Susanne monroe taqlks of th eplants in a plant forest being too thick she mentions competition for nutrients and sunlight.an dtheswe are important considerations when it comes to growing things but in defese of food forest bedcause i nthink they should be given a chance because it seems to me logical thaqt they could work really well here are a few thoughts. If it is cold and there are frosts the proximity of lots of other plants can help, stop it getting to cold. If you prune a tree in autumn then all the branches you have left may get caught by frosts, if you leave lots of branches only the ones on the colder side get killed by frosts. The long stalks of lavender flowers that stand abouve the bush, help keep frosts off it if you leave them they look untidy. My grandmother said just a thin net can keep the frost of a plant. She got her nylon stckings tied over pears to stop bees getting them. If it is too hot and dry having lots of plants planted close together means they shade each other a bit and so there is a micro climate among them, a cooler more humid air under their leaves and less moisture loss. if you plants alot of seed so that there are no bare spots when the plants are young, then the plants will be puttign out more roots into the soil below ground organic matter and when you pull soem as they get bigger and start to overlap then you will ahve compost. I include a foto of the roots of grass taken in autumn, soon after the grass that had dried in summer started to regrow, so there must be more roots later on, sort of end of October if i remember right, so you can see how much organic matter grass leaves in the earth, how good it is for the soil.
i believe exploring all the natues of different types of food forests is very beneficial if you have the right area to build a forest.
The land i have was once nearly barren..in the far rear was a small aspen forest with a few wild cherry and canadian hemlocks, there was one large oak, 2 more large aspen, 2 box elders, 1 ash, 1 maple, and a few dying fruittrees on the property when we moved in..also a few lilac bushes and some daylillies and iris.
Now after 38 years we live in a clearing amid a forest of huge trees, mostly that i planted..we lost most of the fruit trees over the years and have planted new ones, we removed the box elders that were ready to fall on the house..and have planted every type of tree we could get our hands on.
In the front of our house along the road and along our property lines we have planted a mix of evergreens and deciduous trees, mostly for privacy and dust protection from the road..initially. We have also encourage spreading of the rear forest to where now it covers 4 acres behind our home. We have planted orchards of fruits and nuts, as well as brambles and understory shrubs and trees..We did leave some open area for graizng of the deer, but even that is spotted with evergreen and deciduous trees..and we dug a pond.
Here are a few photos I took yesterday of our property.
this is an understory planting under an adult ash tree..there are amur maples, smoke bush, roses, daylillies, lilacs, elderberry, iris, baptisia, and lots of other plants that surround the ash tree and there is a metal arbor that is covered with 100 year old grape vines to the right of this area.
This is a photo in front of our house by the road..there is an oak that is 36 yeas old i started from an acorn, the baby white pines (i have 3 here that i put in 2 years ago), russian olive, white pine, red pine, cedar, spruce (white and black), maple, aspen, honeysuckle, rose, trumpet vine, grape, bittersweet, woodbine, sweet pea, hydrangeas, and lots and lots of perennials between the fence and the road behind me in the photo..including wild clematis vines as well.
this is a spot next to my front driveway, under a large maple tree. There is woodbine vines and roses all along the fence, the mockorange just finished blooming, there is ivy growing up the maple tree and there is lily of the valley under the aegopodium as well as on the other side of the fence there is black spruce, gooseneck loosestrife, autumn olive, vinca, and wild strawberries.
This area is the only non forested area close to our house..as it is where we have a raised drainfield..circle of lawn..and then around it we have grown dwarf trees, perennials, vines and food crops as well as herbs and we have a greenhouse and 2 sheds around this area as well. There are 4 dwarf cherries, 8 dwarf and one full size apple tree, surrounding this lawn as well as a large catalpa and a large ash tree and a row of black spruce along the fenceline. The beds are mixed with all kinds of shrubs such as spirea, honeysuckle, lilac, weigela, hydrangea, barberry, etc..and hundreds of kinds of perennial plants many of them edible..this area is shaded also by a large maple in our neighbor's property in the late afternoon.
Bloom where you are planted.
Brenda its lovely, I love the white fences tha you that you hav ein america and really pretty flower mixtures. Often flowers have been planted thickly whille lots fo bare earth has been left in vegetable gardens!
I had more to say about food forests or rather i forgot part of it. If you plant thickly then the vegetables should smother weeds so that you have less weeds to pull up not more. If there aren't many nutrients in the soil for that many plants you can put more, but fertiliser costs money. They used to say two men relieving their bladders in the garden in the garden kept a whole family in cabbages. In the end thick planting should create better soils because of all the plants that you thin which out can be put on the compost or sold , and because they fill the soil with roots. i really couldnot plant vegetables, i am really not there often enough. I can however prove how much grass can grow if the vegetacion is given a chance and how good the soils can be. In to many places in the district soil look like the soil i show in the photo i post here.
wow that soil does look bad..(oh by the way..my fences for the most part are not white..they are silver..naturally aged wood, i dont' like to paint, only the railings on my decking and a few other areas get paint)
I plant my vegetables for the most part right in with my other plants..i don't generally segregate them to their own patch..I do have a few areas that are just vegetables and herbs and vines..but genearlly i just poke in my veggie seeds right in my gardens..esp things like summer bush type squashes and cucumbers..they are throughout my gardens wherever i can find a spot for them.
I do have my peas in a row by the greenhouse, with my herbs and some mixed baby salad greens, they are right out my back porc door so i can grab a salad in the morning and have it chilled by lunch..but i do find that most of my crops do better in some shade..that is why they work so well as an understory to the tree, shrub, perennial garden..The large leaves of the squash shade out the weeds and the big blossoms draw in pollinators..
Some of my newer areas of orchard/berry garden..where the plants are still babies..do LESS WELL...as they get TOO much sun..even here in the cooler climate..too much sun is more of a problem than too little sun.
that is why i feel that i'm drawn to forestation of my property, everything does better with a LITTLE shade at least..except the tropicals..the grow in my greenhouse..and the corn ...it has a little sunny spot of its own.
as you can see ..even in the greenhouse the tropicals aren't too happy with the 40 degree nights and the cold cold temps during the day..this is the worst looking crop of tomato plants and peppers i've had in a very long time..and this is also the coldest year in the history of our area in over 30 years..maybe over 60
Bloom where you are planted.
competition is all about balance of resources. sunlight, food and good soil texture.
My Blog, Natural History and Forest Gardening www.dzonoquaswhistle.blogspot.com "Listen everybody, to what I gotta say, there's hope for tomorrow, if we wake up today!" Ted Nugent "Suck Marrow" Henry D Thoreau
Thanks for the valuable info everybody. I was wondering if I should try to dig out the thick Oregon Grape before I start a food forest. Apparently I should. I've noticed that this native Oregon Grape plant choked out all other plants. I need to do some prep work before I start my food forest on my site.
I have plans for fruit trees, bushes of various fruits that will grow here (like blueberries, blackcurrants, gooseberry,blackberries, etc.),herbs,etc.
I have a problem with pocket gophers around here though. Help! What do you do to deter them? A friend last night told me about some solar powered thing that you stick in the earth and it emits some pitch that these fellers don't like.