I have a friend in Lake Elsinore CA (The Farm) community... Who has a ton of Ice Plant right where she wants to develop her food forest. She want to know what she can do with all this ice plant, one of the questions she has is "can I use it in a hugelkulture?"
What other ideas does the community have? How can we put the ice plant to work or cycle this energy?
Oh, my, good old Ice Plant. I remember that stuff from when my family was stationed in Los Angeles in the early 60's.
I would recommend pulling it up and composting, from what I remember it is really more of a weed, used for erosion control along freeways or on berms it is good stuff.
For areas that will grow food supplies it would not be so good, it grows fast and like Bermuda grass it sends out runners, it also self propagates from any point it touches the soil.
It is about as hard to eradicate as Bermuda grass too.
The "leaves" are similar to Aloe Vera in their makeup.
If one wants to compost this plant, it will need to be dried up first by pulling or digging the roots then letting those roots dry out for quite a while before being put into a compost heap. If you don't do that, it will simply start growing in the compost pile and take it over in a year. Another choice would be incineration.
Example: I pulled up at least 150 sq. ft. of the stuff and threw it over the fence into a vacant field behind our house. My mother wanted gardens where it was growing. I did this work in the spring and before summer was going good, there was a new field of Ice Plant growing where my efforts at eradication landed, it spread so fast, that before the summer was over it had doubled the size of the area where it was growing. Fortunately, behind our house was an oil field, and they didn't mind that it was growing where I threw it as I pulled it up. We lived there for about 8 months before being transferred and in that time the area of the "transplanted" Ice Plant at least tripled in area.
I say leave it! Should be a fine ground cover the keep things shaded and cool. It should help with evaporation and reduce water needs. Just plant into it mulch around what you've planted so it gets a good start and may the best plant win(just give your preferred one a some advantage). Make the iceplant part of you successional plan for the food forest. Eventually your guilds will win out or assimilate the iceplant.
Ice Plant, good and bad I recommend you check this site out, there are several species of Ice Plant and some are not so bad, others are listed as noxious weeds (the one I mentioned above falls into this category). This site should help you make an informed decision.
Geoff lawton uses succulents as ground cover, he finds they work very well. It is a method I have copied. I have not yet, however, introduced ice plant due to its tenacious nature.
I do however use many other succulents as ground cover. I try to select ones that fill gaps in my system. Some produce flowers for pollinators at times in the season when other flowers don't. Some provide paddles and fruits for food, some make excellent live borders or even fencing. Some are expensive exotics that self propagate and will become an income stream in the future. There is probably even some shamanic cactus in the mix as well. Some are also good biomass. Some are potted up and given away for holidays, or bartered for other plants. Most are gorgeous!
Used well, succulents become a multifunctional element in a Permie system.
In this example, I agree with Dave. Leave it as your ground cover, one that will protect your soil while other plants get established, then plant your trees and bushes to jump start succession and watch the ice plant die as it gets shaded out. Then replace it with a more appropriate food forest ground cover.
+1 on leaving it. It will be shaded out by succession. Iceplant is a good pioneer for hot, dry, relatively frost-free sites. Besides reducing evaporation, the high water content can help re-radiate stored heat on cold nights better than a dry mulch (water stores heat more efficiently than rock.)