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Permaculture on already forested land

                                    


Joined: Jan 01, 2011
Posts: 16
Hello all,

I'm interested in an establishing a permaculture, perennially/tree based farm on 1-2 acres of an 18 acre lot in South Eastern South Carolina.

The land is pretty heavily wooded and I want to focus on maintaining the current system as much as possible while implementing a greater number of productive trees.



Primary plants seen so far, are oaks, sweet gums, hickory, and Silk Trees (leguminous tree).

Lower plants appear to be poison ivy, virginia creeper, some reeds, Yaupon Holly, Wax Myrtles, and something related to blueberries (I can tell from the habits and leaf structure)

I do however plan on collecting a complete profile of the plant life on the plot very soon.

So my main question is, how would you all recommend introducing productive plants with the most minute change to the current system?

Also:

Shade-loving nitro fixing cover crops and producers?

Would chickens, bees, and/or goats be a viable option in this wooded climate?

Any advice, thoughts, and questions are much appreciated!

-Dan


The Earth Garden
Jan Sebastian Dunkelheit


Joined: Aug 08, 2010
Posts: 201
Location: Germany/Cologne - Finland/Savonlinna
You can train chickens and geese to eat acorns and you can bring in new elements like currants via scions.
Chickens and geese need a lot of protection though.

Normally understory plants in the forest bloom in spring but bees need honey plants from spring to fall. If you have a couple of clearings with honey plants bees would do ok. A canopy were light comes through all the year would be better.

Ever thought about getting pigs as pioneers in the forest? You can sow honey and ground cover plants after they finished. But that would definitely hurt your established forest.

If it was a industrial monoculture forest I wouldn't mind bringing the pigs in to change it. But your forest sounds like it's worth protecting.


Life that has a meaning wouldn't ask for its meaning. - Theodor W. Adorno
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    9
are you wanting to put in timber or food crops?

If you want to put in food crops I would suggest looking for areas where there are dead trees that need to come down and put in your baby fruit or nut trees in the area that will be opened up to the sun at that point.

you can put in things like berries and grapes in the "edges" berries make a great hedge around your property.

you can also plant more trees on the south side of the wooded area if there are south facing clearings.

I would suggest leaving a few dead trees standing however to support the woodpecker population as they eat tree boreres..and cleaning up your woods too thoroughly will eliminate these helpful birds


Brenda

Bloom where you are planted.
http://restfultrailsfoodforestgarden.blogspot.com/
Roman Milford


Joined: Feb 18, 2012
Posts: 24
Would it be worthwhile setting up hugelkultur beds in clearings within a woodlot?
All the ingredients are certainly there.
My one concern is that they'd act as habitats for rodents.
Fred Morgan
steward

Joined: Sep 29, 2009
Posts: 973
Location: Northern Zone, Costa Rica - 200 to 300 meters Tropical Humid Rainforest
    
  12
I would look at dual purpose trees and create edges myself. This way, you can have areas of forest, and also places with blackberries, etc. This is how a forest is - generally it isn't pure forest. Create some "corridors of light" and plant edge species.

Also, selective remove some trees, and bring in diversity that meets your needs, perhaps some walnuts might be good. Think very long term.

One thing to realize when you work with forest, you are working with something that will outlive you, unlike what people normally plant, which are annuals, or short lived fruit trees. It takes longer to be productive, but once they are, you or whoever is after you will be doing just fine.


Sustainable Plantations and Agroforestry in Costa Rica
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Roman Milford wrote:
My one concern is that they'd act as habitats for rodents.


If you include some rock piles you're likely to have snakes which will help keep the rodents down.


Idle dreamer

Josh T-Hansen


Joined: Jul 14, 2010
Posts: 143
Location: Zone 5 Brimfield, MA
    
    1
My first advice is find an unwooded spot. Introducing productive crops will either take a lot of tree clearing to let the sun hit the ground (those trees look tall) or else a lot of patience. And unfortunately, nitrogen fixing requires at least half-sun.
I'm no expert but doesn't look like much for goats to munch, but chickens might do ok. Not much there for bees (but they do travel long distance so places outside the 18 acres should be considered.)


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Cj Verde
pollinator

Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 3238
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
    
  54
Cactusdan Hatfield wrote:
So my main question is, how would you all recommend introducing productive plants with the most minute change to the current system?


Cut down non-productive trees with dense canopies.

Make at least a few swale/hugelkulturs and plant nitrogen fixing pioneer trees and fruit trees on them.

Introduce pigs or sheep to clear out stumps and underbrush.

Plan some living fences.


