Large eucalyptus trees around food forest Adelaide questions

Capaforests

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Jun 29, 2020
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Gday guys from adelaide SA, my names Josh first time post long time watching mark I've only recently learnt about the fourm.

I just have a quick question about large gumtrees surronding my block on the councils property, im trying to develop a suburban food forest on about 180sqm in my back yard, I've planted a whole heap of different species amended the soil and a done thick mulching with ground cover and everything seems good so far, i just have one concern that i have large maybe 50+year old gumtrees surrounding my side fence. Ive noticed a few larger roots closer to the fence and i am scared that in the future these trees will make it very difficult for my yard to progress. Am i worrying too much or can gumtrees and fruit trees co-exsist with ample water? I mean i dont want to have to water daily though i would rather see what options i have. I was thinking about maybe doing a deep root barrier but i feel as if the plants may find there way under regardless. Will these trees make life hard in summer stealing all the water and nutrients from surronding soil or can i just keep putting the hard work in and the forest will be fine? Does anyone have fruit trees right by gumtrees with plenty of sucess and large yields down the track?


Thanks JC
 

Vicky

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Mar 27, 2020
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Hi JC,
you will have issues with tree root invasion from our beautiful natives, I've heard conservative estimates that their roots can reach twice as far as the height of the tree and some more wild ?? estimates of up to seven times. We have an acre and a quarter and on our place are between 40 -50 natives that are at least as tall as our house with the majority being at least twice as tall. Doesn't matter where I plant and how much I water, growth is slow, harvests are small and summer is often the death of many plantings. I'm going to containers as my husband (not a gardener) likes the trees. If a tree gets damaged or blown over in severe weather and gets 'taken out' you just watch everything around it jump slightly with the extra room and less competition :) I have raised beds that the roots will reach up into!! Don't give up though, it just takes more care for existing trees and a bit of lateral thinking and you can still have a food forest. The natives are still beautiful and produce many, many flowers that feed many, many bees!!
 

Capaforests

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Thank you for the response vicky! Much appreciated, so your saying the plants can co-exsist with each other just not well even if i feed and water them well? The gumtrees im dealing with aren't the most massive ones around they are still tall enough but not massive around the trunk. So they will steal all the water even though my yard is remaining damp with all the mulch? I have seen citrus in the proximity of gumtrees around my area with plenty of fruit on them so maybe its just the fact they really slow the process down by stealing the water? Maybe i can argue with the council to take them down there is only two i doubt that though. But i also have one massive 100 year old out the front of my house in which i hope doesn't make the distance to my garden but by the sounds of it just might.
 

Marika

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It’s not great news I’m afraid.
Most large trees will be an issue if you are growing near them, but unfortunately gum trees are pretty bad. Sadly I know this from experience :(
We have a gum tree with a trunk that is over 3 metres wide in the back of our garden that the previous owners decided to put a fruit orchard near/under some 20 odd years ago. It was a bad move as all the trees are diseased and do not produce fruit. It is now up to us to remove these large gnarly trees and the cost is going to be exorbitant. To their credit they were English so all I can think is that they just didn’t know. But that doesn’t help us.
We can not touch the gum tree by law without express permission from our council because of its age - not even to remove a small branch.
for us it is the biggest downfall for our property as I can not plant anything but grass under this tree. And of course it is the biggest part of our yard so would have been perfect for a massively HUGE vegetable garden :(

Eucalyptus trees have surprisingly shallow roots, they will trail and tap into any area where they find moisture or fertility. This increases if you dig your land around the trees, the tree will put out even more feeder roots giving you an even bigger problem to tackle.
You may get 1 good year from a vegetable patch but then the issues will start. If your plant fruit trees near them then you will be disappointed.

You do have options though, providing their evergreen canopy doesn’t shade your yard too much then you could plant vegetables in Wicking beds, these have a closed-in bottom to hold water so having them a little off the ground will solve the root problem completely.
SOuth Australia’s Sophie Thompson makes wicking beds from IBC containers. It’s a bit fussy but the set up would work beautifully in your situation.
And they are perfect for our SA weather too !


If you line the outside with wood as she does then they would look very attractive!

With fruit trees you could choose dwarf varieties and have them in large pots. They will do really well providing they’re in full sun, the pot is big enough and you keep up their food and water.

It may not be the way you imagined your suburban food forest to be but it is definitely doable!
Good luck and let us know how you get on!

Cheers.
 

Capaforests

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Jun 29, 2020
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Thank you for your responses. I would love for someone to comment saying they have had success next to a gumtree or two its still a 800sqm block not quite tiny suburban but enough room for a decent backyard orchard or two. Just the gummie out the front and the two at the back along the fence are hurting my pride now haha. I will have to see what other options i have i plan to do potted trees anyway everywhere but i want this area to be useable
 
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Vicky

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Thank you for the response vicky! Much appreciated, so your saying the plants can co-exsist with each other just not well even if i feed and water them well? The gumtrees im dealing with aren't the most massive ones around they are still tall enough but not massive around the trunk. So they will steal all the water even though my yard is remaining damp with all the mulch? I have seen citrus in the proximity of gumtrees around my area with plenty of fruit on them so maybe its just the fact they really slow the process down by stealing the water? Maybe i can argue with the council to take them down there is only two i doubt that though. But i also have one massive 100 year old out the front of my house in which i hope doesn't make the distance to my garden but by the sounds of it just might.
Yes Josh, it may take some time for the roots to build up but they will find out where you make the soil good and water well, especially come summer time and they will thank you very much . Perhaps you could try some where as far away from the trees as you can manage? We still get harvests from our fruit trees but they can be quite dismal if I don't water everything well all year round. Perhaps try a little area or a few trees to start with and see how it goes? Don't give up though, just be aware and monitor progress.
 
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