Support the Arctic Sea Ice Forum and Blog

Author Topic: Growing a food forest  (Read 1309 times)

Alexander555

  • Nilas ice
  • Posts: 1883
    • View Profile
  • Liked: 161
  • Likes Given: 46
Growing a food forest
« on: December 11, 2022, 09:02:40 AM »
I have another question. How much can you pull out from a forest , and it still becomes a more rich place. I'm building a little food forest myself. And for the moment i pull nothing out, i pull as much as possible in. But i build it with the intention to pull something out  if needed. Like an insurance, if something would go wrong with the food supply. But i still want to maintain nature and as much as possible biodiversity. Because they make it fun. There is input and output, if there is life on your land. So lets assume that a tree that's growing takes minerals out of your land. That's an output at that moment. And the water from rain, the energy from the sun, the co2 are inputs. Together they make the tree. As long there is input, you should be able to pull something out of it. But i have no idea how you can know how much it is. Most of it will be in the thrunk. So many thrunks will have to stay in the forest. And  what about harvesting fruits and nuts over a long time. That's something that accumulates. It looks hard to know, because maybe degrading of your land is a slow proces that you don't even notice in one human life. And it would be sad if you eventually would have the same result as if you would have cut it down all at once. But for the moment things look good, after 2 years of pulling stuff in, life seems to do good. I think my biggest problem will be oxygen in my soil. I try to avoid to walk at as much as possible places. But last year with the drought i had to water extra. So i had to walk at places i normaly try to avoid.  You feel the soil is very soft, but i assume he will recover. The mole is doing his job. And many animals have more weight as me.

El Cid

  • Nilas ice
  • Posts: 2204
    • View Profile
  • Liked: 824
  • Likes Given: 210
Re: Growing a food forest
« Reply #1 on: December 11, 2022, 09:26:42 AM »
If you look at this short film about Ernst Götsch, who created syntropic agriculture and has a food-forest, it seems that the bedrock that is accessible by trees contains in most places more than enough minerals. He has been harvesting cocoa, bananas and other fruits for decades without any inputs and his forest keeps getting richer. As long as you have old, deep-rooted trees, you probably do not have to worry about inputs.

(also in many small scale food forests whatever you take from it can be simply given back to the forest by urine, ie. pissing on the trees here and there...this is how a truly circular system works...urine is actually quite sterile, and contains everything plants need)




Sublime_Rime

  • New ice
  • Posts: 94
    • View Profile
  • Liked: 61
  • Likes Given: 16
Re: Growing a food forest
« Reply #2 on: December 11, 2022, 04:03:54 PM »
Alexander, your question assumes that you are not part of the forest, I think that is how our civilization has gotten into this mess. If your outputs become inputs you don't have to worry about how much you "take out".
Max
Know thyself
Here to learn and connect in these wondrous and quickly changing times.

Alexander555

  • Nilas ice
  • Posts: 1883
    • View Profile
  • Liked: 161
  • Likes Given: 46
Re: Growing a food forest
« Reply #3 on: December 11, 2022, 04:34:52 PM »
But it is not always how you want it to be. What if i need timber to restore my roof ? And using something else will only mean more industrial production. So the inputs and outputs are importend. Because if i make my soil healthy, the forest will store more of these inputs. It will store more energy from the sun, more water, more co2. The better they grow , the more they store. And that means i need less trees to restore my roof. And more will be left to support nature, to support the ecosystem. A poor system will only store a little bit, a rich system will store plenty on the same land. And if you do it like El Cid is telling, a circular system, lets assume a foodforest. It should grow like crazy. Because the inputs keep coming, and they are for free. It just has to be healty.

kassy

  • Moderator
  • First-year ice
  • Posts: 6254
    • View Profile
  • Liked: 1875
  • Likes Given: 1867
Re: Growing a food forest
« Reply #4 on: December 11, 2022, 05:13:35 PM »
Would any timber do? Probably not.

Ideally if you have enough land and time you can grow them from scratch. If you have it already and use it you can then grow a replacement (or put something else there).

