Lori Ziemba

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since Jan 19, 2015
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Northern California Mediterranean climate zone 10b
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Recent posts by Lori Ziemba

I reuse old sweaters.  I turn the sleeves into mittens, and the body into vests.  The black mittens are cashmere.  The blue mittens and vest came from the same wool sweater.
3 months ago
Hi Bryant and all,

This is a subject I find absolutely fascinating!  Have you read The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries From a Secret World Book by Peter Wohlleben?  He talks about all of this.  His book blew my mind wide open. 

Don't know if you watch movies, or are a Trekkie.  When they were doing the movies, one of them involved an alien probe that comes to Earth and starts churning up the oceans, looking for humpback whales (which were extinct in the 24th century).  Apparently, the alien civilization had been in contact with them millions of years ago, as they were the most intelligent life on Earth.  Anyway, when I read that book, it made me think that fungus is the brain of this planet, and the reason we have never been contacted by aliens (if there are any) is because we are just parasites.  I mean, would you talk to someone's lice? 

Anyway, after reading this book, it really hit me how Earth is an actual, living being, and we (and everyone else) are just cells in her body.  Wouldn't surprise me at all to find out Earth is in communication with other planets.

3 months ago

duane hennon wrote:

food forests
forest gardens
edible woods

does it have 7 layers or only 5?
who cares?

You're right.  I tend to think too rigidly about things until I gain experience.  Then I get the ah-ha moment when it comes together for me.  I'm not there yet

your planting should be suitable to your site and tastes
I have found that trying to plant to closely doesn't work
here in cool and cloudy west pa
cloud cover is our canopy layer

I plant in beds with  several layers (2-5, depending of what's growing)
but have wide pathways between them
to allow for sunlight and airflow
as cool and cloudy =damp = mold and slugs
volunteer ground covers are chopped and dropped
to maintain law and order

Believe it or not, I have a lot of the same problems here in California!  San Francisco is cool and foggy most of the summer.  It can be snail/slug heaven, altho a lot of the snails seem to have died out after 4 years of terrible drought.  Somehow, the slugs survived
1 year ago

Su Ba wrote:Lori, two answers for you.......this applies to my own situation on my own homestead.

1- Does my food forest supply me with all my food? No. And I hope I never have to survive on just my food forest food. My forest is just one aspect of a quite varied homestead farm. By the way, my farm provides me with the means for 100% of our food. So yes, I do eat out of my food forest, but it's not the sole source of food.

OK, that clears up a lot of questions.  I guess food forests, like anything else, are subject to hyperbole   I've just heard so much about them being able to feed a person, and I've had my doubts about that.  Especially on a small piece of land.  Seems like if you have an average sized back yard, your best bet would be to plant dwarf fruit trees along the north side, with an underplanting of herbs, berries, medicinal plants, and perennial vegs.  Leave room on the south side for traditional beds for "regular" vegs, like potatoes, tomatoes, etc.  

Tropical soil leaches its nutrients when left to itself, so I'm always spreading mulches and compost to maintain fertility.

This is very interesting to me, as I thought the whole concept of the food forest was originally created for the tropics!  I thought a big point of it was that you don't need to mulch and make compost, just chop and drop.  I think I have a lot of trouble with certain concepts, and things get mixed together in my head.  Especially when I am just reading and not seeing.
1 year ago

John Saltveit wrote:Hi Lori,

When I move trees, I carefully dig them up, and I only do it during our dormant rainy season (NOv-April).  I don't have problems with them typically. I have moved a full grown orchard from one location to another. 

You must be on the West Coast, like me.  That's our dormant/rainy season.  Do you have to irrigate your trees in the summer?
1 year ago

