Edible Forest Gardens / Permaculture

Discussion in 'Crops & Gardens' started by Ken Anderson, Mar 4, 2017.

  1. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Veteran Member
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    Forest gardening is something that I have started in a small way, but hope to add to this coming spring and summer.

    Although I'll probably be dead before it all comes to fruition, I would like to set up a forest garden on my hundred acres of land in northern Maine.

    Basically, a forest garden involves planting crops that don't have to be replanted every spring and harvested in the fall. It's sort of the planned idea of being able to live off the land without farming, not that I expect to reach that stage on my land.

    For one thing, I also have a lot of wildlife that will be living off of my land too. As it is, I have wild berries but the bears often get to them before I do. If I had to, I suppose I could live off the bears so it's not entirely a bad thing.

    For my purposes, I will be using forest gardening principles in order to enrich my land, both for myself and for the wildlife that spends more time there than I do.

    As a child, I enjoyed being able to pick wild blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, and several other kinds of berries when they were in season, and to eat several varieties of apples, pears, plums, and cherries, picked right from the tree. There were wild grapes and several trees that produced edible nuts, although I wasn't so much into nuts as a child.

    Some of these weren't exactly wild. Of course, everyone had apple trees, and we had a cherry tree in our yard, but many of the ones that I'd pick were from the former townsite, which had burned the same year as the Chicago Fire, leaving orchards and grape vines to grow wild.

    That was in 1871. A century later, these trees and grape vines were still producing fruit in the middle of what was, by then, a woods, visited only by children and maintained by no one.

    That's sort of what I want to create, in some manner.

    Other people have used forest gardening to create dense crops of edible perennials on much smaller parcels of land. There are books, films, and even coursework relating to forest gardens, also known as permaculture.

    Forest gardens might include fruit or nut-bearing trees, perennials, or self-sowing annuals. It's not just about food either. One book that I have mentions seven F's: food, fuel, fiber, fodder, fertilizer, farmaceuticals, and fun. Of course, I know that's not how "pharmaceuticals" is spelled, but it suggests pharmaceuticals that can be grown rather than produced in a laboratory, such as plants with medicinal qualities.

    It involves more than simply planting things that I'd like to eat later. Of course, not everything will grow in northern Maine since we have a curious little thing that we know of as winter, and it can get cold.

    My land is in on the border of Hardiness Zone 3 and 4, so an unusually cold winter could kill something that is intended for Hardiness Zone 4. This doesn't mean that I would rule out anything intended for Zone 4, but I might want to be careful about where on the land I plant it, as some areas are more protected than others, and I wouldn't invest a whole lot of money in something that isn't cold hardy.

    Some plants grow better together, as far as providing protection from the elements, adding necessary nutrients to the soil, etc. God tends to work these things out in time, but I work in a shorter time frame than He does, so it helps to know whether the new plant I am thinking of adding will by symbiotic or a hindrance to nearby plants or trees.

    Of course, an edible forest isn't entirely untended. Wholly untended, everything will grow into a forest eventually. Annual and perennial weeds first colonize bare soil, but shrubs would soon shade out the weeds. Pioneer trees would move in, and eventually the shrubs would be crowded out, and you'd have a forest. In time, these first pioneer trees would succumb to longer-lived, more shade-tolerant species, and in the end you'd have a mature forests.

    While mature forests can provide lumber and protection from the elements, there is not a lot of food in a mature forest. That's why deer, moose, and other animals are so often seen at the edge of the forest foraging for food from newer plants.

    Edible forest gardens are about creating all of that, allowing for the full range of growth, and my land is perfect for that. It includes a section of mature forest, a year-round brook, and a couple of seasonal streams for water draining from the surrounding mountains, which have water during all but the hottest, driest summers.

    A forest garden is about putting plants together in patterns that create mutually beneficial relationships.
     
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  2. Holly Saunders

    Holly Saunders Veteran Member
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    oooooh a hundred acres of land.....how wonderful, how I'd love to own such a lot of land ..... but oh what a lot of work!
     