For practicality i would not mix them too much because you need space to put the timber trees when felling them and there should not be that much space in a food forest.

 
Þetta minnismerki er til vitnis um að við vitum hvað er að gerast og hvað þarf að gera. Aðeins þú veist hvort við gerðum eitthvað.

kassy

  • Moderator
  • First-year ice
  • Posts: 6254
    • View Profile
  • Liked: 1875
  • Likes Given: 1867
Re: Growing a food forest
« Reply #5 on: December 11, 2022, 05:20:14 PM »
Moved this discussion from the Forests thread since this can be a nice discussion on it´s own.

Þetta minnismerki er til vitnis um að við vitum hvað er að gerast og hvað þarf að gera. Aðeins þú veist hvort við gerðum eitthvað.

El Cid

  • Nilas ice
  • Posts: 2204
    • View Profile
  • Liked: 824
  • Likes Given: 210
Re: Growing a food forest
« Reply #6 on: December 11, 2022, 09:48:39 PM »
Since it has become a new thread and I am quite passionate about growing a food forest let me share some of my experiences in a temperate climate.

Based on my readings and own experiences syntropic agroforestry has the best chance of restoring the land fast and providing food at the same time.

The main points of it are similar to those emphasized by many other regenarative methods.

1)   Photosynthesis must be maximized. This means that we need to grow
a.   a multilayered
b.   very dense
c.   and diverse
ecosystem all year around.

a.   We need fast-growing, sunloving trees that tower above the rest, the best suited in our climate: alder, poplar, willow, paulownia, black locust, ailanthus altissima – anything that grows very fast and does not mind coppicing/pollarding
As the second layer our usual fruit trees are perfect, most of them being trees of the forest edge, ie. they like some, but not too much shade. As lower growing plants almost all fruiting berries are perfect, and also some forest species. Lower still can be grasses, clovers, etc. By putting plants in every layer, we soak up all the Sun
b.   We need to plant more densely than usual: this means that our normal fruit trees are at a normal distance (3-4-5-6 meters), but in between them we should put very high trees and lower growing shrubs.
c.   diversity is key and not only inthe number of  species but also genetically: syntropic agroforestry uses as many trees and plants growing from seed as possible. Seed-grown trees are stronger than grafted ones, especially if they are directly planted into the soil.
2)   We must manage the system, this is mostly
a.   pruning and
b.   mulching

a.   the high growing trees are best pollarded at a height of 3-4-5 meters annually or biannually. This way we open up the lower levels for the Sun every year or every second year and give a growth pulse for the whole system – after cutting the big trees heavily back, nearby shrubs and trees start to grow like crazy! Also, shrubs and grasses need to be heavily pruned when they would start to senescene (eg. now I cut grasses usually twice: end of May, and August-September
b.   the woody cuttings are chipped/shredded, and together with the grasses are put around the trees as mulch
There really is not much else to do: plant many plants, densely, and in great diversity and manage them with occasional heavy pruning (we need to heavily prune only the support species, not the target, ie. fruit bearing species, although we can also prune the fruit trees as well, but much less heavily)

More later…

sidd

  • First-year ice
  • Posts: 6505
    • View Profile
  • Liked: 1020
  • Likes Given: 0
Re: Growing a food forest
« Reply #7 on: December 12, 2022, 07:55:51 AM »
Ailanthus altissima is terribly invasive ...

sidd

El Cid

  • Nilas ice
  • Posts: 2204
    • View Profile
  • Liked: 824
  • Likes Given: 210
Re: Growing a food forest
« Reply #8 on: December 12, 2022, 08:06:45 AM »
Most of the best biomass species are labelled "invasive", because invasive is whatever grows quickly and without any help from humans. Europe is already full of Ailanthus altissima, I've seen it in many countries in big numbers: Spain, Italy, the Balkans, etc. No way you can eradicate it. It is here to stay, now part of the ecosystem. So why shouldn't we use it? Oaks/maples/ash trees and before that pine and birch were also invasive at the end of the last ice age destroying the precious tundra, yet we embrace those as "native" and detest the newcomers. Why are they different???

sidd

  • First-year ice
  • Posts: 6505
    • View Profile
  • Liked: 1020
  • Likes Given: 0
Re: Growing a food forest
« Reply #9 on: December 12, 2022, 11:19:16 PM »
Re: Ailanthus altissima : Why are they different???

