Hi Reddit, by day I am a professional engineer, but by night (also by day) I plant trees.

I started planting trees about 5 years ago, and got, well, kind of addicted to it. I now plant roughly 10 thousand trees per year, likely much more, and am now fully converting what used to be useless grass lawn into a multi acre food forest wildlife sanctuary ecosystem.

This year I have added a 25 thousand gallon pollinator pond. What started as a small garden has now turned into a lifestyle, where every year I add to the system - often now using plant material harvested from the system itself.

I also use the plant cuttings and seeds to restore wildlife habitat in damaged lands such as abandoned gas stations, warehouses, and other damaged land as a hobby.

I am doing this AMA to help spread the word about what dire need we are all in, and to help educate as many people as possible about how we can drive the most amount of change possible - by planting trees.

About a year ago I decided that the best way to impact the world and help reverse climate change is to try to inspire others to change their lives with the purpose I have found in the last half decade. I now teach people how trees work, about soil science and the food web of life, and how to plant in order to maximize the efficiency of the system as a whole. This can be anywhere from water catchment earthworks such as swales, carbon sequestrations techniques like coppice systems and biochar production, soil water retention, what mulches do, smart design like drip edge guilds, plant synnergies through companion planting and 7 layer food forest design that mimics nature, and more.

Ask me anything related to how to plant a tree, to what is permaculture, to how we can use trees to sequester carbon and reverse climate change, to decentralizing the food chain, to the critical role of insects in our ecosystems, to well... anything.

Here is a recent video showing some drone footage of my property, including the ecosystem pond

Here is a video about guerilla gardening and planting trees into wild areas of nature to restore ecosystems

Here is an example of layering multiple functions into the design of a guild in a drip-edge guild using some of the healthiest plants on the planet

Comments: 209 • Responses: 83  • Date: 

PrimalLimit42 karma

Hi Keith! I'm a big fan of what you're doing with your forest. Thanks for sharing! Two questions: What were the parameters you considered when buying your land and how did you settle on that plot? And are there any food plants you've grown in the past that you don't anymore?

Suuperdad67 karma

That's definitely a great question. To be honest we half lucked into this property. When I moved out here I just wanted a place in the country to set deeper roots down with the kids than the suburban place we had. We also just wanted life to slow down a bit. Our selection criteria was a decent house and a bit of land, and that's about it.

After I moved here, I started getting really into learning more about climate change and found this design science called permaculture, and it all started clicking from there. I started planting trees and gardens, and well, got kind of addicted. What started as 4 trees turned into almost 400 the next year, slowly, week by week as I kept planting and planting and planting like some derranged squirrel.

But this piece of land is really ideally suited to a project like this. It's bordered by a river that runs 365 days a year. The water is from an Artesian well, which is a pressurized underground natural aquifer. So the water runs constantly, and we have this free source of constant water.

The land also has many south facing hills, tons of wooded forest around which is great for stuff like grafting wild apple trees for deer, and collection of seed material to expand forest in wild places that are abandoned. It's really a great place of land for this project.

If I were buying a new piece of land to do this on from scratch, I think my highest priority would be a constant source of water like a river or stream. It's not mandatory, but it sure helps get things established faster.

As far as other plants that I started that I wouldn't grow anymore, I would say that I wouldn't focus so hard on growing "weird things". When I started I tried growing a lot of plants that were just outside my zone, such as persimmons. Now, I do that more as a one or two tree hobby thing, and I focus more on plants that are native and, well, have evolved to live and be hardy in my climate over millions of years. There's no point fighting nature when you can just work with nature.

xoxomelodyreddit13 karma

  • Not a question but I just wanted to say that you are living my dream! Really appreciate what you’re doing and your impact on the environment! Huge fan from Vancouver Island, Canada 🇨🇦

Suuperdad5 karma

Thanks!

PrimalLimit11 karma

Thank you for the detailed response! I'm excited to continue following your progress

Suuperdad24 karma

Thanks :_

He was supposed to be smiling

:)

There, now he's happy

LadyBillie3 karma

aren't meadows and prairies just as important to the ecosystem as forests?

Suuperdad11 karma

Yep, important ecosystems. But monoculture suburban lawns are not grasslands.

Gayrub21 karma

I’m a big fan of yours. Because of you, I’ve started a food forest in my front yard. I laid down contractor’s paper, then an inch or 2 of compost, then 6 - 12 inches of wood chips.

I did all of that real quickly this fall, figuring that I can take the winter to figure out what to plant and how.

2 questions.

  1. How do I plant in 12 inches of wood chips? Do you pull the chips back and plant in the soil? When do you put the chips back on? Right away or do you wait until it grows 12 inches?

  2. Do you have any tips on sourcing fruit trees? I’m interested in saving as much money as possible but I can spend a little to save me a couple years. The U of M Extension says you should order them in October and pick them up in the spring but I haven’t been able to find a place that does this.

I’m in zone 4b, Minneapolis.

Thanks for doing what you’re doing. You’re making a huge impact.

Suuperdad23 karma

Thanks that's so awesome to hear! I love hearing that new people are planting trees because they have seen my content. It makes producing it worthwhile (it certainly isn't financially worthwhile! haha)

How do I plant in 12 inches of wood chips? Do you pull the chips back and plant in the soil? When do you put the chips back on? Right away or do you wait until it grows 12 inches?

Yes, you never plant in the mulch layer, because it will be nitrogen deficient as the carbon breaks down. The soil layer however only has roughly a 1mm top layer that is nitrogen deficient. So it's crucial that you get down to the soil layer for most plants. Stuff like nitrogen fixers like clover can be scattered right onto woodchips because they can access nitrogen from the atmosphere, but most plants will need to be planted in the soil, then recovered as they grow.

As far as when to cover it, just as long as you don't smother it. As it grows just cover around it. For trees, try to leave an inch around them bare, so that you don't encourage boring insects getting to them through the woodchips.

2) I try to get most of my plants local, to support local nurseries and get varieties that grow well in my climate. No real point me ordering trees from say South Carolina and saving a few bucks, but the varieties do poorly in my winters. I'd rather get a cold hardy tree from a local place.

That being said, I've bought from many places before: Treetime, wiffletree, green barn nursery, laurealt, cold hardy fruit and nut trees, grimo nursery, etc.

Edible acres (a fellow youtuber) also runs a nursery. He also has a link to some of his favorite sustainable nursuries in the description of This video here

Gayrub5 karma

You rock! You even answered a question I had but didn’t mention about clover!

Suuperdad6 karma

Awesome!

chris-198320 karma

Have you ever thought about adding animals? You have fantastic content on your YouTube, I have watched most of your videos. Recommend anyone in Canada check out his YouTube channel!!

Suuperdad36 karma

Hey Chris, thanks! Very kind.

When I first started this, well, maybe not the first year, but definitely once I learned about permaculture, I really really REALLY wanted to get animals. Definitely chickens, but also pigs. They are just so incredibly useful.

There's a good saying that if you remove an element from a natural ecosystem, then you must then provide the value that this element was providing. For animals, it's cycling of nutrients in the decomposition cycle via their excrement.

Chickens perform just such a vital role for making healthy compost. A compost pile (such as I run) is tremendously valueable, but running the same material through the stomach of an animal will lead to much more chelated (bio available) nutrient in the resulting compost. This chelation is super critical for plants to be able to access the nutrient in the compost.

Animals, especially chickens, are probably number 1 on my list, but currently we're just so super busy with kids, work, etc. I fear, that even though I hear chickens are super low maintenance, that I wouldn't be an ideal owner right now for them, and I couldn't give them the attention that they deserve.

I also have a philosophy right now that anything I spend my time on must either end up fully automated and passive, be completely self relient and need no further input from me. This is because I feel it's critical that all my time gets spent to planting more trees. And if I put in systems that will require my time, then it will by very nature of it, limit the time I can spend expanding my forest. I would instead rather focusing all my time on expansion, constant unrelenting expansion, and once I hit the limits of what I can do on that front, only then will I start projects that will demand my future time.

For that reason, until life slows down a little bit, I'm going to keep the chickens on the backburner until I can be a good steward to the creatures.

Dreamingofren6 karma

It would be interesting if (once you setup a coop for them) you could just leave the chickens and let them roam naturally throughout the forest eating what they find. That way it might encourage them to roam more helping to spread nutrients etc maybe.

Suuperdad15 karma

Indeed, free range chickens is generally what people go for.

There's a lot of people who will say they will destroy the herbaceous layer, and will also do a lot of damage to young tree roots with their kicking and scratching. For this reason, a lot of people use them in 2 ways...

1) To tractor them through a grassland to prep it for initial planting. I.e. kind of use them like a reset on the land. They often combine them with pigs in this way, and use the animals like a natural fertilizing rototiller.

2) To completely free range them, but through an established forest. Often combined with cows (they follow the cows 2 days behind them), in a system called Silvopasture. https://drawdown.org/solutions/silvopasture

Dreamingofren3 karma

Awesome will check that out thanks, but sounds good.

There's a lot of people who will say they will destroy the herbaceous layer, and will also do a lot of damage to young tree roots with their kicking and scratching.

Right got you makes sense.

1) To tractor them through a grassland to prep it for initial planting. I.e. kind of use them like a reset on the land. They often combine them with pigs in this way, and use the animals like a natural fertilizing rototiller.

Sounds cool.

2) To completely free range them, but through an established forest. Often combined with cows (they follow the cows 2 days behind them), in a system called Silvopasture. https://drawdown.org/solutions/silvopasture

That's a cool little 'nature grouping', will check it out thanks.

And yeah seems like once you get to certain sizes / growth of forests it opens up more options that are easier to implement (such as letting the chickens just roam around).

The more I learn the more it seems to be that getting as much viable land going from day 1 as possible, as you need those big trees to be grown before other options open up (not to say you can't do stuff in the meantime but getting those trees in asap seems to be important?).

Would be interesting to explore how you could do this commercially and scale up. For example having a someone manage x size of land for x years until y stage, then employ 1 person until z stage. Etc etc until you're 20 years down the line and have people employed for various things etc. Natural growth. What do you think? You mentioned you can see yourself going down that route.

Suuperdad6 karma

Yeah, I think that the first years can be pretty manageable for 1 person, until harvesting start being a massive chore. I know I have planted thousands of trees in 1 day from seed, and maybe 200 or so when doing from bare root trees. That's just 1 day.

Most of the initial work is on a clear (even if it's just a mow, or a crip, or a thinning of existing brush), then a large organic material dump. If done with machinery, you can definitely do this on a massive scale as 1 person. Even just with a bucket and a pitchfork (my method), I've done acres of woodchips, literally thousands of yards of woodchips, every day of the summer for years. Just chip away at it.

End of the day, I think it just depends on what your timeline is. If you are in no rush, then you can go at it as 1 person and get a crapload done. If you want to get up and running ASAP, on a large scale, you'll definitely need help.

For those people who are by themselves, or just their family, I definitely recommend focusing small and setting that part up properly, and then slowly creeping out. I would recommend against trying to go too big too fast, and having it all kinda go unmanageable in the rampancy of summer, and losing a bunch of trees.

I'd rather someone work on a 50 square foot section, get that established strongly, and then use that section as the anchor to expand outwards from.

A smaller well managed space will vastly outproduce and outperform a mismanaged larger space. And I think we often go the larger route, and suffer for it.

banestraitelbov16 karma

Hi Keith! Big fan, thanks for all the info you provide in your channel!

I recently purchased a property that includes 2/3 acres of rather dense forest with tall trees, in zone 7a. I absolutely don't want to remove any of the trees in this forest, but was wondering if there is some way to still potentially grow some food there - any suggestions on what I can grow that would work well under almost full cover? There is wildlife that often visits this forest as it is not fenced, and I honestly don't mind sharing the food I grow here with them.

