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A food forest without trees?

Dwayne Seagraves


Joined: Mar 14, 2012
Posts: 6
Hello,

I'm new here and about to embark on my very first garden! My question is....Can I have a permaculture food forest without trees? My yard has a few very old and very large oak trees but I'm not able to afford to put in smaller nut or fruit trees in the layer below them at this time. Is it possible to start my food forest with something like hedges or bushes being at the top of the various layers? Any help/input is greatly appreciate.

Dwayne
Josh T-Hansen


Joined: Jul 14, 2010
Posts: 143
Location: Zone 5 Brimfield, MA
    
    1
There's nothing stopping you from using shrubs or whatever you please. acorns are pretty good too. Without trees a garden is not so much a forest but an edible perennial landscape.


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Jonathan Hontz


Joined: Feb 12, 2012
Posts: 36
Location: Denver, CO
Josh T-Hansen wrote:There's nothing stopping you from using shrubs or whatever you please.

Seconded. Try to find plants that complement one another and stack your functions, but by all means make it look however you need it to look. Tree crops are excellent perennial edibles that will usually outlive you, but that's not always practical. If nothing else, at least build a hugelkultur bed and you'll be set. Most importantly, but also easily forgotten: grow what you like to eat. Oh, and have fun. Do that too.


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Isaac Hill
volunteer

Joined: Feb 28, 2011
Posts: 343
Location: Beaver County, Pennsylvania (~ zone 6)
    
    8
"Edible Forest Garden" or "Food Forest" is just a metaphor anyway, and you only need 3 layers to meet the criteria for that as it is. A "food forest" could have a canopy of filberts, mid level of currants, vine layer of kiwi, herbaceous level of wild strawberry, root level of ramps.


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Jonathan Hontz


Joined: Feb 12, 2012
Posts: 36
Location: Denver, CO
Really, the trees don't even need to be alive. You could trellis the whole canopy layer, or just do something else to extend the verticality of the thing. The mind boggles.
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    8
sure you can, but also if you can't plant boughten trees there are some trees that do quite well from seed, although they likely will come full size rather than dwarfs if that was what you prefer..I have self seeded apples and have neighbors with self seeded plums, my sil gave me seedlings of peaches from her peach tree's peach pits..they grow fairly fast..maybe a couple years slower than a boughten whip.

Brenda

Bloom where you are planted.
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Jonathan Hontz


Joined: Feb 12, 2012
Posts: 36
Location: Denver, CO
Brenda Groth wrote:there are some trees that do quite well from seed

Yet another good point. If you can't afford the saplings, just start burying your apple cores wherever you'd like to eventually have trees. After all, the fruits of trees aren't there to feed people; they're there to grow new trees. They'll know what to do once they get into the soil if you pick a fruit that was grown on a local tree.
Michael Radelut


Joined: Jan 21, 2011
Posts: 193
Location: Germany, 7b-ish
Berry bushes are very easy to propagate in large numbers (just use someone's winter cuttings), they grow quickly (you'll have your first harvest much earlier than with a regular fruit tree) and the nutritional profile of berries is superior to that of most tree crops. Why plant trees ?
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Jonathan Hontz wrote:just start burying your apple cores wherever you'd like to eventually have trees.


Keeping in mind apples do not come true from seed, that is to say virtually all apple seedlings differ from the parent.


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Cj Verde


Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 2393
Location: Vermont
    
  44
Jonathan Hontz wrote:After all, the fruits of trees aren't there to feed people; they're there to grow new trees.


Yes, but with some fruits like apple, you will have to graft to get edible fruit. Otherwise, make (hard) cider with the apples or feed 'em to your animals.

(edit--- I've had this thread open then left--- so I'm echoing what Tyler said)


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Dwayne Seagraves


Joined: Mar 14, 2012
Posts: 6
Wow, thank you all so much for the replies! I can tell this forum is going to be a valuable resource.

I have thought about just having berry shrubs and bushes as my top layer but I've had some trouble finding heirloom or other non-gmo seeds. Any recommendations for that? I'm particularly interested in blueberries, black berries and raspberries. Thanks.

Dwayne
Isaac Hill
volunteer

Joined: Feb 28, 2011
Posts: 343
Location: Beaver County, Pennsylvania (~ zone 6)
    
    8
You wouldn't want to grow blueberries, rubus (black, rasp berry) and ribes (currants & gooseberries for that matter) from seed. Those are all very easily propagated via layering or cuttings or dividing (esp the rubus and ribes) and thus can have a perfect clone with all the luxuries of the variety (thornless, everberring, big berries, ect) There are a lot of good online nurseries that have a good selection of all of those berries. Oikos, Burnt Ridge, Stark Bros to name a few. And remember, ribes can fruit in the shade!
Terri Matthews


Joined: Nov 21, 2010
Posts: 405
Location: Eastern Kansas
    
    3
Dwayne Seagraves wrote:Wow, thank you all so much for the replies! I can tell this forum is going to be a valuable resource.

I have thought about just having berry shrubs and bushes as my top layer but I've had some trouble finding heirloom or other non-gmo seeds. Any recommendations for that? I'm particularly interested in blueberries, black berries and raspberries. Thanks.

Dwayne


To find inexpensive fruit bushes, I went on-line to my state forestry department.

The selection was not very impressive but the price was right. I got 50 American Plum seedlings with flags and such for $50. I had to check a box saying that it was for either steam bank stabilization or for wildlife, but I had no problem with this. The blue jays and squirrels and such are very welcome to their share.

I intend to eat some of them as well, of course.

American Plum is a SMALL, thicket forming tree, which is important because I walk with a cane and I want to be able to eat the fruit in my food forest. In that vein I have also planted elderberry and ordered serviceberry. Other people can have towering trees in their food forest: I walk with a cane and I want the short trees and the large bushes.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Terri Matthews wrote:

American Plum is a SMALL, thicket forming tree, which is important because I walk with a cane and I want to be able to eat the fruit in my food forest. In that vein I have also planted elderberry and ordered serviceberry. Other people can have towering trees in their food forest: I walk with a cane and I want the short trees and the large bushes.


I think this is something we should all consider. Designing gardens which will function as we become less able through age or injury is an important thing to think about. Designing harvesting aids, or are harvesting aids available to help those of us who are less physically able?

Terri Matthews


Joined: Nov 21, 2010
Posts: 405
Location: Eastern Kansas
    
    3
I bought metal basket on a pole from the gardening center. There are blunt hooks on the end of the basket, so a person can hook the fruit and either lift it (for apples) or pull downwards.

It's rather time consuming, and when both pieces of the pole are screwed together it only extends 12 feet, so even assuming that I hold it up it will not manage a full-sized tree. A dwarf tree, yes, or a naturally smallish tree like an apricot, but not a 30 foot apple tree.

I have decided that the easiest thing of all is to choose small trees or large bushes. I have a North Star cherry and it is an excellent height: I am planting trees that are about that height as I can find them. I figure a couple of trees a year should be about right: I have a dwarf apple tree and an apricot ordered for this year. The apple tree will have to be espaliered at home because it is on a weaker root stock, but the apricot will join the plums in the food forest.
Paul Cereghino
volunteer

Joined: Jan 11, 2010
Posts: 844
Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
    
  13
Depending on your ecosystem, your climax canopy might just be shrubs! I think forest and field edge is lovely, and I reserve areas of my 'food forest' for shrubland and meadow.


Paul Cereghino- Stewardship Institute
Maritime Temperate Coniferous Rainforest - Mild Wet Winter, Dry Summer
 
 
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