Forest Garden Design – A part of Permaculture

Forest Garden Design – A part of Permaculture

So what is all this Forest Garden Design Stuff

This post explains what forest garden design is and gives examples and pictures of plants in a forest garden design and even touches on companion planting.

Forest Garden Design - 1st Year Forest Garden

Forest Garden Design – 1st Year Forest Garden

A “forest garden” and a “food forest” and a “permaculture garden” are pretty much the same thing so I will just use the term “forest garden” to mean all three of these terms for the purpose of this article.  They are a form of gardening where you try to mimic the way nature does things in a forest. We choose plantings that benefit other plants through companion planting, but the one big difference between what nature does in a forest and what we do in a forest garden is we gear the plantings toward our needs as well.  These needs could include food, fertilizer, fodder, or fuel.

The Wikipedia Definition: “Forest Gardening is a low-maintenance sustainable plant-based food production and agroforestry system based on woodland ecosystems, incorporating fruit and nut trees, shrubs, herbs, vines and perennial vegetables which have yields directly useful to humans.  Making use of companion planting, these can be intermixed to grow in a succession of layers, to build a woodland habitat.”

Robert Hart is credited with coining the term Forest Gardening in the 1980s.  He took the pre-historic tropics method of gardening and did it in a temperate climate on his .12-acre parcel.

Forest Garden Design - The Plants

Forest Garden Design – The Plants

Permaculture

Forest gardening is closely aligned with permaculture.  One aspect of the similarities of the two are the seven dimensions of a food forest: canopy layer, low-tree layer, shrub layer, herbaceous layer, ground cover layer, rhizosphere layer, and the vertical layer.  These are the same as is taught in a permaculture course or manual.  In fact, most permaculture manuals include forest gardening as one aspect of permaculture.

Forest gardening is based on perennial systems that you don’t have to plant yearly and the maintenance is less. The maintenance is less because you put plants in that are companions to each other and the plants help and provide for the other plants in the forest garden.

Companion Plants

An example of a companion plant is comfrey which is a dynamic accumulator.  It uses an extremely long tap root and mines down to levels that other plants can not get to.  Comfrey brings nutrients from deep down up to the surface.  Then as the comfrey leaves die back each year the nutrients from deep down are made available to other plants through these dead and decaying leaves.

Another example of a companion plant is mimosa.  It is a member of the legume (Fabaceae) plant family and is capable of fixing nitrogen.  The nitrogen fixation is accomplished by a symbiotic bacteria called rhizobia within the nodules in their root systems.  The plant and the bacteria work together to make nitrogen.  When the plant dies that nitrogen is released into the soil for other plants to use.  If a branch breaks or is pruned, some of the nitrogen will be released to other plants.

My Forest Garden

I put in a forest garden this past year out at the farm in WV.  I put in perennial canopy trees, low tree layer, shrubs, a few herbaceous plants, and groundcover (clover).  In the next year or two I will add the vertical layer (vines).  I want to give the other plants a little while to establish before I add the vertical layer.  This is simply so I don’t disadvantage certain slow growing species.

As you can see in the picture titled “1st Year Forest Garden” the area looks a little untidy.  That is in part because I threw down a bunch of clover, and diacon radish seeds to help with the bare soil.  The clover will add nitrogen and the radish will use deep taproots to loosen the soil.  This fall I covered the ground with a deep layer of oak leaf leaves to conserve water and build topsoil.

The picture titled “Forest Garden Design – The Plants” give you an idea of what is planted in this area.  It actually takes two pages to show the entire forest garden.

I’ll give you updates on the forest garden in the spring and as time goes on.

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Black Locust Tree Information – Black Locust a Tree Fertilizer

Black Locust Tree Information – Black Locust a Tree Fertilizer

Black Locust Tree Information – Black Locust a Tree Fertilizer

This post gives black locust tree information to include its ability to act as a fertilizer on other plants, how to propagate it, and the edible parts of this medicinal plant.

Black Locust Tree Information - Black Locust Flower

Black Locust Tree Information – Black Locust Flower

Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) is a deciduous tree in the pea family that can be used as a fertilizer with its nitrogen fixing capabilities.  It is native to the southeastern United States but can now be found throughout most of North America as it is USDA hardiness rated from zones 4 to 8.  It can grow up to 80 feet tall, but it usually stays between 30 and 50 feet in height. Black Locusts prefer sandy or rocky soil, and are most often found in old fields, open areas, woods, and along stream sides.

