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Has anyone done a no maintenance food forest?  RSS feed

 
Steven Baxter
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My plan is to buy some land while in the military. Most likely I will not be living on this land while active duty. Only visits from time to time while on leave. I do want to help get things established. It does not help that I have no idea what this land will look like, what zone it is, or where I will buy land.

I just want to get ideas circulating in my head about what to do as far as getting some food forests going. Are there crops of any kind that could be left alone for a year or so that won't invade, yet still thrive and even self propagate themselves?

Anyone just throw some seeds and never have to do anything but harvest?

I think of things like bananas.

Even medicinal crops would be nice, i.e. yarrow, mugwort, whatever...

 
Kirk Hutchison
Posts: 418
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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The most important plants in a food forest are perennial, so you don't have to worry about any of them getting crowded out. Perennials take a couple of years to develop anyway (and more for woody perennials), so you could plant trees, shrubs, and perennial herbs now and come back and get a good harvest in 3 to 4 years.
 
Steven Baxter
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Paleo Gardener wrote:
The most important plants in a food forest are perennial, so you don't have to worry about any of them getting crowded out. Perennials take a couple of years to develop anyway (and more for woody perennials), so you could plant trees, shrubs, and perennial herbs now and come back and get a good harvest in 3 to 4 years.


Thank you
 
Jonathan Byron
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No-maintenance might work, might not. Around here, the wild plants ("weeds" will grow 6 to 10 feet in a season, while most trees grow at a slower pace. Wild grape, air potato, and other vines can grow even faster, they will cover and smother most things if they are left alone. I could not do a no-maintenance in my yard - some mowing or weed-wacking is called for. As the system matures, the shade leads to fewer undesired plants and less labor is required.

Today I was using a hand scythe around young citrus and bamboo... they would have been completely overtaken without some intervention. My mature citrus trees need very little attention.  Mulberry grows much faster, it can outgrow most weeds here, provided the vines don't get it.
 
duane hennon
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a food forest does not need any maintenance, food will be produced
a food forest for humans needs maintenance to guide it toward human food
 
John Polk
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With enough diversity, an untended forest would balance itself out.  The caveat would be that the plants most adaptable to the environment would eventually squeeze out the plants less suitable for the environment.

For what it's worth, banana plantations are extremely high labor intensive.  The only reason they are inexpensive is that they grow in regions where labor is cheap.
 
Steven Baxter
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John Polk wrote:
With enough diversity, an untended forest would balance itself out.  The caveat would be that the plants most adaptable to the environment would eventually squeeze out the plants less suitable for the environment.

For what it's worth, banana plantations are extremely high labor intensive.  The only reason they are inexpensive is that they grow in regions where labor is cheap.



Ya native plants is a good idea.
 
Mekka Pakanohida
Posts: 383
Location: Zone 9 - Coastal Oregon
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John Polk wrote:
With enough diversity, an untended forest would balance itself out.  The caveat would be that the plants most adaptable to the environment would eventually squeeze out the plants less suitable for the environment.

For what it's worth, banana plantations are extremely high labor intensive.  The only reason they are inexpensive is that they grow in regions where labor is cheap.



Really?  My college had a small cropping of them where a water drain diversion ditch spilled out and I never saw anyone doing anything to them ever.  They were some of the best bananas I had ever had, and I worked on the grounds of that campus year round.  (No summer off)

BTW - Here is a good laugh for ya... Organic Gardening magazine by Rodale publishers a year or so ago put an article in the magazine in favor of GMO bananas.  It was at that point I cancelled my free subscription.
 
Jonathan Byron
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A quote I have heard several times is something like "Once established, a food forest requires relatively little labor (beyond harvesting)."  This implies more work needed in the beginning to establish a community of edible plants that work well together, with the ability to ease off down the road. 

Another principle of permaculture involves observation before action - to me, that means living on the site to make those observations, reading, making very small experiments.

It might be possible to get a head start on a permaculture project by a one-time seeding of 20 or 50 different species followed by no action for years, but I am thinking such action would result in a few patches where desirable species are somewhat common.

If a site had timber, I would leave it to be and grow until I could spend time on-site develop a good plan.

Regardless of the site, I would consider adding nitrogen fixers, dynamic accumulators, and other plants that would pave the way, increase biological diversity, and which could provide some value. 
 
Steven Baxter
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Jonathan_Byron wrote:
A quote I have heard several times is something like "Once established, a food forest requires relatively little labor (beyond harvesting)."  This implies more work needed in the beginning to establish a community of edible plants that work well together, with the ability to ease off down the road. 