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  3. Chrissy Cross

    Chrissy Cross Veteran Member
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    @Ken Anderson, I bet you wish you were 15-20 years younger! After I read your post I was thinking what area is ideal for a SHTF scenario....

    Fresno has a lot of agriculture all year round but without A/C, I think I'd want to end it all in the summer. :)


    But then people survived before A/C and with more clothes on, lol....can't even imagine the women with their corsets and petticoats and long dresses in 110 degrees.
     
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  4. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Veteran Member
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    Yeah, I wish I had had the land twenty years ago, or more. We only paid $35,000 for it, and it was owner financed, although it has since been paid up.
     
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  5. Ina I. Wonder

    Ina I. Wonder Very Well-Known Member
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    WOW! What a deal! We paid that for 2/3's of an acre, with a log cabin on it that had not been lived in for more than twenty years. We did purchase more of the surrounding area, but there are no such opportunities around here as you found there. My citified husband thought more than five acres was too much for him, but I admit, if I had come across such a deal as you did, I would have gone for it. :p
     
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  6. Yvonne Smith

    Yvonne Smith Very Well-Known Member
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    I think that you might like to add sunchokes (Jerusalem Artichokes) into your permaculture garden. From what I have read, they are hardy all the way to zone 2; so they should be fine even as far north as your property is located. They also do fine down here in the south; so it seems like they are pretty adaptable plants.
    I have been out digging up some of the tubers from last year, and I will start more of them in areas around the yard. They don't seem to require much care, just water in the heat of summer, and they produce pretty little yellow flowers as well, kind of like a perennial sunflower (but with no sunflower seeds).
    I would be happy to send you some tubers if you want to try some, maybe at your house as well as on the property. They can also be grown in containers, and this is actually the best way to do it when you want to harvest the tubers. I am going to plant some in 5 gallon buckets, or maybe those $1 buckets from the dollar store, and then I won't have to be out there digging with the shovel and upside down to harvest the tubers this fall.

    http://www.farnorthgarden.com/2008/11/growing-sunchokes.html
     
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  7. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Veteran Member
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    I will look them up. I have heard of them but don't remember.
     
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  8. Yvonne Smith

    Yvonne Smith Very Well-Known Member
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    Here is the link to our thread about the sunchokes , Ken. http://www.seniorsonly.club/threads/jerusalem-artichokes.592/#post-94981

    This is the third year we have had them; but after the first year, I didn't dig any tubers because I wanted them to spread and get thicker.
    My original plan was that they would be sort of like a privacy screen between the house and the road; but they are too short for that for most of the summer. Mine have never gotten over 5' tall, but the information says they can get up to twice that tall. If they did that, then they would be taller faster, and it might just be the hard clay we have here and the trees that block the sunshine.
    I have tasted the tuber raw, and I think that it would be fine to add to salads; but they need soaking or scrubbing to get them clean enough to eat. They are supposed to be very nourishing and would be a good survival food, and since the tubers are buried, it is not likely that someone would know what they were and steal them, if it ever comes to where we have to survive on something like this for food.
    Here is how mine looked at the end of summer last year.
     

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  9. Ina I. Wonder

    Ina I. Wonder Very Well-Known Member
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    WOW @Yvonne Smith !!! Those chokes really grew. :) I bet as they thicken up, they will get taller. :oops:

    Young Mike use to croud some crops, such as asparagus,or even okra, to force them into growing tall so he could train them to grow in funny shapes in his vertical gardening area. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. He got some very funny results. :D
     
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  10. Yvonne Smith

    Yvonne Smith Very Well-Known Member
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    They were pretty thick last year, and grew about the same height as they did the first year, when they were thinly planted. This year, I intend to focus more on the perennial plants and get more nutrients into the soil, so maybe they will grow taller this year. that is why I started the tilling already, and then when I go to Walmart, I will get a few bags of that steer manure to till in around the bushes and fruit trees.
    In any case, this year we should have some of the sunchokes growing in more places in the yard and I can see where they do the best.
     
