Seth Christian

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since Mar 19, 2013
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Recent posts by Seth Christian

A few things come up for me Laurie from your original question. The first is food forest vs. super guilds, which are two different ideas with some similarities but some important differences. In the PNW, think about what a climax or old growth forest looks like. The emergent layer is going to be W. Red Cedar, W. Hemlock and a lesser assortment of other evergreens like firs, spruce, pine etc, while the canopy will be smaller, more shade tolerant species (vine maple, douglas maple, crab apple, ash etc) and an understory of shrubs (salmon berry, devils club, thimble berry, huckleberry etc), ground covers (oregon grape, salal, kinickinick, winter berry, etc. This is what the area looked like pre logging. The process of natural succession is trying to move towards this mix of trees, shrubs, ground covers etc. It is only large scale disturbances (natural or human caused) that prevents most grassland areas from reverting back to this. The other things about climax forests is that the canopy is rarely as uniform as what your woodlot is probably like. I would guess is it was logged in the last 100 years and the trees that have grown up and are in primary or secondary succession. In a climax forest there are a lot more breaks in the canopy, allowing sunlight to reach the forest floor and plant diversity will just explode.

It is this process of maximizing yield from all the different layers that a food forest tries to mimic. Super guilds on the other hand are more akin to a managed orchard. The natural process of succession is being interrupted in order to grow species that are more domesticated or in need of the clearings and sunlight found in the earlier stages of succession and a lot fruit and nut trees fall into this category. There is still more utilization of the different layers (ie understory, shrub, ground cover, root, vine) than your typical monocrop orchard, but without a canopy or emergent layer, it can't really be considered a food forest. If you don't intervene, nature will fill that void.

Rather than being attached to the words, just go with what feels right. If you want an super guild "orchard" do it. It wont be a food forest per se, but it doesn't have to be. It would just be your zone 2. If you want to have a food forest, you could start working on adding edible, medicinal, fiber etc plants into the understory of your woodlot. There are a lot of plants (and NW natives to boot) that are suited to the lower light levels you find there. Designing a food forest is about understanding succession and trying to mimic the existing forest but with more useful species, its really just filling all the niches. There is some interesting research being done that shows that our native Gary Oak ecosystem was highly managed....a version of a native food forest if you will. Gotta run, hope this helps. Good luck!
7 years ago