• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education skip experiences global resources cider press projects digital market permies.com pie forums private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • Anne Miller
  • Pearl Sutton
  • r ranson
stewards:
  • Mike Haasl
  • paul wheaton
  • Dave Burton
master gardeners:
  • John F Dean
  • jordan barton
  • Carla Burke
  • Leigh Tate
gardeners:
  • Steve Thorn
  • Greg Martin
  • Jay Angler

Dense Vs. Wide Spacing in Food Forests

 
gardener
Posts: 1028
Location: Western Washington
267
duck forest garden personal care rabbit bee homestead
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Over the years I've heard a lot of conflicting views on whether or not to space things close together or far apart, in a permaculture food forest/forest garden system. What is people's take on this? I've always opted for more space rather than less but have a lot of plants on hand that I'm trying to pack into a small-ish space this year. The site has good soil and plenty of sun
 
pollinator
Posts: 335
Location: NE Slovenia, zone 6b
62
dog forest garden books cooking bike bee medical herbs homestead
  • Likes 7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Could depend on the climate also... My experience has been that planting close together led to problems with moisture-related disease (on apple and quince trees) so I'm in favor of leaving plenty of space (as a rough measure, the expected height of the tree). And that's why our food forest is more of a food savanna - or in less modern terms, a meadow orchard.
 
James Landreth
gardener
Posts: 1028
Location: Western Washington
267
duck forest garden personal care rabbit bee homestead
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
That's a good point. My climate has dry summers and not a lot of issues with those kinds of diseases. We do have canker from winter rain
 
pollinator
Posts: 519
Location: the mountains of western nc
126
forest garden trees foraging chicken food preservation cooking wood heat homestead
  • Likes 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
closer spacing of trees also closes the canopy sooner and doesn’t let as much light in for the lower layers in the forest garden.
 
Posts: 121
Location: Denia, Alicante, Spain. Zone 10. 22m height
29
  • Likes 10
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My 2 cents:

Plant small and dense. See how it grows. Prune and/or eliminate as you see how it evolves.

This way, you increase your chances and see what goes better in your soil and weather.

If you are up for adventure, make seed cocktails with tons of different seeds, this way you will see what thrives there
 
pollinator
Posts: 185
Location: Middle Georgia, Zone 8B
75
homeschooling home care chicken food preservation cooking fiber arts
  • Likes 7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Antonio Hache wrote:My 2 cents:

Plant small and dense. See how it grows. Prune and/or eliminate as you see how it evolves.



This is what I was thinking too. I've seen people who planted two varieties of apple trees in the same hole, so they'd be extra sure of proper pollination. Then they let them grow and prune them as if they were one tree. As far as I could tell, both trees looked healthy, shaped well, and bore good quality fruit.
 
master steward & author
Posts: 22569
Location: Left Coast Canada
6563
3
books chicken cooking fiber arts sheep writing
  • Likes 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I always forget that trees grow bigger and put everything too close together so there's no sun getting in at the lower plants.  

But every climate is different, so maybe look at what nature is doing in your neck of the woods and use that as a starting place for plant spacing.  
 
pollinator
Posts: 768
Location: NW California, 1500-1800ft,
171
hugelkultur dog duck
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think where I am now where heat, wind and sun can be over abundant, tight spacing is better for shading soil sooner, and in these places the understory still gets plenty of light for a lot of things. In western Washington or at my old place near the coast of NW CA, I’d spread things out more to allow airflow and light penetration.
 
steward
Posts: 10423
Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
2986
3
hunting trees books food preservation solar woodworking
  • Likes 12
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I take some cues from the wild forests in my area.  I'll often see 5 mature maple trees enjoying each other's company with their trunks a few feet apart.  So I tend to cluster my overstory trees along the north side of an area so that the understory trees/shrubs/plants can be to the south of them in the sun.
 
James Landreth
gardener
Posts: 1028
Location: Western Washington
267
duck forest garden personal care rabbit bee homestead
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
It's pretty hot and dry here in the summer (it's in the 90's and 100's for weeks on end some summers). I'm thinking of trying a denser spacing. I can always take stuff out or prune I guess!
 
pollinator
Posts: 224
47
duck forest garden chicken cooking building
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Stacie Kim wrote:I've seen people who planted two varieties of apple trees in the same hole, so they'd be extra sure of proper pollination. Then they let them grow and prune them as if they were one tree. As far as I could tell, both trees looked healthy, shaped well, and bore good quality fruit.