Suuperdad22 karma

Have you checked out one of my latest videos on the drip edge guild?

https://youtu.be/Hdlm282DnxE

In this video, after I buy the new trees, I install them in a drip edge guild, and I talk about the fertiility boost that the forest edge can provide. This is why forests expand from the edge out, because they just happen to be hyper fertility concentrators.

So I'm not sure about your land, but is there an option of using the forest edge and your expansion point, and just continuously expanding it outward from the edge?

If not, a really good way that you can maximize forest edge in a fully forested plot is to actually great glades directly inside the forest. This is a really good forest management practice in general, because what happens is that you clear a circle hole in the forest, and all of a sudden you get this flush of light down at the soil that wasn't happening before.

Now all of a sudden you have this flush of growth of the herbaceous layer. This adds a ton of "wetness" to help slow forest fires - as the previous situation was likely a bunch of dried old dead wood. Now instead you have lush ferns and groundcovers growing.

Now all inside this glade you can set up the next succession of your forest - changing a pine or cedar monoculture into a vibrant diverse ecosystem with oaks and apples and chestnut, etc. You will correspondingly get a massive flush of growth of natural beings that come to consume this food. Just make sure you plant enough that you get some also!

Then just keep making new glades and rotate through the forest, making more pocket glades each year, as you slowly change it into a healthier more diverse ecosystem.

banestraitelbov8 karma

This is amazing advice! I will definitely first look into creating glades without removing trees, and if not, perhaps replacing a few trees at a time with fruit producing trees is something I can digest!

Follow up question, the forest area also has a lot of vegetation growing at the base of the trees - any idea on what I can replace this with? I'm looking for something that will produce food and also survive in almost full shade.

Suuperdad9 karma

Well, I would suggest first learning what you are replacing and if it needs replacing. Many things in nature are actually feeding critical insects and other beings. I would first recommend learning as much as possible about your native plants before you remove them.

As far as what enjoys being in partial shade in a forest, currants do really well in shades, as do most ferns such as ostrich ferns (fiddleheads). Mushroom logs would also be good to add in there.

banestraitelbov3 karma

Understood, thank you!

Girl_on_a_bicycle3 karma

Double check that it's legal to grow currants in your state/province/county!

(I started shopping and realized it was illegal because of the diseases they share with native pine trees)

Suuperdad2 karma

Thanks for this, I learned something new today! I had no idea.

fruitdemer5 karma

My grandfather has had a beaver take over about 10 acres of his property. They've built a good sized pond and lots of wildlife are returning to the area.

Suuperdad15 karma

That's pretty exciting. I know they get a lot of flack for diverting waterways, but they are just trying to be their best beaver.

Dantes11111 karma

Hi Keith, I've been watching your videos for a few months now, and I'm really excited by the work you're doing. We'll be house shopping early next year and then I plan to fully dive into permaculture!

Do you have any recommendations on where to start to get a comprehensive view of what I would need to do, either one of your videos or another source?

Suuperdad18 karma

In the OP there, I linked to a few videos that are good starters. I actually make an "essentials" playlist that is somewhere around 24 videos or so. I would make sure you watch all of those videos, starting with the topics you enjoy the most - how to get started, grass to garden guides, permaculture design philosophy, my 2 golden rules, etc. So much good info in those videos. Infact, many permaculturists would open a website and hide those behind paywalls as a permaculture course. I think that's silly though, we just need the information out there for people to use.

Another thing you can do is sign up for a free 52 week permaculture design course here:

https://www.freepermaculture.com/onlinecourse/

I have no affiliation with them, but I just think that offering a $3000 course for free is about the coolest thing in the world. They believe what I do... that we need to make an army of tree planters, and we just want the information out there, so that people can start going and we get ACTION happening, and not just words and protests, but trees in the ground.

Manleyan10 karma

Hello Keith! Though it's a dream of mine, I won't be purchasing or living at a large property anytime soon. Patio gardening for the next few years at least. What would you recommend working on / thinking about / learning in the meantime as I fantasize? Alternatively, do you have any recommendations for ambitious, permaculture-informed patio projects?

Suuperdad16 karma

I actually think you are in the perfect spot to start getting a real education in this, and it will pay off bigtime. Someone starting from scratch with no knowledge is going to spend half their time spinning their wheels. Someone who takes a year to learn what they are doing, trying and failing, then applying those lessons to their final design will actually have a much more advanced system in a decade than the person starting and scrambling and flailing about at the beginning.

And there's a lot of things we can learn in an apartment with no land, but access to books and internet. Things I would prioritize the highest?

  • Learn how to start plants from seed. You can do this inside a closest in a guest bedroom, or the corner of a basement or garage. I have videos on this: https://youtu.be/DeQjywi8Sss

  • Learn how to propate (copy) plants from hardwood and softwood cuttings. This is something that tends to take several years to get a hold of, and can be started from anywhere. Just take cuttings from plants at parks and try your hand at turning them into a new bush or tree.

  • Learn how to graft. We can practice grafting apples on wild apple trees for example. I like to look in February for apple trees that still have apples on them. These are tremendously valuable for deer - food in their time of dearth. Take cuttings from those (called scion wood) and practice grafting those to apple trees that currently have no apples on them. Who knows, maybe you just helped the deer if your grafts take, and by the time you get a property, you will be a master grafter.

  • Get out and ID plants in your local ecosystem. Learn their uses, their benefits, what eats them, etc. you will now have a library of information (and a knowledge of where to find free plant material for your forest!), and how to boost pollinators and pest predators, which will pay off massively as your trees thrive in a healthy protected ecosystem with a good predator insect population. I have a video on how to get started with this here

  • Learn general theory stuff, like guild design.

  • For patio projects, that's not my thing at all. I think I would rather you listen to other experts on that subject. Potted plants tend to need the human to constantly intervene. I'm all about the complete opposite. Handing the wheel to nature.

liabobia9 karma

Hi Keith! I'm a big fan of your channel. How do you get your kiddos involved in permaculture, if at all? Any tips on raising children to be partners with the planet?

Suuperdad11 karma

That's a great question and I'd love other people's advice! It's hard to get them off fortnite and out in the garden. We force it now and then, but we also don't want them to see it as a chore or a punishment. We limit times on electronics, but I think it's also important that they learn how to use them, because the world they grow up in will require it as an innate skillset. It's a tough balance for sure.

One thing that I HAVE found is that if the kids GROW the food, they are more likely to EAT the food. Putting a veggie from the store on their plate, and they whine and complain about having to eat it. But putting that carrot that they watered and took care of and pulled out of the ground, they actually get excited to try it.

People, if you want your kids to eat their vegetables, get them a garden and go out spending time together growing them with your kids. It works.

For the second question, I think it's something that grows as they do. You aren't going to make an 8 year old care about the planet, but I bet the same kid when THEY have kids, will really care.

I mean, if you knew me before I had kids, I definitely thought people like me were "tree hugging hippies". It's insane to me that I'm the same person as that idiot.

johnnyblaaze9 karma

Hey Keith, Ive been watching your work for a while and I have some questions. English is my 2nd language.

First of all, I am jn Quebec Zone 5. I was wondering what kind of land I should acquire. You seem to have a lot of wood area so Id guess that would be a good start. However, around here, people selling land sell higher because of the "cut it all down to make firewood and make a profit mentality". How did you acquire your land? What is a good price?

I plan of living in a homestead in 5 years. We talk about this a lot. I make 70k+ ish a year, a few debts but nothing major, pretty good at not spending money. My girlfriend is a professional beekeeper and combined with our knowledge in broad biology (a degree + masters) I think we could pull this off. I also reoriented myself and Im getting pretty good at manual work and metalwork.

I am rambling off here but thanks a lot for providing unique content like this. It is very inspiring.

Suuperdad12 karma

First off, you write in your second language better than 99% of people write in their first.

Yeah, wooded land is ideal for a project like this, but with some space to plant. See my response to another comment on the creation of glades if you end up being fully wooded plot. (do a word search on this page for "glade")

You are right that wooded lots tend to be cheaper to aquire. But most importantly for us, planting trees, is that the soil will have already been converted to a fungal dominated soil that trees love. So every tree you plant will have a better chance to thrive, versus say planting trees in bacterial dominated grassland soils.

For the financial aspect, I'm certain you could pull this off. The thing about a food forest, is that it may cost money to get it started, but it then GENERATES income via savings at the very least, and a passive income if that's something you want to do, selling plants, food, compost, manure, eggs, meat, etc.

For most things, the ROI tends to hover around 2 years. Stuff like chickens can be profitable year 1. Berries like raspberries will generate a profit the first year also. Trees, depending on how large you get them, will be profitable within 2 to 10 years. Young nut trees will take the longest to be profitable, but also will tend to be the most profitable longterm - especially nuts like black walnut where the tree itself may be worth 2000-4000 in a few decades. If someone is in a good financial position, there's not too many investments better than buying land and planting a bunch of $5 black walnut 1 year whips on them, and selling them in 40 years for a free retirement plan (which sequesters carbon and feeds nature in the meantime).

Dreamingofren9 karma

Do you sell the produce you make from the farm and if so any idea what sort of profit you're getting per acre etc?

Do you think it's profitable for people to buy de-forested land, regenerate it, and then grow / sell the produce naturally grown and harvested or does that still require outside investment?

Guess big question with lots of 'it depends', with the country's jurisdictions being a key one maybe?

I've just started a college course in horticulture and the whole perma culture / forest farming / forest regeneration / bio-diversity regeneration area is insanely interesting so thanks for all your videos.

Suuperdad16 karma

I actually prefer to donate most of my excess food, although I must admit this year with Covid we have been on hypermode canning and preserving as much food as possible so that we don't have to go to a store more than once a month or so for the stuff I can't make, or that doesn't make sense for me to grow (sugar, flour, rice, etc).

Also, my goal isn't to make profits, but my goal is to maximize how much I can expand this puppy. Tree systems also tend to take a bit of time to really kick in, and I'm in year 4-5 now. My production on this land is going to ramp up extremely quickly over the next decade or so, likely well beyond my capability to keep up, and I will likely have to think about hiring people, creating a business, and maybe even renting land and opening a store. Some people also sell to restaurants, since the fresh food just tastes miles better than store bought.

Infact, at a tour I ran last year, we had a restaurant owner show up, and after eating one of my black krims, he said he would buy every tomato I ever produced.

//////

For deforested land and regrowing it, there's tremendous value in that, especially if the land isn't fully cleared. Fully cleared land can be expensive, because it's better for development and agriculture. However, damaged forest land, like say, a harvested timber plot of "pines in lines" can be of tremendous value. Plant a few thousand black walnut trees on that, and innoculate stuff like shitake mushrooms under the walnuts, and you have a REAL investment there.

I hope I answered your question okay - feel free to ask another if you have any followup questions. And thanks for getting into this. Your education is going to be very useful in the future that we're walking into. Keep up the hard work, your life and work will have tremendous value to humanity.

Dreamingofren4 karma

Hey thanks for taking time to respond.

I actually prefer to donate most of my excess food, although I must admit this year with Covid we have been on hypermode canning and preserving as much food as possible so that we don't have to go to a store more than once a month or so for the stuff I can't make, or that doesn't make sense for me to grow (sugar, flour, rice, etc).

Yeah makes a lot of sense.

Also, my goal isn't to make profits, but my goal is to maximize how much I can expand this puppy. Tree systems also tend to take a bit of time to really kick in, and I'm in year 4-5 now.

Yeah that long wait factor seems quite key in those early stages.

My production on this land is going to ramp up extremely quickly over the next decade or so, likely well beyond my capability to keep up, and I will likely have to think about hiring people, creating a business, and maybe even renting land and opening a store. Some people also sell to restaurants, since the fresh food just tastes miles better than store bought.

Yeah makes sense, I know the vertical farming companies in London (UK) sell their herbs to local restaurants because of quality etc.