My project thread
Agriculture collects solar energy two-dimensionally; but silviculture collects it three dimensionally.
Irene Kightley
pollinator

Joined: Apr 13, 2009
Posts: 347
Location: South West France
    
  16
Our garden looked a bit like yours - except your trees are in much better condition. We took over about 3 acres of wood and it's now extremely productive but still very wooded and wild.

We used goats to clear the scrub and brambles and make paths but they'll destroy a lot of valuable plants if they're there too long so once they'd cleared it enough for us to work in there, we moved them to pastures new. (Josh, you're right - there's not much in there.) We also use pigs to clear some areas but they leave nothing around the established trees as they root up around the roots.



Brenda's idea of clearing dead or dying trees is exactly what we did and Roman Milford has already mentioned hugelkultur beds, which is what we did too.

We built a chicken shed right in the wood using the trees we cut to build it and left the stumps and roots in the shed. The chickens love it here and do a great job of clearing and adding nitrogen to the soil. We do lose some to foxes from time to time though.



The shed is now completely covered to create nesting areas, encourage insect activity and give shade. It also looks and smells beautiful.



We tried to cut as few trees as possible and where there were creepers, we used them to line pathways and line planting areas. This is an example of a strong honeysuckle which we bent over which now makes a beautiful edge to a planting area with a hazelnut tree and soft fruit. The bees love these fences.





Try to take very small steps and spend time in the wood working on small projects, watching where the sun goes and how the wind is channelled, where the damp spots are, where the earth is already good - for example from a long-fallen tree. Don't be afraid to cut down a tree if it really is spoiling a plan. I dithered for ages on one or two and regret that now. Young fruit or nut trees grow very fast and soon take over the space where a less productive tree was.

Edited to say, Cj Verde - don't you type fast !


La Ferme de Sourrou : Nos projets avec PHOTOS
Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    9
Dan,

I would listen to the last few posts. My opinion would be that there would be no loss to your property if your end product produced more food. What you don't eat, and what your livestock don't eat, the wild population will. I would look to see what will grow in your area, and then plant everything. Observe what microclimates exist and plant for them, the cold-loving species in the cold spots, the heat-loving species in the hot spots. If it doesn't belong there, it will die, no worries. I personally like the idea of rows of interplanted fruit and nut trees, nitrogen-fixing trees and shrubs, and berry canes and bushes, all planted up on hugelbeds, forming North-South oriented rows, either straight or squiggly, with the valleys between and up the sides of the beds planted to pastoral polyculture, with at least one ground-growing berry, cranberry or wild strawberry. If the rows are dense enough that they cannot be walked through by even a chicken, then by closing off the ends selectively, you've just created a paddock system for the chickens/pigs/goats you want to run. And by choosing a variety of early to late fruiting trees and shrubs and plants, and by creating serious woodland-to-pasture edge on either side of each bed, you're fostering serious variety and breadth of life, meaning lots of bug life (chicken food) and a nearly constant supply of flowering plants for bee food.

-CK
Paulo Bessa
pollinator

Joined: Jun 15, 2012
Posts: 334
Location: Portugal (zone 9) and Iceland (zone 5)
    
    9
Not too much experience from my side. But I would go to make some clearings, to increase the diversity of habitats, where you could also grow sun loving plants.

I would definitively plant ramps (perennial alliums) on the forest floor, they thrive so well in shady forests.


Our projects:
in Portugal, sheltered terraces facing eastwards, high water table, uphill original forest of pines, oaks and chestnuts. 2000m2
in Iceland: converted flat lawn, compacted poor soil, cold, windy, humid climate, cold, short summer. 50m2
Paulo Bessa
pollinator

Joined: Jun 15, 2012
Posts: 334
Location: Portugal (zone 9) and Iceland (zone 5)
    
    9
It's not a birch (I live in "birch land"). But I don't know what this tree could be. Many trees look like this. Even several fruit trees.
Fred Berg


Joined: Jul 27, 2012
Posts: 6
Location: Connecticut: Zone 6a
Like others are suggesting, I would first take a careful inventory of the mature trees in the lot and make note of the ones that are
damaged or diseased and slate them for removal. If you can rent a portable sawmill then you can add value to that wood and use the
proceeds to help fund your project. I also agree that it's important to leave some blow downs and standing deadwood as they provide
shelter for a lot of wildlife. It depends on what you want to do with this land, but for me it would be to enhance and diversify wildlife
habitat (we have a lot of "maple tree desert" here in CT), so I would be thinking of it as "tuning" the forest rather than reshaping it.
You might be surprised how much sunlight can be let in with each mature tree that is cut down, and with more sunlight comes more
options for understory plants.

