This past September I purchased 15 acres near Algonquin Park in Ontario (initial site analysis attached). I would like to plan a food forest on the property that can be passively managed as we will not likely reside their on a permanent basis. Ideally, the food forest could support some homestead type hobbies that could be accomplished without tons of active management (e.g. wild fruit/nut trees, berries, food for wildlife to support hunting, stream restoration to support healthy fish populations, wood for crafts/construction projects, etc...).
The property is just south of a cold water lake (90+ft deep in parts) and has frontage along the creek that exits the lake. The property is on the southeast corner of the Algonquin Dome, which is a large dome situated in between the Georgian Bay to the West and the Ottawa Valley to the East. My understanding is that this is a somewhat unique geographical feature that results in warm moist air being blown from the Georgian Bay by the prevailing westerlies. This warm air condenses over the dome and the resulting precipitation forms the headwaters of five major waterways. Having said that, the property is actually quite dry due to it's relative elevation and a sandy podzolic soil.
The property is actually comprised of two separate parcels that are divided by a 4-season recreational trail for hikers, cyclists, horses and ATVs. The property fronting the highway is 4.5 acres and the property fronting the creek is 10.25 acres. The 4 season trail was formerly a railroad that I believe was abandoned in between 1950-1980. If you look closely at the aerial photos, in between the creek and the 4-season trail is a small path. This was formerly the highway, which was later moved to the southwestern edge of the 4.5 acre parcel.
The property has a mix of deciduous and coniferous trees. It is more or less on the edge of two distinct forest ecosystems, northern boreal and southern hardwood. The dominant tree species appear to be sugar maple, birch, balsam fir, white pine and speckled alder. There are smaller numbers of oak, cedar and black cherry.
At this point, my plans are to take full advantage of the old road bed as it accesses the entire 10.25 acre property. This spring I intend to have a shipping container delivered to be used as canoe storage and a small bunkie. I will likely set it up along the creek, which can be easily accessed via the old rd bed. I have also placed orders for the following growies to be planted this spring: stone pine, beech, mulberry, chesnut, hazlenut, highbush blueberry, sour cherry, apple, arctic kiwi, pawpaw and raspberry. The idea is to get a wide variety of things in the ground ASAP to see what does well. I plan on making small clearings around the old road bed for the plantings. I will burn the slash in shallow pits to make biochar and ash, which will be used to amend the planting sites for the more alkaline loving plants. I'm thinking to dig the pits on contour at the planting site to create mini swales.
Any and all feedback would be much appreciated! Let me know if you need additional info.
It looks like you have a very nice patch of ground. Congrats on your biochar plan. You seem to have a good plan. Please don't take this the wrong way, but did you have a specific question or were you just looking for general input. It sounds like you have already put a lot of time and thought into this property and really, I wish you the best of luck with it. I would gladly offer more specific comment, I am afraid I just could not determine what you were looking for. but then I am dense that way.
Thanks for the reply. I'm not looking for anything specific, just a fresh perspective. Has anybody done something similar?
However, if i had to pick a primary concern/issue, it would be with the viableness of my plant establishment plan. Have others planted on sites they don't reside on and don't visit frequently?
I will be there for chunks of time. Like maybe 2 weeks for the initial planting and then a week every other month in the growing season.
For woody plants, I think Edible Forest Gardens mentions something like watering everyday for two weeks, once a week for a month, once a month for a year.
I've also got moose, deer, black bear and wild turkey to deal with. I'm thinking of using some of the slash to make rough fencing around plantings. I've heard deer don't like to walk across horizontal branches.
I find that planting bare roots in fall, allows the root system to get established and in spring when they leave out I don't have to every water.
The smaller the tree the easier it will be to establish a root system spring/fall planted.
You could also plant cheap seedling and then graft. Culling the 50% grafts that didn't perform as expected.
Overall I would say expect 80% to 50% of the transplant to survive. Which to me doesn't sound too bad. I like to plant two trees in each hole. Then hoping that at least 1 survive and if they both survive I might cull the one that didn't do as great.
OK, I understand now. My biggest concern would be your trees getting picked clean by your numerous scavengers. You may need some type of fencing or some type of diversion. Honestly, I am not certain how you are going to deter black bears or moose. The bears will go where they want and eat what they want. Moose are gigantic animals and are terribly stubborn when they have their objective in mind. Is there any possible way to make your food forest somehow seem unpalatable to either bears or moose? I know that hot peppers can deter insects from eating crops, but I have no idea what deters a bear. I am not saying it can't be done, I just don't know what it would be.
These would be my primary concerns, but you have a very nice plan for your future and I am curious to see how it turns out. Please keep us informed.
Also consider the possibility of planting seeds and then grafting onto them in the future with more desirable varieties. https://sheffields.com/ is a source for tree and shrub seeds. I'm currently planting hundreds!