Infact, at a tour I ran last year, we had a restaurant owner show up, and after eating one of my black krims, he said he would buy every tomato I ever produced.

Amazing.

For deforested land and regrowing it, there's tremendous value in that, especially if the land isn't fully cleared. Fully cleared land can be expensive, because it's better for development and agriculture. However, damaged forest land, like say, a harvested timber plot of "pines in lines" can be of tremendous value. Plant a few thousand black walnut trees on that, and innoculate stuff like shitake mushrooms under the walnuts, and you have a REAL investment there.

Which profits could go to regrowing the fully cleared or even contaminated land (assuming it's more expensive to fix and or longer).

And thanks for getting into this. Your education is going to be very useful in the future that we're walking into. Keep up the hard work, your life and work will have tremendous value to humanity.

Hey thanks! Feels good to be doing something more aligned with nature / something important. Thanks again.

Suuperdad5 karma

Totally agree with all your responses/comments there.

iambluest3 karma

The soil in boreal forests is thin, this is a question I will like more information on.

Suuperdad10 karma

Yeah, it's kind of what you get when you have plants (conifers) that don't drop their leaves. You get less soil building.

The fastest way to grow soil is by constatly dropping organic material on the soil. This is why plants like Paulownia Elongata can build soil so fast. (Not to be confused with Paulownia Tomentosa which is invasive).

EarballsOfMemeland9 karma

Hi, thanks for offering such an accessible channel, I've been watching for a while. My question is what do you think the greatest barrier is that is preventing permaculture design from entering mainstream agricultural thinking?

Suuperdad14 karma

I think machinery and harvest.

Permaculture is all about maximizing SYSTEM yield by maximizing photosynthesis through complex plant guilds. However, it's hard to run an apple harvester giant machine through a dense complex polyculture of apples and pear, plum, raspberries, lovage, sage, thyme, oregano and strawberries all weaved together.

For this reasons, permaculture large scale projects tend to be heavier on the human labour aspect (a pretty good thing considering the world of automation and job loss we are entering in the future), and less on giant machines running through 1000 acres of nothing but corn, like traditional agriculture does.

Many people will say that permaculture farms tend to be lower profits, but often that argument is flat out incorrect, but also it almost always ignores the soil cost of industrial agriculture. For example, if I made 10% more profits by mining my soil and turning it into a desert in 3 decades, was I more successful than the permaculture project that made 10% less profits, but whose soils actually INCREASED in fertility in the 3 decades?

And that's the problem right there. We're in this world that demands instant gratification, instant profits, shareholder reports that must maximize efficiency of the only thing they look at - short term.

Until we change fundamentally as a species, and start valuing the planet we live on, then we are going to struggle getting people to convert over to regenerative agriculture. We'll also not have a planet that grows food anymore.

stubby_hoof4 karma

What soil test are you using to define your fertility? What is the soil type?

Suuperdad6 karma

You know what oddly enough, I've never done any soil test beyond putting soil in a water bottle and filling with water and shaking it and letting it split into sand, silt and clay. And funny enough, the results are strikingly different in various locations. Almost full clay in the lower areas, almost full sand near the side of the house on the hill, and well, basically gravel near the house.

After getting really into Dr Elaine Ingham's work, I was going to send my soil off to a university to get it tested, but honestly just never made it a priority. Stuff is growing really well, and I just keep putting down organic material, and it gets better every season. So I just keep my focus on planting more trees.

Pavlin877 karma

Hi Keith how big is your property and how much you pay in property tax?

Suuperdad7 karma

4.5 acres and more than I'd like.

Pavlin876 karma

Follow up question, could I do something similar on a one acre, and would my tax be around $10k or am I dreaming?

Suuperdad9 karma

You could absolutely do this on an acre. I have been planting for 5 years now and am only now at roughly 1-2 acres planted out. When you cram stuff in like a forest does, it takes a lot of time! Also when you do earthworks like swales to boost the system forever. Lots of labour but you can't beat passive automatic water table building systems.

For your tax that depends entirely on where you live. 1 acre in New York city may cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars. 1 acre in the middle of Timbucktoo may have property tax of 20 bucks.

listern17 karma

How can people with small budgets in urban areas live that dream of permaculture, where land is too expensive?

Suuperdad6 karma

I did a video just recently on this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oiIJkzahH1k.

There are also a lot of "plant on my land" style permaculture collaborations that you can get involved in. Land share programs. WOOFing.

For example, lots of elderly people would love to have someone come garden on their land. They get some free food, they have their land tended to and kept up for them as they lose the ability to take care of it themselves. You get free land to grow on, you just have to share some of your bounty. And let me tell you, the amount of zucchini I throw at people each year, sharing the surplus isn't really an issue.

So it's all about how much legwork you want to put in trying to organize something in your area. All these programs in other places were started by people just like you, who wanted to do something, wanted to make a change, wanted land but couldn't get it, and went about it another way.

So get calling people, put up posters in the local community center, try to find other permaculturists around you, and see if you can set up some kind of community or program that uses other people's useless lawns and turns them into forests and gardens, and shares the bounty.

Also maybe try to find some of those programs, contact their leaders and founders, and get tips from the true experts on how they did it, mistakes they made, how they would do it if they started fresh again, etc.

IIRC there are a bunch of programs like this in Florida and California.

ostrichman17 karma

Any tips for picking trees for your food forest?

When I'm at nurseries I'm tempted by the bigger trees but it's just so much cheaper to buy younger ones.

Suuperdad12 karma

I think getting a bigger tree that I call a "victory tree" can be a good idea when starting. But just get 1 or 2. The reason for this is that the tree is large, but it's root system in the pot is going to be severely stunted. This means that it's more likely to survive compared to a bare root 1 year old twig (a 6 inch tall "whip") but it's also going to kind of struggle it's whole life - or at least a very long time.

The payback can be almost immediate though, and that's a nice thing to have. You planted trees to get food, and this older tree will get you food faster. It will motivate you to plant more once you taste what fresh food tastes like. There is truly nothing like a peach that was on the tree seconds before you smashed that puppy into your mouth.

But overall, the way to go is with 1 or 2 year old baby trees, bare root. The reason for this is that the sooner you can get a tree in it's final position, the stronger it's roots will be in the longterm. Deeper wider more robust roots means more area of soil that the plant can get nutrient and water from. More resistance to drought, more pest resistance, just better bigger, stronger tree.

It's funny because some of my 1 year old whips are 5 years in age behind some of the starter trees, but they are already starting to pass them, just 3 years later. Fast forward another few years and you will think the bigger tree was older, but it will actually be the younger bare root tree. They will also be more resistant to high wind storms, due to having a deeper taproot, because that taproot didn't hit the bottom of a bucket and curl, it was allowed to drive deep into the subsoils.

Last thing, bare root trees are WAAAAY cheaper. You can get an apple tree from home depot for like 70 bucks, but can find bare root trees sometimes as cheap as 5 bucks. So when doing a large project, as long as you have patience, young bare root trees are the way to go.

Gayrub5 karma

Where do you get the bare root trees from? I’ve been calling around to local nurseries and all I find are multiple gallon bucket sizes. Maybe now that I know the terms “bare root” and “whip” I can ask them.

Suuperdad7 karma

Most nurseries only do bare root because transporting soil costs money. I'm surprised you are finding the opposite.

I posted a response in this thread about nurseries I use, and all of those ones ship bare root. Not sure if that was your question or another. But word search bare root and you will find it.

housemeat7 karma

i'd like to plant trees for a living. im 53 years old and my joints arent perfect, but i work physical labor jobs now and hold my own. do you think it's a reasonable thing to pursue?

Suuperdad10 karma

I mean, it's definitely a worthy pursuit. And you are likely in pretty good physical health if you work physical jobs. Also continuing to be physically active can extend how long you are able.

I would say definitely, although I don't know anything about you. But I would think you can do it. There are likely tools you can get to help. I know people who plant 1000's trees per day for the forestry service and use tree plugs, have this tool they use that makes bending over not a problem.

That being said, I must say that I've worked out my whole life (not a gym rat or anything, but I'm an ex varsity athlete), and I think some of my best workouts have been hauling woodchips, turning compost, and doing farmers carries of water jugs up hills back and forth back and forth from the river to the upper gardens. I do this on purpose to stay as fit as possible doing something fun - planting trees is more fun than running on a treadmill - but it's definitely physically demanding.

As a consequence, I sleep really well!!

biglistening7 karma

Your work is so appreciated. You've mentioned comfrey and J artichoke are well suited for many systems. If you could wish it, what would be the top intro perennials you'd like to see in northeast US/CA suburbia? Thanks!

Suuperdad10 karma

Clover would be my number one. Just because it restores nitrogen to the depleted soils of our planet, and also feeds the bees. It is also hardy as heck. Clover everywhere. We really need to replenish our insect populations - as a matter of existential threat to our species.

Then I would say that I honestly don't care. I think people should plant what they enjoy to eat. If someone doesn't like Jerusalem Artichokes then they definitely shouldn't be planting them, because they'll be there forever. So try some first, say, in a pot, then decide if you want them on your property.

But as far as my favorites, I think it's gotta be trees. Fruit and nut trees, I don't care what kinds. They just provide so many calories for nature (and us).

For herbaceous layer plants, I think strawberry and asparagus are amazing. They last a really long time and propagate themselves super easy. They are also expensive in stores, so they make financial sense to plant.

For nature plants, I think asters are awesome - a suggestion from a really knowledgeable watcher I have, FormidableFlora. More from her, her words: "Let's plant wild senna to feed those wild turkeys, pussytoes to host American lady butterflies, bearberry for elfin butterfly larvae, etc? Or something altogether different?"

biglistening7 karma

I've noticed that information literacy is a big part of navigating best practice. I've also noticed that some printed books bring more value than internet searches. What are the book(s) on the topic that belong in every home library? How about links/bookmarks? Thanks again.

A shout out to Dave Jacke's, "Edible forest gardens" to starting my family on this venture.

Suuperdad6 karma

Here is a good post on good permaculture books:

https://www.reddit.com/r/Permaculture/comments/3txvcn/what_are_some_good_permie_books/?utm_medium=android_app&utm_source=share

I definitely second Edible Forest Gardens.

c-lem4 karma

This seems like another one worth sharing: https://permies.com/w/book-reviews (I had saved it from this comment from /u/jocecampbell).

No questions for you, tonight (I've asked more than my share over the years!), but I've been enjoying the questions and answers. Cheers!

Suuperdad5 karma

Awesome, thanks!

Maximum_Composer96936 karma

Hi Keith, I'm typing from Missouri and you're a huge inspiration to me.

I own land heavily covered in nut trees with a few small clearing where light gets in and native grasses grow. My goal is to use these small spaces to start adding some diversity into the forest. I want to focus on the understory plants that don't get much light because of the mature overstory. So my question is, what advice do you have for guerrilla gardening into a mature woodland? with a goal of utilizing the rich soils of the forest to help produce food and a chain of fertility.

Suuperdad9 karma

When we are talking about starting from an existing mature forest, that ecosystem has kind of already reached the endgame. However, because of that, it's also kind of already done sequestering carbon.

So I would move into a long term forest management program with that land. Removal of some (but not all) old trees. Creation of pocket glades within the forest to stimulate a new flush of growth for new trees (search "glade" in this thread and find a larger detailed reply on this topic). This new flush of growth can really sequester a ton of carbon and act as a new catalyst for life and food.

As far as what species you can introduce, it completely depends on your area. I'm not familiar with it as much as a local conservation authority would be, so I would suggest giving them a call and seeing what they say. My guess would be that all the things I mention at 10:20 in this video here would be a great start.

adriamycin6 karma

Hi Keith! I stumbled on your channel & reddit presence a few months ago and have learned so much. I'm an engineer as well, and really like the more scientific approach that you take. I'm always really interested in the specific details of why something works, and this sort of detail seems to be lacking in a lot of permaculture/gardening resources that I've come across.