The leaves are pinnate with 9–19 oval leaflets.  Leaflets are always paired, except for the one on the end of the leaf. Each leaf usually has a pair of short spines at the base.  The leaflets fold together in wet weather and at night. Leaf color is bluish-green on top, and pale underneath. The entire leaf is 6 to 12 inches long. Leaflets are oval-shaped and less than 2 inches long with no teeth and a bristle tip.

The very fragrant (smell similar to orange blossoms) flowers are white to lavender or purple and are about ¾ inches long and pear-shaped.  They each have five white petals, and many flowers grow together in a droopy cluster, 4 to 8 inches long. The flowers appear in May or June after the leaves break bud. The flowers give way to a snap pea looking fruit.  The fruit is a legume containing 4 to 10 seeds.

It has thick, deeply furrowed blackish bark. The wood is Pale yellowish brown; heavy, hard, strong, close-grained and very durable in contact with the ground.  Because the wood is extremely hard, resistant to rot, and durable it is often used for fence posts.  Fresh cut wood has somewhat of an offensive odor, but that disappears with time.  It is one of the heaviest and hardest woods in North America.  For firewood it burns slowly, hot, and with little smoke.

It can act as erosion control.  Black locust ordinarily produces a shallow and wide-spreading root system that is excellent for soil binding but is also capable of producing deep roots. It acts as a nitrogen fixer for the soil allowing this tree to act as a fertilizer.

Propagation

Black Locust Tree Information - Black Locust

Black Locust Tree Information – Black Locust

Although it is a good seed producer, it primarily spreads by underground shoots. If planting by seed, you must scarify the seeds prior to planting.  Black locust is easily propagated from softwood, hardwood, and root cuttings.

Edible

Although the bark and leaves are toxic, various reports suggest that the seeds and flowers are edible.  The flowers are eaten in France and Japan.  I have found several sources saying that the seeds are edible but the pods are poisonous.

Medicianal

“Febrifuge. The flowers are antispasmodic, aromatic, diuretic, emollient and laxative. They are cooked and eaten for the treatment of eye ailments. The flower is said to contain the antitumor compound benzoaldehyde. The inner bark and the root bark are emetic, purgative and tonic. The root bark has been chewed to induce vomiting, or held in the mouth to allay toothache, though it is rarely if ever prescribed as a therapeutic agent in Britain. The fruit is narcotic. This probably refers to the seedpod. The leaves are cholagogue and emetic. The leaf juice inhibits viruses.” *

(Source:www.naturalmedicinalherbs.net/herbs/r/robinia-pseudoacacia=black-locust.php)

 

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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Siberian Pea Shrub Plant Information | A Permaculture Plant

Siberian Pea Shrub Plant Information | A Permaculture Plant

Siberian Pea Shrub Plant Information | A Permaculture Plant

This post, titled Siberian Pea Shrub Plant Information | A Permaculture Plant, provides information on permaculture uses and propagation of this medicinal tree.

The Siberian Pea Shrub (Caragana arborescen) is a permaculture plant that provides a lot of function stacking. They have edible parts, fix-nitrogen, attract beneficial insects, can be used as a pioneer plant, a windbreak, and a hedge, are used to stabilize erosion-prone soil, can feed livestock, can possibly be used as a medicinal plant and are pretty with fragrant flowers.

Siberian Pea Shrub Plant Information

Siberian Pea Shrub Plant Information – Siberian Pea Shrub

Siberian pea shrub is native to Siberia and Manchuria and occurs from southern Russia to China
The shrub’s nutritional content is composed around 36% protein and 12.4% of fatty oil. There are over 80 species of this plant that is part of the legume family.

It is a large to very large shrub with a size of 8-20 feet tall, and 12-18 feet wide. It prefers full sun and is hardy in USDA zones 2 through 7.

Leaves are alternate and compound with small leaflets and can be light to dark green. Small, yellow fragrant flowers bloom in early summer with pod fruits, containing many seeds, ripening in mid summer. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by bees.

There are 4 to 6 red-dish-brown, oblong to spherical seeds per pod. The pods, peas and flowers are edible. Young pods and the flowers are good in salads. Older pods should be cooked. The peas taste rather bland and it is recommended from many sources online to use them in spicy dishes.