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  11. Dovie Sunbirds

    Dovie Sunbirds New Member
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    One of the first things you learn in permaculture design is never till the soil. The oxygen causes the soil to Decay quicker and you lose all the nutrients in the litter or humous. You want to be using mulch about 8 inches deep. Leaf litter, Sawdust, wood chips, straw are all good. When you're ready to plant pull back the mulch and dig a hole in the dirt below then put the mulch Back close to but not touching the plant Stem.
    Ruth Stout in the eighties had a good book call the new work gardening method great read details all about it..
     
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  12. Dovie Sunbirds

    Dovie Sunbirds New Member
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    The no work gardening method.
    Dovie
     
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  13. Yvonne Smith

    Yvonne Smith Very Well-Known Member
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    I remember reading about Ruth Stout, and seeing pictures of her actually making her gardens ! I think that this would be a great method to use for permaculture gardening. There are also some videos of people who use her methods of gardening on Youtube.
    I like the idea of mulching, and have used straw for mulch before and it worked great. After the gardening season, the winter snow and rain rotted the straw and turned it into compost for the next years garden.

    http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/ruth-stouts-system-zmaz04fmzsel

    Welcome to the forum, @Dovie Sunbirds ! ! It looks like we have another gardener here, I hope ? ?
     
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  14. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Veteran Member
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    Exactly. With early preparation, problems with weeds are greatly diminished. Mow what's there, cover with a few thicknesses of newspaper or a layer of cardboard, then cover that with several inches of mulch material (preferably, not the decorative mulch), and let it sit for a year. There is no need to break the ground, as God's critters will have been at work, doing that job beneath the layers of mulch.

    It's not specifically on forest gardening, but the Back to Eden film is a good primer for preparing the soil.

     
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    Last edited: Apr 2, 2017
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  15. Babs Hunt

    Babs Hunt Veteran Member
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    Mushrooms seems like they would be great for Forest gardening. It seems like I always saw plenty of these when I was growing up and used to play in the Forest that surrounded our home in Summerville, South Carolina. I know some are poisonous but mushrooms are something I really like to eat. And there was always plenty of wild blackberry bushes to "pig out" on too. :)
     
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  16. Yvonne Smith

    Yvonne Smith Very Well-Known Member
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    Another perennial plant that is great for the permaculture garden would be comfrey. Comfrey has been used as a food and also medicinally for hundred of years. Like many beneficial plants, it has lately been the victim of being maligned as dangerous to eat this plant or even drink the comfrey leaf tea.
    However, it is one of those things where you would have to be consuming huge amounts of it to cause any harm, and there are actually no reports of it killing anyone who ate it, or even making them sick. The plant has alkaloids in it, which is actually found in all greens, and that is why it has been determined as unsafe to eat.
    Many years ago, my mother grew comfrey when I was growing up, and I have grown it and eaten the leaves most of my adult life, with no bad effects of any kind.
    It can also be used as a poultice and will help speed along any kind of healing process, as well as helping with joint pain or arthritis.
    Both the leaves and the root can be used as the poultice, but all I have ever used is the leaves.
    Leaves from the comfrey plant have an abundance of minerals in them, and are also great used to nourish other plants. You can simply shred the leaves around the base of another flower or shrub and the comfrey will disintegrate and nourish the plant.
    It is perennial and comes back every year, so once you get some starts (ebay), then you will always have comfrey coming up on the property.

     
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  17. Dovie Sunbirds

    Dovie Sunbirds New Member
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    So true comfrey is a darling of permaculture. With long tap roots that dig deep and bring up lots of nutrients Chop and Drop makes comfrey a star. Never till comfrey every piece of root will grow you a new plant. Can be very invasive. Also it produces seeds prolifically that will also make it invasive. There is a sterile variety that you can get in Amazon that produces sterile seeds so you don't have that problem.
    Dovie
     
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