New Forest Garden

seraphima(z4 AK)April 16, 2005

We spent the winter sheet composting our shale driveway bank with shredded paper, horse manure, leaves, and other plant materials, and have just finished moving a variety of plants onto it. These include gooseberry, currant, lingonberry, blueberry, rosa rugosa, rhubarb, sorrel, wild Alaska onions, highbush cranberry, strawberry, dandelion,monarda, comfrey, mint, a dwarf apple, and some perennial flowering plants for variety. Banks lend themselves very well to forest gardening, because they already incorporate the vertical element.

One other lesson learned is that for perennials it is not so necessary to have a flat surface- new seeds might wash off a bank, but the perennial roots hold the bank, plus it doesn't matter if the soil temp is cooler (seeds need warm temps to germinate).

Anyone else out there doing a forest garden?

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alexander3_gw(6 Pennsylvania)

I am in the process of planting a small, approximately 1700 square foot, forest garden in my back yard. Due to the small space, there will be no tall trees, unless you count my neighbor's red maple, which was planted ~2 feet from the property line.

So, the top layer will be small trees. This week I will be planting two Paw paws. In the fall or next spring, I will add two or three more small trees, but I am still trying to decide what they will be. Candidates are: hybrid persimmon, edible dogwood (Cornus mas or kousa) one of the larger juneberries, asian pear.

The shrub layer will include blackberry, raspberry,goumi, elderberry (already in place) as well as aronia and sea berry (on order). There are some established yews as well, but I'm not sure their meager production of fruit will convince me to keep them.

The only really small woody plant I am planning for is wintergreen.

For the herb layer, I am trying out many perennial or self seeding plants that produce edible leafy greens. These include: bistort, borage,bloody dock, balloon flower, bergamot, salad burnet, calendula, good king henry, lemon balm, lovage, mauritian mallow, and sweet rocket. I also have comfrey, chives, rhubarb,and an assortment of insectary plants.

I don't know how much room there will be for groundcovers, but thyme and alpine strawberry are the top candidates.

For the vertical layer, the only candidate is arctic kiwi, and there will be annual beans and peas each year.

No root layer to speak of.

Zone 4 must rule out quite a few plants, I feel lucky to be in zone 6 (but still imagine living in zone 7 or 8!)


    Bookmark   April 18, 2005 at 11:53AM
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seraphima(z4 AK)

One of the principles I have had to learn is to try to maximize my food production. The selection of plants in my food forest must seem marginal compared to the Lower 48 (states), but they are the most productive food bearing plants I can grow in this particular climate. In a different climate, you can bet that we would be including more productive species like apples, pears, peaches, etc, to actually supply some larger portion of our food.

Of the plants that do grow well, I try to grow enough for a year's supply for our family- rhubarb, chives, currants and gooseberries, salmonberries, wild blueberries, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, turnips, and so forth. So, good sunny flatish growing space ("forest clearings") are at a premium, and these are not food forested; land that is more marginal in tems of slope, traffic, shade etc. is my forest garden area.

The USDA zone here is 4-ish, but if one uses the degree-day zonation system (how many days 86 degrees or more, needed to ripen warm-weather plants like corn or tomatoes) then we are in zone 0!

Thank you for sharing your interesting plant selections! Hope your food forest is extremely productive and you make many happy meals out of it.!

    Bookmark   April 18, 2005 at 2:05PM
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lpinkmountain(5b/6a border PA)

I'm getting ready to plant my TINY forest garden. I have room for 3 or 4 very small trees. At this point I'm trying to mimic the forest of my native Michigan, even though I live in PA. I am homesick all the time! So far I am going to experiment with a small river birch variety called "Fox Valley" and a japanese maple on one side of the yard. Those two are sentimental faviorites, versions of my two favorite North Country trees. I'm still working on the underneath part, but I'm thinking of an espalier of raspberries or wineberries against my chain link fence, and perhaps alpine strawberries and wintergreen underneath. I don't know if I can grow wintergreen sucessfully, I rarely see it do well in gardens.

The other side is giving me fits. I have room for only two trees and I'm torn between four. I'm indulging my japanese garden interests on the other side, so I'm definately planting some dwarf conifers, including for sure japanese white pine, and then either hemlock or mugo pine. This is for a screen and winter interest. The four trees I am mulling over are apricot, plum, cherry and crabapple. There are pros and cons to all of them. I love the smell of apple blossoms, but the edible crabs don't really have the right form for my yard, too umbrella shaped! Cherry would be the best choice for the look I'm trying to create, but I don't like the smell of cherry blossoms, nor the foliage on the tree. A friend recommended apricot, I like the looks of that tree, but I'm not a fresh apricot fan and I don't know if I'd get enough for jam. Plums would be a good compromise, but my friend with the orchard says they aren't that hardy due to all kinds of diseases, etc. And I'm not anymore of a fresh plum fan than apricot. At this point I'm leaning towards cherry and apricot, since they have contrasting foliage. But I don't know what goes with apricots for underneath. I can't envision an apricot guild! I am completely unfamiliar with this tree, since I have never seen anything resembling it in the wild.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2005 at 12:06PM
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Belgianpup(Wa/Zone 7b)

Apricots are one of those fruits that, if all you've ever tasted were those orangy lumps from the supermarket, will make you dislike apricots. But HOME GROWN & RIPENED on the tree apricots are a whole other fruit! If you have any kind of farm map in your area that shows where to buy fruits & veggies direct from the farmer, see if you can find some REAL apricots this summer.