Siberian Pea Shrub Plant Information - Siberian Pea Shrub

Siberian Pea Shrub Plant Information – Siberian Pea Shrub

I bought my tree for nitrogen fixation and put it in my orchard. It did not grow too much last year. We did have a bit of a summer drought and I didn’t water it at all, so that is the likely reason. This is one of my STUN (Sheer Total Utter Neglect) plants. STUN is basically where you put something in the ground and then ignore it and see if it takes. I use the STUN method on many of my support species as I have enough to take care of and don’t want something else that requires a lot of care. Hopefully it will grow a little better this year and I’ll get some seed pods.

I found some of the seeds on Amazon.  If you want to purchase some, you can check out the link is below:

Propagation

Propagation is typically done by seed. To propagate by seed, soak the seeds for 24 hours in warm water first. If the seed has not swollen after 24 hours, then scarify and soak again for 12 hrs. Plant ¼ to ½ inch deep. They typically germinate in 2-3 weeks. The seed does not store well; sow as soon as possible. The shrub can be propagated from cuttings and layering as well.

Medicinal

The whole plant, known as ning tiao, is used in the treatment of cancer of the breast, and the orifice to the womb, and for dysmenorrhoea and other gynaecological problems. *

(Source: www.naturalmedicinalherbs.net/herbs/c/caragana-arborescens=siberian-pea-tree.php)

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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Establishing a Food Forest DVD Review

Establishing a Food Forest DVD Review

Establishing a Food Forest DVD Review

This post is titled Establishing a Food Forest DVD Review. Wednesday night I watched the DVD “Establishing a Food Forest” which was presented by Geoff Lawton.  This is at least the third time I have watched this 80-minute DVD and every time I watch it I still pick up something new.

Food Forest Definition

Establishing a Food Forest DVD Review

Establishing a Food Forest DVD Review

Before I get into the review of the DVD, lets define Food Forest.  On Wikipedia, the term Food Forest re-directs to Forest Gardening.  Here is Wikipedia’s definition of Forest Gardening:

“Forest gardening is a low-maintenance sustainable plant-based food production and agroforestry system based on woodland ecosystems, incorporating fruit and nut trees, shrubs, herbs, vines and perennial vegetables which have yields directly useful to humans. Making use of companion planting, these can be intermixed to grow in a succession of layers, to build a woodland habitat.”

DVD Overview

The DVD starts out with classroom lecture going over what a food forest is and how to design one.  They go into looking at patterns of existing forests and the layers of a forest.  The layers as described by Geoff are; canopy, understory, shrub, herbaceous, ground cover, vine/climbers, and root yield.  He does go into a few additional layers that are specific to the tropics.

Many of these layers are support species planted for the future end results.  He talks about support species as follows:

  • Ground cover – hundreds of thousands of nitrogen fixers per acre that will only survive for 6 months. This could be clover or other nitrogen fixing ground cover.
  • Herbaceous / bush layer – tens of thousands of nitrogen fixers per acre that will only survive for 4 to 5 years. Examples are certain legumes and peas.
  • Understory layer – thousands of small trees that fix nitrogen that will survive 10 to 15 years.
  • Canopy – hundreds of trees that will go full term.
  • The above are all support species used just to fix the soil with nitrogen and other nutrients and provide mulch through chop and drop. Mixed in with all of the above will be our fruit and nut trees.
  • In the beginning the mix will be 90/10. 90% of mass is support species and 10% is our fruit trees.  As time goes on we end up with 10% of mass is support species and 90% is our fruit trees.  This happens as the fruit trees get larger and the support species die out.
  • The support species is coppiced, pollarded, and chop & dropped. This happens during the wet season, which is when there is more rainfall than evaporation.
Establishing a Food Forest DVD Review

Establishing a Food Forest DVD Review

After the classroom portion of the DVD, Geoff goes to the field and plants a food forest into a swale at the Permaculture Research Institute (PRI).  He demonstrates mixing a nitrogen fixing inoculant with some legumes (cowpea and lupin).  He shows a large variety of plants that they are putting in, how to put them in and why.

He then goes back to that same swale after 3 months and gives you a tour, shows the progress and explains what is going on.  He talks about too many grass hoppers not being a grass hopper problem but a deficiency in Turkeys.  He talks about too many slugs/snails not being a slug/snail issue but a deficiency in ducks.  He also demonstrates “feed the forest” by doing some chop and drop.

He shows fungus being the “teeth” of the forest and explains how the fungus is breaking down the dead plant life to feed the living.  He shows how chickens help establish a food forest and also explains how a food forest is low maintenance once established.

