Week 9 & 10 (Back to Week 1)

I’m running behind on my posts so I decided to combine two weeks into one post to catch up.  Most of the plants look great but there are no signs of life on the Moringa…I’m thinking that one is a goner but I’ll leave it alone and see what happens.  The Cassava has finally woken up with some solid new growth.  There doesn’t seem to be any new seed sprouting activity from any of the broadcast seeds, but that could happen at any time…or not.  Since many of the plants I’ve used here are cold sensitive, I’ve decided to let the weeds fill in the gaps.  I want as many wind breaks in place as possible by the time the first frosts start showing up.  I anticipate some of the plants will not survive until spring but several should die back and return cheap oakleys with a vengeance.  

About the Plants

Week 9 Plants

Blue Porter Weed

This is an awesome native(-ish) plant.  I think it looks awesome in a garden and it is LOW maintenance for sure.  Can be used for tea (or beer) and is a great insectary plant.  For me though, I just LOVE munching on the flowers which taste exactly like mushrooms.  If they make it inside they’re a great addition to salads.

Hibiscus Radiatus

I had several of these in starter trays as I was trying to determine the origins of some seed I was given.  It was either Kenaf (Hibiscus Cannabinus) or Hibiscus Radiatus.  Turned out to be the latter.  Cool plant with edible leaves and beautiful flowers.  The ones I planted are tiny but already flowering and should drop their seeds to re-sprout at a later time.  

Week 10 Plants

Candlebrush (Cassia Alata)

There’s some debate about the nitrogen fixing ability of the Candlebrush even though it’s in the legume family…either way it’s a welcome addition to the garden as it has medicinal properties and is an insectary plant.  I’ll claim it as a nitrogen fixer based on its family but I’ll also make sure to have plenty of other nitrogen fixers in the mix just in case. This specimen is a tiny one not worthy of taking to the upcoming plant swap so I plugged it in here.

Malabar Spinach

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Spinach that handles the heat is never a bad thing in Florida.  This plant is a great addition to the garden as it tends to vine up support plants.  I planted it at the base of a sucker oak that is growing beside my canopy oak and I hope to have it grow up the trunk to occupy that space.  Chances are good I’ll help it climb a bit assuming it does well in this spot.

Cucumbers & Kale (or is it Collards)

Annuals in the food forest?  You bet.  We had a few starts that didn’t make it into out garden beds at home because they looked a little pitiful…I have set them free in the wilds of my mini food forest.  The Cukes will die back once the freezes come but the collards or kale (not sure which I have just yet) will do fine until the weather starts to warm up and the warm weather plants wake up.

You don’t succeed without “succession”

I keep talking rather casually about the plants I expect to die or the seeds which will start but not survive.  It took some time for me to begin to understand and become comfortable with the concept of “succession.”  Ecologically speaking, there is a natural order in which plants live and die in order to create an ecosystem.  There are other environments in which succession takes place but we will briefly discuss succession as it relates to a forest.  Previously, we discussed guilds and layers.  In those concepts, specific plants performed best in a particular partnership and placement in a forest system.  In discussing succession we also introduce the element of time. 

The canopy of trees in the center of any forest represent the climax stage of a forest.  They take the longest to grow and usually also occupy their eventual purpose the longest as well.  When we design a food forest, we ray ban sunglasses sale have to consider the space plants need in addition to the time they need to achieve their ultimate purpose.  For example: a full grown Orange tree might take up a 20-30’ diameter area.  If we were to clear a 30’ circle in our forest and plant an orange seed in the center, the chances of the tiny seedling surviving with no supporting plants within 10-15 feet in all directions would be slim.  If however, we plant green beans beside a seedling orange tree, it’s not hard to imagine the green beans getting harvested or going to seed long before the orange bears its first fruit.  How many other supporting short term plant species could be planted in the space our tree will ultimately occupy?   

Ideally, we would keep our system at our preferred stage of succession as long as possible.  Which stage, is ultimately up to the food forest designer.  Do you want a forest of mature fruit and nut trees?  Do you want a mid- succession food forest of berries and shrub leaves and vines?  Or, do you want an early stage with more weedy herbs flowers and veggies?  All of these options and more are attainable and only limited by imagination and the amount of available time to invest towards the system.  The earlier we are in the process, the faster succession takes place. 

Think about This.  Pioneer species (weeds) are designed to come in, grow, and produce seed fast.  In the process they fix nitrogen, accumulate micronutrients, break up the soil, attract pollinators and provide habitat.  Then they usually drop seed and die.  In their wake, they provide a better environment for the next level in the system to thrive, which in turn, provides support for the next.  Eventually that pitiful Orange seedling grows large enough to crowd out the light and water from the pioneers.  It provides fruit to attract animals which bring fertilizer and carry seed to the edges of other forest systems, which are filled with pioneers preparing the area and making it perfect for growing another orange tree.

For us as designers, we need to plan for too many support species in the beginning, so they can work hard at preparing the area soils and supporting our long term forest residents.  We need them to die in order to release nitrogen (if it’s a nitrogen fixer).  We need them to decompose as a long term food source and build soil to support the long term caretakers which will live in our forest soils.  The roots to these plants will decompose in place adding “carbon pathways” and allowing routes for oxygen and water to reach the root zone of the other plants.  All we have to do is provide the plants and resist the urge to “fix it” when some of them begin to fade.   This is easier said than done for sure if it’s a favorite, but if you love the plant, and it’s not doing well, leave it be…plant another one in a different spot until you find the place where it can be happy… 

 Next Week

I think from here on out I will continue to add plants and post but only as needed rather than sticking to a weekly post.  Since the garden project will slow down as the weather cools, I would rather not bore people with updates of status quo…I will do my best to cover food forest concepts as we go…if there is a specific question or topic anyone wants me to try to explain, please feel free to post it on the Facebook page or on the blog comments.  I’ll do my best to provide the answer If I know it.  Until next time…

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