Episode-1251- Food Forest Questions and Answers – Part One

Last week I did a show called Food Forestry and How it Actually Works.  If you didn’t listen to it you, you might want to do so before listening to this show.   The reason being is that this show is a direct result of questions that I asked the audience to send me at the end of that show.  Hence much of what was covered there I will be assuming you have already heard today.

The reality is a food forest is both simple and quite complex at the same time.  The complexity is based on the system that develops, the massive numbers of interrelationships and the fungal networks, guilds, etc that are formed.

However, nature does that, on our end it is really simple.

  1. Plan for sufficient irrigation or drought proofing to get it off the ground
  2. Include plantings for the 7 layers of the system, focus on trees but not trees alone
  3. Provide diversity, if you plant 7 apples in a forest, plant 7 cultivars for example and many other trees like plumbs, peaches, cherries, persimmons, etc.
  4. Focus on what you can grow, not what you can’t grow
  5. Include a lot of support trees, chop and drop them heavily
  6. Let nature do most of the work

In the end it is really that simple.  Here are where problems come up.  People look at the work done in Australia and focus on the fact that they use tropical and sub tropical plants.  WELL OF COURSE THEY DO, they are in the tropics and sub tropics.  If you are in cool temperate, just use species that do well there, etc.

Let me be clear for every person that says, “my land is to steep” (generally it isn’t even close to too steep but if you have a cliff face, yea, you can’t make that work), someone else says, my land is too flat.  For every person that says they are in a cold climate, someone else says they are in a warm one and both see it as a problem.  Let me put it this way, if you live where trees grow, you can plant a food forest.  Now if you are in the tundra or on the salt flats of a desert, you have a problem, for the rest of you, trust nature and focus on what grows well where you are.

Join Me Today As I Answer Your Questions Including…

  • Back yard food forests in suburbia
  • Dealing with eastern and western slopes
  • Building a system with longevity beyond your own years
  • Production from a forest beyond fruits and nuts
  • Why your backyard is better than you think it is
  • When guerrilla food forestry makes sense and when it doesn’t
  • Forest concepts that support bees
  • Why do we success out nitrogen fixing trees, do any remain in the final system
  • How to make your tree planting more economical
  • Determining your support tree to productive tree ratios
  • Growing vine based crops in a food forest
  • Conversion of existing polyculture orchards to more of a permaculture model
  • Converting partially wooded lots from native to food forest systems

Resources for today’s show…

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24 Responses to Episode-1251- Food Forest Questions and Answers – Part One

  1. In a backyard situation, is the insect issue a problem that can’t really be dealt with by spacing? It makes sense what you talk about by basically controlling pest problems with different plantings between trees.

    I have planted 25 trees in our backyard somewhat based on the ideas laid out at deepgreenpermaculture.com (he was in one of Lawton’s videos). I have a variety of apples, plums, cherries, peaches, and pears, but I put them in rows of each type. The rows are my pseudo-swales. Our backyard has a grade going down the mountain, so I don’t really need to dig to control the water as much as setup berms to trap it and direct it.

    Anyway, my thinking at the time was pollination. Certain apples pollinate better with other varieties, and from what I was reading, you didn’t want your pollinators spread too far from each other, or chances are greatly reduced that the same bug would find the right match. So my thought was to simply have all the apples together, all the plums together, etc. With the heavy pruning they will get, the trees, I think, will have a smaller number of blooms, making the pollination situation a bit more vital. Tree spacing in each row is only 4 feet, and 6 feet between the rows.

    In that situation is pest problems really avoidable?

  2. Jack great points about “grass is always greener”. Regarding citrus I wrote a blog post about us planting 7 citrus trees in our front yard (in mid November). Who the hell else in the US can do that? Would I trade where I’m at for “Northern Climate” uhm… no.

    Creating a Citrus Tree Sub-Climate: Planting lots o’ trees

  3. Jack, do you have an opinion or basic guidelines about what trees work best from seeds and which should be planted as seedlings? I’d benefit from a brief discussion (maybe a TSP video) that goes over the best way to raise seedlings to fit into a system like this. I feel like a lot of the videos I find, people are dumping tons of miracle grow into their pots.

    Also (and I should have sent in a question to this effect….), how would you suggest a person integrate swales AND Holzer style Hugelkulture (the tall type!) into a food forest. If you have the space for it, what are some design guidelines or ideas for setting swales and HK up so that they work together. I’ve heard Wheaton say that HK should NOT be set on contour. Any insight into this?

