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Understory for zone 3 food forest?

Kevin Hiebert


Joined: Apr 02, 2011
Posts: 31
Location: Zone 3 SW Manitoba, Canada
We've started a mini food forest (5 apple trees, plum tree, honeyberries, saskatoons, sour cherries, service berries, hazelnuts, and a few others) but so far have only been mulching directly around the trees. Islands of mulch in a sea of grass!
We want to cover and mulch over the whole area, lasagna style, but need a good seed mix ready to get going so that the area isn't just re-colonised by surrounding grass and undesirables(not weeds).
We have some established rhubarb plants we will divide and distribute under most of the fruit trees and I'm thinking some kind of alliums as well but really need some suggestions for the in-between areas.
Thinking of dandylions, dwarf clover, newzealand spinach, maybe sorrel...

The area is on a bit of a south facing side slope at the base of a short 45 degree slope leading up to a future shop. (hoping to terrace and plant the steeper slope later)
The area collects LOTS of snow in the winter (3-4') to charge the water-batteries in the mulch but we plan on not watering anything.
18" of good black soil over silty clay loam.
Zone 3 in southern Manitoba (an hour north of US border)

I look forward to input from those further down the permie path- wich is almost everyone!



"We do not go into the green woods and crystal waters to rough it; we go to smooth it. We get it rough enough at home." Nessmuk


we do not go into the green woods and crystal waters to rough it; we go to smooth it. We get it rough enough at home.- Nessmuk
Brian Cantley


Joined: Sep 12, 2012
Posts: 3
Location: Mid Michigan
I'm a permaculture newbie, but you mentioned dandelions! They're one of my favorite plants as I have chickens and turkeys and have had geese. That must be one of their favorite plants. I eat dandelion leaves often while walking around(I'm in lower Michigan) and though bitter, I couldn't imagine going hungry with so many. In the winter I scrape off the deep snow for the chickens and other birds to eat something green. The birds have no trouble making it through the cold with no external heating.


I am the tenth one of ten children.
Kevin Hiebert


Joined: Apr 02, 2011
Posts: 31
Location: Zone 3 SW Manitoba, Canada
Hoping for chickens in spring!
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4432
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    4
i use comfrey for a good chop and drop mulch in my zone 4/5 garden, not sure of zone 3..probably strawberries would work, also remember to use some of your annuals, esp those that reseed..I'm thinking swiss chard, kale, collards, cabbage families..if there is an area you don't mnd getting taken over a bit, horseradish will dig deep for nutrients and makes a big chop and drop leaf..but it will take over and a tiny root will grow.

also jerusalem artichokes are a similar thing, tiny roots grow, but it doesn't go quite as deep, it should grow in your climate.

you can also use insectary plants like daylillies and siberian iris..careful of malva, it is a great insectory with a very deep taproot but it seeds prolifically, so only use it where there is enough room for it.


Brenda

Bloom where you are planted.
http://restfultrailsfoodforestgarden.blogspot.com/
Kevin Hiebert


Joined: Apr 02, 2011
Posts: 31
Location: Zone 3 SW Manitoba, Canada
Thanks for your suggestions Brenda! Lots of new directions to explore. Looking forward to finding a source for some of those seeds.
I'd love to build up to a mix with 25 or 30 species in it to have on hand for any disturbed soil.
Definately need some spinach in the mix. We've had great luck with leaving our spinach to self seed and over-winter. It's a joy to harvest fresh greens poking through the snow in spring long before anything else is stirring(besides dandelion maybe).
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4432
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    4
great Kevin (hey my hubby has some relatives that married Heiberts in the upper NW of US now)

I also like to have greens overseed and generally pick spinach in the winter in my greenhouse
Aljaz Plankl


Joined: Feb 18, 2010
Posts: 291
    
    4
i love this sun and shade tolerant ground cover plant - ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea) - http://shrani.najdi.si/?V/KE/2Wxc3jRM/051020120052.jpg
S Bengi


Joined: Nov 29, 2012
Posts: 941
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
    
    3
Some short 4inch white clover, some dakion radishes, kale, anything in the cabage family with big leaves, beet family, Chenopodium (good king henry) family, lovage/borage. fava beans.
Anything that is edible and less than 2feet I would plant. It is going to take 15-30lbs of seed per acre. @$10/lbs.
But anything is better than nothing.

Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4432
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    4
i divided my comfrey two years ago and put a small piece of comfrey under every single fruit tree, last year they began to grow quite well, the tiny pieces didn't do much but the larger ones grew well, I expect them to be chop and drop size this year
Mark Shepard
Author


Joined: Jan 02, 2013
Posts: 44
    
  23
My favorite understory in fruit trees is daffodils... They eliminate the sod, bring in wild pollinators well before the apples bloom and they repel rodents... My second choice is comfrey... As long as you mow it or graze it regularly it won't pose a problem. If you till the ground next to it, you have just created the next mythical hydra!

I also plant lots of Iris, the roots of which are used for skin care products, and alliums all over the place... All of my "extra" garlic at the end of the garlic eating season gets tossed out underneath the fruit trees... Chives look SO Beautiful when they're blooming beneath fruit trees...


Forest Agriculture Enterprises
Miles Flansburg
steward

Joined: Feb 03, 2011
Posts: 1910
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
    
  42
Iris for skin care ? More, More !
laura sharpe


Joined: Nov 17, 2012
Posts: 243
    
    2
rhubarb...love the stuff, are heavy feeders so you may not want them taking nutrients from where the fruit trees are.