Another principle of permaculture involves observation before action - to me, that means living on the site to make those observations, reading, making very small experiments.

It might be possible to get a head start on a permaculture project by a one-time seeding of 20 or 50 different species followed by no action for years, but I am thinking such action would result in a few patches where desirable species are somewhat common.

If a site had timber, I would leave it to be and grow until I could spend time on-site develop a good plan.

Regardless of the site, I would consider adding nitrogen fixers, dynamic accumulators, and other plants that would pave the way, increase biological diversity, and which could provide some value.   



Thank you
 
                          
Posts: 5
Location: Benton, Maine
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Given that you will be away from your land for a while, you might want to invest in a piece of land that is already productive. For instance I would seek land with well established oaks for acorn (a great flour substitute) and some open field  that could later be molded to a more productive landscape once you settle (during your absence, the untouched open field will have a chance to develop a healthier soil community).

Once you identify the region you want buy in, study the native edible plant community then spend your leave time driving around searching for areas that may provide you with that piece of productive land.

Also, once you get your land, spend your leave time improving soil/moisture/drainage characteristics (hugekulturs, mulching etc...) as needed and wait until you settle before planting fruit trees or other edible plants (this could easily accommodate an erratic military work schedule where only a two or three week visit once a year is possible). When you do settle, that nurturing soil will be more than ready to take on those plants. A tree planted in a rich soil could easily outgrow one planted several years earlier in a less fertile soil environment.
 
Steven Baxter
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Manu wrote:
Given that you will be away from your land for a while, you might want to invest in a piece of land that is already productive. For instance I would seek land with well established oaks for acorn (a great flour substitute) and some open field  that could later be molded to a more productive landscape once you settle (during your absence, the untouched open field will have a chance to develop a healthier soil community).

Once you identify the region you want buy in, study the native edible plant community then spend your leave time driving around searching for areas that may provide you with that piece of productive land.

Also, once you get your land, spend your leave time improving soil/moisture/drainage characteristics (hugekulturs, mulching etc...) as needed and wait until you settle before planting fruit trees or other edible plants (this could easily accommodate an erratic military work schedule where only a two or three week visit once a year is possible). When you do settle, that nurturing soil will be more than ready to take on those plants. A tree planted in a rich soil could easily outgrow one planted several years earlier in a less fertile soil environment.


You make some good points, thank you.
 
Brenda Groth
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you don't say where..here in Michigan we can't grow bananas

here I grow a lot of plants that pretty much take care of themselves most of the year and you could do some "on leave" work on them when you have the time.

I would suggest perennials such as jerusalem artichokes, rhubarb, horseradish, herbs, etc..I also would put in flowers if you have the availability like edible flowers esp ..daylillies, mallows, hollyhocks, violets, etc..for feedint the wildlife esp..the bees and parasitic wasps.

I would put in a large variety of fruit trees, but if you have predatory animals protect them from those, with cages or wraps...also I would put in grapes and kiwis as well as ornamental vines and climbers, brambles and other berry bearing bushes and trees and nut trees and shrubs..

see my plant list on my blgo
 
Steven Baxter
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Brenda Groth wrote:
you don't say where..here in Michigan we can't grow bananas

here I grow a lot of plants that pretty much take care of themselves most of the year and you could do some "on leave" work on them when you have the time.

I would suggest perennials such as jerusalem artichokes, rhubarb, horseradish, herbs, etc..I also would put in flowers if you have the availability like edible flowers esp ..daylillies, mallows, hollyhocks, violets, etc..for feedint the wildlife esp..the bees and parasitic wasps.

I would put in a large variety of fruit trees, but if you have predatory animals protect them from those, with cages or wraps...also I would put in grapes and kiwis as well as ornamental vines and climbers, brambles and other berry bearing bushes and trees and nut trees and shrubs..

see my plant list on my blgo


Thank you. Well "where" isn't really important right now. Mostly because I have know idea where I would like to buy land.
But my brain often works best when stimulated by ideas of others. Others thoughts seem to trigger something in me ( my own creativity) to satisfy what I may be looking for.

I like your idea about berries, jerusalem artichokes, and perrenials. I think perrenials, fruit, and nut trees seem to be a direction I am thinking in.

I have been told that
"It's better to plant a $2 tree in a $100 hole, than a $100 tree in a $2 hole"
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
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well if where isn't important I agree that putting in any kind of fruit, nut and timber or firewood trees would be the best place to start supplementing them with berry bushes, fruiting vines and perennials of all kinds..that was what I did here..see blog
 
Paul Cereghino
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I'd say: Plant and walk-away success depends on the degree of site prep, species choice, stock choice, and your climate. 