Here I am, in Zone 8/PNW, and while apricot trees will grow here, it's almost impossible to get fruit due to our weather. Apricots flower fairly early, then we get spring freezes and it kills the flowers, so no fruit that year.

Personally, I would hold off making decisions until you know what you really want. If you're not happy with it, it will grind on you every time you see the tree or plant.


    Bookmark   April 23, 2005 at 1:43PM
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greenwitch(Sz19 SoCal)

I had to completely redo my garden due to wind damage and removal of three large trees (that took up alot of room).
First I had to address the fence that one of the trees took out when it fell - I planted a hedge of fruit trees mostly: black mulberry, Buffalo clove current, gold raspberry, Aprium'Flavor Delight,' plum'Burgundy,' pluot'Flavor King,' nectarine'Arctic Star,' each 'Donut/Stark Saturn,' pomegranite 'Eversweet,' white apricot 'Canada White Blenheim' and an Austin shrub rose 'Golden Celebration.' Under these are planted four different strawberry cultivars, Alpine, Seascape, Chandler and Sequoia.

Next, I needed to put something that will eventually shade the south facade of the house and some of the roof, I didn't want roof rats feasting and camping out in my attic, nor did I want fallen fruit where I walk into the house, so I opted for beauty and planted flowering cherries, P.blireiana, P.'Yoshino,' P.campanulata and P.'Kanzan.' While shopping for these, I came across a couple of fruiting P.mume and bought both, a double pink and single white (both fragrant).
Then I planted a quartet of Japanese persimmons, Hyakume, Suruga, Chocolate and Maru and a contorted Jujube, pear Comice to be trained as a single cordon "step-over," Feijoia (for the petals - deliciously sweet and juicy) and a Sweetshade, Hymenosporum flavum to disguise a utility pole and the fragrance is divine.
I am planning to make an espalier Belgian fence/screen from apple trees and maybe a Seckel pear and Aromatnaya quince, I will probably need at least a dozen apple cultivars for that (have: Dorsett Golden, Red Fuji, Newtown Pippin, Pink Lady; want: White Winter Pearmain, Pink Pearl, Magnum Bonum, Cinnamon Spice, Dolgo crabapple).

In one quarter of the yard I am also training a Weeping Santa Rosa plum against a fence, and I will plant four other plums, Green Gage, Coe's Golden Drop, Geneva Mirabelle and Cherry Plum Delight - for now I plan to train them as dwarf pyramids.

I've also put in a mixed planting in-between, shallots, tomatoes, daylilies, nasturtiums, basil, thyme, feverfew, stevia, wallflower, tuberose, alyssum, johnny-jump-ups, Lebanese zucchini, sunburst squash, painted serpent cucumber, several tea and bourbon roses, dill, bronze fennel, calendula, dahlia Bishop of Landohf, iris, tulips clusiana.

I still have to plant: squash butternut, deliciosa, papaya, sunshine hybrid kobota, more heirloom tomatoes, loquat seedling of 'Big Jim,' Babaco papaya, 'Pele's Smoke' sugarcane, Minnesota Midget melon, Mon Cheri melon, some peppers and some other fragrant flowers and herbs (including some milkweed for the butterflies, Salvia clevlandii for the hummers). Somebody gave me seeds for the culinary hyacinth bean brought back from Sri Lanka (these grow big) so I'd like to find a place for those, they make a very tasty dish!

In containers I am growing figs Negronne, Panachee, Janice, citrus Meyer Lemon, Cara Cara orange, Robertson Navel orange, Mexican Lime, Dancy mandarin, Owari Satsuma, Moro and Sanguinelli blood oranges and Pink Lemonade lemon, plus a variety of mints, chocolate, Moroccan, peppermint, a few scented leaf pelargoniums, hedychium gingers and other tropicals, some jasmines for tea.

In back of my house there is a mature apple tree, a volunteer fig (with a huge breba crop on it now) and a semi-dwarf pear tree (both fruiting). I put in a dwarf walnut Pedro, Garden Prince almond, cherry Lapins, white sapote Suebelle, and avocados Don Gillogly, Holiday, Gwen and Reed. I plan to grow Seminole winter squash up into the apple tree this summer. I've also got a passiflora edulis 'Frederick' that I will train over the west side of my house to keep the sun from turning that side of the house into an oven.

I keep thinking, if I get all this "done," by the time I'm 50 I should be able to eat and eat well out of my garden (and not buy but a little of my produce). It took me 47 yrs. to figure this out (grow my own) so I'm trying to make up for lost time!

    Bookmark   April 24, 2005 at 11:58PM
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seraphima(z4 AK)

Dear Greenwitch,
Sounds fabulous! Have you considered putting your garden on a local garden tour, or offering to give tours for nearby permaculture classes, etc?

    Bookmark   April 28, 2005 at 7:34PM
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