Does anyone have a food forest?

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Dan Freeman

Minister of Fire
Dec 3, 2021
618
NE PA
www.youtube.com
With such a large membership here at Hearth.com with many folks striving for self-sufficiency, I am curious if any of you have a food forest?

We've been vegetable gardeners for many years starting plants each Spring from seeds in our greenhouse. We continue growing throughout the growing season in our greenhouse and various garden beds in our backyard.

A few months back, while surfing gardening channels on YouTube, we came across The Gardening Channel with James Prigioni. James' videos chronicle the food forest he started in his New Jersey backyard about 8 years ago. Becoming more familiar with James' videos and reading more about food forests, we decided to start our own, and so we set off on this road in May 2021 with pretty much a blank slate in the field behind our house.

So far, we have planted 8 fruit trees and 12 berry bushes. We have also been working on smothering out the grass with cardboard and woodchips. We plan a dual physical barrier and electric fence, but it looks like that will have to wait until Spring 2022.

Before:
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Now:
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Montanalocal

Feeling the Heat
Dec 22, 2014
491
Helena MT
I do not think that one has to kill out all the grass. These summer pictures show part of my apple trees about 10 years ago. The winter pictures are from today, and the apple trees are about 16 years old. I keep them pruned very small to help with picking. I string plastic lines along them to water them with emitters. The only thing I do is take a weed eater to make paths to them and weed eat the grass and weeds around them to the drip line several times a year.

The only thing I try to keep clean is my raspberry patch.

100_1807.JPG 100_1810.JPG 100_2678.JPG 100_2684.JPG
 

Dan Freeman

Minister of Fire
Dec 3, 2021
618
NE PA
www.youtube.com
You are right. You don't have to kill off all the grass, but we are dealing with Zoysia grass that grows in a thick mat and spreads laterally (top part as it nears the house). In addition, placement of wood chips will help increase the organic material available to all the different plants we will be planting...not just trees. They also help retain moisture, fertilize, suppress weeds and add tons of Mycorrhizal Fungi. Here is a video clip of the importance of Mycorrhizal Fungi.

 
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DuaeGuttae

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2016
1,453
Texas
We don’t have a food forest, but we do have some fruit trees in our backyard planted by a previous owner. Almost the entire yard is covered by river rock, so one thing we have done is to clear that out around some of the trees (more to go) so that we can use mulched leaves and wood chips to help retain water and feed the soil there. We’ve lived here for about four years and have had some crops from a mandarin orange, a loquat, and a peach. Those three all suffered some pretty severe freeze damage this February. Thankfully they’ve put on growth this summer, and I just noticed the other day that the loquat has started blooming. Sadly our cherry tree was completely killed during the freeze since it was not at all dormant. We have an apple and a pear tree that we‘ve tried to prune to help them out, but they’ve not produced anything that we’ve gotten to eat. (Just not that productive yet and squirrels in the yard.)

We have planted some pomegranates, olives, lemons, and a lime, and we have rabbiteye blueberries in pots (natural ground is way too alkaline). The trees are young, but we hope to get crops in a few years. The olives and one lemon were killed to the ground this winter despite my trying to protect them, but they’ve come back from roots. I needed to prune some of the shoots of one of the olives, and I’m currently trying to root some of the clippings to make more trees to plant.
 
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bigealta

Minister of Fire
May 22, 2010
863
Utah & NJ
Working on it, I’m a big fan of James P. He’s in the county below me in NJ. I planted 2 apples a peach and plum tree in last 3 years. Something is getting all the fruit before it matures, but my neighbors have abundant fruit, need to figure out what’s going on. It’s taking up about 1/3 of my suburban back yard, which is similar in size to James P yard. Other blueberry bushes. Tomatoes and herbs are scattered around the rest of the yard where my limited sun reaches.
 

clancey

Minister of Fire
Feb 26, 2021
2,392
Colorado
Enjoyed the video's and he was a neat man --the wood chip guy--even took a ride with him to get wood chips--lol learning a little here---thanks...All your gardens all look so beautiful and such green lush grass you all have so nice..Here its real dry but this spring I might try a few things in my garden for as the video person said--Diamonds in our own back yard...thanks..clancey
 
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EatenByLimestone

Super Moderator
Staff member
I've planted more and more perennial plants. I just don't want to tend to as much as I used to, lol. I dont have the time.
 
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begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
96,422
South Puget Sound, WA

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
96,422
South Puget Sound, WA
Yes. It was the way humanity fed itself before modern agriculture. Once established, they basically take care of themselves.
Yes, for forested areas. It depends on where one lived. In areas of grasslands (like where humanity started) and in rich, fertile river valleys, humans eventually learned about selecting, planting, and harvesting grains. In the upper Amazon, the native people did both. We are learning that the Mayans and the indigenous people of the Amazon fed cities of tens of thousands with intensive agriculture. The Cherokee and Cahokia did extensive farming long before the colonialists arrived.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
96,422
South Puget Sound, WA
I'm a veteran gardener and love history, though not an historian by any means. I have a lot of respect for the wealth of knowledge and experience of North and South American indigenous people. There were many millions here before the colonialists arrived and some had quite sophisticated systems of agriculture and government. Their stories intrigue me. A good book for some background is 1491 by Charles Mann.
 