If you get the time, please post a progress report. I'm unable to sell my place and make a move right now, but it sounds like what you're
doing is close to what I'd like to do, so I'm very interested in how you make out.
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    9
I have found a few sunnier spots in my woods and woods edges and have planted several kinds of walnuts (black, carpathian, butternut, heartnut) and also hazelnuts and apricot and pear trees and some cherries. There are black and raspberries in the woods here and mushrooms. I have been putting in seeds of perennials all through the woods and moving tree seedlings around to where I want them too. Even tossed in some nuts and rotting fruits to see if they would take root and put in seeds from bountiful gardens too.

we had a bad drought in May, June and July here but are getting rain again now so there is hope that these tree babies will continue to grow, I hope to plant more and more food crops in the woods, I want to take cuttings from hazelnuts, currants, grapes, etc and put them in the soil
Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    9
Brenda, do you have any Mulberry locally? The reason I ask is that, as you likely know, they love the shade and are incredibly productive. The red variety is also endangered in its natural range due to hybridization with the white variety. I'm planning on making them a big part of my food forest and forage pasture plans, and I think I remember Paul including them in his podcast on eliminating feed costs for chickens.
-CK
Kyle Burdick


Joined: Aug 01, 2012
Posts: 13
Jan Sebastian Dunkelheit wrote:You can train chickens and geese to eat acorns and you can bring in new elements like currants via scions.
.



There is enough good information given in this post for me to add much. But please, please, please do not plant currants. They are the required, alternate host to white pine blister rust. Clearly you care about the forest, so please don't plant anything not native to your area!

http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/3000/pdf/3205.pdf

Currants escape into the wild, and you do have white pine in South Carolina.
Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    9
Wouldn't it be better to say that you should avoid currants if you happen to have large white pine monocrops in your area? This is just like banning plants like kudzu because in certain situations it can be problematic, when properly employed it can be a boon. The thing is, if there are currants anywhere on the migratory paths of any birds that regularly travel through an area, chances are that those birds will slowly introduce them outside of their ranges anyway, meaning that eventually, you should get them whether you like it or not. Wouldn't it make more sense to see what can be done to find controls in the form of white pine guild plants that would occupy the niche held by the currant, thereby curtailing the spread of disease by crowding out the currants in proximity to stands of white pine?
-CK
Kyle Burdick


Joined: Aug 01, 2012
Posts: 13
I agree that the spread of currents is nearly impossible to stop, but I don't think that's any excuse to help them out. People use the same argument for global warming emissions. Doing whats right doesn't always have good results.
Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    9
While I've heard people use a similar argument for not reducing their carbon footprint, in that case it is fallacious, a sort of "what can one person do" mentality. In this case, however, I think that accepting the reality of natural patterns of the spread of species from one place to another is crucial. Otherwise one might get bogged down in an argument on what time period's native species one wishes to protect in the face of nature's progress. I love white pine, but I think if there isn't a strategy to control blister rust other than to ask people not to plant its hosts, the pines will get infected eventually. And by strategy, I mean an approach as I mentioned earlier, where you design a guild that supports white pine where they stand, adding diversity to what is usually something approaching a natural monocrop, and taking up the niche required by currants. The reason the rust is a problem is because of the growth characteristics of conifers; if one tree in a stand gets it, isn't it likely that the whole stand will become infected? If there was more diversity within the system, I bet there'd be fewer disease problems. For the future of the species, it might be best if there were a widespread outbreak of rust, as there was with Dutch elm disease, or chestnut blight with the American Chestnut. My reasoning is the following: Dutch elm disease struck in the 60s, right? Lots of trees died. I have two trees by my house, however, American Elms both, and they are each over two hundred years old, estimated by diameter-at-breast measurements of comparable trees. These trees were exposed and survived, and are pumping out seed every season, which even in an urban environment has caused seedlings to take root, and they are of blight-resistant stock. A similar project is being undertaken in New York State I recall reading in one of these threads, but with survivors of the Chestnut blight. In each case, what was essentially a severe culling happened, leaving only the hardiest stock alive. Would this not make sense for White Pines, as well, or at least to test individuals for disease resistance, so as to breed rust-resistant trees? I also think that the very fact that there are so many tree species that can succumb on such a large scale to disease just because of their own proximity to one another suggests that oak savannahs, and not forests, might prove the ideal permacultural model.

Your concern over pine, in my opinion, is a commonly held, but illogical feeling. One needs be concerned with forests, not trees. Conifers are less helpful for permaculture, in my opinion, than a wide variety of deciduous trees. I know that blueberries often are the first to pop up after a clearcut, the most extreme case, or even in small clearings made by natural falls. There are other food species that can live with such acidic conditions, but I think the choice limits the selection too much. I think that having these great big trees is great, and I like how they put so much moisture into the air in some specific cases, and I could see using this on a large scale to moderate the continental climate in south-central Ontario, but outside of giant windbreaks planted with the few berry species that will live (and their mushrooms, the reason I need conifers at all) and perhaps to occupy an unfortunate northern slope, I see much more use out of deciduous trees for the creation of human and animal food systems.

