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I am working on one particular region in a conworld that has a particularly cool, mild, and wet climate, similar to the west coasts of Southern Chile, New Zealand's South Island, or Washington state. So, essentially, very low annual temperature variation, with average monthly temperatures mostly between 5 and 15 C, lots of cloud cover, and prodigious amounts of rain (thanks to coastal range of high mountains), upwards of 2 to 3 meters annually with no real dry season.

I have difficulty finding resources on this because:

  1. I'd like information about the kind of practices that a pre-modern culture could have used, and there was not that much agriculture to my knowledge in those Earth-analogue places before very recent times.

  2. Even now that people do grow some (modern) crops in those regions, there is still very little agricultural production, certainly not for subsistence, since those regions in our world are generally sparsely settled temperate rainforest or areas used actively for forestry.

  3. Scotland (coastal Western Highlands only) is somewhat comparable, but its mountains are lower, and it is generally colder compared to my exact comparison regions (Quinault, Chaitén, etc). In general I find there isn't much material on agricultural capacity that directly talks about climatic requirements of crops- maybe it is assumed?

So really I am just interested in anything you may know about what kind of agricultural crops and practices can be used effectively in this sort of region. I can provide any more details if necessary. Thanks.

Soil addendum: I know that soil is a very important variable for plant growth, so I have written a little about the typical soil here at the bottom for those interested- the soil would be developed on primarily mafic rock, but it has been heavily altered recently by repeated cycles of glaciation so I imagine it is relatively undeveloped. Furthermore, I know that the high rainfall will have major effects on the kind of soil here and may leach away minerals. Perhaps in certain restricted areas, peat soil will develop, but correct me if I'm wrong about that.

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    $\begingroup$ You might be better off asking this on the Gardening site. Or look here: extension.wsu.edu $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Jun 14 at 16:48
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AFAICT, "cold and wet" describes the Andean highlands where potatoes were first domesticated pretty well. They may be tropical, but they're high. In between the ice-covered peaks and the jungle lowlands, sat the Inca empire.

The broad leaves and extensive roots of potatoes protect against soil erosion. And the starchy bits being underground gives some frost resistance.

Potatoes are also grown today in western Washington state, so that's a good sign.

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As a former resident of the region, I can confirm that western Washington and Oregon have a thriving dairy industry, produce many seasonal vegetables, and are significant contributors in the farmed lumber industry.

The primary reason most commercial vegetable and fruit production now resides in areas like Southern California and Florida (and other places with similar climates) is about growing season -- you can produce many fruits year-around in those regions, where they're very seasonal in places like Tillamook, Oregon. Even hay to feed dairy cattle must be laid in during the summer months, stored for the winter. Combine this with the increase through the 20th century in ability to ship goods rapidly enough to arrive at markets fresh, and California, Florida, and Texas have become the truck gardens of North America.

Still, milk, cheese, and eggs are produced twelve months of the year in the wet Northwest. Paper pulp and veneer for plywood is harvested when mature, usually in good weather (so the ground in the plots isn't too soft for the machinery), but grows all year. The climate lends well for linen production, though this is less important than it would have been long ago (less popular than cotton, for a number of reasons). Additionally, these areas are well known for their fisheries, both fresh water/migratory and offshore. Certain highly prized varieties of hops (for brewing) grow well in this climate, also, and barley tolerates cold and wet better than wheat (and far better than wine grapes).

I'm not aware of soil quality being a big problem in western Washington and Oregon, though this may be in part because these areas have been less subject to intensive farming than other areas.

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  • $\begingroup$ Though with at least some fruits & vegetables, you'll see the source move with the seasons. Here in the west, they may come from Mexico or California's Imperial Valley early in the year, later on from central California, and moving north to Oregon, Washington, and even Canada. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Jun 14 at 22:31
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A quick bit of research indicates that areas with the climatic conditions you are referring to tend to focus as described by the previous answer on commercial scale meat and dairy, aquaculture, forestry fisheries.

However you seem to want to focus on pre-industrial or private use gardening. That increases your options because the competitive pressures driving modern commercial agriculture don't apply.

In that case there are lists of various plants that will grow well in cool wet climates albeit with restricted growing seasons and there are lots of gardening sites which will take you through the options for garden plots based on prevailing local climate and the season.

You can look them up just by searching for crops AND the climatic conditions you require. That said and assuming low tech hand gardening and/ or pre-industrial community farming these are some of your options (particularly if you use raised garden beds to improve drainage).

Lettuces, cabbages, spinach and kales and cauliflower, peas/(some)beans. and beets, turnips, carrots and parsnips, broccoli, leeks, shallots and garlic and asparagus and squash.

As far as fruits and berries go you could try pears, raspberries, strawberries and some types of plumb and grape. You may be also able to grow crops like apricots if you can have exposed south or north facing walls (depending on hemisphere) that they can be planted against so that they get extra heat. And if you have green houses, even small ones your options go up again.

Note the lack of cereal crops.

Please also note; the lists above refer to varieties specifically selected for the climates concerned. This means some varieties of the crops listed above might not be best suited to the relevant climate. And of course there might be varieties of crops I haven't listed you could perhaps grow (even if they don't produce 'bumper' harvest every year). So I suggest you do some more research on-line.

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Fungus from the land and fish, seaweeds, and other aquaculture from the waters.

Wood also, if you want to consider that as agriculture.

Haida Gwaii (Canada, just off of the Alaska panhandle) Is cool, wet and cloudy as you describe. It is similair to Chaiten. I've been to both, but know HG better.

Among easy to forage edible mushrooms there are Chanterelles, blue chanterelles, matsutaki (pine), king bolettes, angel wings, chicken of the woods, cauliflower of the woods, liberty caps, ...

For fish and others they have streams, rivers, lakes and oceans. The Haida had clam gardens. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clam_garden

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Apples.

apples

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/the-last-wild-apple-forests-almaty-kazakhstan

https://wikifarmer.com/apple-tree-climate-conditions/

Most of commercial apple tree varieties thrive in cold and wet climate, where a cold winter is followed by cool spring and summer. Abundant sunlight is necessary, as it significantly affects the color of the fruit. Generally, the apple tree has greater needs in cold than most of other deciduous fruit trees. Most popular apple tree varieties thrive in regions where the temperature rarely increases above 90°F (32 oC). Many apple farmers also make use of big fans in order to cool the apple orchard, when the temperature exceeds a certain point.

Apples are awesome. I like the idea of a fiction where the subsistence crop is apples. Maybe it is someplace where there are apple forests. Apples are abundant when they come, and the fruit keeps well as fruit. But you can do more. Historically apples have really been prized for cider, which is what people made out of the seeds Johnny Appleseed planted (I wonder if AlexP's awesome command of Americana includes Johnny?). Cider keeps a long time because of the alcohol and it is good food.

You can also dry apples and eat them that way or use them like flour. You can feed the questionable apples to any livestock you have and I think that was historically the fate of the pomace product of cider making.

If there is a crop that would thrive in your wet cold world it is apples. Now I want some cider.

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  • $\begingroup$ One thing I would like to know more about is the soil and rain tolerance of the apple, because wet tolerance is even stretched to its limits with meters of rain a year. Those concerns aside, I don't think people could use apples as a staple though, and cider actually can't keep too long, I don't think because it doesn't have enough alcohol. Distillation would have to be invented first. But yes, I agree, that any potential soil problems notwithstanding, apples may work. $\endgroup$ Jun 16 at 0:09

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