Some nurseries and big box stores even sell trees like that - the two trunks literally twisted together. I bought one about four years ago, and the two distinct trees planted together seems to be doing about as well as any of the other trees I planted solo.

James Landreth wrote:Over the years I've heard a lot of conflicting views on whether or not to space things close together or far apart, in a permaculture food forest/forest garden system. What is people's take on this? I've always opted for more space rather than less but have a lot of plants on hand that I'm trying to pack into a small-ish space this year. The site has good soil and plenty of sun



It depends on what you're trying to do. I'm pruning my trees to keep them small, and got dwarf varieties, so I have mine planted closer together than normal, with the intention that this also helps keep their growth constrained. I plant mine about ten feet apart, but sometimes as little as seven feet.

I want all my trees (except nut trees*) to basically be entirely within hand-picking range from the ground. I'm 6'2", so I can basically reach 8 ft high, so I don't want any of my trees taller than ten feet, max. I plant dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties, but I also plant standard varieties and just prune them to stay small. My orchard is still young (five years), so we'll see how it goes long-term.

*I've heard nut trees won't produce if kept small - so I let the nut trees grow naturally.

Crt Jakhel wrote:Could depend on the climate also... My experience has been that planting close together led to problems with moisture-related disease (on apple and quince trees) so I'm in favor of leaving plenty of space (as a rough measure, the expected height of the tree).



What do you mean by "close together"? What does James Landreth mean by "close together"? We're using vague terms. =P

My trees are ~8-10 ft apart, and even when older, they won't ever touch each other (except through their roots). I consider that to be close, because several neighbors have stopped by to say, "Well, I've never seen trees planted that close together", but that may not be what you or James considers 'close'. =)
 
James Landreth
gardener
Posts: 1028
Location: Western Washington
267
duck forest garden personal care rabbit bee homestead
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I consider "close" to be anything closer than conventional spacing, which in my area is:


Standards: 20-30 feet
Semi-dwarves: 12-15 feet
Dwarves: 8-12 feet, sometimes listed as as close as 5

Shrubs: 5-10 feet
 
Jamin Grey
pollinator
Posts: 224
47
duck forest garden chicken cooking building
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

James Landreth wrote:I consider "close" to be anything closer than conventional spacing, which in my area is:


Standards: 20-30 feet
Semi-dwarves: 12-15 feet
Dwarves: 8-12 feet, sometimes listed as as close as 5

Shrubs: 5-10 feet



Ah, then I'm absolutely planting "close" by those standards. I plant my Standards, Semi-dwarves, and Dwarves at about 10 ft apart, average. Sometimes more like 15 for standards, sometimes more like 8 for dwarfs. But I prune mine so they stay below 7-8 ft tall (I rarely have to do any pruning work at all - one day's pruning work every other year, so far, but we'll see how things go as the orchard matures - mine is still young).

This probably explains why you've heard a lot of conflicting views on optimal spacing - it's at least partially dependent on how the trees are pruned. Some people let the trees grow naturally - 20 ft or more into the air. Others prune them, and keep them under 15 feet. Some prune them under 10 feet, some prune them human-reachable-height. Others prune them to be shrub-like bushes only three feet tall (popular in Japan).

I wouldn't want the trees planted close together and unpruned to the extent that they rub against each other and get diseased.

 
Ben Zumeta
pollinator
Posts: 768
Location: NW California, 1500-1800ft,
171
hugelkultur dog duck
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I like Mike Haasl’s approach of having clumps of canopy trees on the north side of understory shrubs and smaller trees. This reflects the banana/palm circle approach in the Designer’s Manual, which seems like it could be useful anywhere excessive sun and evaporation are a bigger problem than humidity exacerbated disease. The Apple-nitrogen fixator-plum pattern (or some other similar alternating cycle of trees for your area) also seems to help nutrient cycling and disease mitigation.