I would probably keep any mature trees that I could, deciduous or coniferous, and stands of white pine would take a priority, but if you are needing the food coming off your land to feed yourself and your family, your priority must be making sure your food plants get everything they need. If your White Pines, or your Doug Firs, are blocking out all of your sunlight, all the time, and you've already bought the property, and you need that sun, are you going to starve to save the trees?
-CK
Tim Southwell


Joined: Nov 07, 2011
Posts: 90
Location: Hamilton, MT
Good evening. Seeing the title of this thread, it makes most sense that I post my question / theory to all eyes available for comment... here goes:

I have 160 acres of heavily forested pine trees in SW Montana in the Bitterroot Mountain Range. For the last 10+ years, I have used capital and muscle to institute major fire thinning practices, thereby opening the canopy and inviting native grass / shrub growth, etc, etc. As part of this process, I cut, piled and burned a number of piles of fallen pine (easily 100+ piles). Last year, I learned of Permaculture, acquired my PDC, and am now working to bring a positive transition to the property for decades to come (no more burning!).

Understanding the importance of observation in Permaculture practice, my focus has brought me back to the burnt piles of fallen timber, and what has developed on and off over the last decade. Most of these burnt piles are littered with the knobs of rotten, burnt logs that did not fire completely, a mound of left over dirt / debris, as well as an over abundance of 'lambs ear', 'thistle', 'mullen', and a few other 'weeds'. The question I pose is, can I use this to my advantage?

The idea is to plant 1 tree in each pile while guilding it with synergistic plantings. I was thinking of taking a shovel to the heart of the pile. Moving unburnt timber away, ripping up all the 'weeds' (green manure) then digging a 2' hole in the center. I would then back fill the hole with the unburnt timber (now rotten) while layering in the recently pulled 'weeds', and completing the effort with planting a fruit tree (or other). I then top dress with mulch, straw, winter rye, etc and let it go. I would then top seed in the spring with synergistic plantings to aid in moisture retention, nutrient accumulation, pollination attractants, etc, etc.

What do you think?
Will the soil elements already present be in-line with fostering growth? I figure the companion plantings would aid towards any soil amendment needs... or do I need an immediate injection of something else?
Has anyone else tried this before?

This is a project for September, so I would appreciate any / all insight on the theory for pushing this forward.

Thanks in advance,

Tim



Tim Southwell

www.facebook.com/abcacres
Cj Verde
pollinator

Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 3238
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
    
  54
I think you could leave the unburnt timber where it is. You want it to rot slowly anyway. If you don't know about hugelkulture, there is a massive thread.

Maybe post a pic of what it looks like now.


Tim Southwell wrote: I was thinking of taking a shovel to the heart of the pile. Moving unburnt timber away, ripping up all the 'weeds' (green manure) then digging a 2' hole in the center. I would then back fill the hole with the unburnt timber (now rotten) while layering in the recently pulled 'weeds', and completing the effort with planting a fruit tree (or other). I then top dress with mulch, straw, winter rye, etc and let it go. I would then top seed in the spring with synergistic plantings to aid in moisture retention, nutrient accumulation, pollination attractants, etc, etc.

What do you think?
Tim Southwell


Joined: Nov 07, 2011
Posts: 90
Location: Hamilton, MT
Understand hugelkulture premis quite well thanks. And I believe these old burn piles have all I need to construct a hugel bed. My biggest unknown is the soil quality in old burn pile as it would be mainly ashes with some amendment over a few years of weed cycling. I take the pics and develop this further. Again, all insight into any personal experience in this is appreciated. Thanks
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    9
i have planted 3 baby mulberries a few years back and they are surviving but not necessarily thriving yet, one is larger than the other 2 by quite a bit.

I have planted them between baby hazelnut trees in a hedge..the hazelnuts are producing nuts this year, and one of the mulberries is about 3' tall ..the other 2 about a foot tall or so..

I plant just about every type of food bearing tree or bush or plant I can think of to "try " them..as a lot I have never eaten..I have found some that just won't grow here (I have planted paw paws 4 or 5 times, kiwi about the same number, and they just don't want to grow)..probably too cold.

I have some new to me fruits and nuts that I'll be harvesting for the first time this year even with our horrible drought (hazelnuts and medlar..one baby fruit on that one but it was just planted this year). I have planted hundreds of other trees of foods I have never tried, or never grown in the past 41 years on this property, i try to plant at least 20 or 30 trees each year, this year I planted around 100
 
 
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