trees in this year. Don't bother to try to make the perfect food forest, just give it your best guess and get the trees planted.
 
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Hi Ed:

What zone are you in?  I can tell you what has worked for us and what has not here in 5b if that is relevant to where you are located.  Also a few mistakes we have made along the way in the past 12 years.

I am 62 and my wife is 59.

Cheers
 
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Location: Zone 8b Portland
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I've planted a few things that have started fruiting the next season.  Mulberry and quince come to mind for tree fruits.  Small fruits also are very fast to production ( berries ).  There's also a few chestnut trees from oikos tree crops that they claim can yield within a year or 2.  
 
gardener
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Location: Ohio, USA
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Planting a whole forest is a lot of work, and surviving purely off it quickly isn't something I'd bank on right away. But yes, most fruit trees will bare within 5 years, from seed.  Annuals can bare within 30 days from seed. You might not focus on getting much from an oak tree, but plant it where it won't bother anything in case you live to be 90 and need it. If you are into making the food forest incognito, throwing an oak in there should help.

I've been working towards mine for about 4 years between work, kids, and general life stuff, and despite that, I still get a reliable off set to our food bill. I can't survive off of it yet, but I've only been able to put in an hour here and there and the acreage is quite small (suburban plot). At my current rate though I think if I don't get self sufficient by 15 years of working at this, it's because teenagers eat too much.
 
pollinator
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We have about 60 fruit trees on our 1/3rd acre, with all the other space in between planted with annuals, veggies, root crops and such.  Additionally, we've got 8 chickens that lay eggs.

With all that, there is no way we are even close to being self-sufficient.  We harvest about 30 to 50% of our calories from our food forest, a much higher percentage in the warm summer months than in the winter, but it wouldn't be enough for us to survive on unless I found a way to significantly ramp up production.  As things stand, I buy my chicken feed, we buy most of our protean (meat, fish) and all our dairy, we spend upwards of $500 a month at Costco.  Could we eat a simpler diet, much lower down the food chain?  Of course we could, and if times got desperate, we'd be forced to do so.  But even if I planted out every last square inch of our property with food-bearing plants, I don't think we'd be able to survive on that alone.

If I can humbly question the premise of the OP, there are a couple of things I've found that have changed my perception of how we live.

1.  My goal isn't total self-sufficiency.  It's quality of life, quality of food, nutrient density, and living well.  Thus, my energy is given to quality, not shear quantity.  

2.  The whole idea of growing a food forest for the possibility of a "shit hits the fan" scenario is energy dedicated to the negative, not the positive.  I've been around preppers and end-of-days doomsday types for over 30 years.  I spent a summer with one way back in 1983, and he was all over me trying to get me to drop out of college to prepare for the "inevitable" collapse of the monetary system.  He died a poor and miserable man 2 decades later, while I went on to not only finish my eduction, but to put that eduction to good use.  It would appear to me that fear, while powerful, is ultimately a poor motivator to sustain a life well-lived.  Love is a much greater and life-giving motivation.  Fear of the collapse of society, fear of peak-oil, fear of zombies, fear of jack-booted government forces . . . honestly, I just can't find myself getting motivated to go out and plant a big garden if these are the boogie men that I'm supposed to prepare myself to stand against.

Grow what you love and share that with those you love!  Reacting against what you fear is a zero-sum proposition.  I transitioned from asking the question, "How many calories can I realistically expect from this avocado tree if we needed it to survive?", to asking, "When are the kids coming home?, because I need to pick avocados 2 weeks in advance of that—they love my gaucamole!"  Even my chickens are kept as much because I love to see them out there scratching and pooping and enjoying their chickeness.  I don't keep them because of a "what-if" scenario, but because they give me joy.

3.  If the SHTF, those that survive will be those who have social capital just as much as physical/food growing capital.  Thus, I cultivate meaningful community with friends, family and neighbors.  At least a third of what I grow gets shared with others.  How many peaches can you realistically eat in those 2 weeks when they all ripen at once?  So why not turn excess peaches into good will and meaningful, life-giving relationships?  My wife likes to joke that our avocado, pomegranate, lime and apple trees grow pork: we give our Hispanic neighbors fruit and the return with tamales, carnites and posole.  Cultivate neighbors, not just trees.

Sermon over.

I'd plant grafted trees suitable to your area.
I'd plant nut trees, as they provide a great deal of calories that can be stored.  Off our one almond tree, we harvest about 40 lbs. of nuts a year.
I'd plant an understory of easily maintained root crops.  Sweet potatoes are our go-to crop in this regard: we ignore then and they come up year after year, volunteer.
I'd plant a lovely teak bench somewhere back in a shady corner where you can sit quietly with someone you love and enjoy the beauty of all that you are growing.

 
Ed Benfer
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Thanks for the response guys... It's the first time i've ever posted a questin on here and have recieved tons of info most appreacitvly from a lot of good folk's around my own age,,,  right now i'm at the folk's place in kansas but the kid's and grandkid's are trying to convince me to move to central iowa insted of going back to my place in nw montana,,  iowa does have a longer growing season and milder winters but i sure miss the high country...Ed
 
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