We finally planted our food forest one year ago (you can read all about it here). It was a long time in the planning. We had to get water organised before we could plant. But when we were ready, I already had plenty of trees in pots ready to go.
We were originally going to put the trees further from the house, but then decided to set up the food forest between the house and the sheds. This gives us a lovely view through the kitchen window out over the food forest and will block our ugly power pole eventually. It also means that we walk through the food forest to get to the sheds and the veggie garden, picking things and weeding as we go. Its a perfect Zone 1 location.
If you're still wondering "what is a food forest?", pop back over to my post about starting our food forest to learn more. In summary, it is a collection of trees, shrubs, herbs and perennial vegetables arranged like a forest rather than an orchard. Our layout is three rows of trees spaced 2m apart. The rows are 4m apart, and wide enough for the chicken tractors to pass between the rows. In the spaces between the trees we have smaller shrubs, herbs and flowers planted.
What have we changed?
Since my last post, we have added another row of trees - this time purchased from the local markets. This includes lime, apples (2), macadamia, feijoa (2), mandarin, pear, plum and bay trees. We chose these based on an analysis of what we like to eat and what might actually grow here in this climate, as well as the risk of fruit flies and trying to spread the harvest across the year.
We have also had a few things die - including several attempts at growing different Leptospermum varieties. Where gaps have appeared I have planted various other trees and plants that I've received from shares, including pawpaws and frangipani trees.
I've also planted flowers and herbs between the trees including (I've linked to the ones I written about in my herb posts):
- chilli bush
- curry plant
- sweet potato
- rosella (hibiscus)
- dianthus, marigolds and calendula for the flowers
What problems have we solved?
We have been lucky to not have issues with any animals getting into the garden apart from our own dogs. At first I had an electric fence set up (but not energised) to keep the dogs out because they kept playing in the food forest and knocking over trees and stakes. They also liked to dig holes and bury bones in there. I took the fence down so that I could mow after it rained, and the dogs are back in there, so I will put the fence up again when the grass stops growing over winter.
I think the wallabies and rabbits stay away as it is close to the house and open paddocks, so there is nowhere to hide. We did have some king parrots picking at the banana leaves, but they didn't stay long.
What is growing well?
The two tallest plants are the mulberry tree and the bananas. The silky oak and plum tree are not far behind - I'm looking forward to having enough shade to plant strawberries under these.
What are you harvesting?
So far the main harvest has been chillies, rosella, rosemary, thyme and lavender flowers. The bees and the butterflies are benefiting from the flowers too.
Are you using guilds?
Guilds are a permaculture concept where you try to match complimentary plants together. As I mentioned back here, I struggle with using guilds. Even if I planned for certain plants to be together, chances are something would die and the balance of the guild would be ruined. I prefer to just plant lots of different plants and see what does well.
I need to keep fertilising and mulching. The trees aren't big enough to need pruning, but the poor little pear tree had some terrible scale that I had to remove one leaf at a time with a toothbrush. The mandarin tree has two fruit and one is nearly ripe!
I have more to plant - lemongrass, mugwort, another frangipani, I just keep collecting herbs and trees to fill in the gaps. The idea is to mimic a forest where pioneer plants come first, creating shade for other plants to grow, eventually some of the first trees will be removed, making space for other plants. This food forest will keep changing as it ages.
I also want to try to flatten out the space between the rows and try to get some better grass growing there, so we can bring the chickens through eventually. The idea is that the chickens help with pest control and are conveniently located to eat any spoiled fruit.
Are you growing a food forest? How is it going? Any questions for me?