He shows a kitchen garden that has over 400 species of plants in it.  He goes on to explain how all of the diversity confuses the pest and how they make climates attractive to predator insects to predate on those confused pests.

My thoughts on this DVD are that it is a wonderful learning resource and I wouldn’t understand why anyone that likes gardening doesn’t want to put in a food forest after watching this DVD.  It is also one of the reasons I put a food forest in last year and will put more in going forward.  It is a wonderful concept and I enjoy the thought of high yield and low maintenance in the future.

Extras

In addition to the 80-minute main feature, there are five clips in the bonus section of the DVD:

  • 30-Year-Old Food Forest – 10-minute video walk through of a 30-year-old food forest in Thailand. Most of the plants in this clip are tropical and likely wouldn’t grow in temperate climate North America.
  • 300-Year-Old Food Forest – a 6-minute video walk through of a 300-year-old food forest in Hanoi.
  • 2000-Year-Old Food Forest – a 4+ minute video walk through of a 2000-year-old food forest in Morocco. This video has many fruits that do grow in North America.
  • Permaculture World Wide – a 4+ minute video about how to grow permaculture plants world wide and how to raise funds to do so.
  • Harvesting Water DVD – This is the trailer for another of Geoff’s videos “Harvesting Water DVD”

About Geoff:

According to Wikipedia: “Geoff Lawton is a permaculture consultant, designer and teacher. Since 1995 he has specialized in permaculture education, design, implementation, system establishment, administration and community development.”

He is Managing Director of The Permaculture Research Institute – www.permaculturenews.org. and is the go-to practicing expert on anything permaculture.

 

To Buy the DVD:

A downloadable copy of the DVD can be bought at:

permaculturenews.org/product-category/digital-downloads/

 

The physical DVD can be bought at:

www.ecofilms.com.au/store/

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Honey Locust Tree Information – Permaculture Function Stacking

Honey Locust Tree Information – Permaculture Function Stacking

Honey Locust Tree Information

This post provides Honey Locust Tree Information.  Honey Locust, Gleditsia triacanthos, also known as the thorny locust, is a deciduous tree native to central North America. It is used for lumber, as a pioneer plant to disrupted or damaged ecosystems, can be used as fodder for animals, provides nectar to beneficial insects, and is use extensively in permaculture.

Honey Locust Tree Information - Honey Locust Tree

Honey Locust Tree Information – Honey Locust Tree

The Honey Locust tree grows quickly to a height up to 100 feet tall, but is short-lived, living “only” around 120 years. Due to its quick growth it is prone to losing large branches in wind storms.

The leaves are pinnately compound on older trees but bipinnately compound on vigorous young trees. They commonly have thorns coming out of the trunk and branches, with thorns growing up to 12″ long. In the past, the thorns were used as nails!  There are thorn-less varieties available at nurseries. They have flowers that are strongly scented that from seed pods later in the year. Honey locust seed pods ripen in late spring and germinate rapidly when temperatures are warm enough.

Edible

Honey locust produces a leguminous pod, of which the pulp is edible.  The name Honey Locust is derived from the sweet pulp of the legume, not the honey that bees produce from it. The pods can be eaten raw or cooked. A sugar can be made from the pulp. The pulp can be fermented into a beer.  The very young seeds can be eaten raw or cooked. Reportedly taste like peas. Can even be roasted, ground, and used as a coffee substitute. “The pods have a gooey pulp between the exterior casing and the seeds that tastes like the sugary insides of a Fig Newton type cookie. You can only squeeze out a wee bit from each pod, so it’s not a meal or anything, but it’s quite a nice sidewalk score when you get it.” Reference: firstways.com

Honey Locust Tree Information - Honey Locust Thorns

Honey Locust Tree Information – Honey Locust Thorns

The bean pods are a favorite food of the white-tailed deer, squirrels, rabbits, hogs, opossums, and raccoons. Domestic animals such as sheep, goats, and cattle will also forage on the honey locust bean pods.

Nitrogen Fixation

It is argued if the honey locust actually fixes nitrogen in soils.  One argument goes that it does not fix nitrogen because there are no nodules on the roots that are the primary source of nitrogen fixation in legume plants.  The argument to the other side is that leaf litter and pod pulp produce more nitrogen than root nodules.

