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Forest Garden Mapping?  RSS feed

 
John Kitsteiner
Posts: 38
Location: East Tennessee
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Does anyone know of (or used) any software for designing and/or building a forest garden?  I know that there are landscape design programs out there, but I have never used any of them. 

I would love to find a program where you could enter in, at minimum, the dimensions and slope of your property, enter in the components (dimensions of trees, shrubs, etc) and be able to drag and drop them and move them around the property, design paths, ponds, etc on a computer and then view it in 3-D.

And I know you can do that with CAD, but I am looking for something cheaper and more user friendly.

If anyone has ever used something like this, please let me know!

Thanks!
Doc K
 
                            
Posts: 56
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When I first got into permaculture, I was really into mapping. Drawing out designs for plots of land and imagining them. This was a great workout for training my awareness to see the possibilities in the landscape. But when it came to actually planting the 100 or so fruit and nut trees/shrubs this spring, I largely just used the map as a guide for the spaces and instead just walked the land and put things where they felt right. I suspect this will continue to be my practice as I plant more...

If you're looking for a low-tech way to visualize space, in addition to regular graph paper I've seen isometric graph paper that allows you to draw things out in 3d. I haven't used it and probably won't, but it looks neat.

best,
~wildeyes
 
John Kitsteiner
Posts: 38
Location: East Tennessee
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I am very visuospatial.  I was previously a graphic designer for over 5 yrs.  I am constantly sketching ideas and guilds and patterns... yeah, I am pretty much obsessed with it.

But I "waste" so much time redrawing things when I want to see what it would look like to put tree X next to tree Y instead of next to pond A, etc.

But also being a physician, I am fairly logical and detail oriented... I want to get my maps planned fairly accurately. 

I may end up planting by "feel", but right now, I think I need more structure. 
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9741
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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You might want to look into landscape design software, there are several out there it looks like.

http://download.cnet.com/windows/landscape-design-software/
 
                            
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DocK wrote:
I am very visuospatial.  I was previously a graphic designer for over 5 yrs.  I am constantly sketching ideas and guilds and patterns... yeah, I am pretty much obsessed with it.

But I "waste" so much time redrawing things when I want to see what it would look like to put tree X next to tree Y instead of next to pond A, etc.

But also being a physician, I am fairly logical and detail oriented... I want to get my maps planned fairly accurately. 

I may end up planting by "feel", but right now, I think I need more structure. 


I hope I did not indicate that I discourage mapping. I think it's great practice.
 
John Kitsteiner
Posts: 38
Location: East Tennessee
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wildeyes wrote:
I hope I did not indicate that I discourage mapping. I think it's great practice.


I didn't get that impression at all... no worries! 
 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
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sounds like you need to just get out there and visualize, mimic nature and start planting. i used to be a graphic designer for 10 years. maps did nothing but slow me down in the long run and cause mistakes because that's where I wanted the tree, not where the tree should go. mapping is a great tool, but it only gets you so far down the road to success, where actually doing something gets you much farther.

get some stakes, poke them in the ground, walk around, visualize them as trees. if you dont like its spot. simply move the stake and start over.
 
John Kitsteiner
Posts: 38
Location: East Tennessee
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I totally get what you are saying, but from my vast experience in planting a forest garden (uh... NONE!  ), and from all the books and articles I have read on the topic (a whole bunch, really), it seems that one of the biggest mistakes made in putting it all together is improper spacing of trees. 

I am just looking at mapping software as a way to help avoid these problems in the design phase.

Doc K
 
Burra Maluca
Mother Tree
Posts: 9926
Location: Portugal
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I'm still in the process of completing an online PDC, and the final design, where I make a map of where I'd put everything, is a huge mental block for me. 

It's all ok in theory, but I know now that if I try to plant a tree in a certain place, then I might just hit bedrock and have to plant it somewhere else.  Or that bit of ground might get totally waterlogged if it rains too much in the winter and the tree might die, so I'll have to try a different sort next time.  Or I might not be able to grow the tagasaste I wanted, so I'll have to improvise and put a locust bean in instead. 

And the chicken area turns out to need to a sodding great electric fortress round it as I hadn't bargained on all the predators.  And then, despite the poor soil, the trees seem to do better when they're planted surprisingly close as the shade helps them.  And then there's that perfectly good little patch of land that we've planted trees on three times and they've died each time - should we try again? 

And then there's that really crappy bit of thin, poor soil that my crazy other half decided to put a pumpkin patch on and for some reason has given us really early, abundant summer squash while the 'improved' soil in the normal patch hasn't even flowered yet, even though it was planted earlier. 

And what about the compost heaps - there's a row of six enormous brick built compounds, but in a few years they won't all be necessary as we'll convert to all mulch when the soil is healthier.  Then some trees that I thought would grow really well and act as nurse trees turn out to need more care than the fruit trees, but my plan doesn't look right without the nurse trees.  Do I cheat and draw them in anyway, or be honest and leave them out?  Or keep trying to grow them and delay the final design for yet another year... 

I think I've given up on maps.  Real life is so much more unpredictable and interesting.
 
John Kitsteiner
Posts: 38
Location: East Tennessee
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Burra Maluca wrote:
I think I've given up on maps.  Real life is so much more unpredictable and interesting.


Burra - Your post made me laugh out loud! 

Best of luck!
 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
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burra explained it much better than i did.

mistakes happen, thats where you learn. no matter how much planning and plotting. you will still have problems to solve and failures to learn from.

best to just get out there and grow some food.
 
