A few months ago a permaculture friend of mine was thinking about buying a property in town as a rental and doing some edible plantings. The goal would have been to educate people in town and provide food for tenants.
This got me thinking. If I had more money, I would consider purchasing land closer to town and building tiny houses on it, and having a plot of land associated with each house. This is similar to how yet another friend of mine has set his land up. In my layout, each plot would include a smallish space for gardening and a set number of fruit and nut trees. I tried to select fruit trees to provide a nearly year round supply of fruit. There would invariably be some gaps and people might not be able to solely get their fruit from it, but it could make a major contribution to their diet and wellbeing.
In addition there would ideally be an area set aside on the north side of the property for a communal orchard/woodlot, and maybe additional gardening plots on the south side of the property for those who want more space for annuals.
Now, obviously there are some questions that would be raised here.
Would everyone engage with the annual gardening, or with harvesting and preserving food from their trees? Probably not. But they could let other people use these resources, or, if they so chose, waste them. Looking for tenants interested in this kind of thing and trying to provide information and resources for those that are would be things to consider.
Would people actually eat the food from these trees, since certain fruits (persimmon, medlar, etc) is probably new to them? In my experience, some probably would. I know that a lot of people are very set in their ways in the US, but I’ve been surprised by how open and curious most people really are.
How would you protect trees from getting cut down, and the wood (of certain nut trees, for example) getting stolen? This can be an issue some places. I honestly don’t have an answer yet to this either. This and other concerns would have to be addressed.
How would you divide up food produced in the communal woodlot? This would bear thinking on as well.
Below is the list of trees that each plot could have. It’s a loose list and could be easily modified however needed. The trees are selected for what would generally do well in the Pacific Northwest, with the right kind of cultivar.
3 hazelnuts--For fat and protein. Fall harvest.
Persimmon--Fall harvest, can be preserved into winter
Medlar--Supposed to be a good winter fruit. I like them.
Plum, Summer--this would be a cultivar selected to ripen in July or August
Apple, Storage--this would be an apple selected for excellent keeping quality. Some can last in cold storage through the following spring.
Pear, Storage--same as with the storage apple. This could be an asian pear like Shinko or some of the old European storage pear cultivars.
Wild card tree. This would be different plot to plot. It could be something unusual that the community doesn’t need a whole lot of like quince. The idea would be that people could trade the excess with each other if they wanted. “Reach” trees (trees that are a little difficult to ripen but possible in the right microclimate) would be here too. They could be grown on the south side of the tiny house. Options for this tree include apricot (Puget Gold), pomegranate, fig, and yuzu citrus.
This would be a total of twelve trees. If they were spaced in a 12 by 12 spacing this would take up 1,728 square feet of space. If spaced at 15 by 15 a shrub could be planted in between each, like a currant, gooseberry, or even a nitrogen fixer pruned to size, and this arrangement would take up 2,700 square feet. Additional annual gardening space would be provided as mentioned above.
Some ideas for inclusion in the communal woodlot:
Chestnuts--as a staple food.
Walnuts--as a staple food.
Locust--for firewood coppicing, nitrogen fixation, and for feeding bees in the spring.
Possibly more hazelnuts
Possibly almonds (still on trial in the Northwest with some promising results)
Fuzzy kiwi (apparently they’re an excellent storage fruit, it turns out)
Various berries (aronia, serviceberry, gooseberry, currant, goumi, autumn olive)
Apricots--They ripen all at once and are a bit of reach in the Pacific Northwest. Because they ripen all at once having them next to each house might not make sense as they might overwhelm most people
Sorrel tree--for feeding bees in the fall (important in our bioregion)
Linden tree--for feeding bees in the summer. Leaves and blossoms are edible.
Mulberries--berries and leaves are good to eat, are wind pollinated and late blooming, good for feeding birds if unharvested/unnetted
Empress tree--beautiful tree, useful wood (so I hear), good for feeding bees, fast growing
Golden chain--feeds bees, is an understory tree, fixes nitrogen (I hear)
Vine maple--understory tree, good for bees
Pawpaw--understory tree, prefers some shade in our summers
Timber bamboo, for future construction, shoots for eating, etc