Monday, December 21, 2009

Pondering Spring Planting

The One Green World 2010 catalog arrive a couple weeks ago, and I've been drooling over it, trying to decide what to plant for my food forest next year. 

I don't think I'm going to plant any trees next year.  I have a couple pear trees (Bartlett and Comice), a few apple trees (Gravenstein, Honeycrisp, Resi, Liberty, and Ashmead's Kernal), and 1 plum tree that's still alive (Italian Prune Plum).  I've killed 4 plum trees so far--they were on the moister side of my property and I think it was too moist for them.  The Italian Prune Plum is on the drier side of my property, and it's still alive.  I want to plant a couple more plum trees over there, but not this year.

I also want to plant some edible Mountain Ash or Hawthorn trees, but I think I'll hold off on them for now, too.  I'm leaning towards a Chinese Haw (Crataegus pinnatifida) for the Hawthorn because it has edible fruit and colorful fall foliage.  But not this year.

This year I think I'll start to fill in some of the areas where I already have fruit trees.  Remember, one way a food forest seeks to mimic a natural forest is by using layers.  A tree canopy layer, a shrubbery layer, an herbaceous perennial layer, etc.  So I think I'll work on the shrubbery layer next year.  I have some fruiting shrubs (huckleberries, gooseberries, and blue berries) scattered around my property, but none in the food forest yet.  So that's what I'll do this coming spring.

My fruit trees are almost all semi-dwarf trees, and they're planted about 20 feet apart.  That should allow enough light for at least a couple bushes between each pair of trees, especially if they're planted off line from the trees (not on a direct line between the trees).

I'm thinking of planting Honeyberry bushes.   I need to plant the late-blooming varieties, because I can get frosts until the middle of May.  So I get to choose between Blue Forest, Blue Moon, Blue Pacific, Blue Velvet, and Kamchatka.  They all look good.  How do I choose between them?

And I think I'll add another 3-4 rhubarb plants between the bushes.  I like rhubarb, and they produce big leaves that can be cut for mulching in place.

Then I'll plant a patch of wildflowers.  These should bring in lots of beneficial insects while providing cut flowers for my vase.  And some flowers, like yarrow, have deep roots that are good for bringing minerals from deep in the soil up to the top soil (after they die down in the fall) where they're available to other plants.

That should be good for this coming year.  Of course, once the Raintree catalog comes out, I'll probably change my mind.


  1. You might want to plant borage under the trees to attract bees. It can get pretty big, too.

    You have a much bigger space to garden than I do.

    I grow artichokes and asparagus between my trees (which are also semi-dwarf but not nearly as far apart as yours).

    For the wildflowers, I recommend Wildseed Farms:

  2. Prudent Homemaker, thanks for your comments. You offer some great advice.