Speed of invasion, i have seen them take over many acres in two or three seasons in the midwest USA. I cleared a small hillside by a ravine, took me a few years. The males are easier (no seeds) but if you cut into one stalk the roots send up suckers twenty yards around. I had to kill em using a chisel and eyedropper, you make a series of separate incisions around the tree less than a foot from the ground (but not a continuous girdle) and use the eyedropper to drip poison into the cuts. (Twenty minutes is all you have before the tree seals those cuts.

The females now, you got to get to each one before they set seeds ... millions and millions of seeds ...

The leaves look like poison sumac, but the berries on sumac are red, as opposed to brown bunches of seed for ailanthus.

Ailanthus was introduced to the americas as a shade tree for avenues in philadelphia, and some Chinese immigrants brought it with them to the west coast as well.

sidd

El Cid

  • Nilas ice
  • Posts: 2204
    • View Profile
  • Liked: 824
  • Likes Given: 210
Re: Growing a food forest
« Reply #10 on: December 13, 2022, 10:07:38 AM »
I know they grow fast, I know they sucker, but they can't break the rules of Nature: if they can't photysnthetize, they will die. So if you no longer want them in the system, you just cut them back every month. Eventually, their root stores will deplete.  I am not saying they are an ideal choice, but they grow very fast, and create huge amounts of biomass. They do what they are good at: restore poor soils. If they are shaded out and are cut back time to time, they will die.

And are they that different from black locust (robinisa pseudoacacia, a "native" American tree)? Black locust also grows fast, suckers like crazy and very hard to kill. But they also fix N, coppice and pollard very well and improve the soil very quickly, and are  great honey-producers. Try killing a black locust stand, it is not easier than killing ailanthus altissima

sidd

  • First-year ice
  • Posts: 6505
    • View Profile
  • Liked: 1020
  • Likes Given: 0
Re: Growing a food forest
« Reply #11 on: December 13, 2022, 11:26:46 PM »
Re: black locus, ailanthus altissimma

I have cleared both. In the areas that i cleared Ailanthus comes back for six to eight years, black locust peters out after a couple. And i have found that Ailanthus is much faster at taking over.

I like black locust tho, i have used it for many fence posts.  Usually the reason i take it out is because i have plans for the land for something else, not usually because it is invading. It fixes nitrogen too, which is a plus.

sidd



El Cid

  • Nilas ice
  • Posts: 2204
    • View Profile
  • Liked: 824
  • Likes Given: 210
Re: Growing a food forest
« Reply #12 on: December 14, 2022, 04:03:52 PM »
sidd

I think we have a conceptual problem here. You have a patch of ailanthus altissima and you want to use that land for something and then ailanthus can really be a pain in the ass. However, when we try to grow a food forest, we try to use every plant according to its place in succession.

And what is the role of these fast growing pioneer species (ailanthus altissima, paulownia spp, robinia pseudoacacia) in nature? They are Sun-loving, fast growing trees, that create the environment for secondary and climax species by improving the soil, helping biodiversity. They grow quickly and in their semishade long-lliving species (eg. oaks) will grow up slowly. Once the oaks shade them out, they slowly die. This process can take centuries in nature, but we can speed it up. How?

Let's say I want to plant a tree-row in a food-forest. What do I do?

