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Thought exp: calorie dense, variety, perennial polyculture food on 1 hectare

William James
volunteer

Joined: Sep 22, 2010
Posts: 699
Location: Northern Italy
    
  16
I'm going to try and be explicit in this question. I realize it is a little vague, but bare with me. The situation is that we are on the lookout for that size of land and I'd like to create a model that I cold replicate on other similarly small plots in the same area as time goes on.

I would like to do a thought experiment that would lead me to doing the right thing when the situation presents itself. I would also like to have some strategies in place when the time comes.

Let's imagine you have just bought 1 Hectre, 2.47 Acres. Your goal is calorie dense food, variety of food, and a perennial polyculture with annuals limited to the self-seeding, the low maintenance and the volunteer plants. Your goal is to maximize what can be produced for human consumption.

We're in mild temperate mediterranean climate. Potential hills but it could be plain. Most likely heavy clay. Hot summers, cool/cold winters. Water, unless collected rainwater, would probably not be present.

What would be the plants you chose?
Would you choose different plants for the different stages of the project?
Which Hunger gap plants?
Which trees for consumption or aiding other plants?
How would you go about obtaining the plants?
Guilds you would build?
Techniques you have tried or would try?

Are there questions I'm leaving out?

Books I haven't read are coming to mind: 4 season harvest by Jeavons; Perennial Vegetables by Toensmeier. If anyone has chapter references from the mollison's big black book, I can read those. I'm plodding through that one little by little. Any other helpful books?

I'm a little more interested in what people have tried and had success with or would try if they could start over/again...

Thanks,
William
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
"4 season harvest" is by Coleman,"Grow More Vegetables" is by Jeavons.

In addition to those I recommend "Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands" by Brad Lancaster.




Idle dreamer

Cj Verde


Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 2973
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
    
  51
I recommend Tree Crops -- A Permanent Agriculture, by J. Russell Smith

Smith is the grandfather of permaculture, note the subtitle of his book written in 1929. Several descriptions of setups for Mediterranean climes.


My project thread
Agriculture collects solar energy two-dimensionally; but silviculture collects it three dimensionally.
Fred Morgan
steward

Joined: Sep 29, 2009
Posts: 972
Location: Northern Zone, Costa Rica - 200 to 300 meters Tropical Humid Rainforest
    
  12
I really agree with the idea of going with trees as much as possible. Annuals can bide you over, but they require open spaces but trees just grow, once they get up to size, and produce... seemly forever. We are fortunate in having lots of things that act like trees, like bananas, papaya, plantains, yuca, etc. as well.

green onions and chives are great, at least for us. Peppers for us are a tree, I kid you not, they survive at least 5 years.

One of my new favorites is chayote. Four vines and you are smothered in them.

Warning, we live in the true tropics.


Sustainable Plantations and Agroforestry in Costa Rica
William James
volunteer

Joined: Sep 22, 2010
Posts: 699
Location: Northern Italy
    
  16
"Tree Crops" seems pretty promising. I'm looking at it now.

How many large plants (these could be fruit/nut trees or bushes) would you think would be suitable for 1 hectre/acre? I saw

Smith Says: "It is so easy to plant trees too close together both on paper and on land. Individual trees perform wonders occasionally, but some- how, when they are set out in rows and given a term of years, they fail to perform every year on the average as the rare
genius tree does once in a while. "

Obviously I won't be setting things out in rows, but the point is that a specific land size can hold only so many trees/bushes.

Thanks again,
William
Hanley Kale-Grinder


Joined: Sep 30, 2011
Posts: 112
Location: Mountain West of USA, Salt Lake City
    
    1
I think a very large cistern is going to be extremely important. I lived in a Mediterranean climate on the central coast of Cali and noticed that we got enough rain for a year....but it all came in the winter. Also, all of the obvious stuff like mulching, swales, dew collection (if it gets foggy) etc. are going to be important. However, my gut reaction is that your are going to have to irrigate somehow during the dry season.
Cj Verde


Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 2973
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
    
  51
William James wrote:
How many large plants (these could be fruit/nut trees or bushes) would you think would be suitable for 1 hectre/acre?


It really depends on the width of the tree at full size and to some extent the landscape itself. I strongly recommend planning using like this:
Paddocks

It's surprising how few trees you can fit if you plan it based on their width when grown. In that plan there are overlapping canopies where I'm planning on a living fence.