John Polk
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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Personally. I think graph paper is quicker/easier than a computer program.  Make a rough drawing of the area in question, and take it to the area and start filling in the blanks.  Use pencil (with a good eraser).  Use it as a reference when planting, but when you are finished planting, make a real map of where everything actually went.

Your pre-planting guide is merely an organizational tool, not a Bible.  If you look at a natural forest, you will see a clump of 2-3 trees here, another clump there, and another clump over there,  In between the clumps, nothing.  Mother nature has her own ways of selecting the 'right spot' to let a plant grow, and her way does not use math, geometry, or any other man-made metrix in determining the best place to put a plant.
 
Paul Cereghino
gardener
Posts: 856
Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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I've done a lot of design work both digital and not.  I find digital design VERY limiting.  I have not gone father than basemap and zone digital.  I am constantly sketching on blown up bits of my site to help me organize my thinking.  At the acre scale you are really talking about basic structure... then plant placement follows structure.. so for most conceptual design I am not defining plant placement... rather plant placement follows conceptual design of vegetation structure.

It is easy to deceive ourself about scale and feel of place in digital environments.  I'd strongly advocate for mock ups.  Bamboo culms with leaves on work great for creating simulated plants.  A bucket of lime can be used to draw chalk lines showing zones and paths.

Google Sketch up is probably the easiest 3D design system, but not naturally well suited toward organic forms. (No digital tool is as well suited to organic form as the 5 jointed multi-radial articulated drawing machine that is your arm).

Good polyculture design is too complicated for 2D rendering, thus you go back to conceptual structures, then followed by planting.  Restoration planting we use templates a lot, because the plantings are just too complicated to beneficially design on paper.

Much of good permaculture design is thinking through how we manage the site...really designing the workflow of the system.  The focus on plant placemetn can undermine our focus on the tools we are going to use to create and maintain the system.

Finally, microtopography can stronly affect some systems, and paper designs are flat... so even if you choose design detail on paper, still do that work outside on the site walking aorund.
 
Josh T-Hansen
Posts: 143
Location: Zone 5 Brimfield, MA
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I have used paint.net http://www.getpaint.net/ a free program which works for my amateur needs.  It is 2-d, but the ease of layering with adjustable opaqueness is a big advantage over paper.  Slope has its own layer for example, and can view as many or as few layers as I want at any one time. It's very easy to use when copying/pasting, drawing paths, unlimited 'undos' etc. 

It is also easy to plot landmarks from triangulation measurements.  I normally set the scale of the map at 10 pixels/foot or 1/foot for a larger area, and then draw circles to find the exact coordinates.  It is a very simple but powerful program.  For example, When drawing a line (perhaps a path) the thickness is easily adjustable, length is recorded, "shift" jumps the line to the nearest 15 degree mark, can be a gradient and/or color, 4 points to drag/curve the line after initially placed.  Another favorite feature is the select tool which grabs a whole area when a spot is clicked.
 
John Sizemore
Posts: 96
Location: West Virginia/ Dominican Republic
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I have been on my ½ acre homestead for a little over a month. I am mowing to keep piece with the neighbors and building my pan now.
I just let the eland guide me. If I find a black berry or elder berry trying to get a hold in spite of the mowing that was done before I put a stake beside it mulch around it and leave it be.
I planted two pear trees so far. I have two productive walnut trees on the property line that somehow has lived 40 years at the edge of the leach field.  The walnut trees are surrounding by a forsythia bush at the base and I just opened it enough for a tree cave for my kids but otherwise left it alone. A very nice poke patch is under the forsythia.
I know what types and how many trees I want next spring but I am not going to go formal enough to have a landscape design. I am going to pace it out and put a hole. I will let my kids decide what goes where and put a few raised beds in the center of it all. I want to leave some room for those happy little accidents.
The golden delicious apple was a volunteer in the middle of a pasture on the Mullens farm in WV. A teen age boy in the family was the one that mowed the field with a scythe. He saw the seedling and staked it out and left it alone. 15 years later his father mailed some apples from the tree to Stark Brothers. The rest is history. I think we have to leave room for the little natural gifts and not over plan.
 
Elia Charalambides
Posts: 78
Location: Boston
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Hello everyone here at Permies.com, this'll be my first post!

I have been studying Permaculture and all its permutations that I can find online/in books/videos for over a year now in my free time (usually at work). Since I don't have any time to devote to a PDC I've started converting my parent's yard into a little experimental permaculture garden as a first test whenever I have a chance on the odd weekends I visit them here and there.

I am a designer by trade and have noticed that while I've been designing the garden layout i've also had to re-sketch it many many times. I fully agree with Burra Mulaca about the things that are impossible to plan for but I am a VERY visual person so I've decided to create a little "Planning Pack". It'll be a set of cards that I would use to give myself a basic idea of the layout I would like without the need of having to re-sketch something a hundred times. This way I would only have to draw out the property limits, buildings, plants or anything else that already exists on the property and I could just place the cards down and rearrange them how I see fit. Each card would be 3"x3" rounds and have an illustration of a tree, shrub, pond, greenhouse, hugelkultur beds, chicken coop, etc etc. On the back of each card would be the basic information of the plant(s),  structure or animal(s):i.e. basic inputs, products, needs zone and sun requirements, etc.

These are by no means exact since there are vigorous/ dwarf/ semi-dwarf etc type trees, different size greenhouses/ponds and other variables but in the end it really helps in visualizing.
 
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