I am willing to listen to criticism about this but I think i would avoid jeruslem artichokes and horseradish as the both are underground and spread like mad...you do not want to dig up your roots to either harvest or to kill them....better to have them at the edge of the orchards.
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4432
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    4
speaking of iris which I love another ornamental plant that a lot of people don't realize is edible and that grows prolifically is the daylillies (i love daylillies)..you can eat the root, but and flower and you don't feel guilty about eating the flowers as they are only "pretty" for ONE day..so the day they bloom, pick them while still nice and eat them..

they will make a solid mat of roots and can be divided and moved many many times ..and live "forever"..even in old barnyards..they'll compete agains the grass too as I have planted them out in open fields..(you can do that with oriental poppies also)..

Julia Winter
volunteer

Joined: Aug 31, 2012
Posts: 717
Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
    
  72
Daylily petals are delicious. They have a vaguely cucumberish taste if they are thick. You can apparently throw the unopened flower buds into a stir-fry, but I like seeing the open flowers, so I've never tried it.


Ask me about food.
frank larue


Joined: Apr 08, 2012
Posts: 47
most important to mention if terracing is to collect your topsoil first to put back where it belongs. this will ensure larger-scale establishment. if you've got a south-facing slope heat traps could definitely be created to push your zone up 1. i'd recommend selecting lots of tap-rooted plants to spike the terraces in place. the docks can handle cold climates and so long as you cut back their flowers their second season you can avoid them spreading all over the place. lupines are excellent green manure option. comfrey, as was mentioned will do well too. horseradish varieties can drive in several feet and provide mineral rich leaves for mulch en masse. valerian is another good option. rye grasses are easily cleared when you're ready to plant out, unlike other grasses. good soil builders and easy to grow are the radishes, turnips, parsnips, and mustards. sunchokes are another excellent option, which are sometimes grown along with the nitrogen-fixing climbers hog peanuts.

bulk seeds of flax, field peas, clovers, buckwheat, echinacea and some of the above mentioned will create a ground cover that will suit various exposed conditions, compete with grasses, and prep the sites for future cultivation when you're ready for it.

nanking cherry will suffer seasons with late frosts, but their taproot from seed or deep-potted sapling will double for an edible edge and terrace support. a species i have yet to work with is sea buckthorn which make great soil holders, fix nitrogen, produce medicinal berries, and make excellent windbreaks and thorny hedges. slopes can sustain large yams if you have some stoney areas (look into sepp holzer's work for a lot of this). alliums galore, hyssops, anise hyssops, wildflowers will ensure soil-building, green manure, and tons of pollinators and predatory insects to keep your prized plants healthy.

for the shade you have american ginseng, ferns, goldenseal, primroses, ephemerals (ramp patches take a few years to get going but you will thank yourself later!) of a great many kinds, solomon's seal, gooseberry, woodland nettles (love em fried with eggs in summer and soup in winter!), purslane, brambles, small-bush blueberries can take some shade, as can lingonberries is given optimal soil.

i've found inoculation of seeds with mycorrhizal fungi and nitrogen fixing bacteria (specific to fixers selected) critical to establishment. you can get away with things you wouldn't you'll be contending with years of grass seed banks so heavy mulching will be important. the soil will also likely be bacterial-dominated and lacking the fungal environment suitable to trees, shrubs, and woodland herbs. access to wood chips from a power line or roadside maintenance company is an excellent source for free material. you might even get lucky and find yourself with an edible mushroom patch here or there, but at the least you will be suppressing the ideal conditions for the undesired plants, creating non-compacting paths (hopefully spongy with mycelium), and changing the soil biology toward a food forest system.

Paul Gutches


Joined: Dec 22, 2011
Posts: 84
Location: Taos, New Mexico
    
    1
Brenda Groth wrote:speaking of iris which I love another ornamental plant that a lot of people don't realize is edible and that grows prolifically is the daylillies


I may be interpreting this wrong, but this sounds like the iris is also an edible.

Just want to make sure no one else interprets it this way.

My understanding is that only a few species of iris have limited edible uses, but most have no edible uses and many are, in whole or in part, toxic.

Paul


Permaculture: The Edge is the New Center
Taos, New Mexico / Carson, New Mexico / 7000ft / zones 5,6 / Soil: Servilleta-Hernandez / Avg. 13" precip per annum
AdAstra Shepard


Joined: Mar 10, 2013
Posts: 10
Location: Eastern KS, USA
Kind of off-topic, sorry, but...

Julia Winter wrote:Daylily petals are delicious. They have a vaguely cucumberish taste if they are thick. You can apparently throw the unopened flower buds into a stir-fry, but I like seeing the open flowers, so I've never tried it.


I can't eat sugars & grains (diabetic) so I'm always looking for low-carb food options, and I've discovered that you can stuff day lily flowers. I like to use the same stuff you'd put in crab rangoon: cream cheese, crab meat, onions & herbs. Take out the center part of the flower first, of course, then just spoon your filling in. Makes for a very pretty appetizer if you have guests, too; you can even serve them in a champagne glass if you want to be all fancy.

Anyway, I'm a bit south of you in zone 5, but day lilies grow like crazy around here and I'd highly recommend them if they're hardy there.
Julia Winter
volunteer

Joined: Aug 31, 2012
Posts: 717
Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
    
  72
MMMmm, that sounds delicious. I have since learned that all parts of the daylily are edible. I've eaten a few of the shoots coming up, and they are pretty good, although either I was having a small reaction or there is a bit of "bite" like nasturtiums have, or horseradish. My mouth started burning, so I stopped.
Nick Kitchener


Joined: Sep 24, 2012
Posts: 304
Location: Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
    
    6
Borage, Calendula, Dill, and Safflower...
 
 
subject: Understory for zone 3 food forest?
 
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