opabinia51
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Permaculture - Food Forests

I think this is a great new forum because it has given me a chance to open up a thread on food forests. A food forest can be thought of as a mega guild of companion and nurse plants.

The difference between a food forest and a traditional garden that uses companion and nurse plants is that a food forests main backdrop consists of trees. Under the trees are shrubs and under the shrubs are flowers annual plants and ground covers.

In actuality what you have is a functioning ecosystem that feeds you and local wildlife!

I think that a good guild to start with when attempting to build a food forest is the tried and true apple guild: At the center of the guild is of course, the apple tree. At the drip line of the apple tree; daffodils are planted in a ring surrounding the tree. These will suppress grass and detur dear from eating your apples. Just outside of the daffodil circle is a broken circle of comfrey plants that will attract bees and other beneficial insects. And within this circle are one or two artichoke plants (contrary to common belief artichokes can actually be grown in most climates).

The artichokes will provide a nice soil building mulch for the apple tree and the other members of the guild.

Dotted among the above plants are yarrow, nasturtiums, dill and fennel. These will all attract beneficial insects and add to the mulch layer. And Yarrow is a nutrient accumulator that will accumulate nutrients from the soil and in it's leave and prevent them from being leached away.

Plantains, dandelions, chicory and the like will naturally grow within this guild and contribute the soil and the tree. And a thick ground cover of clvoer will harbour nitrogen fixing bacteria in nodules on it's roots.

opabinia51
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Well, one guild certainly isn't enough to build a food forest but, we're on our way. Incidentally, the apple guild also works with plum, nectarine and peach trees.

Anyway, on to another guild:

The Walnut Guild:

At the center of this guild is the walnut tree. Walnut trees are a little more difficult to deal with because the are allelopathic plants. This means that they secrete a chemical or chemicals (in this case Juglone) into the soil that inhibit the growth of other plants.

Therefore, plants must be chosen that are resistant to juglone. The first is the Hackberry. The Hackberry's leaves and berries provide good forage to local wildlife. Hackberries themselves are also allelopathic secreting a chemical that inhibits grasses and other shallow rooted plants.

With this bath of allelopathic chemicals, it is difficult to surmise what plants might grow in this specialized niche. However, the first candidate is the Currant bush. These tart little berries seem to only grow under walnut trees when hackberries are present. Birds love eating the little berries.

Something is needed to help feed the soil with Nitrogen and the perfect candidates are members of the Elaegnus genus. My personal favourite is the goumi bush (Elaegnus multiflora) which has yummy edible berries that feed both humans and birds.

Elderberries, worlfberries and mullberries are also planted in this guild. And members of the nightshade family seem to be able to tolerate the allelopathic bath. In particular, tomatoes do well in the guild.

opabinia51
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When building a mega guild or food forest with walnut guilds built into the super guild; it is necessary to buffer plants from the walnut/hackberry allelopathic bath. Buffer plants are used to quelch the effects of juglone and the hackerry's toxins.

Mullberry trees and nitrogen fixing shrubs such as Black Locusts, acacia, red or balck alder, golden chain trees, silk trees and mountain mahogany can all be used to buffer the effects of walnut trees and hackberries.

Mullberries can create a gooey, staining mess but a little forsight in tree placement will quell any potential mess and the berries will provide food for wildlife and not persist for long. Keep these trees away from the driveway and play areas.

The Nitrogen fixing shrubs will benefit the guild by asisting in the sequestration of nitrogen from the atmosphere and deposting it in the soil.

opabinia51
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Wow, call me Mr. Super post today! Anyway, here is another guild that can be included in a food forest:

White Oak/Hazelnut guild:

Oregon White Oak (aka garry oak, aka quercus garryana)
California Hazelnut (Corylus cornuta)
Pacific Madrone (Arbutus mensiesii)
Mazzard Cherry (Prunus avium)
Black Hawthorn (Craitugus douglasii)
Saskatoon ServiceBerry (Amelanchier alniflora)
Creambush oceanspray (Holodiscus discolour)
Round leaved Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus)
Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus)
Trailing Blackberry (Rubus ursinus)
Sweetbriar Rose (Rosa ursinus)
Broad petaled strawberry (Fragaria virginiana)
Verba buena (Saturgeja douglasii)
Sweet cicely (Osmorhiza chilensis)
American Vetch (Vicia americana) (Nitrogen fixer)

opabinia51
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Guilds are great for ecological gardening but, when building a food forest guilds are good but, given the size of most persons properties, a truly guilded forest would take up to much space and light restrictions would create next to no light beneath the mature canopy.