    Excellent show, btw. I’ll be listening to this one again for sure.

    • Sorry, should have added. Wheaton always says, “add texture to the landscape,” Could you expand on that at all? Usually it seems like he’s talking specifically HK, but I’m sure there’s more to it than just that!

  4. I knew I forgot about commenting on the seed thing. Black Locust seeds. Dear god. I bought I think a pack of 100 and I way underestimated their germination speed/ratio. Probably no less than 80 of them germinated, and they germinated within 4 days of planting them. I wish I knew that because i planted a bunch of seeds in each spot and ended up having to cut out a bunch of good trees, oh well.

    I just bought a pack of 1000 on Amazon for 20 bucks and will be starting about a million of these guys here soon. So worth it. The Aunt went and picked mimosa seeds for us so we’ll be doing alot of those. (But I’m thinking about building them into a grazing system where they can be browsed by animals, rather than cutting back).

  5. Does Phoenix AZ count? 😉

  6. And where is a good resource for finding out what trees are alleopathic?

    • Edible Food Forests by Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier has some pretty amazing tables in the back 1/3 of book 2 in the series. I don’t remember a table of alleopathic species, but black walnut is specifically listed as alleopathic and there is a table of plants in the book that will tolerate being planted near it. If you are interested in planting black walnut and want that list I would be happy to provide it to you. Email me at kalongs@sbcglobal.net

    • Apparently some pines are alleopathic as well. I searched about this awhile back online and found various resources. I saw the pine thing on Youtube and on permies.com

  7. I found a great resource for planting in Texas.

    In that site I found a link to planting grapes on arbors.

    Remember to companion plant with mulberry. At Jack’s urban workshop our group’s design incorporated an arbor. We suggested mulberry, anise hyssop and hops to be companion plants to grapes.

  8. Great podcast. In my orchard, have some 80 pecans. Need to clip back the dead limbs and plant some similar edibles as Jack noted. The problems I have other than irrigation needs are squirrels and deer and keeping them away from my orchard.

  9. Thanks for answering my question. It was also great to hear you talk about how swales are primarily used to get trees started. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say or write that. Thanks.

  10. Caraganas are a good shrub to use in colder climates, they are a nitrogen-fixer legume and frost hardy to zone 2. The seeds are edible for humans and apparently good for feeding animals also (see first link). My mom planted them as hedge/windbreak in what was basically an alkali flat in the south central Colorado desert (5a, constant wind, direct sun, alkaline silty soil) in the 1980’s and they have thrived. Bumblebees love caragana flowers.



    • Modern Survival

      Awe Siberian Pea shrub. Heard some feed them to chickens and others say their chickens won’t touch them. Not sure if that is picky chickens, chickens that are not hungry enough or different strains of Caraganas with different flavors. We are going to even grow a bit of that here though it likely won’t handle our heat very well. We shall see.

      On the chicken thing it might be breed specific. For instance our layers LOVE sprouted black oil sunflower, our meat birds won’t touch it.

  11. Really enjoyed this. Ya, Ive seen the listed video and several others on Miracle Farm. Fantastic! They have a kick-starter program to produce a dvd on food forests and such.

    The interesting thing is, the guy doesn’t prune his trees. He “trains them” by bending the limbs and top down to form bows, thereby reducing their height. Ive never heard of that before, but it makes sense. Looking forward to the next installment. Cheers!

    • Modern Survival

      Now that you say that I think I have seen it in orchards and such before just didn’t realize that is what it was. I think in that Eden Garden movie if you look at that guys trees that must be what he is doing.

    • That “tree branch bending” technique is called espalier. It’s pretty awesome and could definitely be used in permaculture for living fences, fedges, etc.

  12. So glad Jack mentioned Miracle Farms and shared a link .. only thing is he said about a dozen time “this orchard in british columbia” but it’s in QUEBEC!

  13. mountain_dewbie

    i’ve never used the paid app you mentioned for mapping out the sun aspect on a property (so, i can’t speak to the features), but here’s a free alternative that i have used:

  14. I’m so looking forward to part 2 of this podcast….especially since you talked about answering my specific questions at the end 🙂

  15. Funny comment about rain and your events. Remember, if its not rainin’ your not trainin’.

  16. I plan on planting a food forest with mostly cuttings, and a couple transplants. Do you foresee any potential problems with the fruit and nut tree cuttings? VS starting all trees from seeds.