This debate seems to reflect a similar variety of approaches in what I’ve seen around various grape growing areas. Some older vineyards that were put into replace apples or walnuts fifty years ago still have row spacing based on the tractor size of the apple grower (10x8ft). Their vines are very vigorous due to a lack of competition and space to spread out, and seem less prone to mildew and botrytis than the newer, French style. These grapes get planted at 3x6ft or less, with smaller tractors to suit this intensive style that produces less fruit but of supposedly higher quality for wine due to competition causing deeper rooting and more complex mineral uptake. The French style also seems better suited for the changing climate that is getting hotter and drier in the Willamette valley, but it costs more to start more canes and prune them to manage the tight spacing.
 
pollinator
Posts: 2352
Location: 4b
598
dog forest garden trees bee building
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think it depends what you mean by "things".  I think most people put their trees too close together, but then don't plant enough support species.  I know I have done that very thing.    I don't want a closed canopy and I would like to avoid cutting down trees that I planted and grew for 6 or 7 years, so I'm spacing trees farther apart now.

With other layer species, as well as support species, all bets are off.  I plant all sorts of things, most very close together, and let them sort it out.  Lots of my bushes and such are native plants that I thin from areas on my land that they grow themselves.  Nature thins it trees, bushes, and smaller plants anyway as they grow, so if I remove some and put them in an area I want them, I don't believe it harms anything.  You can plant an awful lot of plants for no cost other than your time if you propagate from other plants that grow naturally on or near your own land.

I do tend to clump some of my trees as Mike said.  I do the same with bushes and smaller plants.  In nature I see things growing that way.  Flowers often grow in drifts, and obviously most plants propagate themselves in one area and spread, so I try to do the same.  Certain species like mint you may want to be careful with.  They can take over an area pretty easily.  I still plant lots of it, it's just something to be aware of.  I figure nature will take care of most of the mistakes I make.
 
Posts: 18
Location: Dordogne, France
1
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We're in a temperate climate which is very wet in the spring.  At our first property we planted our forest garden trees 20ft apart.  After 13 years we felt that they were too close together.  At our new place we are going for a minimum of 25ft.  In the book Edible Forest Gardens vol 1 (Jacke & Toensmeier) there is a section on Vegetation Density which discusses canopy and root spacing in great detail.
 
pollinator
Posts: 131
55
forest garden fungi trees
  • Likes 14
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

In the book Edible Forest Gardens vol 1 (Jacke & Toensmeier) there is a section on Vegetation Density which discusses canopy and root spacing in great detail.


Also in Volume 2 of their Edible Forest Gardens book set, Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier note on page 301 that:

Overly dense spacing is the biggest, most common mistake we've seen in forest garden design in all our travels.  People seem to think we want to mimic forests in all ways, including their high density, but this isn't necessarily true.  Dense spacing leads to high competition for light, water, and nutrients.


They recommend starting with the "Crowns Touching Rule" and then adjusting from there based off goals.

CROWNS TOUCHING RULE...

Spacing between plantings = (D1+D2)/2

Where "D" is the respective plant species' mature crown diameter.


Use the rule when:
  • light is the limiting factor
  • individual plant productivity is the goal
  • you don't want 100% shade

  • Go wider if:
  • Soil is limiting factor/list]
    [list]Root patterns are similar
  • You need more sunlight for plants below

  • Go closer if:
  • Different rooting patterns
  • Weed control is priority
  • You intend on thinning plants later

  • Crowns-Touching-Rule.png
    Initial planting distance rule of thumb
    Initial planting distance rule of thumb
     
    Posts: 96
    Location: near Dutton, Ontario - Zone 6a
    12
    homeschooling kids forest garden foraging books writing
    • Likes 3
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
      Number of slices to send:
      Optional 'thank-you' note:
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    I think the post above this one is the absolute best answer, because it gives you what you need to make the decision yourself.

    The one thing I'll add, which I didn't notice anyone saying so far, is the importance of factoring in how you'll be maintaining the area between the trees. Some options include:

    1. Let the existing foliage get long - this is not always welcome by neighbours, and has led me into trouble in the past. It also can lead to difficulty in harvest.
    2. Mowing - Either short term until you have planted an area, or perhaps you will leave grassy paths and only plant right under the trees. Leave at least enough space to get between the trees with your size of mower/scythe when the trees are mature.
    3. Field plantings - I tend to use the Crowns touching rule, as above, but then between rows, where I will have animals grazing and/or cut hay, I size it to either one or two widths of the haying equipment. For me, this is 25-50'.

    Also - in early years, if you are converting lawns, as many of us do, you'll want to make it so you can mow around mulch rings, if you are not able to get the groundcover layer in the first year (which, let's be honest, is how real life often works!) Even if you only mow once or twice a season, and especially if someone other than the planter will be mowing, this is a crucial thing to consider! (Also - little flags to mark trees for the person mowing, in case the mulch isn't on yet, can protect your smaller trees/shrubs from the blade!)