Sawset

Minister of Fire
Feb 14, 2015
1,285
Palmyra, WI
Is there a distinction between a forest or plot sustained semi naturally, say with fire or fire suppression, one that is managed, with plantings or eradication, and then agriculture. There is a book by FH King, 40 centuries of organic farming in Korea, China and Japan - a diary of his travels in 1900. Their population level was high enough to completely transform the landscape into 100% subsistence farming. No outside inputs, everything (everything) was conserved.
One other book is “Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations” David Montgomery. It describes the cycle of settlement, over populate, increase production and in turn strip the land, abandon, repeat. The indigenous Americans went through it (Mayans), so did Europe several times over. North America is currently going through the same.
In centuries past, SE Asia had the benefit of rice, which needs wet paddies to grow, hence erosion was kept near zero.
North America had the benefit of being unable to increase populations to an unsustainable level.
As far as a semi natural “food forest” here, hmm:
this area was managed as a prairie/open oak savanna/marsh wetland region by the natives. Buffalo, deer, birds, fish, and a wide range of plants were food sources. In 1842, all of that stopped, to be replaced by crop land/pasture/wood lots/marsh land. Currently it's farmland, and just a lot of brush and invasives that take horsepower to control, without the benefit of fire to singlehandedly wipe all of that back to what it was.
 
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SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
7,089
Downeast Maine
Long term goals are to propagate more apple, cherry, beech, and other nut trees. We have a few really old wild apple trees that produce a lot of apples, but they are extremely tart and mostly useable for making sauce or cider. We have about 1/3 acre of wild blueberries, but the patch needs some maintenance. Mostly just need to keep our chickens out once they flower. We have a nice blackberry thicket as well, and I made four pies with the berries this past fall. Some of the best pies I've ever made.
 
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bigealta

Minister of Fire
May 22, 2010
863
Utah & NJ
Long term goals are to propagate more apple, cherry, beech, and other nut trees. We have a few really old wild apple trees that produce a lot of apples, but they are extremely tart and mostly useable for making sauce or cider. We have about 1/3 acre of wild blueberries, but the patch needs some maintenance. Mostly just need to keep our chickens out once they flower. We have a nice blackberry thicket as well, and I made four pies with the berries this past fall. Some of the best pies I've ever made.
You can graft many varieties of apples on the existing apple trees. Pretty easy to do. Also possible with many other fruit trees, and other plants. There is a guy on youtube that has grafted over 100 different apple varieties on one tree (calls it frankentree). Grafting onto crab apple trees is also very doable. I have grafted 4 or 5 varieties onto a couple crab apple trees i discovered in my yard.

As a first time grafter, the success rate of my grafts taking was over 90%, so anyone can do it.
 

Piney

Member
Nov 29, 2015
77
Frozen North
With such a large membership here at Hearth.com with many folks striving for self-sufficiency, I am curious if any of you have a food forest?

We've been vegetable gardeners for many years starting plants each Spring from seeds in our greenhouse. We continue growing throughout the growing season in our greenhouse and various garden beds in our backyard.

A few months back, while surfing gardening channels on YouTube, we came across The Gardening Channel with James Prigioni. James' videos chronicle the food forest he started in his New Jersey backyard about 8 years ago. Becoming more familiar with James' videos and reading more about food forests, we decided to start our own, and so we set off on this road in May 2021 with pretty much a blank slate in the field behind our house.

So far, we have planted 8 fruit trees and 12 berry bushes. We have also been working on smothering out the grass with cardboard and woodchips. We plan a dual physical barrier and electric fence, but it looks like that will have to wait until Spring 2022.

Before:
View attachment 287620

Now:
View attachment 287617 View attachment 287618


Yes. But the concept of ‘the secret garden’ makes sense too (where you scatter your food plants around your space, grow unusual lettuce here and there that would not be recognized as food etc etc - so your crops look like weeds or landscaping). The idea of a food forest that really is the forest is a good one too. The bush around us already had potatoes, wild onion, berries and edible flowers and we have encouraged an increase in that and added other hardy perennials. Rhubarb was particularly easy.
For ideas on survival gardening and conserving water here is a pretty good read: http://www.endtimesreport.com/gardening.html
 
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SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
7,089
Downeast Maine
Yes. But the concept of ‘the secret garden’ makes sense too (where you scatter your food plants around your space, grow unusual lettuce here and there that would not be recognized as food etc etc - so your crops look like weeds or landscaping). The idea of a food forest that really is the forest is a good one too. The bush around us already had potatoes, wild onion, berries and edible flowers and we have encouraged an increase in that and added other hardy perennials. Rhubarb was particularly easy.
For ideas on survival gardening and conserving water here is a pretty good read: http://www.endtimesreport.com/gardening.html
Rhubarb is a good one. Potatoes make lovely flowers if you can get them to establish. It's too cold up here for a lot of edible perennials.
 
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Piney

Member
Nov 29, 2015
77
Frozen North
I understand. We end up below -40 every winter. Studying what already grew naturally, and where it grew, helped a lot. Our best success has been when we encouraged multiplication of the local stuff. And rhubarb. That is tough.
We also cheat though and have a southern facing thermal mass greenhouse that leans on, and is open to, our main house. It’s insulated where there isn’t glass. It gets it’s winter heat from the picture window and open glass door it shares with our wood cook stove powered kitchen (it has its own wood stove -an Orley we retired from elsewhere- but we never need to light it). It was -40 outside last week and we were still picking celery and tomatoes etc. It’s not very ‘secret’ but it works well. Old bath tubs from the dump are the planters.
 
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