Feb. 3, 2012
‘Edible forest’ can supplement veggies for organic produce
When we think of “organic” or growing food, we naturally think of veggies. But with February tree planting time, what about “edible” forests?
Next Friday is Arbor Day in Mississippi (each state selects its own date to coincide with the best planting time).
Why not plant a fruit or nut tree?
Why not incorporate your plantings as an “edible arbor” alongside, around and through garden plots?
Mississippi farmers and homeowners have been growing blueberries for years. But edible forests may include apples, pears and other fruit-bearing trees. Some are adaptable to Mississippi’s hot, humid climate.
Some fruit trees don’t do well in the South because they require a certain number of “chill hours” or temps below 45 degrees. For example, apples are best suited for the northern third of the state, but some root stocks can be planted statewide.
For additional information on preferred fruit varieties in Mississippi, see Fruit and Nut Recommendations by the state Extension Plant and Soil Sciences Department, online, at http://msucares.com/pubs/publications/p0966.pdf.
Plant chestnuts: There’s something of a movement under way to replant chestnuts across America, too.
There probably aren’t too many people who remember when chestnut trees lined many boulevards in the United States – before they were virtually wiped out by an Asian fungus called chestnut blight.
But they may be coming back.
The American Chestnut Foundation is promoting the planting of new trees.
According to Paul Franklin, TACF director of communications in Asheville, N.C., at one time, the American chestnut stretched from Georgia to Maine. An estimated four billion trees were lost to the disease during the first half of the 20th century.
“We will need to plant a lot of trees if we are to eventually restore the American chestnut to its former range,” TACF President and CEO Bryan J. Burhans said recently.
The American chestnut grows quite large – up to 100 feet tall – with a wide canopy. It’s good for meadows, Franklin says, and excellent for wildlife, including deer, turkey and bear. There are also Asian-American hybrids that are smaller.
For more, see the TACF website, http://www.acf.org, or the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (www.sfiprogram.org), or read the chestnut planting guide:
Or write The American Chestnut Foundation, 160 Zillicoa St., Suite D, Asheville, NC 28801; Phone: (828) 281-0047.
“Edible Forest” in Jackson: The Mississippi Urban Forest Council is a state leader in promoting “edible forests.” An example of an edible forest in Jackson is at Wells United Methodist Church, see:
Fruit and Vegetable Growers: I was recently elected president of the Mississippi Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, the statewide nonprofit for commercial growers.
While most of the state’s produce farmers are not organic, I think it reflects a commitment by the state’s growers for environmental stewardship and recognizes organics as a viable option.
It’s a great honor, and I’m grateful for this opportunity to serve small farmers, the backbone of the state’s agricultural community.
Note: I’ll be speaking on community-supported agriculture at the Urban Forest Council’s Conference Tuesday at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science in Jackson. For additional information, see: http://www.msurbanforest.com.
Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.