Planting Food Near Native Oaks: Pairing Forest Ecology with Edible Gardening


| 2/23/2017 9:47:00 AM


Tags: edible forestry, food forestry, native plants, oak trees, tree species, California, Joshua Burman Thayer,

Here in Northern California, we are blessed with many stoic and picturesque native oaks. Coastal Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia), Valley Oak (Quercus lobata), and Blue Oak (Quercus douglasii) are all found in this bioregion. Many people are talking about Sudden Oak Death and other oak ailments as a result of anthropogenic (man-made) influences. Fear not: By following some simple rules and planting specially adapted native plants, you can foster life under your oaks.

Our California oaks have evolved to have dry roots for the summer months. One of the main mistakes I see in consulting with homeowners and ranches is that irrigation is installed too close to the drip line of the oak. This “wet feet” easily can lead to rot and disease.

By choosing the right specialists for the very specific habitat of oak understory, you can achieve a full, vibrant understory that will bring hummingbirds and other wildlife right underneath the majestic oaks and into your window’s views.

Drip Line Denotes Microclimate

The drip-line is where the edge of the branches make a circle that defines where the majority of rain drips out to the edge of the tree. In intact nature, you will see in the oak savannah where a diversity of plants are growing “at the skirt of the tree” due to the increased moisture of this drip-line perimeter.

These plants receive the benefits of more rain, running off the oak as well as more light than inside the canopy. This makes the drip line a sweet spot for many oak savannah natives.




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