I am in the early stages of converting as much of my tiny suburban back yard to a "mini food forest". Since my space is so limited, I'm really curious to know about how closely I can space things (particularly fruit trees). I'd love to jam in as much as I can partly because it will make my yard look more like a natural landscape (I like my neighbours, but don't want to see them), and partly because I absolutely love the taste of fruit that's literally just come off the tree. My understanding is that most fruit trees respond well to pruning, but I'm wondering how much I can really cram into a limited space... especially when considering how big the trees will get when mature. I noticed in your recent video about the drip edges, you put the trees quite close together. I'd like to know what the longer-term plan for this is - will you prune or cut down some of the trees as the others grow, or just let them sort it out amongst themselves?

Any other advice for planting in a really small space (with lots of sun)? I'm in Ottawa, so pretty much the same zone as you. Thanks!

Suuperdad5 karma

For sure, I like planting really close. If you look at nature, it puts oaks 3 inches apart, and let the strongest survive and dominate. For more info, here is my reply to a similar comment from before:

Oh it is indeed extremely crowded. Just how I like it :)

Long term, this guild has probably 50 trees that may grow, and only room for maybe 5 or so full grown trees. But importantly, this allows me to select the strongest members and promote their growth, and if some don't make it through my winter, that's totally okay because others will.

Then there is the temporal aspect. I have placed many things into motion in this bed, and they will all unravel at their own pace, and they all want their own endgame. And they are different from eachother.

The paw paws and oaks are perfect examples of this. An oak existing 2 feet from a pear seems crazy, but think about the growth rate and life of these beings. The oak is a very slow grower, and while eventually its trunk alone will envelop that pear, it won't happen in the same moment of time. That pear can live 2 decades before the oak starts shading it out, and at that point the oak simply takes over as the patriarch.

The paw paws are also slow growers, and more importantly their final role, based on their size and desires are actually an understory tree. So even if a pear gets up above it, proper pruning and training of the pear can allow room underneath it for the paw paw. And the paw paw is perfectly happy being shaded by its big brother pear tree.

Suuperdad3 karma

For the second question, no real difference, besides of course I wouldn't plant say an oak tree too close to a house or a fence or a neighbour. Just consider the final size of things when you have stuff like permanent structures to think of.

Brayongirl6 karma

"Plant" mushrooms. I want to plant some next year and therefore buy mycelium. But my wood mulch will be 1 1/2 years old next spring and the "wild mushrooms" have already appeared last summer. Will my attempt to put in edible mushrooms fail or should I do something special to decrease the competition between the fungi in the wood mulch and the soil?

Suuperdad6 karma

I have found that in the areas I added winecap mushrooms, that they overpowered my local native mushrooms that were inside the woodchips. If you ever see woodchips in my videos, you may see these things that look like little insect eggs. Those are actually a mushroom, a local one.

So I think the answer is, it depends. It depends on the strength of your spawn, and if it can out-compete whatever local mushroom is there in the first place. Definitely worth trying though, they can be a very good crop. And in terms of profits (if that's your thing) mushrooms can be the most profitable thing we can grow.

Brayongirl5 karma

Thanks! Then I think I'll put a big clump in one place to have a bigger chance of survival and then separate it next autumn or spring. I am going for winecap too since they seem to do well in cold climate. I am doing it to add of the produces my food forest can provide and the lack of wild mushroom I can find around here (there's a lot but did not find time and energy to find them).

Suuperdad7 karma

That's actually exactly what I did. I did a video on "what is the MVP in your garden", and that spot where I transplant the mycelium from, that's my original planting spot.

I wanted that to get established and strong, and spread, and then I could pull from it and spread clumps everywhere else. So far I probably have now 50 spots that are growing winecap mushrooms. It has worked amazing for me.

Awkward_Poet6 karma

In my own food forest I aim to maximize the yield and self-sustainability of the system above all else. More often than not, this approach goes hand in hand with various positive environmental impacts, but that aspect in itself is not considered in my design. What is your take on balancing efficiencies, and do you have any overarching principles guiding your design?

Suuperdad9 karma

I think this completely depends on your goal and your dependency on your system to provide for your family, both food and profit. For example, I work during the day as an engineer, so my property is only a hobby, and my job provides my income. So for me, my goal isn't to produce a profit, but rather to produce a forest. If the birds get all my fruit for example, then that just means that I fed nature, nature will "plant more trees" via the droppings of seed from the birds, and that's actually the optimal thing to be honest - even moreso than me eating any at all.

However if your goal is to provide an income for your family, then you need to be focussed on a profit. Not at the expense of all other things, but there's nothing wrong with making money doing permaculture. And there's nothing wrong with wanting to make money. Money isn't evil, the chase of it at the exclusion of all other things is where we go wrong.

It's a bit of a long winded question to say that my focus is the same as yours right now. On maximizing the health and sustainability (regeneration) of my system. Profits aren't even a consideration for me.

And the coolest thing about that, is that every penny I have put into this thing has already paid itself back 3x over at least. The amount of food I have pulled from this thing, and saved from buying in the store, dwarfs the amount of money I spent on it. And I'm only in year 4-5. I have a lifetime of endless "profits" ahead of me, whether it's food, free trees, or just the peace of being inside a forest I created.

My overarching principle is absolutely to provide food for nature, to allow nature to grow and expand my food forest automatically for me. Each squirrel that gets a hazelnut is actually a good thing.

cmevans26 karma

Hi Keith, I am on 7acres on a riverfront property in zone 5b. I am already off and running with some trees, shrubs, etc planted (about 30 varieties total) and we are in our first full year. I was wondering what resources or guides you came across for propagating various fruit trees, shrubs and ground cover? For example a lot of fruit trees or shrubs are on rootstock. Is that necessary for propagating them or can they grow their own roots and survive fine? Do you have a nursery or just plant things with random cuttings?

Suuperdad10 karma

The ideal way is definitely to use rootstock and graft to them. For anyone that doesn't know what that means is that you can basically join 1 tree to another like Frankenstein. So you get 1 tree that genetically has super strong roots, but maybe poor fruit. Maybe that rootstock is insanely cold resistant. So you grow that tree, but then you splice on (via a cut and a graft) the variety of tree with good fruit onto it. Now you have this mega power root tree pumping nutrient into a mega power fruit producing variety.

The best place on the internet to learn grafting (in my opinion) is skillcult on youtube. https://www.youtube.com/user/1sustainablehedonist. That guy is an incredible resource for grafting. He has a grafting series that I'm sure you can find, it's like 8 videos long and is some of the best stuff I've watched or read on the topic.

For other propagation, a really good youtuber for that is Sean over at Edible Acres. https://www.youtube.com/user/EdibleAcres

//////

As far as "is it neccessary", absolutely not. You can get trees to grow without doing it, it's just a matter of taking it to the next level. Maybe you get 50% success rate with yours, and grafted rootstock will give you 90%. Well, if it takes a quarter of the time to just take cuttings and jam them in the ground, then you'll get more trees using the brute force method.

I made roughly 100-200 free elderberry, currant, and haskap plants this year just by cutting a host plant, making cuttings from the branches, and jamming them in the ground. I got maybe 40% success rate overall, but stuff like the elderberry was more like 90% success rate. Peaches are like 2% success rate like that.

So it's good to learn that stuff, and the best way is just trial and error. You should prune your trees anyways, and make sure you use all those pruning cuttings to try to make new plants with.

sleepingridley5 karma

Hi Keith!

I literally found you no more than 2 hours ago so I’m sorry if this is something you’ve touched on before that I haven’t seen. I want to know your thoughts on my situation. I will be moving in about a year and know I won’t be living in the next few houses for more than a couple years for probably the next decade of my life due to my circumstances. Because of this, I feel like it’s almost pointless to do more than just a basic garden wherever I end up because I won’t know if the people after me will maintain anything I create, and as for trees which produce food I likely won’t harvest any product from them because of the short timespan I will leave at each location. Eventually I would LOVE to do what you’re doing and know later in life I will but I don’t know how I could ever do that soon.

What are your thoughts about all this and what do you think would be the best way to live off of the land as much as possible while having the knowledge I won’t be on the land for any extended period of time?

Also, totally unrelated question. What are the best resources for finding plants that are in my area/zone? And do you have a video covering that topic?

Thank you so much! I’m so glad I found you and look forward to watching all your stuff!!

Suuperdad8 karma

OMG, this is the ideal scenario. This is actually what I mention to my niece who may be looking to buy land in 10 years. I said, try to find some land now, and just go buy it, plant some trees on it, and let it sit for a decade. The amount of value that you can add to a property is incredible - especially if you are going to live there. Man, I would have LOVED to have 10 year established apple, pear, peach, plum trees here.

Tree systems, in the way I show on my channel, are extremely low maintenance systems. Trees planted in grass lands will die and have low survival rates. However, trees planted in sheet mulched heavy carbon woodchip pre-started areas are very resilient. For example, if I want to plant trees somewhere, I start that area a year in advance. I sheet mulch it (I have video guides on this in my essentials playlist) a year ahead of time. This gets the fungal component in the soil growing, which is what trees want. They are late-succession, and they don't want bacterial grassland soil, they want forest fungal soil. So building that fungus is critical to success.

You have all the time in the world on your project, so you really have the ability to create a self sustaining resilient food forest there. Heck, if I were you, I would buy the land and just cover it with 2 feet of woodchips and come back next year, and get started then. You can often get free woodchips from arborists, because it's a waste stream that they need to pay to get rid of. They LOVE having an open field to dump them in.

////////

For your second question, your local conservation authority is a good resource. They will LOVE to point you towards resources in your area that both provide local native pollinator attracting plants (nurseries) as well as informaiton on this stuff.

If you are in the states, you also have something called (I think) an extension office, and this is like a master grower who you pay taxes to employ and answer questions like that. Try to see if you can find them. Maybe someone from the US can help me if I got that term wrong. It's extension something.

Gayrub5 karma

You say you have about 1000 trees on 2 acres of land? Does the 2 acres include the pond and house or is the 2 acres just food forest?

500 trees sounds like a lot per acre. Do you expect them all to get fully grown? Is it just that fruit trees are smaller than most forest trees?

Your goal is carbon capture, right? Are fruit trees better for that than big giant trees?

Suuperdad6 karma

Actually because there are native trees in this area as well, there is probably about 1100 trees, so maybe 550 per acre. That's actually not a super dense planting. It is actually more of a medium density.

I will cut and paste another reply on a similar question, that helps explain the thought process between these dense plantings:

Oh it is indeed extremely crowded. Just how I like it :)

Long term, this guild has probably 50 trees that may grow, and only room for maybe 5 or so full grown trees. But importantly, this allows me to select the strongest members and promote their growth, and if some don't make it through my winter, that's totally okay because others will.

Then there is the temporal aspect. I have placed many things into motion in this bed, and they will all unravel at their own pace, and they all want their own endgame. And they are different from eachother.

The paw paws and oaks are perfect examples of this. An oak existing 2 feet from a pear seems crazy, but think about the growth rate and life of these beings. The oak is a very slow grower, and while eventually its trunk alone will envelop that pear, it won't happen in the same moment of time. That pear can live 2 decades before the oak starts shading it out, and at that point the oak simply takes over as the patriarch.

The paw paws are also slow growers, and more importantly their final role, based on their size and desires are actually an understory tree. So even if a pear gets up above it, proper pruning and training of the pear can allow room underneath it for the paw paw. And the paw paw is perfectly happy being shaded by its big brother pear tree.

////////

I have many goals, one of them is carbon capture. One is food production for my family. One is food for nature. How they all intersect is what causes me to focus mostly on fruit and nut trees. However, that's also not all I plant. I also plant maples and lindens, and locusts and many trees that I will never get a fruit yield from, but help boost the ecosystem and feed insects.

