Confusion about food forests

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself Here' started by Barose, Aug 27, 2012.

  1. Barose

    Barose Junior Member

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    G'day.
    I am confused about how to go about establishing a food forest. I saw the video "Food Forests" by Geoff Lawton which seemed to say, crowd the support trees, and when you cut off branches, they self prune their roots, thus leaving lots of nitrogen and other goodies for your main trees. I met a hortoculturalist who said that the support trees, when pruned, grow more rapidly and therefore rip more nitrogen and other goodies out of the soil and thus deprive your main trees. They can't both be right. Does anyone have any insights as to how I should plant the 200 support trees and 60 odd fruit/nut trees that I have?
    thanks
     
  2. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    Having seen Geoff's property - I think you can rest assured that the man knows what he is talking about. The approach I was taught (my PDC teacher did his training with Geoff so uses the same approach I'm sure) was that in an area of about 2 m x 2 m you put one 'apex' tree - your fruit free. And then plant the rest of it up as densely as you can. You need a mix of short, medium and long term legumes. So things like peas or vetch that grow for a season and die back and make good ground covers. Then pigeon pea and other 2 - 3 year long perennials. That way as the canopy of the apex tree starts to establish you can remove them to give it more room. And one or two longer lived trees (8 - 15 years) that are there for the long haul.

    Yes you'll get a flush of growth when you prune - but during the rainy season you can 'chop and drop' once every 6 weeks or so, cycling the nitrogen and carbon back into the soil quickly. Overall you'll pull more nitrogen out of the air and get it into the soil than if you take the traditional approach of putting your fruit tree in the middle of a bare bit of ground and spraying anything that tries to grow under it.

    Where are you climate wise? That'll make a difference to the type of support species that you need.
     
  3. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    Location:
    inland Otago, NZ
    Climate:
    Inland maritime/hot/dry/frosty
    Rainy season, what's that? ;-) I assume dry climates could translate that to the growing season.
     
  4. S.O.P

    S.O.P Moderator

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    Can you use that 2m theory when a Tipuana is planted next to a fruit tree? Not many fruit trees as large as a Tipuana.

    Barose, the Permaculture Designer's Manual, and probably the Introduction to Permaculture, has a top-down view of Bill's take on food forest/orchards. More planned, with a wider layout, that may appeal to 'standard' design. I googled and found a lot of images, but not that one. Not sure on the copyright so I will not post a photo of it.

    Edit: Page 61 of the Design Manual.
     
  5. deee

    deee Junior Member

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    Barose, let us know where you are and your climate zone and we can give you more specific advice. Geoff gardens in the tropics, with high light intensity, a long growing season and reasonable water supply. He can plant densely, use all 7 layers and things grow quickly. Cool temperate forest gardeners like Martin Crawford (UK) tend to plant less densely and only plant 3-4 layers.

    The short answer is that Geoff is right if your support trees are short lived nitrogen fixers (which is what he plants). A better term for support trees is "nurse trees". These are sort term plantings that hold soil together, moderate climate (temp, wind) and add organic matter. They also add more nitrogen than they take because they make their own through nitrogen fixing nodules that suck nitrogen out of the air and trap it on their roots (its not actually the plant that does this, its a symbiotic bacteria, hence Geoff innoculating the seeds with the bacteria in a bucket before planting). When your system reaches maturity, ie when your fruit and nut trees are productive, many of your support trees will be gone. They are short lived and intended to last only long enough to "nurse" the apex trees into adulthood.

    I plan like this: work out if you need a windbreak first (this is a game changer - fix this before planning the food forest, or incorporate it on the windy side of the forest). Plan the position of your apex trees (cos they will be there for 20+years), then plan the support trees to protect the fruit trees, knowing that you will remove many of them over the next 7 years. Then add the layers. Plan in guilds, planting compatible companions round each apex tree. The guilds join together to form your food forest.

    Hope this helps (and forgive me if I've just taught you how to suck eggs - I don't know your background)
    Danielle
     
  6. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    Yes SOP - but if you are taking to the tipuana every 6 weeks with your loppers.... It only gets as big as you let it.
     
  7. S.O.P

    S.O.P Moderator

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    Since I've never seen a mature system, I'll take your word for it.

    I figured, and from the videos they appear to be, long term overstory. I can't imagine bringing them down without significant damage to everything around it. I envisioned long termers strategically placed at longer distances. So, follow the method you described for the short termers, every 10 or 15 block have long term.

    I really need to get to an open day.
     
  8. Barose

    Barose Junior Member

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    we are in Western Vic, so our 'rainy season' is freezing! I don't think things like pigeon peas like our climate. I have put down field peas, broad beans and two types of clover (sub clover and white clover). I also have various wattles and hakeas, some she oaks and silky oaks and lucern trees. I'm not sure if any of them come under 'short' lived trees, the wattles only last around 15 years or so. could you recommend some short lived species?
     
  9. Barose

    Barose Junior Member

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    hi Deee
    we are in western vic, so DEFINATELY not tropics!! As for te teaching me to suck eggs - I need all the help I can get - I am really good at killing plants! I have so far got assorted hakeas and wattles, some she oaks, some silky oaks and some lucern trees. These, I have been assured are nitrogen fixers that are also native to the area (Beaufort, between Ararat and Ballarat), but I don't know if any qualify for 'short' lived nurse trees. My idea was to plant them at 3 metre intervals, with each row off set to the ones before and after, and then plant the fruit trees in the middle of the triangles thus formed, with a ground cover of clovers broad beans and field peas for winter planting, and strawberry clover, vetch, lupins and buckwheat for spring/summer planting. My apex trees include stone pines, walnuts, mulberries and chestnuts, which will eventually grow to be huge trees, so I thought maybe 5 metre intervals between them, but with support trees in between. Do you think that is too close?
     
  10. Barose

    Barose Junior Member

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    hi S.O.P
    I have seen that picture (I have the manual) it seems to be more general than specific about the type of support tree and the distances between them. But thanks, I will read on in the manual as see if I get any ideas.
     
  11. S.O.P

    S.O.P Moderator

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    Yes, it's so region specific I suppose you need to be asking these questions.

    Firstly, pick your natives. Find some sort of native book or expert, and look for your Fabaceae. For example, we have Hovea here that lives for 3 years.

    Milkwood.net at some point were talking up Siberian Pea Shrub. They also have a Forest Gardening course coming up.

    Maybe lopped Tagasaste is your best bet. And local, smaller feathery Acacias.

    Edit: your plan sounds really good. I would attempt to look at each apex fruit tree's maximum width (and radius) and get them to kiss canopies, with fixers filling those gaps until they do.
     
  12. Excelsior Concordia

    Excelsior Concordia Junior Member

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    Maybe a good idea ...

    Hello Barose,

    Maybe it would be a good idea for you to read the following books:

    1) Masanobu Fukuoka - The natural Way of Farming
    2) Smith Russel - Tree crops - a permanent agriculture
    3) Hart Robert and Sholto Douglas - Forest farming

    In Fukuoka's book you even find a chapter dedicate to how you can start a "natural farm" while in another book of his ("The one straw revolution") you find also details about an orchard he had created after numerous errors. I think you can really find useful information in his books

    You can also see a Robert Hart video about this very subject ->
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vBShBeC1f-Q

    Good luck ;)
     

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