halifaxearthtech: (magic is nature)

Food forests are undeniably sexy right now in Permaculture circles. A great compliment to a regular raised garden of annual vegetables, food forests pack a lot of food sources into a small space, using different height-plants that help each other out, while benefiting soil and wild life.

But what do you do when you just don't have the funds for the latest cultivars of fruit and nut bearing trees and shrubs? Behold the free food forest planting guide!

To design a food forest on the cheap, we make use of plants that either come up from plentiful (= easily available) seeds, or clones.
A plan for expanding your food forest by cloning

You may have heard of the practice of cloning while learning about more illegal plants. But many herbs and trees can also be cloned; in nature, it's a major plant-reproducing strategy.

Some times twigs (or even sometimes leaves) broken or cut from trees and shrubs will grow roots and become a whole new tree or shrub. Other times, we can stab a shovel down the middle of the plant and cut the root-ball into two or more pieces, a process known as "dividing". 

You can probably find friends willing to divide edible ornamental like Solomon seal, daylilly or hosta, and you can almost certainly find an owner of grape, hops and hardy kiwi willing to part with some prunings to clone. Thinnings of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and thimbleberries are easy to come by as people cultivating these fruit often need to thin them. Nursery season-end sales are also good to check in July and August.

Even volunteer white oak and mountain ash can be found sprouting beneath their parent trees if these tickle your fancy for an emergency food supply. Some perennial vegetables can be started from roots and leaves available at specialty grocery stores, like watercress, sunchokes and oyster root. 

Finally, Perennial vegetables can be got from further afield from progressive nurseries and seed suppliers. It is my hope to make an initial investment to bring these varieties to Nova Scotia for further propagation to jump start local food forests. Plants like salad burnet, ice cream bean, cinnamon yam, tuber pea, perennial parsley, perennial sea kale, bush cherry, hardy passionfruit, hardy kiwi, wooly lambs ear tuber, rapunzel, potato bunching onion, skirret and hardy pecan. 

Some locations I hope to plant this year with guilds and/or food forests include:

Transition Bay St Margarets

Annapolis seeds in Nictaux


The Open Mic House on Agricola street

There will be shout-outs and volunteer opportunities as spring advances so keep your eye out for those.

Some perennial vegetable purveyors 

Eric Toensmeier





as well as more traditional nurseries if you know what you are looking for.


Gardeners around North America this year were thrilled to learn about The paw paw project. Kentucky State University are distributing 30 thousand paw paw seeds in the hopes of more widely distributing paw paw trees throughout their range and foster their diversity and strength. You can contact them here

To get your own free pawpaw seeds. Of course if you help support the project you will get on the seed distribution priority shortlist!
hawthorn, mulberry and red and black currant prepared for cloning

A by-no-means exhaustive list of easy-to-obtain plants to clone for your own

Trees and shrubs that can be cloned

Beech, dogwood, willow, alder

Hawthorn, Elder, Mulberry, Currant, Gooseberry

Autumn olive, Sea buckthorn

Hazel, Sweet fern

Food-providing Herbs that can be divided or that spread

Anything mint: lemonbalm, cat nip, bee balm, chocolate mint, apple mint, horse mint, thymes, oregano, anise hyssop

Alliums: chives, garlic chives, society garlic, golden garlic, Egyptian Walking Onions

Miscellaneous perennials: ostrich fern, hostas, may apple, Solomon seal, wintergreen, rhubarb, echinacea, sweet cicely, Comfrey, yarrow, horseradish, daylilly, good king Henry, all raspberries and blackberries, many roses, strawberries, and more.


Easily started from seed and self seeding

Nasturtiums, violets, calendula

globe thistle, rudbeckia

artemisia, columbine

musk mallow




Not edible but useful for pollinators and/or fixing nitrogen

lupine, daffodil, scilla


This is a great website for all things food forest


halifaxearthtech: (Default)
If you're having trouble growing a garden it could be because your tree is poisoning it.

Norway maple (Acer planatoides) is a very common urban shade tree and it's also one naturalists love to hate.They were at the centre of last year's debacle appearing on the new $20 bill. They do indeed come from Norway as well as other regions in Eastern Europe and Western Asia
According to Wikipedia, it can tolerate poor, compacted soils and urban pollution. The roots of Norway maples grow very close to the ground surface, starving other plants of moisture. They also cast one of the most total and complete palls of shade over streets, lawns and gardens alike. Some scientists think that Norway maples might be alleopathic, meaning they poison the ground beneath them to reduce competition from other plants. The tree has been banned in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

When plants grow in nature, they very rarely grow in patches of only one kind, the way we try to make them grow in normal agriculture. Instead we see plants growing beside other plants. A patch of woodland might have taller trees, shrubs and low plants. They interact in ways we do not yet fully understand, sometimes helping and sometimes harming one another. A group of plants that work synergistically to help each other grow is called a guild. We can build whole forests out of guilds, such that each plant produces food, or helps those plants that do. You might be having to deal with aggressive plants like Norway Maple in your city garden right now. If you can't get rid of them, you can at least find the plants that can play well with these noxious species.