As for size of tree, it also depends on what you are trying to maximize. Carbon sequestration versus time, or carbon sequestration vs sq ft. Think of it like.... do you want a fast charging smaller battery, or do you want a slower charging but very large battery. I have a mix.

Faster charging smaller batteries would be something like a very fast growing small bush/tree. Stuff like elderberries and hazelnuts. Even groundcovers like strawberries, grasses like vetiver grass, herbaceous plants like hemp and clover do tremendous carbon sequestration through their plant root exudates. Many people don't think of mushrooms as carbon sinks either, but winecap mushrooms also sequester a ton of carbon. They take the CO2 and store it as Oxylates, basically 2x CO2 molecules jammed together, C2O4, use that Oxalic acid to break apart rocks and minerals, bind that oxylate with stuff like calciums to form calcium oxylate.

Then there are the massive slow charging batteries like Oaks. These won't grow as fast, but by the end of their life they will sequester more carbon than other plants. And once they are done growing, they are very useful as a long long long term carbon sink when harvested for wood for furniture for example. Long lasting furniture.

Locust trees used for fence posts can last hundreds of years in the ground due to the fungal resistance. So after they are done storing carbon, they are stored for a long time.

Finally, we can also make biochar with the wood, and turn it into a 2000 year stable soil amendment, and then also open that space up to grow a new tree to sequester even more carbon.

PaleGhost695 karma

Now that the political climate has changed, do you have any thoughts or ideas on using cannabis in a permaculture setting?

Suuperdad15 karma

Hmmm, that one I have no idea on, I have to think about it for some time.

I know for us up here, we're allowed to grow 3 plants, and cannot sell anything from them, we have to consume it ourselves. I suppose if that's something someone enjoys, then a permaculture plot is the best place for it. It will have all the pest resistance, water retention, aromatic confusion that a diverse forest guild will offer it. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts, you know?

All in all though, permaculture also tends to believe in freedom. And I think putting people in jail for growing a plant is a pretty silly thing. I think we should kind of reinvestigate how we handle victimless "crimes" like that. If someone isn't hurting anyone, then I don't really think there's anything wrong with it. Our freedom should extend as far as until it interferes with someone else's freedom.

iambluest7 karma

Comfrey tea manure, and Horsetail tea, are excellent cannabis fertilizers. I know comfrey isn't native to North America, but with our nutrient poor, shallow soil, it seems to bring body and nutrients quickly in the areas it takes over. It is easy to knock down and turn into the soil when we are ready to use the areas.

Suuperdad11 karma

Totally agree. For anyone reading this who doesn't know what these are, they aren't for us to drink. They are a liquid fertilizer that is natural and organic, and won't runoff and create deadzones in the gulf of mexico.

I think a 20 minute detailed video on how to make AEROBIC comfrey tea here.

The fertilizer being aerobic is super critical for plant health and to prevent pathogens.

Ixolich4 karma

Hey Keith! Big fan of your channel. I'm currently living with my parents as I pay off my student loans, but I'm looking to be moving out next year and hoping to start a food forest of my own.

My main issue is the three-dimensional design aspect. I can do the two-dimensional tetris like none other, but thinking about how it'll work when the plants start to grow messes me up. How do you go about choosing what plants should go in what guilds so that they work together? How do you design it so that a larger tree or bush doesn't end up shading over the lower level plants as they grow?

Suuperdad5 karma

It's actually going to happen, but your system will evolve and change as it matures. It's important that we realize that we only set things in motion, but then nature takes over and the system modifies itself as it grows.

For example, You can put strawberries under a seabuckthorn bush under an apple tree, with garlic and onion and parsley around the base as aromatics. That's a beautiful little guild.

As the guild grows (most notably the apple), it will increasingly cast shade on the other members of the guild. The shade will get deeper but also wider as the canopy flushes out.

The seabuckthorn bush, a nitrogen fixing companion to the apple will help it grow faster and stronger, but in the end it will give up it's life as it gets shaded by the apple, as it cannot tolerate shade, and will never grow as tall as a full rootstock apple tree.

The strawberries will spread along the ground, but as they get shaded out, they will, in the long term, occupy less and less space around the base of the tree, and will find only enough sun in the outside rings at the drip edges of the tree. The onion and garlic at the base of the tree will get smaller as time goes (they are biennials though, so they will need to get replanted each year, although the onions could be perennial walking onions). But they will also start creeping their way away from the base of the tree.

Over time, your guild will look very different, will actually start getting slightly less complex, with fewer pieces in it, but who have found their little happy niche to exist in. And more importantly, over time, your overall photosynthesis yield and harvest per sq ft will dramatically increase. Because your photosynthesis yield per sq ft increases, so too does the carbon sequestration per sq ft, the soil building per sq ft, the soil life per sq ft.

Long answer, but yes, they do end up shading out your lower plants a bit, but those lower plants adjust, the system adapts and changes, plants find their niche. And that's half the fun. Watching your system evolve over time, all on it's own. It's the best entertainment possible.

Ixolich2 karma

Okay, that makes sense. I'd been under the impression that the early stages of the guilds were the same as we'd want them to be once they're grown - eg keeping a companion nitrogen fixer for maintenance.

I think the part that had me confused was the increased efficiency with fewer pieces/less dense growth. Just seems backwards at first, you know? As things get shaded out and expand away from the center tree, there's fewer pieces per sq ft so you'd expect less efficiency.

Suuperdad2 karma

For that last part, as the things grow, you just simply have more solar panels per sq inch. Even if you only had 1 tree, but it was capturing literally every photon on that space and using that energy to create plant root exudates (carbon sugars) and sending those down into the soil to feed the soil life, that single tree will boost the soil life more than 100 smaller plants combined that just aren't capturing as much photosynthesis because they just aren't as tall.

Now, that tree producing fruit (if by efficiency we are talking about food production per sq inch), then depending how it's pruned, it may or may not outcompete a smaller multi-guild.

cberg764 karma

Keith, I noticed you have no structures on your property. What are your plans for a greenhouse, if any? I'm putting in a hothouse for next Spring and thinking about some sort of cold room... I also noticed you don't really have a garden, per se but just plant a few veggies here and there, like the odd tomato, beet and of course Jerusalem Artichoke but not a full menu of basics like peas, beans, carrots.... Any particular reason outside of being too busy?

Suuperdad7 karma

Greenhouse is one of those projects that I REALLY super duper want. It's a matter of priorities right now. Both financial and time.

For example, if I buy a greenhouse, that's a lot of money. I instead prioritized the pond, and I really want to minimize spending for a bit (I'm a pretty intensely frugal person actually - I hate spending money).

If I build the greenhouse myself, that's a lot of time and energy I'm spending not planting trees, and right now my priority is making a forest, not veggies.

That's the other thing I guess... greenhouses are great for making veggies. But my focus is definitely more on making a forest, not tomatoes. I still do the garden veg thing, and also a greenhouse can be used for plant starts (trees), but overall, it's just not really winning in priorities right now.

I think longterm, I would love to have a sunken thermal mass greenhouse like the guy growing oranges in Nebraska. If I ever did anything, it would be something like that. But that's a pretty massive project, lots of digging, etc.

I'm pretty exhausted from all the work I've done on this pond this year. But I'm sure in the future you'll see some kind of passive solar thermal mass greenhouse on my property. I'm just not sure when.

cberg764 karma

You so much space that it'll take a while to fill that with a food forest. There is only so much you can do in your spare time. I have the opposite problem, lots of time but little space. I'm working on super-filling my space, and gradually converting stuff into edibles, but another option I've been thinking about is trying to work out a deal with the community, or town to do something in the green space directly behind my home. It's a green strip that was mandated by the town for the development, that I believe is turned over to the community to maintain. They mow its mostly grass and that's about it. It is probably about a couple of acres in total, and I'm wondering if they might be open to plantings in that space? Hmmmm....

Suuperdad3 karma

I hope it works out. And if it doesn't, there has to be other projects you can get involved with.

cberg763 karma

Hey, I had read somewhere that Nasturtiums are supposedly nitrogen~fixers, but haven’t been able to confirm that. Do you know? Also read a blog saying Dandelions a dynamic accumulator?

Suuperdad2 karma

Unfortunately, there is some confusion with this plant, as several different plants are called Nasturtiums. Nasturtium can refer to the plant genus, which is the genus of seven plant species in the Brassicaceae family. The nasturtium can also be Tropaeolaceae, which is commonly known as nasturtium, a completely different plant. It is also the genus of almost 80 species of flowering plants.

https://pfaf.org/User/plant.aspx?LatinName=Tropaeolum+majus

https://pfaf.org/user/plant.aspx?latinname=Nasturtium+officinale

I have never heard of them fixing nitrogen before though. I am skeptical of that.

For dandelions being a dynamic accumulator, all plants are technically biodynamically accumulating nutrients in their leaves and stems and roots. The question is just how much and what types. For a dynamic accumulator in a food forest, the goal is to use it as a chop and drop source of organic material. The goal is also for it to access those nutrients in a root zone very different than where the trees are pulling nutrients from. Typically that means we want a super super super deep taproot.

While dandelions have a deep taproot compared to say, grass, they actually don't have that deep of a taproot compared to commonly used dynamic accumulators like comfrey, mullein, etc.

So while dandelion is a useful plant, and while it has a "deep taproot", I think there are better options as a dynamic accumulator. That isn't to say not to allow them to grow in your food forest - they are valuable plants. I just don't think that you get very much biomass from them (pretty small leaves) to function in this role very well.

Emmerson_Brando4 karma

Great videos Keith. Always enjoy seeing what new in your forest.

Do you have any background in microbiology or soil science? Or do you just read a lot of books on it?

How long have you been doing permaculture stuff? I guess what I’m asking is have you always had a garden? What was your upbringing like?

Suuperdad10 karma

For soil microbiology, its one of the topics im most interested in, so its one of the areas I have really many people who have influenced me. My 3 favorites are Dr Elaine Ingham at thensoil life institute, Paul Stamets for fungal stuff (mycelium running, etc), ajd John Kempf who has a podcast. I also like Dr John Todds work on biological machines and ecosystem rehabilitation using stuff like mycoremediation. Look for any of their work, their books, their articles and interviews and Ted talks and research. Super fascinating stuff.

I haven't always had a garden, infact 5 years ago was my first garden. I knew nothing about plants. Literally nothing outside of the fact that they perform photosynthesis that I learned in grade 9 science class.

For my upbringing, I had a wonderful family. I am very fortunate to have been born in a wonderful country to parents who wanted to have me, and loved me growing up. I was always into numbers and puzzles. My mom said she knew I would be an engineer since I was 3 years old and was trying tot are apart the fridge and start the lawnmower in the garage. She said I would always watch them, and then try to copy what they were doing.

Emmerson_Brando3 karma

Thanks for the sources. I will check them out. I’ve been listening to “The Permaculture Podcast” https://www.thepermaculturepodcast.com and watching your and verge permaculture videos.

I only got in to permaculture this year and only because of covid. I have been immersing myself in learning as much as I can to slowly transform my yard to be more of a permaculture paradise with self sustaining fruit and veg. Luckily, I’ve sort of been doing this for years but didn’t know it.

Suuperdad3 karma

Rob Avis is awesome. I also listen to the permaculture podcast, they have some really great guests. If I recall correctly, they had Dr Elaine Ingham on there before, probably my favorite episode.

fruitdemer4 karma

Do you cut down or harvest trees as part of the forest management?

Suuperdad8 karma

I have a few different strategies for different areas. I run something called a coppice system for example: https://youtu.be/4va-9mZZQjo

I do that as a carbon sequestration machine. Other people do it as firewood generation. You can also do it as part of a glade creation/management system.