Therefore, the same ideas can hold true but, instead of dense plantings, the food forest is designed in layers. The first layer is the Tall tree layer, located at the back of the property in what is called zone 3. Zone thee requires the least amount of maintenance and be basically left to grow on it's own, peraps being mowed a couple of times a year. The tall trees should be underplanted with a ground cover to help build the soil. A good mix is Annuel Rye, Clover (nitrogen fixing), yarrow, dill and fennel. Perhaps a few scatterings of daikon to break up any hard packed soil. This mix will enrich the soil with nitrogen, and provide a healthy mulch when mowed and attract beneficial insects.
Acacia
American Chestnut
Apple
Asian Pear
Black Locust
Black Walnut
Buartnut
Bur Oak
Butternut
Cherry
Cinese Chjestnut
European Pear
Heartnut
Hickory
Honey Locust
Mesquite
peach
Pecan
Plum
Walnut

The second layer is the Low Tree Layer this consists of of many of the same trees as in the the tall tree layer but, in dwarf and semi dwarf form.
One small note: the trees can still be planted in guilds in both these layers but, the garden (forest) is not guild centered. It is meant to function as a mega guild where each part nuritious the other.
Almond
Apple (dwarf or semi dwarf)
Apricot
Bamboo
Crabapple
Cornelian Cherry Dogwood
Fig
Filbert/hazelnut
Golden Chain Tree (Nitrogen Fixer)
Hawthorn
Jujube
Loquat
Mayhaw
Medlar
Mountain Ash
Mulberry
Pawpaw
Peach (dwarf or semi dwarf)
Pecan
Persimmon
Pomegranate

opabinia51
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Next is the shrub layer. This layer consists of flowering, fruiting, wildlife attracting and other useful shrubs.

American Cranberry
Aronia (Chokeberry)
Autumn Olive
Blackberry
Blueberry
Buffaloberry
Currant (grows well in a walnut guild)
Elderberry
False Indigo
Gooseberry
Goumi (Nitrogen Fixer)
Hackberry (Allelopath(inhibits grasses), grows well in a walnut grove)
Hansen's Bush Cherry
Highbush Cranberry
Indigo
Japanese Barberry
Jostaberry
Nanking Cherry
Pinapple Guava
Raspberry
Red Azarole
Rugose Rose
Russian Olive
Sea Buckthorn
Sericeberry (Saskatoon berry)
Siberian Pea Shrub
Summersweet Clethra
Witch Hazel

All of these shrubs except indigo, guaca and the buckthorn have wildlife value, in that they attract wildlife. All are edible except Buffaloberry, False Indigo, Hackberry, Indigo, Japanese Barbery, clethra and the Hazel.

The bold faced plants are nitrogen fixers.

The Helpful Gardener
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My word, Opa! :shock:

Super post indeed! I was unaware of this guild planting, so find this all to be fascinating. I have been concentrating on wildlife/plant societies, but this plant/plant thing is really a great idea...

Scott

opabinia51
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Yes, my dream is to one day have a piece of property large enough to build a food forest. I mean, you can do it on any sized property by just using dwarf, semi dwarf and so on trees based on the size of your property but, I want to be able to have some Walnut trees and what not so, I'm thinking half an acre to an acre. That should be adequate.

Walnut and perhaps a few standard apple trees in zone 3 (at the back of the property) with their associated guild members and some buffer trees to ward juglone away from the apples and then move to smaller semidwarf and dwarf trees in zone 2 and zone 1.

Goumi really intrigues me, I definately want several of those guys.

hugh
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Location: Boucherville, Quebec, Canada

I am not sure if I am off the point being a European. But it seems to me that what is being created is a European wood. These are/were actually ‘managed’.

In days gone by woods and undergrowth were a valuable source of food or economically important. Therefore wild or useless undergrowth was cut down to allow economically important plants to grow.

A key factor was creating open spaces between trees that allowed light to enter. Traditionally this was done with a scythe, personally I use a strimmer. My wife can use a scythe but I am terrified of cutting my legs off.

Trees were also managed, the owner would select which trees he wanted and put the axe to the others. He would also plant certain trees for their economic - food importance. They were very aware of the interdependance of different varieties.

The old woods you see in Northern Europe may look natural but in fact they are the result of centuries of management. That is one reason they are less dense than American forests.

On this topic, in Europe I would cut the high grass between the trees in late spring and around now. This is to allow for smaller plants to grow. Have you any suggestions for my wild garden in Quebec? Or will the Canadian winter take care of this?

Hugh

opabinia51
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Well, any wild grasses growing in Quebec would be suited to that environment so, they will die back in the winter but, come next spring they will be back up again. This is not a bad thing, with continued mowing, the grass will provide a good soil enhancement.

