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New; ?s about light requirements

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Hi all, I've recently acquired my own land, and suddenly, I find myself needing to recall all of the random bits of permaculture information that I've read over the past 15 years (not nearly enough, of course).

Here's my setup: 4 acre lot, facing east, Northeastern Ohio (zone 5, temperate).  House sits back from the road about 250 ft. amid some old fashion hosta/daffodil/lilac beds and juniper trees.  The whole front 3/4 acre is dominated by a single old silver maple, a bradford pear and a series of 5 year old swamp oaks along the road (the tallest is maybe 10 feet).  There is lots of room for some beds; both dappled shade and full sun.  I would love some interplantings focused on some edible fruit and nut trees (gardens will be in back of the house), but I'm having trouble finding info about what sorts of plants I can use that can handle low light.  Most of the fruit trees that I read about in catalogs, it is assumed that they will be grown in a full day sunlight orchard-type setting.  However, when I look at permaculture designs, I often see fruit trees (dwarf) growing as understory trees. 

I also have a southern border (Northern shade - along the entire property) that is full sized trees (maples and oaks mostly - our property borders 9 backyard neighbors). I'd love to find some plants that would be productive in this circumstance, as well as providing a privacy screen.

What is a good resource for learning about the cultural requirement of different plants that one might use in the midwestern US? 

Any suggestions as to where to get started with permaculture (I've read so many different reviews on forest gardening and Gaia's garden, but I'd love more info).
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Location: North Central Michigan
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most fruit trees grow quite well as an understory if there is dappled might need to limb up some of the taller trees to get a little sun in but it should be fine..esp if you use dwarfs or semidwarfs.

i have a similiar situation as yours with our house set back from the road but also have a garage near the road..i've been working on my property for many years..

if you would like to get ideas you may look at photos on my blog (see signature) or on my facebook photo albums
Brenda Kay Groth on facebook
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Thanks for the reply.  I mapped out the front of the property yesterday and there is more open space/sun than I thought (much of it is under some power lines).  I'm excited to look into your blog and I found that our local library had Gaia's Garden, which I'm enjoying.

Thanks again,
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Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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How to learn about cultural requirements of different plants?  Wow... that's a good question.  I once talked with a local plantsman... Arthur Lee Jacobson... he said he wanted to become a rennaisance man, so he started learning about plants, and he never got on the the next thing...

Some ideas.. not in any particular order...

Talk to old gardeners
Collect and compare information from lots of different books
Read about local forest ecology
Ask questions about specific plants on bulliten boards
Visit arboretums to see what older specimens look like
Try to find a good gourmet garden center to gab with folks
Talk to nursery people who grow stuff
Research what you like to eat
Find out where the plant is native too and how it grows there
Plants for a future database online (with grain of salt)
Read catalogs, then ask questions
Ask people 'how do you know that?'

There is a difference between surviving in shade, yielding in shade, and thriving in shade.

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