     
    Posts: 12
    • Likes 2
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
      Number of slices to send:
      Optional 'thank-you' note:
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Nice discussion on tree cultivation.  I live in SW Missouri and here we are blessed (or cursed) with black walnuts.  If one has an anvil and a 3 lb hammer extracting the fruit--quite tasty--is no problem.  Surely there are less troublesome techniques.  Good eats as they say.  However all members of the Juglans family produce a toxin which slow or stops the growth of many plants--tomatoes being one of them.  Ouch!  Oh, the less challenging English Walnut is equipped similarly to indigenous black walnut but much easier to crack the shells.  Some oaks and sassafras produce jugalone as well.  So depending on location there may be some real challenges.     My slice of heaven on earth is composed of rocks, clay and many walnut trees (90+feet) such that I use bunk feeders to elevate my "garden" (rabbits hate me)  and have a herd of worms that defecate fertilizer.  Also I am getting old and levitating myself off the knees is near impossible.  Just be aware of some trees. Be Well. jj
     
    Posts: 17
    Location: NE Washington State
    3
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
      Number of slices to send:
      Optional 'thank-you' note:
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Thank you, George, for your 'place to start' info and Rob for the advice about planning in advance what one will do with the ground under the trees. I am just starting to plant trees on my property and it is a bit overwhelming!
     
    Ben Zumeta
    pollinator
    Posts: 768
    Location: NW California, 1500-1800ft,
    171
    hugelkultur dog duck
    • Likes 4
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
      Number of slices to send:
      Optional 'thank-you' note:
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Great post George, a helpful visual and formula. If not relying on heavy equipment, more beneficial ecological edges can be created with staggered (checkerboard), or other non-linear patterns. Gaia's Garden (Toby Hemenway) is another great reference on patterning for edge. It also provides Walnut planting guild suggestions--plants that tolerate or even benefit from Walnuts and buffer their negative effects for sensitive plants.

    Resource base is another consideration for spacing, in addition to climate and equipment intended for maintenance of your food forest. Capital of all kinds, financial, natural, social, time, knowledge, physical ability and talents, labor help from family or neighbors, or the lack thereof, all can influence decisions on spacing and other general design approaches.

    Tighter spacing is generally going to be more labor intensive for pruning, as it will usually require hand work. On the other hand, weeds, nutrient and moisture loss will be mitigated by shade from the trees more quickly. This makes understory plantings eventually need shade tolerance, and this generally rules out fruiting plants in all but the sunniest spots. Tight spacing also brings more costs or work to obtain planting stock. If using the Holzer method of spreading juice pressing mash that is then mulched, the cost can be minimal and we can get site adapted (landrace) new cultivars or root stock. This will inevitably add some time to the process, and will require thinning out for the best tree in any given spot. Time allowing, this can be used to one's benefit, as trees removed can be easily dug up and separated in their first year though. We have well over a hundred apple seedlings from cider mash heeled in for planting around the property once our earthworks are ready. Plus we'll have many more to give away and account for loss/weak genetics. I plan to make juice with any local fruit I can get my hands on over the next year, and use the mash for site selected trees, digging up all but the best suited tree for any given site and heeling them into a nursery bed for future distribution.

    Wider spacing will be less expensive for trees to start with, and allow them to get bigger and not require as much pruning or thinning. It will also lead to less fungal disease due to air flow, and brix will rise more quickly over the season. This is not always desirable, as it correlates with inferior flavor, less complex acid formation, and lower nutrient density in some fruits, like Pinot Noir grapes. Soil erosion, as well as moisture and nutrient loss will also be greater with more soil unprotected by shade and leaf deflection of rain for the earlier years. This could be compensated by cover crops or mulch (organic ideally, I would strongly recommend against plastic, with evidence and experience to back my reasoning), and that can be done much more easily with the heavy equipment wide spacing allows for.

    Ultimately wider spaced, larger trees are going to have the greatest ecological, climate temperating, and hydrologically beneficial effect. Even though I will be starting with tight clumps of seedling trees in many places, and often plant bare-root semi-dwarf 9-12ft apart, standards 15ft apart, my ultimate goal will be to have full sized standard trees on the north (poleward) side of any clearings in our native conifer forest, with successively smaller trees and shrubs going south. With many steep south and southeast facing slopes, we can also go with slightly tighter spacing than flatland because the light penetrates more, and this will help reduce erosion and leaching with more leaf cover and roots in the ground.

