Looking for advice on food forest layout Melbourne

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself Here' started by DropBear, Jan 18, 2015.

  1. DropBear

    DropBear Junior Member

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    Hi all,

    I'm hoping for some advice on a food forest project, specifically the layout I should use with the plants that I have.

    The location is a NNE facing slope in the Dandenongs, Melbourne, Aus. Occasional strong northerly winds. I have a water tank up hill and I'm thinking of putting in a relatively small swail as rainfall is more abundant in the hills. I'm also considering backfilling the swail with woodchips to prevent mosquitoes..

    I have a bunch of plants that are itching to escape from their pots and I'd love a wiser more experienced person to help with intelligent layout and spacing, what should be higher and lower on the hill, how the shade will work etc. Can anyone advise on this?

    Here's the list:

    chestnut
    hazelnut
    orange valencia * 3
    unidentified citrus
    orange navel
    blood orange
    grapefruit * 2
    mandarin
    lime talutian * 2
    fejoia
    avocado * 5
    peach / nectarine
    pear

    Also.. where can I get cowpea? What other nitrogen fixers would be good?
    What conditions does lucerne like to germinate because my seeds seem to be duds.
    What other plants would be useful with this food forest and why?
    What plant would be best to try to atleast compete with blackberries regrowth, to slow them down and be mowable and easily maintainable itself?

    Thanks for reading!
    Luke
     
  2. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

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    Hi Luke and welcome to the forums,
    Although I can't help much with the sub-tropical trees and plants, I do know that your lucerne seeds need to be scarified. For our black locust seeds, we boil a pot of water then remove it from the heat and drop the seeds in for 24 hours, then plant. This seems to work much better than my attempts to scarify using sandpaper or knicking with a blade.
    If you're dealing with Himalayan blackberries, a goat might help!
     
  3. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    i can't comment on tree planting much, but i do have experience with lucern.

    lucern can take some time to get well esablished. what kind of soil are you planting the lucern in? it might need innoculation, a light layer of cover and consistent moisture to get going.

    here we usually have enough rains so the trouble i have with getting it started is competition from weeds. i chop back the whole area and lightly disturb the soil surface to give the seeds some places to germinate then scatter my lucern and buckwheat nursery crop seeds, run the rake over it again to make sure some of those seeds are now at the right depth for germination. a few weeks later i can selectively remove the buckwheat around the lucern seedlings. i leave the rest because it makes a good bee plant.

    don't count on lucern for strong growth the first year and if you have a drought you may need to irrigate the first off season until it can get the tap root down deeper.

    don't chop it back at all if you can help it the first year and into the second season. later in the second season you can start selectively cutting parts of the area that are growing stronger, but i would leave it alone as much as possible then too. you want all of that energy going into the ground and for sending that taproot down as deep as possible, especially if your area gets droughts.

    after that you can chop it back based upon how strongly it grows and that will mostly be determined by your light and moisture, but the top size of the plant will determine the energy that goes to the roots and for making the nitrogen compounds. i tend to alternate and not chop an entire field too often because i want the woody stems, flowers and seeds (it lasts longer as a soil litter/cover) while many people who grow it for hay or grazing will chop it when it starts to flower (when it is more palatable and nutritious for animal feed).
     
  4. DropBear

    DropBear Junior Member

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    Thanks for the great advice people!

    Already taken your advice and scarified some lucerne..
    I'll mulch it and leave it for 2yrs once it's in. Wonder if my soil has the right bacteria for it to nitrogen fix..
     
  5. Tasman

    Tasman Junior Member

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    I hesitate to offer advice since I'm so inexperienced at this myself. But I have a list of trees similar to yours that I have planted down here in Southern Tasmania. We planted tagasaste (with some success) and siberian pea tree (with little success) inbetween. We have native trees around the boundary to attract birds. Now my focus is very much on what to plant in the understorey and mid levels. Once the trees get a bit bigger I want to introduce snow peas under them. Our general focus is to have as much diversity as we can.

    On the food forest course I went on they suggested that the most valuable herbs to plant under your fruit trees are representatives from the mint, onion, carrot and daisy families. I am collecting these and trying to establish them on my property and to propagate them. We put down cardboard or newspaper, cover it with compost and then mulch over the top of it. We punch holes in the whole thing, push some of the compost in and then plant the herbs. I don't really know where comfrey fits in there, but we are also putting that in. When we have larger quantities of it I'm going to try to use it as a barrier plant along the edges of beds and paths.

    We also have medium sized plants like ugni, currants, gooseberries, artichokes interplanted with our trees.

    I don't know if thats much use. But I'd love to hear how your project develops. I'm sure there is much I can learn.

    cheers,
    tas
     
  6. DropBear

    DropBear Junior Member

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    comfrey

    Hey there,
    Sounds fantastic, just quickly I can tell you comfrey is an excellent companion plant to go around citrus bases. It has deep roots, the citrus has shallow roots, I believe it is a
    nitrogen fixer so when it dies off it feeds the citrus.
    Photos! :D
    I probably should use some cardboard atleast initially to keep the weeds in check..
     
  7. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    the bacteria are carried on the wind from surrounding areas, so if you have others around that have healthy stands then it is probably likely that some of those bacteria are in your soil. the wider issue though is that if you are trying to establish a large field of it and are uncertain that it is well worth the cost to find some innoculant and use it for your planting. for a small gardener or landholder i think you can just go and try it and then after a year pull up a few plants and see if there are any nodules around the roots. if not then you know you could add some.

    if you have any fields around which already have lucern you could ask the owner if you can have a few plants to examine. i don't know many people who'd say no, just be respectful and non-destructive. from there then you could take those and spread some of that soil around your new seed areas and that should help and plant the plants in areas where you want the lucern to be spreading outwards. or they might even have some innoculant. : ) never hurts to ask... gives you a reason to get to know your neighbors, etc. : )
     
  8. S.O.P

    S.O.P Moderator

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  9. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

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    Great find SOP!

    Yes, me too.
    = )
     
  10. DropBear

    DropBear Junior Member

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    Thank-you kindly for all the responses! Lots of ideas and info to go through.. :D
     

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