The more site prep you do both in enriching soil and reducing competition the more likely you are to get establishment without maintenance...

The more aggressive and native-ish the species, the more likely you are to.... (note I don't mean native to ecoregion, just native to climate, so it is good to know the ecological origin of your cultivated species.)

The younger and better condition the stock is in the more likely you are to...
but young stock needs better competition control.

The less stressful the drought, the more likely you are to...

Less stressful sites pay require more initial control of competition, as they are more competitive environments.

Instead of 'hole' replace your maxim with 'site'... the old strategy of heavily ammending the planting hole can lead to problems with root penetration in some sites/species/climates.  Ammend a zone around your outplanting stock to encourage full occupation of the site.

I'd reinforce the wisdom of understanding native vegetation.
 
Steven Baxter
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Paul Cereghino wrote:
I'd say: Plant and walk-away success depends on the degree of site prep, species choice, stock choice, and your climate. 

The more site prep you do both in enriching soil and reducing competition the more likely you are to get establishment without maintenance...

The more aggressive and native-ish the species, the more likely you are to.... (note I don't mean native to ecoregion, just native to climate, so it is good to know the ecological origin of your cultivated species.)

The younger and better condition the stock is in the more likely you are to...
but young stock needs better competition control.

The less stressful the drought, the more likely you are to...

Less stressful sites pay require more initial control of competition, as they are more competitive environments.

Instead of 'hole' replace your maxim with 'site'... the old strategy of heavily ammending the planting hole can lead to problems with root penetration in some sites/species/climates.  Ammend a zone around your outplanting stock to encourage full occupation of the site.

I'd reinforce the wisdom of understanding native vegetation.


Thanks Paul, let me see if I understand you. So take care of and amend a broader area, with native plants to the climate.

Lets just say I had 3 or 4 dump truck loads of green waste/ mulch and spread it out within a certain area creating a 1 ft deep "blanket" and left it, the following year come back and plant in it.

I am not sure I understand what problems would happen with a well amended hole? Your saying the roots would be fine until they reach the outer parts of the hole being unable to penetrate the change in soil?
 
Steven Baxter
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What about doing some no till methods (which I have no idea what they would be, but sounds right) or planting some nitrogen fixing plants or even cover crops.

J Byron and Manu seemed to comment in this direction. I am thinking I would, like I said one post before, just unload a godly amount of mulch into areas and let it sit.
 
Isaac Hill
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Seems as though planting some nitrogen fixing trees would be a good idea. They can grow and improve the soil while you're out killing people, and when you come back you can cut them down for even better soil, then get to work on planting the food forest you've been planning for 4 years.
 
Steven Baxter
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Salamander wrote:
Seems as though planting some nitrogen fixing trees would be a good idea. They can grow and improve the soil while you're out killing people, and when you come back you can cut them down for even better soil, then get to work on planting the food forest you've been planning for 4 years.


Hmm, great idea. Nitrogen fixing trees, awesome

Is there an advantage to nitrogen fixing tree over nitrogen fixing plants? It seems the trees would take more space and be more difficult to remove if needed.
 
Jordan Lowery
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dont forget nitrogen fixing shrubs.
 
Steven Baxter
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hubert cumberdale wrote:
dont forget nitrogen fixing shrubs.


Thank you
 
Paul Cereghino
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Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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... amend a broader area, with native plants to the climate...


The closer to 'native' climate, the more likely a species is to thrive.

Your saying the roots would be fine until they reach the outer parts of the hole being unable to penetrate the change in soil?


...particularly with compacted or clay soils -- I suspect this is less of a problem with sandy or loose soils.  Modern arborist manuals recommend backfilling the planting hole with native soil but ammending the native soil broadly.  I have been told and have had good results with really pulling apart the root system and spreading it out in a hole as wide as the roots will reach, it'll give the plant roots proximity to as much soil as possible. 
 
Fred Winsol
Posts: 155
Location: Sierras
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from my experience of 25+ years in the Sierra high forests... observe, observe, observe.  I like going out there and nudging native plants and helping them spread more.  Requires observation, learning, listening, seeking out native elders (in this area - Miwok's) and then deciding what we want to have more of for eating.  Also remember than the native inhabitants (wild - life) are likely to appreciate your work more than you will... so don't go planting perennial lettuce heads - 

Harvest some tree seeds, break down pine cones, create some swales, get water to flow better, etc.  and watch what happens and fine tune, repeat.
 
2017 Permaculture Design Course at Wheaton Labs
http://richsoil.com/pdc
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