I also cut down cedars to help open light up to more preferential species. Cedar doesn't feed anything, although it does provide early spring shelter for nesting birds.

bconstant4 karma

I have a lot of “weed trees” like Norway Maple, for example, that are girdling themselves and growing in terrible ways that make them a fall risk to my house. I’d love to replace them with a longer-lived (preferably native) species like Black Tupelo or a Northern Red Oak. The problem is that I don’t have a ton of space, and the location of these Norway’s is really the perfect location for their replacements. I don’t have the luxury of planting even 6 ft in either direction. My arborist says I can just grind the stumps and replant, but I’ve read a lot of conflicting information about reusing a tree site too soon. Any tips or warnings?

Suuperdad6 karma

I would agree with the arborist. Tree stumps when left in the ground turn into a winding underground network of fertilizer sticks. They are amazing places to plant new trees.

They also get better over time. So plant a tree next to the stump and if it doesn't make it, do another one the next year. As the roots break down under the ground, the new tree will have these low resistance pathways to push roots through, and the roots breaking down over the years will be amazing fungus food.

yashoza3 karma

Do you consider birch trees and most conifers to be largely useless?

I want to replace many confers and birch tree stands in the russian far east with other trees like manchurian apricot, American Chestnuts, buartnuts, and some other mixes of tall and short trees that produce fruit and nuts at different times of the year, in addition to a winter crop.

This would increase the megafauna carrying capacity of the russian far east, increasing the number of siberian tigers roaming around.

Suuperdad6 karma

Nope, I planted about 150 birch on my property last year. You can make syrup from them, and they coppice well. They are also will increase the diversity which could mean more insects, birds varieties etc.

In general I think monoculture is bad. A giant birch only forest, I would cut them down (not all) and plant other trees in their place. In a cedar monoculture, I would cut some down and PLANT birch.

I think balance and diversity are key concepts. I think jist about every plants has its uses, it is just about balance. Heck, even kudzu is a wonderful edible plant, it just causes imbalance.

What you talk about in your second part of the comment is exactly where our heads need to be.

yashoza4 karma

Interesting. I’ve been looking for ways in which birch participated heavily in the russian far east ecology, in terms of nutrient cycling. I know they’re very useful to beavers and good at accumulating biomass, but beavers aren’t native to that region (a few were introduced though) and birch trees as well as most conifers don’t provide much food to the local megafauna.

Birch probably provides some food to insects, bears do tap them for their sap, and moose do consume some of the cambium, but ultimately they don’t provide much food there. They’re prevalent because of their growth rates.

Conifers are often very resource-greedy. Very few animals can consume their leaves (none in the region), the leaves still decay slowly when they actually fall off, and they block out the sun throughout the year. So animals are forced to fight for scraps over the few nuts they release.

I read something about the animals that are present in various forest zones throughout the russian far east. I believe only moose managed to exist in forests dominated to birch, aspen, and most conifers. And tigers don’t really hunt moose. I’ll link the post I made on it.

Suuperdad6 karma

Yeah, it's also a catch 22 situation too, because how can you grow resource hungry cold hardy deciduous trees in places that have poor soil because the conifers don't drop organic matter. So you have this poor soil because of the conifers, but because of the conifer poor soil, only conifers will grow there.

So it takes some time and effort to rebuild the soils and get deciduous trees growing there, and then once established the leaf drop helps build more soil, yielding more ease in growing more diversity.

Then there are other problems, like, here, we are on top of the Canadian shield, so in order to get other forest types established, we have to really build a ton of soil, because many places are only 1 inch above the bedrock.

All that being said, I'm not actually a big expert in this area, so take anything I say with a grain of salt. I'm sure there are forestry management folks who specialize in taiga ecosystems who can provide a ton more insight than I ever could. Yourself you seem to know more than I do.

yashoza3 karma

I was thinking maybe at the start of spring we could just grind the birch trees and branches of the conifers, chop open the trunks we can’t grind, spread some fungus, wait a year for decay to take place, and then plant new trees with small burlap bags of nutrients that’ll last until the other stuff decays.

Suuperdad2 karma

Yeah, that sounds like a solid plan. For what it's worth, Chanterelle do really well on birch.

Suuperdad3 karma

Ooooh, this is cool. I actually have to get back to work, but I will check this out on my lunch break. Looks super interesting, and it's in a topic area I'm not super familiar with. I love this kind of thing - opening up to new knowledge. Thanks so much for sharing.

nissimdecamondo3 karma

I see all those countries planting trees: China, India 2 billion trees. Ethiopia, Pakistan 1 billion trees etc...why do those countries not plants fruit trees? Will that not fix the hunger problem in those countries, provide oxygen and save the planet??

Suuperdad5 karma

Fruit trees are usually really good to plant once there has been some shade and soil built. Planting a fruit tree on a desert won't work. So often Pioneer species like nitrogen fixers will be added first.

The nitrogen fixers can get their nitrogen (to grow leaves and such) from the atmosphere. Well, technically through a root bacteria, but still.

RideFarmSwing3 karma

Howdy, was chirping you about the gas station planting in that other thread.

Turns out we are pretty darn similar. Canadian (Vancouver Island), have 2 Hectares of land, plant stuff, built giant ponds, and have science/ engineering backgrounds. My partner still is an active engineer. Couple questions for you.

How many hours are you still engineering a week? My partners down to 35, and still its a struggle to keep up with all the projects around the property, but you also make a YouTube channel (We do as well, but its a low effort video discussion not intending on getting viewers more as a public home video), plus all this reddit engagement... How the heck are you getting this all done!

Two, on the subject of ponds. We literally just finished the pond last week. Wondering if you seeded your pond with soil from other ponds to speed up biological processes. I've been thinking of getting a few buckets from healthy ponds around the area and some duck weed to get the microbes building over the winter but it was just a "this seems like a good idea" thing over a researched idea. Have you read anything on the subject?

Suuperdad4 karma

Hey!

Yeah, I work 40 hours a week. Also have kids, and honestly stuff like their hockey is even more time consuming than work.

Basically, I just plan what I do in bed late at night as the thoughts of all the projects I want to do keep me up. I dream of projects on the drive into work as I listen to permaculture podcasts and they give me good ideas.

I stack making videos when I'm out walking around enjoying my land. Working on my land is now my gym membership.

And my permaculture and planting philosophy much aligns with Mark Sheppards STUN method (Sheer Total Utter Neglect). Over-plant, but in a smart way, into self sufficient systems, then kind of neglect everything. Let the strongest survive. The ones that do, will have deep expansive root systems, as a survival mechanism, and will actually develop into healthy strong trees, resistant to future drought.

Now that's not entirely true, I do water my trees in their first month or so. But after that, they are on their own.

Long winded reply, but yeah, I'm insanely busy, but I like being busy. I work, when I'm not working I'm planting and making videos and with my kids and their activities. I don't really have any other hobbies, I have no time for them.

////////

I think what you did with your pond is a fantastic idea. I actually did purchase some aerobic bacteria and innoculated the pond with healthy aerobic bacteria specifically designed for this. That's all I did though.

My previous ponds, little hand dug ponds, I did collect stuff like duckweed from other ponds and put those in there.

diper6663 karma

How can I be like u?

Suuperdad4 karma

Get planting :)

Jaxom_of_Ruatha3 karma

Is there anything you can do to keep out undesirable plants, such as poison ivy, perhaps by planting something else that occupies that niche?

Suuperdad3 karma

Depends on the plant. Mostly try to pull it and then plant someting there to shade it out. Poison ivy can be hard to deal with because it actually likes shade and will just sit there all happy and creep out under the ground and past it.

Basically you will have to mow around it. Get some long pants, sleeves and gloves, and try to pull it out and get the main root. It will be like a daddy long legs spider with long legs coming off a main body. If you can get the main taproot out, and all the legs, you should be good.

That or spraying. I hate spraying stuff like roundup, but I'm actually not against very very careful spot applications to get rid of something physically dangerous. I don't use it for my poison ivy, but I wouldn't fault someone for doing it.

I_Boomer2 karma

What different types of trees do you plant and how do you decide to mix them in? Do you ever do any 'guerilla planting' (planting trees in stealth on other properties) or is this all on your land? Good job and thanks!!

Suuperdad6 karma

In the OP I posted a link to a video about planting in parks, gas stations, schools, hockey rinks, etc. But in that same video I talk about how we can do tremendous damage when we do the wrong things. So just a caution for anyone wanting to do guerilla gardening... it should be a passion that starts with a solid year or more of research before you do a single action.

As for what trees I have on my property, the list is pretty long. I have over 20 varieties of apples alone for example. Pears, peaches, paw paws, persimmons, fig, serviceberry, linden, mulberry, apricot, plum, cherry, oak, walnut, hazelnut, hazelbert, buartnut, hickory, maple, birch, cedar, sumac, elderberry, haskap, ... so many, that's probably about 1/10th of the stuff we have. Then once you get into the flowers and herbaceous layer - I could write 10 pages of stuff we have.

I don't neccessarily think diversity for diversity sake is a worthy pursuit, but having diversity is a really good idea. For example, a really late frost and snow (MAY) this year really hurt our apple and peach production, but we had tons and tons of strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, haskaps, goumi, gooseberry, etc.

A good variety of crops gives you tremendous resilience to weird weather events - which is going to be an increasingly big deal going forward.

Pollymath2 karma

What are your thoughts on the intersection of "inviting" outdoor spaces in areas that are traditionally very hard and sharp (deserts)?

For instance, I'd really love to have grass in my backyard, or some other more native ground cover, but my climate is horribly dry (we haven't gotten more than a few inches of rain in 8-months). I don't want my kids outside playing on dusty, barren soil or gravel, but I also don't want to waste water on a ground cover that may eventually die anyway.

I'm gradually drifting towards utilizing artificial turf for ground cover, but then running native plants in raised based on the borders.

If I lived in a lush, green environment, I don't think this would be such an issue, but here in the arid dry west, its a struggle between a hard, dusty, uninviting space, and being considerate of what little water we do have.

Suuperdad2 karma

Unfortunately thats like the polar opposite of my climate, so I don't really have anything I can say, other than I totally see where you are coming from.

I'm sure someone can maybe chime in who lives in a climate like that, but I would think choosing the right plants is obviously key.

I know Geoff Lawton is key on early nitrogen fixer species like https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leucaena_leucocephala

Then they create shade and transpirstion, and you can now start growing groundcovers. But its a multi year process... like 10 or more.

UCBearcats2 karma

I can't even get the one tree I plant to survive through the shock. How do you do it?

Suuperdad8 karma

Build the soil then plant the tree. That's really the secret.

It's all about ecological succession.

Soils go from bare dirt, then the weediest of the weeds will germinate there (because there's no nutrients, no life, etc). These tend to be things that will grow where nothing else can.

As these grow and die, they will fall to the floor and the roots underground will get eaten by soil microbes. This life will eat and poop and the poop becomes bio-available nutrient for more plants. Now you get stronger taller plants growing in this more fertile soil, outcompeting the weeds. Yes, weeds themselves are terrible competitors, they only do well in depleted soils. But given good soil, a "non weed" will outcompete a "weed" no problem. I put the "" in there because there's really no such thing as a weed, just a misunderstood plant.

So now you get flowers and grasses growing. You also get really tall herbs growing that get really hard in the fall. These then drop to the ground and well, the bacteria in the soil can't really decompose them well.

Enter fungus.

Mushrooms move in and can easily digest the lignins in those woodier stalks. They thrive and expand. And because of that, woody based plants like bushes now have soil conditions they like. So they start growing and getting up above the flowers, outcompeting them for sun.

The bushes live and die as the years go by, and the fungus moves in and consumes them, and expands further. Soil gets more and more fungally dominated (compared to bacterial dominated grass and weed ecosystems).