Todd Parr wrote:I struggle with not planting too closely.  When you start a food forest in a climate like I'm in, you have to keep things pretty far apart in order to keep canopies from touching when everything grows up.  That means your food forest can look like a few trees planted in a pasture at first   Otherwise, you can plant more closely, realizing you will have a lot of sacrificial trees later on.  Already I have thing that are too close together.  Now I'm trying to be much more conscious of my spacing, and I create guilds.  I try to make sure that the canopies will not touch when the larger trees are full sized, and I fill in with things I can sacrifice later, which for me are things that I can seed or grow from cuttings from my existing trees.  I have seaberry, which btw spreads like crazy, siberian pea shrub, and autumn olive, all of which are nitrogen fixers.  They are easy to propagate from my own trees, so I don't feel as bad if I have to chop and drop them to clear some space.  I also grow lots of comfrey so I plant it in all my guilds.  If it gets shaded out later and can't survive, it isn't a loss because you get so much from it during it's life and it is super easy to propagate.  When I design my guilds, I do them in a circle with the canopy tree in the middle, the bushes around that, the smaller things like comfrey around that, the herbs and pollinator plants around that.  Other thing get stuck here and there where they fit.  Because my guilds get shorter as they get farther from the middle, I will eventually connect the guilds and the smallest plants will be touching.  This should leave plenty of room for light.  It's important when you think of a food forest not to think of an actual forest with a closed canopy in temperate climates.  The video Tyler posted explains it well, I just put this out as a little summary of the way I am approaching it.

How big is your garden?  Do you (or will you, when it's mature) actually get enough food out of it to live on?
1 year ago

Tyler Ludens wrote:This video describes what a food forest or forest garden means in a temperate climate:  

Thanks!  This is helpful.
1 year ago

Su Ba wrote:I'm with you when it comes to confusion. The photos I've seen of food forests tend to show lots of sun bathed plants with lots of speckled shade on the ground ranging to full sunny spots. I'm assuming that these food forests are young and were started on cleared land.

Yes, exactly!  It's almost like a savannah, more than a forest. 

In contrast, my own food forest has non-food trees that range 20' to 50' with lots of full shade beneath them. I started out with a real forest full of big trees. Thus my own food forest project had to deal with lots of shade from the very beginning.

I'm in the tropics and our sun doesn't penetrate the forest trees, except where there is a break in the trees or along the forest margins. As a result, I'm limited as to what such a forest can produce in the way of edibles.

Yes!  This is what I'm talking about---if you let  the trees grow, eventually they will completely shade the ground.  And I know that mature forests don't have a lot of food in them.  That's why natives everywhere burn sections of land to grow food, both animal and vegetable.  I find the idea of a food forest very appealing, but I wonder how much food it actually produces, besides fruit? I see people on Youtube with big forest gardens, several acres, and they're still importing things like flour, milk, etc.  3 acres in a decent climate should be able to fully support one person, sans luxuries like chocolate and coffee. 

How practical is it for small areas of land?  Is it really less "work" than a traditional garden?  Why is it better than just having a row of fruit trees on the north side of your garden, and beds in the south? I guess I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around the concept. 

Avocado. Grows tall and can compete with the other trees.

Do you mean size-wise, or do they secrete something?
1 year ago

John Saltveit wrote:Hello Lori,
I believe that what will be most productive for most people in a temperate forest is an open forest. I have sun in between the trees.

OK, so...I'm thinking maybe I'm getting hung up on semantics.  (The curse of the literal thinker.)  What you describe seems more like an orchard, with interplantings, rather than a true "forest". 

I have raised beds for traditional vegetables

Are they in a separate area, or amongst the trees?

I grow different root vegies like sunchoke, skirret, earth chestnut, salsify and scorzonera in between. I used to grow potatoes, but now my wife grows them, beets, turnips, etc.

Do you have any problems with root damage to the trees when you dig them up? 

1 year ago
Hope I'm in the right forum.  I have some newbie questions on food forests.  I read a lot about them, but I'm really confused.  In most of the videos I watch, it seems like the FF's are fairly young, with quite small trees.  Not a lot of shade, so people have vegs growing underneath and around the fruit/nut trees.  But it seems to me that if you plant a lot of trees, eventually they will grow and shade out what's below them.  So, when that happens, won't all the undergrowth you so laboriously planted die back to shade loving stuff like ferns and violets?  How can you grow sun loving vegs/fruits in a mature food forest?  I'm talking about in a temperate climate, not in the tropics where the sun is intense.  I mean, I've been in real (natural) forests, and there's not a lot of food there, except for an occasional nut tree.  Even the berries seem to grow mostly at the edges of meadows.

Another thing: if you plant things like potatoes or other root vegs, won't it disturb the roots of the perennials when you pull them out?  Do you have to maintain a separate garden for annual vegs?  Am I missing something here, or are food forests only for tree fruit and berrries?  Even most berries won't grow in the dense shade.  Can someone please explain this to me?
1 year ago