    I didn't mean to write such a long post, but I didn't have time to write a shorter one!
     
    gardener
    Posts: 4236
    Location: Pacific Wet Coast
    1560
    duck books chicken cooking food preservation ungarbage
    • Likes 2
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
      Number of slices to send:
      Optional 'thank-you' note:
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Great information everyone! I'm currently trying to decide on a small planting area, so it was good to read what people are thinking works in their eco-systems.

    I have "plants I consider valuable" and plants I can root easily so I consider them "disposable". Last year I planted an apple tree, and I needed it to not encroach on an on-farm road, so I was careful to consider its maximum possible width. However, with our summer droughts, I don't find things like apple trees achieve their "maximum potential" in general, so do take that into the calculation. However, I did want it to have a friend, so I planted a Seaberry to go with. I *know* the Seaberry is too close - pretty much the "plant in the same hole" concept. But Seaberry is a suckering plant that many find can be invasive in fact, so I'm quite prepared to prune it to the ground if I need to, or if it puts out a sucker further from the apple, chop down the original and let its sucker take over its role (N2 fixer - but if I ever see any fruit, I'm on it! Not counting on that as I happen to believe it's a boy!) However, I happened to spend good money last spring on two varieties of female Seaberries. Those are going in the ground with *much* more consideration for spacing, sunlight, and early care.

    The current planting plan I'm working on is beside a driveway. I'm prepared to plant a little close and simply prune lower branches if need be. I won't have to worry if the fruit is high up, as I know I can safely put my orchard ladder on the road way. My decision would be different in a different location.

    My point is that even within the same "design", many of the factors people have mentioned may influence the spacing.
     
    James Landreth
    gardener
    Posts: 1028
    Location: Western Washington
    267
    duck forest garden personal care rabbit bee homestead
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
      Number of slices to send:
      Optional 'thank-you' note:
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator

    Jay Angler wrote:Great information everyone! I'm currently trying to decide on a small planting area, so it was good to read what people are thinking works in their eco-systems.

    I have "plants I consider valuable" and plants I can root easily so I consider them "disposable". Last year I planted an apple tree, and I needed it to not encroach on an on-farm road, so I was careful to consider its maximum possible width. However, with our summer droughts, I don't find things like apple trees achieve their "maximum potential" in general, so do take that into the calculation.  




    Just as an aside, I'm finding (just to the south of you) that standards and big semi dwarves reach full potential after establishment. Dwarf trees, not so much. Not sure what rootstock you have or what other conditions you have, just thought I'd share. Some things are very hard to get established these days, with how hot and dry it's been the last few years.
     
    Jay Angler
    gardener
    Posts: 4236
    Location: Pacific Wet Coast
    1560
    duck books chicken cooking food preservation ungarbage
    • Likes 2
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
      Number of slices to send:
      Optional 'thank-you' note:
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator

    James Landreth wrote:

    Jay Angler wrote:Great information everyone! I'm currently trying to decide on a small planting area, so it was good to read what people are thinking works in their eco-systems.

    I have "plants I consider valuable" and plants I can root easily so I consider them "disposable". Last year I planted an apple tree, and I needed it to not encroach on an on-farm road, so I was careful to consider its maximum possible width. However, with our summer droughts, I don't find things like apple trees achieve their "maximum potential" in general, so do take that into the calculation.  


    Just as an aside, I'm finding (just to the south of you) that standards and big semi dwarves reach full potential after establishment. Dwarf trees, not so much. Not sure what rootstock you have or what other conditions you have, just thought I'd share. Some things are very hard to get established these days, with how hot and dry it's been the last few years.

    I've got a mix of "planted by former owners so who knows what they are" and planted by me. My impression is that:
    1. I grow rocks *really* well, and those are limiting the roots - I'm trying to dig holes feet away from trees that are struggling, pull out as many rocks as possible, and replace mostly with punky wood. I did that near a prune plum tree and it's happiness quotient went way up. I try to go far enough, but not too far, that the tree's roots are encouraged to spread.
    2. My limiting factor is sunshine, and frequently what's blocking the sun is cedar. Both of those also limit what I can expect a tree to do!
    3. I do agree that given long enough, some shrubs I planted finally start to take off, but it seems to take years to at least a decade. I will do a certain amount of babying - STUN would just kill them outright and I don't have enough open space to go that route. In general though, I try to do the minimum care, as I need them to adapt to my ecosystem and not need the kind of care most people give their "landscapes".
     