Trees now start doing really well in this fungally dominated soil.

PAUSE HERE.

So this is the ecosystem that trees want. This is the soil that trees want. Fungally dominated loamy forest soil.

Okay, so why do trees die when we plant them? Well, we usually build a house, backfill it with gravel, and toss an inch of topsoil down, then lay down sodgrass. The sod does well for a few years, consuming the topsoil nutrients, and after a few years has completely depleted the soil, because there's no weeds in that lawn to return the nutrients (because we for some strange reason hate wonderful plants like nitrogen fixing clover and deep taprooted dandelions who will build soils).

So your grass soil is dead, and now we go plant a tree in this. The soil itself is akin to the weedpit soil. No life, and any life is bacterial. Almost zero fungus. Well, about 30% fungus, but that's almost zero compared to 80% fungus in the soils that the tree wants.

Okay, so how do we take that info and make a tree grow.

We sheet mulch.

We drop down cardboard to smother the grass. We drop down compost and manure to help feed the soil life while the grass dies. It will also eat the grass roots. We then dump carbon heavy mulches down on top, such as a foot thick of woodchips. The fungus builds in this setup, and we let it sit for a solid year.

Come back next year and this woodchips has these weird white hairs growing all through it. That's fungal mycelium. The living breathing network of the fungus. (The mushroom itself is just the fruiting body, the genetics of the mycelium mat).

Now we pull back the woodchips, and plant the tree into THIS soil. This soil is now very similar to forest soil. The tree thrives, because it's been planted into the ecosystem that it evolved to live in.

TLDR: Planting a tree in a grass lawn is like throwing a fish in a tree and wondering why the fish died, because I can live in a tree, why can't the fish. It represents a fundamental misunderstanding of how trees work, what they need, and what environments (soil) they want to live in. Trees want fungally dominated soils.

coryrenton2 karma

Are there any interesting novel techniques in zero-maintenance agriculture (such as deliberately introducing non-native species that are coincidentally well-suited to the climate)?

Suuperdad2 karma

A lot of people are definitely not of the school of thought that invasives are neccessarily bad. I mean, how far back to we want to go. If we keep going back to pangea, technically most things are native everywhere. I know that's a terrible example, because, you know, trees didn't even exist then and such, but still. My point is that, we keep trying to freeze the ecosystem, and at this point we're freezing it in a damaged state.

As an example, most nitrogen fixers will appear on my invasive lists. Well, they are invasive because they thrive in dead soil. They also happen to restore soils so that other plants can grow. They also tend to die to any shade whatsoever. So they basically are the scab on a wound, and we keep saying the scab is bad and we pick it off.

I think the cat is out of the bag on many invasives, and whether we plant one which heals the soil, or we let one grow there because, well, invasives are everywhere, what's the difference.

I know a lot of people get really mad when I say things like this, and I'm not advocating to planting kudzu everywhere to get green plants growing. I get it, many things kill entire ecosystems. I do understand how bad they can be.

But just... not all invasives are terrible. Many are only very temporarily invasive, and IF PROPERLY MANAGED, can restore lands faster than not planting them.

Ben Falk has a good quote regarding this... "invasive to when". I agree with him on a lot of stuff he talks about. He's very passionate about this stuff, you can check out some of his podcasts and maybe videos on the topic. I'm sure if you google "ben falk invasive to when", you'll get some stuff to read.

coryrenton2 karma

What's the general consensus with regards to using GM plants -- radical fringe or gaining traction?

Suuperdad3 karma

Oh man that's a can of worms. It's funny too because the M bots will come in (now the [email protected] boys) and brigade the post.

Okay, my hot take on that is... it depends on why they are being GM'd.

If you want to try to GM a peach tree to be resistant to peach leaf curl, cool! If you want to GM cabbage to be resistant to cabbage flies, cool.

But that's not what's happening. Well, it is on the fringe, but there's MORE money in another tactic.

GM corn and soy to be resistant to roundup. Now go and spray the crap out of 100,000 acres with roundup, and kill literally everything in the ecosystem but corn and soy, and create a destructive monoculture. And get record yields of corn (due to no competition, just make sure you also buy our fertilizer since you just destroyed the ecosystem that was cycling nutrient), and also buy our roundup. Massive profits. Destroyed ecosystem. Mined destroyed soils.

So right now GM crops are being used to prop up and keep going the most destructive practices the human race is doing to the natural ecosystems. For that reason, I'm extremely anti GM crops. Not because of the tech itself, but because of how humans (and greedy corporations) are using the tech.

There's also a host of other issues with it, like reducing genetic variety because everyone grows the same genetic strain of a crop, etc. We are rapidly losing our genetic diversity of foods we eat, and this isn't helping.

So that's my hot take on it. I'm not against it, but I'm against it.

Jarl_Ace2 karma

Hi Keith! I've been watching a few of your videos for a while, and been really inspired by what you do. I'd like to do something similar myself some day, but can't see myself doing it full-time. You mentioned that you still work a full-time job. How much time do you spend working on your forest?

Suuperdad2 karma

Every minute I am not working or at kids sports, or watching TV/board games with them at night. Seriously, it has consumed my life and outside of this AMA and responding to comments on youtube and making videos, I'm outside planting.

I would say overall probably 30 to 40 hours a week. Probably longer, the weekend I usually pull 12 to 16 hour days planting trees, getting woodchips, manure, composting, etc. I find it really fun.

But as far as how much time you need to do this, you really don't need much time at all. You can set up a guild over a few hours on a weekend... water and baby it a bit during the first month. Then the long term maintenance of a system like this can be just a few hours to harvest and a few hours in like March to prune. It can be as little as like 10 hours a year.

That's the best part... once you set this up, and do it correctly, then it will actually do what nature does all on it's own. Grow and replicate.

PopeBasilisk2 karma

What native plants have you incorporated into the farm? What do you do with the harvest?

Suuperdad2 karma

Most of the fruit trees and bushes are native fruit and native varieties. I also made a big push this year to flesh out my herbaceous layer using places like native wild plant nurseries. I put in hundreds of different flowering plants for wildlife around the pond. Here's a sample video at the time I was doing it, and at the end of the video is lists about half of the plants I ended up finally adding.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbMMrUUdirc

FlipFlopSchool2 karma

Hi Keith! Love your videos, your place is gorgeous. I'm a new homeowner on .2ish acres in the city in the midwest (6A), and trying to turn my lawn into a source of food, education, and community. This is all new to me but I've been rabidly reading, watching, and listening to permaculture content since the pandemic.

I put up a few pictures of the west and south sides of my lot as well as descriptions of what's already in the ground. My main question is this: Can you hit me with any ideas with things you'd consider doing with this space? I'm wide open to ideas and very willing to put in the work. I have access to unlimited mulch and mulched leaves.

I just got a pound of hardneck garlic bulbs today to plant a row and am thinking potentially where my cover crops are on the S side of the home, or in the annual garden (but planted more densely than it currently is). Also wanting to grow perennial veggies - should I start those in the vegetable garden, or should those be their own area, and why?

Pics of the land (with commentary): https://imgur.com/a/dXDYjj2

Thank you!

P.S. In your most recent vid on people leaving the cities to go rural, you left out the big benefit I see in the cities, which is that they provide a hub for culture (music, art, theater, museums) and are unique in bringing people of different nationalities, ideologies, etc. together! I know the internet allows for dissemination of information and some form of connection, but I'm not sure it's as fruitful a medium to really see one another as in-person. Not to say I wouldn't like more land and privacy to cultivate land haha, just have to rep city life as an insider!

Suuperdad2 karma

Oh and one more thing...

I just need to say how much I LOVE LOVE LOVE what you are doing on your property. If you were my neighbour, I would want to hang out with you all day. I just think it's so awesome.

A large food forest can look really cool and stuff, but honestly, small scale "crazy ass" permaculture like this is just so impressive. It's so DIFFERENT. It's such a conversation starter. Your whole neighbourhood will be calling you crazy, then when they walk by and maybe taste some fruit from some "free to pick" bushes that you plant for them (maybe in that road strip section), they'll probably ask you how they can put some stuff on their property.

It's just.... so cool. I love it so much, I can't even describe how much I love this.

Suuperdad2 karma

First picture:

1) Okay, lets get some earthworks done first.

Lets talk about that gutter. I would dig a little trench out, and install a little mini bog filter guild. Maybe a few native cattails. They will filter that roof rainwater as it comes off your roof.

Then think about contouring of that spot. Where is elevation? Ideally you can get that rainwater to hit a trench build on perfect contour - i.e. a trench dug straight sideways across where the hill is level. I know it's mostly flat, but nothing is really flat. It's usually level, but not flat. Typically neighbourhoods are graded such that the water flows to the street, so it's likely a 2-3 degree hill going upwards to the house from the sidewalk. So likely the contour swale should go from that downspout, straight to the left to the wall. Make it shallow but wide. Like 4 feet wide, but only 3-4 inches deep. Take all the soil you dig out and put it on the downhill side of the shallow wide trench you just dug.

That being said, based on the pic, it looks like it dips down to the back corner. So contour may be an upwards facing smiley face going from the house to the bottom left of the picture? It's sometimes hard to tell in a picture. BUt if you don't know, you can just start digging a trench, and run a hose in it as you dig. The water will show you where contour is. You want it flat flat flat.

If you want more detail on swales, here is a more detailed video guide on them: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAKLUmoASyc, and here is my grass to swale video just shortly after https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evwRPvcD6Qg

That may be a solid day's work, but it will pay off every day for the rest of your life, and will reduce water needs potentially almost entirely.

2) Now lets convert the soil, and go grass to forest soil

Step 1, cover with cardboard.

Step 2, cover with compost and manure if you can.

Step 3, toss down some clover seed, not all, we're about to smother it, and some will push up through, but we're going to add more in a sec.

Step 4, cover with a foot of woodchips.

Step 5, toss more clover down.

Done for the year. Come back next spring.

3) Planting it out

Then in the spring you can get to planting this thing out. I'm assuming south is the sidewalk and west is that concrete wall? That's actually a really nice microclimate against that wall. It will get sun in the morning and afternoon (the hottest parts), and then hold that heat in the afternoon and night. Right up against that wall is a great place to push zone on something. Maybe a nice paw paw, a persimmon, something warmer climate, up as high as about zone 7/8. Maybe could try a pecan tree.

Then since the north side is the house, that's where you want your taller species. You could line some trees along the back. Just don't go too close to the house. As you get closer to the house, use stuff with smaller root systems like bushes. You can line some nice tall bushes near the gutter, stuff that wants lots of water like elderberries. They would love it there.

FlipFlopSchool2 karma

Whoa, thanks so much for the feedback!! Man, I should've made the cardinal directions more clear. The cement wall is North, the sidewalk is West. The side that I want(ed) to have the orchard is South, and my backyard faces to the East. The area right by that gutter (to the North of the house) gets basically 0 sun in the fall/winter with the sun rising and setting on the opposite side of the house.

Pic 2 IS just to the right of pic 1, so it's the SW corner. Would you put fruit trees just a few feet from the redbud there (the freestanding tree in the middle of pic 2)?

Bummed as all getout about no fruit trees along the side of the house where the cover crop is (that's pic 3, the South side with full sun). You think even dwarf trees planted 7' away from the house would wreak havoc? Could I bury a cinder block wall a foot away from the foundation or anything wild like that? We already have a berry bush zone in that NW corner from pic 1, all those native berry bushes like part shade. Maybe that cover crop zone could have some tall things closer to the house (gogi, hazelnuts, etc) and then perennial veggies closer to the sidewalk? Idk.

I have a good feeling about working with the city on this with climate change and all, especially if the neighbors know my place as a bug/hummingbird/butterfly-friendly, people-feeding hub. Hoping the good vibes carry this one!

