Do you have any suggestions for where to start within a coniferous forest?
We have 16 acres of classic Cape Breton, Nova Scotia (Canada) forest - which means lots of overcrowded spruce, tamarack, fir, and birch, and not much undergrowth. My partner and I aren't young anymore, either, so real long term plantings aren't going to be terribly useful to us. Where can we go with this?
I have seen Cherries, apples, plums, & pears, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, blueberries, goose berries, strawberries, Oregon grape, persimmon and vine grapes growing wild and prolific amongst and within natural coniforus forest of sugar pine, ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, piss fir, spruce and cedar that also contained hardwoods like oak varieties and madrone, but mostly evergreen softwood.
I'd imagine that blueberries and others would do well also.
I'm also curious about this setup, as the parcel I purchased is almost entirely ponderosa pine and lodgepole pine currently, and I've planted black locust and osage orange from seed to hopefully get those species growing, if the deer will leave them alone a little. The goal is to retire in about 5 years and start building on the site, and hopefully have an osage orange hedgerow tall enough to keep the deer out and allow planting fruit and nut trees/bushes within for my use.
I'm curious if I should start by planting nitrogen fixing ground covers or something else first, to try to improve the soil as it is not very good from my limited inspection.
The coniferous forests of North America's most significant food product for humans was anadromous fish (salmon, trout, candlefish). This produced more predictable, prolific and high quality protein than any modern use of that land has, especially considering how little work they took to maintain and the other foods and forest products produced like those mentioned above. It was basically just harvest responsibly and don't mess up the habitat. Now that we've done the opposite of that, I see it as my responsibility to improve the downstream habitat of anywhere I garden by slowing, soaking and shading any water I have come across my property.
Under our canarian pine, no way to grow for example! I have not seen this. Roots run far and are competitive, pine needles accumulate and give a too thick mulch.
Some places have an understory of other trees and bush.
You can find specific mushrooms that like resinous trees.
Basically, resinous trees are pioneers and not really places for gardens, but for wild life we can hunt and trap.
If cutting is part of the possible, some sunny parts can be gained + huggel kultur with the wood. if resinous I think it needs to dry before huggel.
If you remove the necessary - as I think your main important word is "overcowded" - then you can get all the fruit trees and berries that like acidic soil and climate adapted, because they will get some sun. My place has a limit you do not have: it is dry.
Xisca - pics! Dry subtropical Mediterranean - My project However loud I tell it, this is never a truth, only my experience...
In the west coast coniferous forests understory food plants include vaccinum (blue/cran/huckleberry), hazelnuts, tanoak and true oak acorns, wild ginger, gooseberry, oregon grape, sorrel, edible ferns (licorice fern and swordfern fiddleheads), and of course fungi galore. I would bet the NE has similar understory plant diversity, if not greater given the deciduous diversity. Also, the snow and snowshoes were used as a tool for hunting in Algonquin and other NE native cultures. NW First Salmon ceremonies and other overfishing prevention mores are similar to self imposed restrictions of NE native peoples on the exploitation of the advantages snowshoes provided in hunting. It has been said many times that the colder you get, the more hunting and livestock is necessary to utilize the energy naturally stored in animals in such ecosystems.
The conifer forest is set up for acidic loving plants, so most of the berries are going to do quite well in that environment along with some of the nut trees (check that nice list that Ben Z posted)
This is also prime chicken of the woods territory and a few other really good mushrooms can be grown there.
If you want to grow vegetables for the most part you would need to either do raised beds or line an area that you dug out and filled the lining with more suitable pH soil.
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