The brown and blue lines are swales which, by the way, if you can set it up right the soil is the best place to store water.
Jeanine Gurley
steward

Joined: May 23, 2011
Posts: 1392
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
    
  10
I am assuming that your area might support many of the same plants that mine does here in south carolina. Here is a list of plants that have produced well each year as perennials or with a minimum of care to replant:

Apples (warm climate variety)
Plum
Pear
Blueberry
Muscadine - but I believe you can grow regular bunching grapes in your area

Garlic
Mustard
Onions

I always plant a variety of beans for nitrogen, they are easy to grow and a good 'bulk' food.

Oregano and Rosemary are planted in the hotest 'no care' areas away from things that might be composted or mulched.

I just planted Sunchokes for the first time this year, the tubers are intended as a filler/starch food, the green tops I will use as mulch.

Things that are considered more decorative than edible, such as elephant ears, canna lilies, and banana leaves make GREAT additions to hugelkulture beds and compost piles. I just put them down like a green 'mat' around plants - kind of a mega chop and drop.

We plant lots of other stuff here but those are the things that really require the absolute minimum of care from me. The most labor intensive part is when I have to figure out what to do with all of the food. Plums for example often end up in a compost pile but next year I plan to have some birds to contain in that area until the groundfall is cleaned up.


1. my projects
Fred Morgan
steward

Joined: Sep 29, 2009
Posts: 972
Location: Northern Zone, Costa Rica - 200 to 300 meters Tropical Humid Rainforest
    
  12
One thing though to keep in mind, nature works up to trees, starting with something to cover the bare soil. You should do the same. Fruit trees are often pioneer types, so this is good, but some nut trees aren't, and you are going to starve waiting for them. Very good to grow, but you have to have something to eat till then, and often, many do better with a bit of competition.

Try to think a natural succession if you can, if you are think for the long term. Much of the problem we have is that most foods we are used to eating are annuals, but annuals usually grow best in very fertile soils, often those laid bare by nature or man.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

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

Things that are considered more decorative than edible, such as elephant ears, canna lilies


Don't forget both are staple foods in other parts of the world: Elephant Ears Colocasia esculenta are Taro, with edible tubers, and canna has edible tubers as well.

http://www.livestrong.com/article/428459-how-to-cook-taro-root/

http://www.foragingtexas.com/2008/08/canna-lily.html

http://www.gardenguides.com/116549-cooking-canna-tubers.html
William James
volunteer

Joined: Sep 22, 2010
Posts: 699
Location: Northern Italy
    
  16
I'm cool with the idea of expanding my range of diet, and eliminating annual-based food in the long run, although I'm supposed to be visiting with a nutritionist right now due to just slightly too low B/folate...The diet is something I'm unfortunately futzing with and should get professional advice on.

Ditto for things like Taro...I brought one home and, after eating a raw piece, went online and saw it was toxic. Luckily I survived, but the Taro went in the compost.

That being said, I'm looking at that foto of Cj's and I'm seeing around a hundred big plants. Which is what I'm seeing here too:
http://www.profitableplants.com/5-most-profitable-nut-trees-to-grow/

Maybe you could get in more with understory/small shrub plants directed toward diet.

Another thing is "pre-installation" crops. Especially things like these, which I find extraordinary!
http://www.petcherseeds.com/index.html

These would include heavy organic material producers, "filler" plants, which could be annuals/biennials to kinda jack up the photo-synthesis grab and really mediate the soil fast.

Thanks for the discussion so far. This is all going to go in my notebook (finally, some more crucial info to add)!
William
William James
volunteer

Joined: Sep 22, 2010
Posts: 699
Location: Northern Italy
    
  16
Ps: Figs.
I have come to like figs a lot. And I really like them dried (tastes like fig newtons). I'm planning to experiment drying them this summer.

Figs grow amazingly well here and I want to promote their abundance.

William
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
William James wrote:the Taro went in the compost


Definitely not for the raw foodist!
Cj Verde


Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 2973
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
    
  51
William James wrote:That being said, I'm looking at that foto of Cj's and I'm seeing around a hundred big plants.


What you not seeing in the pic are the animals in the pasture. Cattle, sheep, turkeys, chickens. So, I do have something to eat while waiting for the trees to bare. Some of the trees are living fences, some will produce for me some for the animals, some for both.

