[nafex ibiblio list] For home production, how much room would one really need (want) - permaculture philosophies...

Steven Covacci filtertitle at aol.com
Sun Jan 15 01:13:10 EST 2012

To whomever would be interested in this discussion: philosophy on growing space.

I'll preface my question by stating: on my small property, I'm able to grow at least one variety of every single edible crop woody plant that I'd want to grow, minus just a small hand-full (i.e. black walnut, Chinese pistacio); in some cases, I have more then one variety of a fruit type (i.e. several sweet cherries; two paw paws; many persimmons being planted); they all fit because, at the expense of some productivity - due to, most-of-all, root competition, I interplant: so that large overstory trees (i.e. hickory, etc.) are planted on the north and west sides so that they will grow just above the mid-story trees (i.e. American persimmon, etc.), which tower right above the lower-story trees (i.e. Prunus), which they finally tower over the shrub layer (i.e. blueberries, currants, gumi, etc.) and the herbaceous layer (edible plants and wilfflowers/grasses that attract and sustain local pollinators).  This will mean that no plant will produce any where near it's maximum potential for yield - but that doesn't matter at all to me, since it's only for home use (which included actively sharing with others); I'd rather have 15 American persimmons each produce say 30 lbs. (likely much more, but hypothetically), than have instead two trees each producing 200 lbs.  Same idea for all of my crop types.  Fruit is one priority; aesthetics and experiments in design, habitat placement, and variety in types and forms are other priorities; for my purposes, the growing of fruit trees has only part to do with production of food.  

If I had more room, instead of having, in some cases, just one variety per species (i.e. self-fertile - European pear cv. 'Honeysweet') or two varieties per species (i.e. 'Yoinashi' and 'Korean Giant' Asian pears), I'd have more cultivars*  of each - not for more fruit production, but for more taste variety.  With American persimmon, instead of having 15 varieties, I'd have 25 and space them out much more, and continually top-graft new varieties to the least favorite of these.  

However, I recently realized: *how many more varieties would you want to grow - what's the limit?  There is, actually, a limit.  Say if you are an stone-fruit fan living in the north east (i.e. zone 6b/7a NJ), and wanted to stay as organic as possible:

1. European plum - you are limited to the cultivar 'President' (the only black-knot resistant variety) and just one more (which, regardless of the type, will be susceptible and keep you busy with pruning).
2. Apricot - you are limited to just a few late-flowering, disease-resistant (for this area) varieties - there is one good choice for this in particular ('Early Blush')
3. Sweet Cherry - there are a few - but not endless inventory - of varieties appropriate for 6b/7a northeastern conditions... cv. 'Black Gold', 'Lapins', etc.  crack-resistant, heat and black-knot resistant.
4. Sour Cherry - 'North Star' and a few others if you are looking for a non-hybrid that will tolerate the heat.
5. Native plums - due to a lack of breeding developments, just one or two each of the straight species (or a regionally appropriate pair of cultivars, each - would do).
6. Sweet almond - just about 2 or 3 cultivars hardy-enough 

And if you're like me, not wanting to grow a tree for just a few crop seasons until it succumbs to blight or freeze-out.  I don't like to have an unstable, temporary landscape design-plan - I'd rather still with cold-hardy, disease-resistant varieties when practical.  For instance, if I had all the land I could ever want, regarding Asian pears - I'd only plant the 5 most disease-resistant varieties, 2 of which are dependably resistant.

So, I'd expect that no one (even if an avid collector aiming for an impressive collection of some real special, unusual finds) needs greater than a solid, useable acre to: (1) host EVERY species/type of edible plant they'd want to grow (so long as we're talking practically available species in trade - you could, theoretically, get a very long list of Prunus - and Rosaceae enough for that group alone to fill the acre - so, I'm talking the major and minor fruits - and some more esoteric - but not literally every plant, of course; (2) host at least two+ varieties of each edible plant species in the collection, being limited not just by space considerations, but by the fact that every single region has only a hand-ful of cultivars of a given plant type that is truly well-suited for the local conditions - and personal taste would result in some of these being undesirable to grow; (3) and have enough room for things like a native wildflower meadow, garden pond and/or stream, woodland buffer, etc. and just a little room for future planting of chance seedlings for some home breeding.

So, unless you are a breeder and developer, and/or growing food for commercial production, or in the nursery trade, I'd say even an acre is more than useful.

Steve; NJ


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