Though, if you want to plant smaller plants, clearing the grass with a shovel would be your best bet.

opabinia51
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Visited my neighbouring garden on Saturday while building a trench compost as I have often admired his little orchard. And oh my goodness, he has the startings of a food forest. He hasn't done any guild plantings but, he has done the next best thing. He has Kiwis vines, four or five varieties of apples, potatoes and the list goes on. He's a big composter and his little food forest (though, more segregated than what I am talking about) is really kicking!
And the apples that he let me pick are SOOOOOO YUMMY! Oh, I couldn't resist eating two of them on my way home. Also, he let me take a bucket of fallen apples back to my trench compost. They are great and provided a nice layer of greens to go on my final layer of leaves before shoveling the soil back over the trench.

opabinia51
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Here is another guild:

It is affectionately called The Trinity:


Corn
Squash
Beans.

Plant the corn first and once it has popped up, plant one of two beans one inch away from the corn plant. Once the beans have popped up, about 6 inches away from the corn plant, plant a squash seed.

As per the instructions of my stepaunt, I plant my corn on mounds such that the pollen can more easily fall onto the tassels of neighbouring plants. The Squash go into the little trenches that surround the mounds and the beans are planted on the mounds with the corn.

As the squash plants wither and die in the fall, I just cut them up right into their little trenches. Adds a layer of greens and does a nice little trench compost.

Plus, doing the mound thing also gives you more surface area to plant in.

Next year I am gong to try planting potatoes in the guild as well. Potatoes and corn are companion plants so, it should work. I'll let you all know what happens.

Guest

new forest garden project being built this spring

Hi all,
I am new to permaculture and have been researching this topic for about 2 years now. I get the basics and will be tackling a forest garden project, fleshing it out of a small wood I have in my backyard. It is all norway maples and I have been slowly turning it over to a wildlife garden for about 6 years. I saw this forest garden Idea and was struck by the doability of it. Any and all help would be greatly appreciated.

Smitty in CT zone 6

The Helpful Gardener
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Well Smitty, you're in my backyard and I'd be interested to see whqat you've got going (you're two years ahead of me in your research :lol: ).

PM me and we'll talk...

Scott

opabinia51
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Location: Victoria, BC

Smitty you are in great hands. Scott is wealth of knowledge when it comes to gardening.
By the way, the best book that I have ever read on permaculture is Gaia's Garden by John Hemenway. I totally recommend getting this book. It is amazing, and will lay out anything and everything that you need to do

Guest

Gaia's Garden

Hi,
AYup I have that book.. Also have read Robert Harts work.
Permacultre design manual etc.. Thanks I await some human wisdom (c:

Smitty

The Helpful Gardener
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Shoot me a PM, smitty, and we'll talk...

HG

opabinia51
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Doing a bit of reading I have re-discoverd that potatoes and squash are not compatible. So, The trinity shouldn't have potatoes added to it but, rather should be changed with a substitution of potatoes for Squash.

Though, given that potatoes are supposed to be inhbited by squash and vice versa; last year I grew squash and potatoes together and had yields of sweet dumpling squash that I am still trying to give away and had a minimum of 38 fingerling potatoes per plant.

zenharmonic
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Joined: Fri Aug 04, 2006 4:44 am

HI Have any ideas on a forest guild for a bog in a temperate area , Oregon.

Porchlight
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Joined: Tue Apr 12, 2016 2:33 am

Re: Permaculture - Food Forests

Lovely guild suggestions - thank you! Perhaps you could make some suggestions for me? I am a backyard orchardist -- 50 to 60 varieties, about three years old. Some espaliered, some grouped. Some single. I'd like help with the grouped 4-to-a-hole pit trees. I have several 3'x3' raised beds, each planted with four related small deciduous trees and I'd like some guild suggestions particular to each tree variety grouping. I'm in SoCal zone 10/sunset23, hot and dry, semitropical climate - no frost, and low chill (100-400).

Group 1: Cherry varieties & hybrids (Low Chill)
Group 2: Apricots & hybrids
Group 3: Nectarines & hybrids
Group 4: Plums & hybrids
Group 5: Figs
Group 6: Peaches

I would love to grow something edible & perennial if possible under each... but I need help deciding what goes with which, and what else would work as herb, cover, digger, fixer, etc. I wouldn't mind including some of these, if appropriate: artichoke, rhubarb, eggplant, asparagus, celery, kiwi, passionfruit, lemongrass, wild arugula, parseley, dill, thyme, basil. Scared of mint, for invasiveness. I imagine the guild would extend beyond the raised bed because the drip line will eventually be much larger than the bed.

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