My Food Forest is getting a bit of a hit or miss selection of plants in part because it is a mature pinyon-juniper biome, albeit drought stressed. All my macro elements are in place and I only play with the micro elements.
Another part is that I like plant identification and seed collection as part of my constant observation of plants and their cycles. As such, I am open to any native plant living up here, in any order. Every find is pleasing to me, most of my natives are started from seed I collect, and the process is the best part.
Creating and working from lists can be helpful too. Especially for suburbanites, butterfly, bee, bird, and hummingbird gardens can help support the wildlife that have easy access to smaller gardens. Tree guilds are good supports for these gardens because they provide cover, nesting, and safety. Don’t forget to support you too.
For a Food Forest garden, other wildlife can benefit from organized lists of their food preferences. For example, you can list bear, deer, rabbit, or quail foods and habitats, then plant accordingly. If you want big predators, plant for their prey species.
I expanded my quail habitat while here, using a list of their food preferences and habitat needs.
In general, quail like seeds, nuts, and berries. So… who doesn’t? What specifically was missing from my circular economy that had quail missing from my circle? Two things on the list that I had very little of was grass and nesting sites for ground birds.
Most grass species are intolerant of Food Forest shade, but Blue Grama grass (Bouteloua gracilis) already grew in small amounts in open spots. It holds seeds and nutrient value well into winter.
I brought in Blue Grama seed and disbursed it in openings around the original plants. I now have several good stands of Blue Grama grass to attract quail. I also disbursed thousands of wildflower seed every year. I saw quail after two years but they may have been here all along. This covey is pretty close to my home.
One nice thing about Blue Grama is it stays about a foot tall and is pretty waving in the wind. It has other benefits like being good erosion control, important on a hillside. Songbirds in general eat the seeds. Pronghorn antelope do too but although folks around here say we have them I haven’t seen any sign.
I made a few brush piles from dead wood laying around to reduce fire risk. Right now they are attractive nesting places for quail. In fact, the pile closest to my house is where I saw quail when my dog flushed them one day. I keep him away from them now I know they are there.
My desire is to turn the brush piles into Hugelkultur beds, for enriched soil. The brush was already down when I moved in and I rescued 33 unsold Christmas trees from a vendor one year and made two more piles. I have collected quite a few bags of compost material. All that is left is to import two truck loads of soil for them and assembly.
So I need more shrubs for cover for quail once I cover the brush piles. I have already added shrubs, both berry and seed bearing but they are too small yet. I have more Tree Cholla Cactus starts and that will increase cover for quail and other birds and mammals eventually.
Best thing about my five acres is that it is always complete… and never complete. I love it.