Suuperdad2 karma

For the trees 7 feet from the house, man, I hate saying it but I definitely would recommend against it. Even burying a cinderblock - they break through foundations of houses, a cinderblock is nothing to tree roots.

Okay, so it looks like the angles are 90 degrees rotated. With North being that wall, then that left edge should be where all your tallest trees go.

Everything about contouring and earthworks remains the same, because that's based on elevation, not on sun angle.

The good news is that because the north/south is now the way that it is (well it always was), it likely means you can kind of do a few "rows" of tall trees and be okay with shade issues. So like, 1 against that west concrete wall, and likely one that runs along either side of the walking path to the house. That could be a cool effect, because you could create a little tree tunnel. That's totally what I would do, plant maybe 2 trees on each side, staggered.

So like this:

x | | __

__| | x

x | |__

__| | x

Then you could prune and train the branches to make a tunnel. How sweet would that be? The raised bed is in the way, but if it were me, I would shift that south so I could do my tree tunnel thing. That's just me though.

I think you could also put a tree or two as a companion to the redbud, yes. I think that area could support 3 guilds...

  • the redbud and it's friends, guild

  • the walkway to the house tree tunnel guild

  • the northern cement wall guild - this guild sounds like it's the one already established with some native berry bushes? You could try to add a tree element to them and just prune the bushes as they grow, to allow light for the tree. If those bushes like part shade, then you could give them say, a nitrogen fixing locust there. Once it gets up above the bushes, it will give them nice dappled shade because of the small size of the leaves.

Infact, consider heavy use of nitrogen fixing overstory trees - as they will give you that vertical element you want, but won't shade you out like another overstory tree might. Plus, if you ever need to cut and prune them, they will do their thing, releasing nitrogen to your whole plot. I like to aim around 1 nitrogen fixing support tree to 2 fruiting trees - similar to how Stephan Sobkowiak recommends at Miracle Farm/Orchard

and in about 10 to 15 years, it would just look like a mini forest there.

Suuperdad1 karma

One more thing about picture 5.

Be careful how much love and attention you devote to that strip right next to the road. It's very likely the city owns that strip, and you could plant apple trees there, grow them for 5 years, and then bam, they are gone, woodchipped and someone left a bill at your door, claiming they interfered with the power line, or blocked traffic sight.

It could be trees, it could be bushes, it could be a groundcover of strawberries... they can clear it anytime they want and bill you (probably, laws could be different in your area), and you will be left with tears. Your only recourse will be to fight it in small claims court against a judge that will just say "dude, why are you planting shit there?" and throw the case out.

So just a warning, anything that goes there can be erased at any time. Probably. I think. So just... don't go spending a ton there.

Infact, if it wasn't south facing, I would say to plant jerusalem artichokes there. They are in the sunflower family, will grow 12 feet tall, and be really nice looking, and give you some privacy. The only problem is that they will really shade everything behind them - your main gardens. But then again, you can always just chop them down if that's the case.

Suuperdad1 karma

Pictures 4,5 I don't really have anything to add except 2 things:

  • Forget about this years harvest. It doesn't matter. Plants did good, plants did bad, whatever, don't care. You are building a snowball here, and what happens in year 1 is inconsequential and should have zero impact on any decisions you make going forward. It could be a weird weather season, it could have been a period of no rain, too much heat, still poor soil, maybe too much ammended nitrogen if you say did compost and manure, again, don't care, don't care, don't care. At all.

You are doing the right things, and they WILL pay off. Nature just works slow sometimes.

I like the trees you picked, I like how you have them set up, I like your mulch, everything honestly looks great and will work out. Let nature tell you how to modify this guild going forward, and it will know better than I, and will show you better than I. So get out there on rainy days, see where the rain is collecting/moving, get out there on sunny days, shady days, get out there all times of the day, watch the sun, the wind, try to get a feel for your property and how it's changing.

Suuperdad1 karma

Picture 3, side of house.

You mention you want 6 trees here. Man, I'd advise against trees there. It's just way too close to the house. That looks like a perfect place for a berry bush hedge. If you want height, you can go with goji berries, elderberries, hazelnuts, they'll all be 10-12 feet tall, but at least their root systems won't really puncture into your foundation.

Suuperdad1 karma

For the second picture:

It looks like this is just to the right of the first picture? If so, I'm again assuming the lower sidewalk is south and the right of the picture is east.

This area is a good blank canvas and you can do whatever you want here. Trees a little closer to the house (again, don't plant TOO close to the house), but since that's north, you want them on the north side. You can do whatever you want here, a nice guild with some fruit trees and then bushes infront of them, maybe a little S-shaped walking path - I like bends and curves over straight lines, for many reasons, but they also maximize the edges. More edges, more fertility.

Yeah, not much else to say on that one, you can do anything you want here. As you mention in the comment, a raised bed could be a great spot in that place, because it's full sun. And annual veggies, you really want them getting the best sun, because they really will be where most of your work and quick turnaround produce will be.

That bed, if you make one there, should be a multiseason bed. Maybe kale in the early spring, then transition to tomatoes and peppers, then transition back to winter crops like broccoli. Use that bed a ton. You can micromanage it and add compost and manure to it.

Your tomatoes likely did poorly because the soil is still building. But just add compost and manure this fall, let it sit all winter (consider sowing in a winter crop like crimson clover, vetch, cowpea, maybe even winter rye if you want to go crazy. It will build that soil up all winter. Then you cut it ground level in the spring. For the clover, it can just exist there forever, it's a great groundcover.

Peterd902 karma

Hi and thank you. Assuming you have pastureland, what do you do with the grass? Just stop mowing?

Suuperdad2 karma

Yep, let it flower and feed the insects. Grasslands are very useful ecosystems.

Parano782 karma

Hi there,
i'm in the process of having some land, but it's a land where corn was grown (up to 2 month ago).
How do you start at reforesting it ??

Suuperdad1 karma

Well, I would start by getting a soil test. A commercially farmed plot may have a bunch of resource imbalances that may need fixing. I think a good remineralization plan. I think sprinkling rock dust can be a good idea to start off.

Then, since you don't really have anything to kill, you likely don't even need to sheet mulch. You just really need to dump a foot of woodchips down. Then come back in the spring, and get planting. Pull back woodchips and plant in the soil. Don't plant in the woodchips.

The only other thing I'd add.... you may want to think about doing earthworks this fall, to install some swales. Something for you to consider.

Here is my swale guide:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAKLUmoASyc

and here is a grass to swale transition:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evwRPvcD6Qg

Think of swales as installing permanent system that is going to raise your water table, store water for your plants, and reduce watering needs for your system. Forever. And ever.

A little upfront work to install a swale can really make your system kick butt from now until the end of your days. And then for another hundred thousand years after you are gone.

Parano782 karma

First of all, thanks, i wasnt expecting an answer 1 day late! ^^

May i ask some specifications about what you said ?

What kind of soil test are you talking about ? like soil-general-health ? Is there a name for it ?
And what kind of rock for the "rock dust" ?

i'm not sure i understood, the following sentence seems crazy to me : I should dump a foot (30cm) of woodchips on the entire land ? And then in the spring, remove it, to plant ?

For the swale part i'm gonna look at the video before asking questions xD

Suuperdad2 karma

For the soil test /Stubby_hoof had a great response to one of my comments:

https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/jeaphl/i_am_keith_st_jean_or_canadian_permaculture/g9glsye?utm_source=share&utm_medium=web2x&context=3

And what kind of rock for the "rock dust"

For rock dust, typically basalt or granite is used. Here's a decent read about it: https://www.growingagreenerworld.com/rock-minerals-as-soil-amendments/

i'm not sure i understood, the following sentence seems crazy to me : I should dump a foot (30cm) of woodchips on the entire land ? And then in the spring, remove it, to plant ?

Yep, but in the spring you just pull it back enough to get to the soil, then plant in the soil, then recover the soil with the woodchips, careful not to smother the plant. The woodchips acts as the protective skin layer, protecting the organs of the soil (the microbiology).

In this video I give an example how I do it. I will find the exact spot for you.... here: https://youtu.be/VOjsgqqV7tc?t=306

Ralzes2 karma

Hey Keith! Awesome work! Have you tried to use the drones to spread more seeds?

Suuperdad2 karma

No, but I like that technology. It's not really meant for someone like me, it's meant for a massive largescale replanting of the earth. For me, I prefer to be more calculated and precise about where I add genetic material to the planet.

OpticalFlatulence2 karma

How can we professionalize Permaculture Consultants who can become permanent staff members of landscape design firms and landscaping companies?

Like, if I wanted to make a mojito with fresh mint from my garden, what's the best way of integrating that into my garden-/land-scape? Who would I pay for that information and how would I go along getting that done?

Suuperdad3 karma

That I'm not sure. I think the accreditation needs to be recognized as being important. I think getting the word out about regenerative agriculture, and edible landscaping is a good way. The more people we can get to go: "Oh what that guy over there is doing is really cool. I want that here", the more it will become mainstream.

PsychiatricSD2 karma

I've heard about permaculture and wanted to do it for a year now. I just got started on my property and plan to plant some fruit next year, but I can only do some as it's over my budget otherwise. I feel guilt at not being able to dive head in, but are there other ways to get seeds?

Suuperdad6 karma

First off, and you know this but, the guilt thing is ridiculous. Throw that out, it makes no sense and isn't helping you achieve your goals. Do what you can, and it will be wonderful. Even a single tree will be such a reward to future you.

For seeds, I suggest you look and see if you can find a seed swap program local to you. I didn't think we had anything here, but my local library actually runs a program. And even if people can't donate, they are free to take some without donating.

There are also seed swap subreddits that I'm sure if you made a post saying you want to get started but have nothing, then some people would send you seeds.

Also, there are tons of seeds out there in nature. For example, I went out learning local plants around me, took pictures, posted to /r/whatsthisplant, looked them up on plants for a future (pfaf.org), learned about them, etc. Found some that are nitrogen fixers (locust), beneficial insect attractors, etc. In the fall I revisited those plants, collected seed, and learned how to grow them. For example black locust need to be boiled before planting to help break down their shell - or they will still sprout, but not for 10 years.

So just get learning, and start there. Then don't be afraid to ask for handouts. I know pretty much any gardener in the world would give you a zucchini that you can get 100 seeds from. Don't be afraid to try to save seeds from some storebought foods.

Even garlic, you can buy a garlic clove for 30 cents and get 6 cloves that you can plant this weekend and turn into 6 plants next spring, who will each make 6 cloves, which you then plant and turn into 36 garlic plants, all for 30 cents.

There are so many ways to get started for very cheap. You don't even need land, you can plant those garlic in the corner of an unused place at a part or abandoned factory and likely come back next year and they'll be there.

This is truly a passion that has no barriers to entry - only someone's willingness to start, learn, and act. And how creative they can be, especially with things like if they have no land. On that front, as an example, there are permaculture groups who have no land, but approach elderly people in suburbia and ask if they would be interested to allow the permaculture group to plant a garden in their property. Often the elderly can't take care of their land anymore, or run a garden, and the only thing that they ask for in return are some of the yield.

So now you have free land, made a wonderful impact on the community, are feeding a lovely elderly person, and also have access to land to plant on, for free. Your only cost is having to give some zucchini to someone, but as anyone who grows zucchini will tell you, in zucchini season if you drive too slow by my house I will throw zucchini in the backseat of your car from my porch.

Have fun and good luck!

Gadbwah1 karma

Do you realize grasslands have an important role in ecosystems as well?

Suuperdad8 karma

Extremely important. Infact Savannahs have some of the largest diversity of ecological life, and food production of all ecosystems.

There is nothing wrong with polyculture grasslands, prairies, etc. What we do wrong is creating monoculture sodgrass lawns that have almost zero function for nature, and are purely ornamental. We actually actively remove the useful components from them because we dislike how they look (dandelion, clover, creeping charlie, etc).