I think the area of the pic is about 4 acres.
William James
volunteer

Joined: Sep 22, 2010
Posts: 699
Location: Northern Italy
    
  16
about 4 acres

So, dividing by 4 does that mean 62 biggish trees/hectare ... or 25 trees/acre?

Good point about the animals. And the living fences.

Unfortunately I don't have animals in the crystal ball. This is due to location and land size, and the chosen diets of some of the people involved. Four acres I'm sure is okay for animals, but I wouldn't feel right about stocking 1 hectare/1 acre with too many animals, but that's me.

Ps: I'm really liking "Tree Crops." Amazing this was written so long ago. What foresight.

William
Milan Broz


Joined: Feb 24, 2011
Posts: 85
Location: Croatia
I've been planting food forrest in following pattern... maybe you can use some of this approach if you like.

1. I planted tall fruit trees spaced 7m (20ft) one from another, not in rows and columns (rectangular pattern) but in triangular pattern. So around every tall tree there are 6 similar trees at distance of 7m.

2. If you move 4m from any tree in one direction, you are in centre of perfect triangle, 4m away from 3 tall fruit trees. I planted n-fixer in this spot. So, if I have 20 tall fruit trees, now I have 20 n-fixers (black or italian alder, black locust).

3. If you move from tall fruit tree 4m in opposite direction, you are in centre of hexagon, around you there are 3 tall trees and 3 n-fixers, all 4m away. I planted short trees here. So, for one area, now I have 20 tall trees, 20 n-fixers and 20 short trees.

4. As the forrest grows up, I will chop and drop n-fixers, prune tall trees to let some of the light to lower layers, and prune short trees to keep it short. By short trees, I mean trees that naturaly grows short and the ones that grows tall, but are hard to pick fruits, like mulberries. So I would keep mulberry short, although it would grow much higher if allowed, for example.

5. Then I would create a pattern of walking paths through the woods, since terrain is sloped I would follow contour lines, maybe creating slopes/ditches to keep some rainfall.

6. Then I would fit the shrubs in empty spaces. They would probably be below all this trees. I don't care about is there enough space for all that plants, since I'm working with time, not only space. Tall trees would take 10, 20 or more years to grow to full size, meanwhile I would have years and years of currants, gooseberries, hazelnuts etc.

7. Herb layer would be mostly for supporting species, like insect attractors, pest repellents, dynamic accumulators, maybe some of perrenial vegetables, bulbs, self seeders, etc. If there would be too dark below all this trees and shrubs, I would grow mushrooms. And that's it.

Permaculture in Croatia:
www.perforum.info
Cj Verde


Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 2973
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
    
  51
William James wrote:So, dividing by 4 does that mean 62 biggish trees/hectare ... or 25 trees/acre?


It depends on the tree and maybe even the variety. There are charts available. I think Tree Crops even talks about that a bit. I have a vague memory of only 8 pecans per acre.

But anyway, that's not really how you plan a food forest or a permaculture setup. Actually, it's impossible to plan anything without know that actual landscape.

Do you have Intro to Permaculture? There's much good info about setting up a site by zones of use. It's really important because permaculture involves understanding relationships between the design element and using them to your advantage.
William James
volunteer

Joined: Sep 22, 2010
Posts: 699
Location: Northern Italy
    
  16
I'll be re-gaining my intro to permaculture AND my gaia's garden this week I think. yay. Right now I'm reading the Designer's Manual in preparation for a PDC this summer.

I know that I should be basing my thoughts on real-life situations and the needs of the site, but I kinda want to get a very general idea of whether I'm going to be investing somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 trees or something in the order of 5-20, just based on this given size of land. Obviously it depends on the tree and what the needs are, but I'd want fruit/nut/nitrogen fixing, which is what the discussion has been about so far.

Of course, I might also have to battle erosion and might have to plant those 200 trees in the end just to deal with that problem. But I'm going for a ballpark figure of "end result" costs so that I can propose it to a group of people. Having done a little research and going into it thinking that it will cost 5,000 euros is a lot different than going into it thinking it'll cost 50,000; no matter what the eventual outcome.

All of this is really good. For example, knowing that I'll need some amount of above ground rain collection tells me I'll need some structure built on site, either pre-existing or newly built, which is what I was planning anyway.

Best,
William
William James
volunteer

Joined: Sep 22, 2010
Posts: 699
Location: Northern Italy
    
  16
Milan Broz,
Thanks a bunch. That's of great help.
William
 
 
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