Honey locust are used in a lot of permaculture projects at the Canopy layer.  This is because they are hardy, fast growing, fix nitrogen, attract beneficial insects, are hardy from zones 3-9, and like full sun.

Propagation

Propagation can be done by seed or by cuttings.  Seed germination needs scarification, which is soaking in very hot, but not boiling water until the seeds swell.  Propagation can also be by hardwood and softwood cuttings.

Medicinal

Honey Locust Tree Information - Honey Locust Leaf

Honey Locust Tree Information – Honey Locust Leaf

“The pods have been made into a tea for the treatment of indigestion, measles, catarrh etc. The juice of the pods is antiseptic. The pods have been seen as a good antidote for children’s complaints. The alcoholic extract of the fruits of the honey locust, after elimination of tannin, considerably retarded the growth, up to 63% of Ehrlich mouse carcinoma. However, the cytotoxicity of the extract was quite high and the animals, besides losing weight, showed dystrophic changes in their liver and spleen. The alcoholic extract of the fruit exerted moderate oncostatic activity against sarcoma 180 and Ehrlich carcinoma at the total dose 350 mg/kg/body weight/mouse. Weight loss was considerable. An infusion of the bark has been drunk and used as a wash in the treatment of dyspepsia. It has also been used in the treatment of whooping cough, measles, smallpox etc. The twigs and the leaves contain the alkaloids gleditschine and stenocarpine. Stenocarpine has been used as a local anaesthetic whilst gleditschine causes stupor and loss of reflex activity. Current research is examining the leaves as a potential source of anticancer compounds.” * Reference: naturalmedicinalherbs.net/herbs/g/gleditsia-triacanthos=honey-locust.php

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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Autumn Olive Tree Facts and Propagation at Great Escape Farms

Autumn Olive Tree Facts and Propagation at Great Escape Farms

Autumn Olive Tree Facts and Propagation

This article provide information on Autumn Olive Tree Facts and Propagation. This tree or bush bears edible fruit and is a nitrogen fixer. Autumn-Olive (elaegnus umbellate) also known as Autumn-Berry, is a deciduous shrub that can grow into a small multi-trunked tree reaching as high as 20 feet. The leaves are a grayish green and looks as though it has scales on the bottom of the leaves. The leaves are about three inches long and very narrow measuring only about one inch wide.  It is often used in forest garden design to assist in repairing soil as the food forest garden matures.

The Autumn Olive Tree Facts and Propagation

Autumn Olive Tree Facts and Propagation

It is a drought tolerant plant that can grow in full sun or partial shade. It does prefer well drained soil and does well on the edges of forests, hillsides, and abandoned fields. Birds like the fruit and propagate the seeds. It is a very hardy plant and is usually not bothered by deer. Some view Autumn Olive as a noxious invasive weed.

Forest Garden Design

Autumn olive is one of the few non-legume plants that fixes nitrogen in the soil. This is accomplished with the assistance of a certain bacteria called Frankia. This allows it to be a pioneer plant to grow where others can’t and begin to repair the land and soil making it a perfect plant in a Forest Garden Design.

Autumn Olive Fruit

Autumn Olive has tiny flowers in the spring that give way to berry fruit in the late summer and early fall. The flowers are fragrant and the plants are self-fertile. I have plants that bear red berries and plants that produce gold berries on my farm (both pictured on this post). The fruit is astringent (makes your mouth pucker) but sweet.   As they sit on the bush they get softer, sweeter, and less astringent. The birds and small mammals like the berries as well, so don’t wait to long to harvest. A single bush can produce 20 to 70 pounds of fruit.

Autumn Olive Tree Facts and Propagation

Autumn Olive Tree Facts and Propagation

The fruit contains the carotenoid lycopene, which is several times higher than that of tomatoes. The fruit does contain seeds and it has been said that the seeds are chewable, but I have just eaten the flesh and spit the seeds out. I’ll have to try chewing them sometime and see what they are like.

Autumn Olive berries can be eaten right off the bush. They can also be used in jams, pies, fruit leathers, other deserts and juices. They store well frozen once cleaned.

Autumn olive is native to Asia and was introduced to North America in early to mid 1800s. It is hardy down to USDA zone 3 can be found growing in southern Canada and the majority of the United States.

I bought one of my Autumn Olives from RainTreeNursery.com and had good luck with them. Autumn Olive is one of the plants I will have for sale in the Great Escape Nursery store in 2016 or 2017.

Purchase Autumn Olive at Great Escape Nursery