I plant an apple tree (maybe from seed, and I might graft it later on). 1 meter to the North of the apple tree, I plant a shade tolerant elderberry, then 1 meter to the North a blackberry, another meter and an ailanthus altissima (or any other pioneer), another meter and a maple/ash/oak/beech, another meter and raspberries, and then another meter and a pear tree or any other fruit tree. In between the rows I plant grasses, alfalfa, clovers, etc., and I cut them twice a year and use them as mulch around the trees (or in some spots can grow vegetables here as well). Within the row, the pioneer's sidebranches will be cut, and only the top 2 meter will be allowed to grow branches. In 5 years time, the pioneer will likely be 5-7 meter tall, but will have no side branches at the bottom 4-5 meters, so will only slightly shade the now growing apple/pear trees which willl also shade the berries below them to some extent. Anything cut from the pioneers will be used as mulch (in my case after chipping). After 5-6 years I start pollarding the pioneers every year or every second year cutting them completely at 4-5 meters height. This means that my fruit trees will have no shade in April-May, and only some shade during the summer which is just perfect for them, as they are mostly forest edge species. After some years doing this, the  oak/maple will have grown and now is obstructed by the pioneer, so I cut the pioneer at ground level. It has no place in the system any longer. I will likely have to cut it a couple more times every month or every other month, but its root reserves will be depleted and it is already shaded out, so it will go. This is how I want to use pioneers and in this context I do not think that ailanthus is more difficult than black locust (which as much as I like it has a big drawback: it is very thorny) 

etienne

  • Nilas ice
  • Posts: 1720
    • View Profile
    • About energy
  • Liked: 280
  • Likes Given: 12
Re: Growing a food forest
« Reply #13 on: December 14, 2022, 07:54:35 PM »
Hello El Cid,
You described the south to north organization of trees, but how is it in the east-west axis? Do you leave like 5 meters between the rows or do you also have a mix of species, each Meter another one?
Thanks, Etienne

El Cid

  • Nilas ice
  • Posts: 2204
    • View Profile
  • Liked: 824
  • Likes Given: 210
Re: Growing a food forest
« Reply #14 on: December 14, 2022, 08:17:21 PM »
etienne, in between the rows there is either grass or(and) N-fixing plants like clovers, alfalfa, etc, that can easily be cut (in my climate 2x or if we have very much precipitation 3x a year: end of May, Aug/Sep; or May, July, September. So the layout is N-S rows, and grasslike vegetation in between. But the rows are very dense, with lots of bushes and trees on various levels. I did not invent this, this is how syntropic agriculture tries to do things.

(I must add that in my case due to older trees and due to the history of the place I do not have these rows clearly, I often have some other trees/bushes here and there)... but if I had to start all over I would do this the way I described because it makes life much easier

etienne

  • Nilas ice
  • Posts: 1720
    • View Profile
    • About energy
  • Liked: 280
  • Likes Given: 12
Re: Growing a food forest
« Reply #15 on: December 17, 2022, 05:57:37 PM »
Hello El Cid,

And the Nuts/Chestnuts ? Are they among the fruits trees or the maple, oak, ash, beech ? or would they be somewhere in the clearing required for the barbecue ? They are not forest trees.

Thanks for the information, it is very interesting even if I don't have a place to try right now.

Regards,

Etienne

El Cid

  • Nilas ice
  • Posts: 2204
    • View Profile
  • Liked: 824
  • Likes Given: 210
Re: Growing a food forest
« Reply #16 on: December 18, 2022, 08:30:02 AM »
Nut/Chestnut trees do not need to be pruned in my experience, so I just let them grow, therefore they grow "too big". The only solution to this is to put them on the Northern end of the garden. Also, I have been advised and found this true: it is best to plant an evergreen windbreak around the garden, so that it would protect it from North, West and East. This creates a microclimate. Yew would make the best evergreen windbreak but it grows extremely slowly. I use cherry laurel, leylandii and some privet (which is not truly an evergreen but quite close). I also have yews but it really takes ages...

Anyway I drew a quick schematic plan (North is top, S is bottom): green is the evergreen hedge, orange is veggies, the big brownish circles are nut trees, blue is normal fruit trees, black is biomass trees, X is various vines (grape, kiwi, hardy kiwi) that grow on the hedge. I couldnt draw the berries but they should be there between the biomass and normal fruit trees.

But I think more important than the plan is the active successional management of the forest: we try to maximize photosynthesis, keep as many plants as possible, and cut them back strongly at the right time...