Tyler - what's your process for planting seeds? Do you geminate before planting?
I collected a ton of seeds this past summer on backpacking trips and at the local arboretum. I have shagbark hickory, black walnut, hackberry, Chinese Chestnut, Manchurian walnut and butternut. I also contacted the Geneva Agricultural Experiment Station in NY and they sent me 100 free seeds from the wild Kazakhstan apples they planted.
William - yes, rising waters is definitely something I'm keeping an eye on. Although, the property is pretty high up in the north western end. I've heard from the previous owner that the spring thaw doesn't affect the creek level too much and he had never seen water get near the old rd bed.
It gets much lower towards the south eastern end. I'm thinking that could be harnessed, just not sure how yet. The permaculture designer's manual shows two tree patterns along a creek. One fans out along the flow of the creek and causes flood waters and sediment to be deposited on the floodplain. The other narrows in along the flow of the creek and speeds up the flow resulting in scour holes.
I think the former would be good for trees that can handle periodic flooding (shagbark hickory?) and the latter would be good for fish habitat.
Tyler - i like that strategy a lot. Had any success with it?
I was raised not too far from Maynooth and Lake St. Peter. It's beautiful land but challenging to grow things. Here's some random local insight. I hope some of it will help you with planning!
I am glad you have some higher land. A lot of rivers in that area have flooded in the past few years and done some damage to homes and cottages due to abnormal spring conditions meaning more water than normal needs to be released from dams... and that lake looks like it's dam controlled, which would be why it doesnt usually flood. I have no idea what the creek banks look like but you may consider planting willow to stabilize it in case of flood? We had a friend lose a good portion of her lot, and almost her house a few years ago.
The farmers market on Saturdays in Maynooth is surprisingly busy with lots of local and often organic produce. Most people there are quite friendly and like to talk. Someone there may have suggestions for good varieties to try. Combermere's Madonna house raises much of their own food and has for decades. I heard they scoured old homesteads collecting local apple varieties and grafted them to some special cold tolerant apple rootstock. They might be interesting to talk to and have an open house day and tours. There are a few localish nurseries that specialize in cold tolerant plants. I haven't bought from them but wanted to - golden bough tree farm and the hardy fruit tree nursery come to mind.
I grew up north of there in a cold valley. We had no success with anything not rated for zone 3 and several years had 2 straight weeks it wouldn't rise above -30C. Summers can get quite hot(30-35 C +and very humid) although the nights tend to be cooler. The last few years have had long fire bans due to lack of rain. Keep in mind when looking at varieties that there are differences between Canada's system for agricultural zoning and the American one. We had moderate success with the University of Saskatchewan sour cherries, and with saskatoons, grapes, currants, and goose berries- they grew but the birds got most of them. Strawberries and rhubarb did well. Never bothered to plant raspberries, blackberries, or blueberries as they are abundant in the wild. Zone 4 and 5 rated apples, grapes, and cherries died, as did many zone 4 and 5 perennials. They would live for a few years them die off affer a bad winter or a bad drought. We would have had more success if our soil was deeper and if we had mulched or fertilized prior to planting. Our soil was 10-50cm of orange brown silty sand with a scant few cm of topsoil, over bedrock. I only saw a moose twice but there are LOTS of deer , wild turkeys, and some black bears. We didn't have a deer problem and never fenced anything but we had dogs. Locals say the deer tend to spend the summers in the uplands and move down to the valleys to eat cedar and pine and have shelter from the wind in winter. Maybe try planting both in the uplands and in the valley?
That trail is likely to be very busy with ATVS in the summer and snowmobiles in the winter. I walked ATV trails occasionally or skied them but you have to be ready to jump off in a hurry. The ATVs/snowmobilers pay to maintain the trails and definitely think they have right of way. Definitely find a good lock for your shipping container and maybe try to keep it, any outhouse you build, and trails to it hidden from the trail. It's also a big hunting area so wear orange if you are out walking in the fall even on your own land. This is cottage country so the highways are often stop and go traffic north on Friday nights and south on Sundays during the summer.
Oh! And if you go in May and June bring a bug net, hat, and clothing that covers you completely including gloves and pants tucked into socks Blackflies like running water and bug spray isn't much help.
Good luck Kacy! I hope to see photos and updates in the next few years-especially about what grows. A lot of the things on your trial list are things I wanted to try when I lived there. It sounds like a great project.
Ok good glad you are prepared!!! And yes, I am from the Valley.
Definitely don't lose hope on the apples. Ours were common varieties from a big box store and failed but I did know of some old trees scattered about. With the right root stock and variety you should be okay, you may just need to try a few. I found stuff my dad bought from a box store failed and stuff I ordered bare root or bought from someone local tended to live.
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