    Posts: 2
    • Likes 1
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
      Number of slices to send:
      Optional 'thank-you' note:
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    We are in Thailand have now an 6 hectares 8 year old tropical dry forest from what once was a ricefield. We have a mix of allowing nature to plant itself ie rewilding and introducing trees a lot of fruit trees, shrubs and plants the layered food forest dream.

    After our 8 years of experience of planting and caring for our food forest and trees I would do things sligthly different and I do.

    Now I plan more spacing between main fruit trees. Work more in alleycrop type systems. Dedicate rows to support trees, shrub and herb species that are mainly there to give mulch. A bit more linear and plant a few things at a time not to much diversity. Good to add as there is an opening to do so. Also now as I understand the seasons and land better if we open a new piece of land tend to create swale type trenches or donuts around trees to harvest water. I always set up irrigation now if i plant production trees. As we have extended dry season.

    I do think it being dense is not necessarily bad. One observation is that now we have a lot of leaf litter ie mulch or compost carbon material.

    That being said we are at a point that our food forest is pretty dense and is affecting negatively production in places. It does effect the other layers if there is too much shade.

    One way we deal with it is that by planting coffee and cacoa, ferns, pepper vines etc as layered shade tolerant/living species.

    The other solution is heavy pruning which we intent do before next rainy season. Besides our chop and drop regularly. Now we are at a stage where we actually have to cut down trees that are pretty big. We will coppice them so that we can keep harvesting biomass from them. This will open up space for our prioritised elements, feed more biomass to the soil etc. Also to create pockets of lights. Open spaces in your forest are good in my feeling then it is about planting some desired groundcovers.

    Tend to use chainsaw more and more. Have shredder/chipper and now also invested in hedge cutter. This all to speed up the processing.

    One important thing to take into account when designing is your time and management/maintenance of it all. Also good to draw it out clearly and talk to people with experience in your area if you can find them.


     
    Richard Cleaver
    Posts: 18
    Location: Dordogne, France
    1
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
      Number of slices to send:
      Optional 'thank-you' note:
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Hi Tom,

    Your experience seems very similar to our own in south west France.  After 15 years, our motto is 'it's better to plant too wide than too dense'!  You can always fill in any gaps later.  It's heart breaking if you have to cut down a tree you planted 10 years ago.
     
    Posts: 66
    Location: Chon Buri Thailand Zone 11-12
    29
    forest garden fish plumbing chicken pig
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
      Number of slices to send:
      Optional 'thank-you' note:
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Hi Tom,

    true words and as Thai I have seen it all.

    My Will is also (expat) focusing on shade, but then on esthetic and biodiversity, density, fruits and crops and so on and I had to explain him that a farm is no Nong Nooch Park where he wants clipping and tuning all day long.

    Especially in tropical climate I always recommend, know your plant before you plant it and give it always a couple of feet more as the crown/roots might spread. (Most Trees in Thailand have a balanced size and the crown diameter shows the spread of the roots)

    The dense "companion planting" method does not really work especially when it comes to pests.
    As you know, they are in Thailand in abundance all year long and they will find your tree as much you try to hide it.

    A good but slightly open canopy is more useful as it has e better cleaning effect when one of our all of a sudden thunderstorms with amounts of rain comes down, that no high pressure cleaner can match with.

    Put this advantage in teamwork with some guinea fowls, ducks, chicken and provide some ground cover, ponds for predator, toad and Co and will realize that the fast invading pests will be fast invaded by predators.

    But by own experience is a dense canopy not so important as a dense ground cover and nothing is more helpful as a massive rain pour that can reach the entire tree crown...
    It washes off the Insects, prunes dead leaves and small branches and removes dust....
    If your troops are waiting below none of them (if not drowned before) will make it back into your trees.  

    Somebody mentioned Pigs as fruit collectors.
    I posted one too under Pigs...
    ...Pigs, make sure that the fruit trees are protected by a fence, most tropical pigs (or those with tropical experience) will certainly root beside the fruit tree first because of the tasty juicy roots...
    gift
     
    Unofficial Companion Guide to the Rocket Oven DVD
    will be released to subscribers in: soon!
    reply
      Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
    • New Topic