Food forest site or unrealistic pipe dream?

spector

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Jul 15, 2020
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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.
 

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DivingTemptress

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Hi Spector,

looks like a huge job especially with the potential flooding of the house. Maybe you should consider terracing, then putting in raised beds with good soil so the runoff can be directed away and you wouldn't have to dig as much ... added benefit starting with good soil. If it were me, I would put in fruit bearing trees or bushes instead of evergreens for hedge at top of the hill ... grow things that will feed you !

How cold are your winters? keep that in mind since it is the north side.

Happy Growing !

P J, the Dirt Diva
 
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spector

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Jul 15, 2020
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Thanks, PJ. I want evergreens because of the screening, with the thought of the fruit trees to the south of them, so they would get plenty of sunshine. Temps aren't horrible here. Typically one or two days below freezing all winter, but usually in the 40's, Fahrenheitwise. I am lucky, in that I am sitting on some sort of microclimate. It is generally several degrees warmer here in winter than just down the road, about 15 minutes away.

It is just me and my shovel, so terracing is probably outside my capabilities. I was trying to avoid raised beds, as that is not really in keeping with the food forest theme (very natural), but now that you mention it, there is no reason I can't put some at the base of the slope, closest to the house. Not part of the "forest" but a step into civilization before you reach the house. ;)
 
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AndrewB

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I agree with PJ, terracing would be the way to go.

From the appearance of the ground you have to work with, I'd also recommend getting some decent soil in there to start things off. A low garden bed, just 8" high would be fine. If you want the natural look, there are a few options:
Swales instead off garden beds, a LOT of digging, but well worth it on a sloped site. They will slow the water down & let it really soak in.
Rock boarders as garden beds.
Collect some decent sized reasonably straight branches & lay them on top of each other to form a rough raised bed. Use a stake to hold them in place.

You could use citrus for screening, a couple of big orange trees will block that area out nicely. Also guava are evergreen, a bit slow growing though.
 

DivingTemptress

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Don't know if this will work in you zone, but cranberry hibiscus is very colorful and a tender perennial also the tea and jam are yummy. I grow mine in ground as well as containers. 5 ft tall !

here are a couple pics cranberry

20200801_122011_resized.jpg
cranberry on left just planted in ground last month, roselle on right. it is an annual
20200801_122040_resized hibiscus.jpg
 
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DivingTemptress

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There are trees that ''hedge'' beautifully, Barbados cherry and Grumichama that will fill in your screen.

As for the terracing, find some teenagers who want to make some moolah like the wrestling team lol
 
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DTK

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Just a thought, but why not use bales of hay (whatever bales available - I use sugar cane mulch or lucerne because it is locally available) as the lower side of the terrace. Then just add whatever soil you choose to use on the high side of each. Your chosen food plants can get a start and the 'hay' can break down providing structure and nutrients. I'm a bit of a lazy gardener and cutting troughs seems hard yakka.