Food forest site or unrealistic pipe dream?
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  1. #1
    Master Dollar Stretcher madhen's Avatar
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    Default Food forest site or unrealistic pipe dream?

    I have been doing a lot of reading about food forests, and I really want to try to create one. This is the area I am thinking of using . This picture was taken at about 10a today, so, as you can see, lots of sun exposure. Although you can't really tell, there is a small pond (that I dug) just to the right, and my drip irrigation ends just to the right of the pond, so I can stretch a few lines out.

    The added benefit of using this site is that a few well-placed large evergreens will screen off the last tiny bit of my neighbor's property that I can see.

    Pro's: will beautify a pretty ugly hill that is right outside my bedroom window; will screen me from my neighbor; will be easy to access for purposes of harvesting/maintenance; easy access to water; possibility of incorporating the pond (more like a bog right now) into the landscape; rain will flow naturally toward the plants that need it more and the plants will help keep the water from just racing down through the slate and flooding my laundry room.

    Con's: the hill is pretty much solid rock and clay and will be a bear to dig into; NOTHING currently grows there naturally, which makes me wonder if nature is trying to tell me something.

    My thought is to put some cedars and other big evergreens at the top of the slope (north and northwest of house), to build kind of one side of a paranthesis, then to put in my apple trees and plum trees around the canopy of those, followed by my berry shrubs (and possibly mulberry), with space for later insertion of kiwi and pineapple guava, once the foundation trees get bigger and can act as support for vines. Perennial plants, including veggies beds interspersed with annuals (veggie and flower) in front of that (moving down the slope and toward the house). Part of a food forest is supposed to include root vegetables, but that might be a big ask on that big chunk of rock. I might try putting in some green compost for a few years, to add to the soil layers before I try to dig too deeply.

    I am just worried that it will be equivalent of planting a fuschia in the desert up there. It will be asking a lot of native land that has been like a big African savannah for decades. But when I look around at what grows naturally out in the undeveloped areas, it looks like the land should be able to support vegetation.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Food forest site or unrealistic pipe dream?-47ecf9c3-bd3d-422a-9cad-35a3fa65d318.jpg  

    DH aka Mad Hen
    (http://mad-hen-creations.blogspot.com/)

    Every time you spend money, you're casting a vote for the kind of world you want. Anna Lappe

  2. #2
    Master Dollar Stretcher madhen's Avatar
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    Additional pro, btw, is that I already have 90% of the plants that I would be using. The rest can either be propagated from what I have or would be easy to start from seed.
    DH aka Mad Hen
    (http://mad-hen-creations.blogspot.com/)

    Every time you spend money, you're casting a vote for the kind of world you want. Anna Lappe

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    Super Moderator Spirit Deer's Avatar
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    If stuff like trees haven't grown there naturally, I would guess the conditions aren't suitable.

    Don't plant trees that will grow tall anywhere near your buildings, especially if the roots can't grow deep. Trees falling on buildings isn't a good thing. Neither are flaming trees in a wildfire. Consider potential adverse conditions when planning where to plant flammable stuff. Tall trees may also shade your garden as they mature.

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  5. #4
    Master Dollar Stretcher madhen's Avatar
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    The distance may not look all that far in the photo, but the trees would have to be huge before they ever threatened my house.
    DH aka Mad Hen
    (http://mad-hen-creations.blogspot.com/)

    Every time you spend money, you're casting a vote for the kind of world you want. Anna Lappe

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    Super Moderator Spirit Deer's Avatar
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    Just playing devil's advocate. Having trees too close to buildings is a big issue for us here in the woods, also wildfires. It seems like people often think about the nice shade but not about what happens when a storm knocks them down.

    Trees require lots of maintenance too. They are forever trying to take over. We're forever trying to stay ahead of trees wanting to grow where they shouldn't.

    Have you thought about building terraces on that hill? Digging through clay and rock is hard labor. Doesn't clay keep water from percolating down? Not sure, but seems like I read that somewhere. Would that end up drowning your plants?

    We just terraced our steep hill to help control erosion and rockfall around the side and back of our garage. It was hard work but we're hoping it pays off. We used old telephone pole cross arms and lilies of the valley that need to be moved to make room for our veggie garden to save money, but bought topsoil and small fence posts. Not pretty, but it doesn't need to be. We're happy with it so far.
    Food forest site or unrealistic pipe dream?-20200629_211339_1596062322023.jpg

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    Master Dollar Stretcher madhen's Avatar
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    I have the opposite problem. Water runs right through all the slate and ends up pooling at the bottom of the slope, right around my house. I think plantings might help to control that. I live in wildfire land, so I sympathize. The nice thing about the types of trees I am thinking of putting in is that they don't send out runners or re-seed easily and they will be far enough from my house to not worry about the roots. Because the foundation trees will be evergreen, they actually help in a wildfire situation, unless it is just raging. They would just need to be on a drip system until their roots got deep enough to get to the natural water. My whole slope is basically cedar and pine that I planted when I moved in, and nursed along until it could manage on its own. I removed a bunch of manzanita (you can still see the trunks) from the slope, for fire prevention, so *something* grows!

    This is a satellite image of my property (and my neighbors to the north) taken last year. Happily, the fire moved to the east, so just the front of my property was damaged. If the wind had shifted, I would have lost everything.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Food forest site or unrealistic pipe dream?-staticmap.jpg  

    DH aka Mad Hen
    (http://mad-hen-creations.blogspot.com/)

    Every time you spend money, you're casting a vote for the kind of world you want. Anna Lappe

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    Super Moderator Spirit Deer's Avatar
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    Glad it worked out as well as it did. Does your state offer suggestions and/or grants for landscaping for wildfires?

    Terraces would slow down water running down your hill.

  9. #8
    Master Dollar Stretcher madhen's Avatar
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    No grants, but they have a rep who you can call who will come to your property and tell you what you need to fix. I had one come over right after the fire (better late than never!) and she gave me some good suggestions. I agree re: the terraces. I will have to evaluate and see if it would work here. The hill itself isn't bad, but it is cut into the slope, so there is a small cliff that goes straight down at the end. The water just soaks into the ground and then comes out the bottom of the cliff.
    DH aka Mad Hen
    (http://mad-hen-creations.blogspot.com/)

    Every time you spend money, you're casting a vote for the kind of world you want. Anna Lappe

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