Guilding with Goutweed
Goutweed doesn't kill the plants around them, but will vigorously out-compete them for light, space and soil nutrients. Nearly impossible to weed out, goutweed will sprout back up from stem and root fragments and requires several going-overs to make sure it's really gone. From my own observation, goutweed occupies the root horizon most thickly between 1" and 5" below the surface. I have had good results with these plants that can co-exist with goutweed by occupying a different root horizon entirely, particularly deeply taprooted plants like burdock, comfrey and yellow dock. Shallow-rooted plants like geranium and english ivy manage with goutweed by occupying the root horizon of between 1" and the surface.

Guilding with Black walnut
As tasty as walnuts are, many kinds will kill the plants growing beneath and around them and can even produce an allergic reaction from their pollen in people and horses. (wikipedia, juglone). Many plants such as tomato, potato, blackberry, blueberry, other rhododendron and heath-family plants and apple may be injured or killed within one to two months of growth within the root zone of these trees ohiostateuniversity In spite of this, walnuts are a worthwhile addition to a food forest for their tasty nuts. Fortunately there's a lot of information online about guilding with Black Walnut.

Megan of Wisconsin (she gives no last name) at the Hardy Eco Garden explains gardening with black walnut way better than I ever could so I will just reblog her entry here:

The helpful gardener gives a guild with black walnut that includes choke cherry, currant, goumi or sea buckthorn, elder, mulberry and wolfberry.

If you are unfortunate enough to live with dog roses (Rosa multiflora) I hear goats will control them.

Here are some lists of species for you to try out in your food forest or garden compiled from several websites and forums

Norway maples
From adamsgardennativeplants;
Alumroot Heuchera villosa Some are native, pollinator support
American Bellflower Campanulastrum americanum Native, some pollinator support
American Pennyroyal Hedeoma pulegioides Edible and medicinal
Barren Strawberry Waldsteinia fragariodes A groundcover
Black-eyed Susan Rudbeckia hirta Pollinator support
Black Huckleberry Gaylussacia baccata native, edible berries
Christmas Fern Polystichum acrostichoides native, erosion control
European ginger Asarum europaeum Not edible, a nicely scented and well behaved groundcover that keeps down weeds
Fumewort Corydalis solida Spring ephemeral
Hairy solomon’s seal Polygonatum pubescens The solomon's seals are taken as hepatic adaptogens. The sprouts can be eaten in the springtime like fiddleheads if they are boiled in several changes of water. A spring ephemeral. Common solomon seal has done well under Norways in my garden.
Hazelnut Corylus avellana edible nut, coppice lumber
(a note that my hazels under Norway Maples are doing poorly. It may be worth a try in a sunnier location)
Heartleaf Aster Symphyotrichum cordifolium Pollinator and calcid wasp support
sweet woodruff Galium odoratum A vigorously spreading groundcover that smells nice when dried
Largeflower bellwort Uvularia grandiflora
Lowbush Blueberry Vaccinium angustifolia native, edible fruits
Male Fern Dryopteris filix-mas Native, groundcover
Rosey sedge Carex roseaSiberian squill Scilla sibrica Not edible, but an early spring pollinator support and spring ephemeral
Rosinweed Silphium integrifolium Pollinator support, edible seeds? oil crop?
Smooth Aster Symphyotrichum laeve Polinator and calcid wasp support
Possumhaw Viburnum Viburnum nudum Native to New England. Pollinator support. Does this indicate other viburnums such as highbush cranberry and wild raisin may also do well?
Tartan dogwood Cornus alba Dynamic accumulator
Twinleaf Jeffersonia diphylla Medicinal, native
Wild Bleeding Heart Dicentra eximia pollinator support, native
Witchhazel Hamamelis virginiana Native and medicinal
Woodland Aster Senecio sylvaticus Pollinator and calcid wasp support. It may be worth trying any sort of aster or goldenrod

From Toronto Gardens http://torontogardens.blogspot.ca/2007/09/tough-as-old-boots.html;
Chrysanthemum Pelargonium spp.
Lavender Lavandula angustifolia
Wild garlic (the species name was not given, could refer to a number of 'wild garlics')

From my own observations;

Black currant, red currant Ribes spp.
Blackberry Rubus fruticosus
Chives Allium schoenoprasum
Chrysanthemum Pelargonium spp.
Jerusalem artechoke Helianthus tuberosus
Mountain Ash Sorbus aucuparia
Nettle Urtica dioica
Mother-of-thyme Thymus praecox
Quince Cydonia oblonga
Saxifragia Stolonifera A medicinal groundcover
Solomon seal Polygonatum mutiflorum

Personal observations

Annual phlox ‪Phlox drummondii‬
Beach rose (Rosa rugosa) edible fruits and flowers, pollinator support, native
Bittersweet nightshade Solaum dulcamara
Blackberry, wild raspberry Rubus fruticosus
Dog rose Rosa multiflora
English ivy Hedera helix
High bush cranberry Viburnum trilobum
Flat topped white aster Aster umbellatus
New england aster Symphyotrichum novae-angliae
Pelargonium and geranium (just so shallow-rooted that they cannot be crowded out )
Showy goldenrod Solidago speciosa


Black spruce Picea mariana
Black ash Fraxiunus nigra
Barberry Berberis vulgaris
Elder Sambucus nigra
Lilac Syringa vulgaris
Native hawthorn Crataegus spp.
Norway Maple Acer planatoides
Poplar Populus nigra
Red oak Quercus rubens
Red maple Acer rubrum
Rowan Sorbus aucuparia
White birch Betula papyrifera
Wild Plum Prunus americana
Yellow birch Betula alleghaniensis


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May 2017

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