Food Forest!

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What is Permaculture?

Permaculture is sustainable land use design. This is based on ecological and biological principles, often using patterns that occur in nature to maximise effect and minimise work.
 

 

 
Permaculture Food Forest...in my backyard.
(Videos at the bottom of the page)

 

 

How do you get good produce that's grown yourself with little physical input?  PERMACULTER!  In a nutshell Permaculture is a way of designing a perennial garden that mimics nature in design so once it is establish a person only has to watch over it to insure productivity. 

Most people plant an apple tree here or a pear tree there.  Then for years they will fertilize, weed and spray in hopes of getting a bountiful crop.  I decided to plant semi-dwarf fruit trees and keep the output closer to what a family of four could consume.  So...

 

A 'Food Forest' consisting of 6 out of the 7 edible layers.

1.  The canopy (large trees)
2.  Low tree layer (dwarf fruit trees)
3.  Shrubs
4.  Herbaceous
5.  Rhizosphere (root crops)
6.  Soil Surface (cover crops)
7.  Vertical Layer (climbers, vines)

Since I don't actually have 1/2 acre or so to plant large trees I will start with the 2nd. layer...dwarf fruit trees.
 I chose a corner of my yard that receives plenty of sunlight for most of the day and partial shade during the hot summer months. 
      In the fall of 2009 I planted 10 semi-dwarf fruit trees.  2 Apples, 2 Pears, 2 Peach, 2 Nectarines, 1 Self-Pollinating Plum & Black Cherry trees.  It's a good idea to either plant your new trees in early spring or in the fall during the fall/spring rains.  It saves on watering time and you don't run the chance of the trees burning up during the hot summer days.

 

 

      Next I planted shrubs.  The shrub layer in my forest consist of: Gooseberries, Currents, and an assortment of Raspberries & Blackberries.  Altogether about 18 or so bushes. Gooseberries
Currents       I planted one in-between each pair of fruit trees.  This formed a triangle pattern throughout the forest.
      Some space also gave way to artichoke plants.  Yah...artichokes!  I had no idea they could be grown in my area.  I didn't get any artichokes this year but I will next.  Best thing...they're perennials!    

 

 

 

      Next is layer 4...Herbaceous.  This layer includes just about all annual plants (other then rhizomes and cover crops) along with many perennial plants. The herbaceous zone includes actual herbs like the common parsley, oregano and basil.  Unfortunately I had to hold off on this layer until I could get rid of the grass.  So I won't plant these until spring of 2011.  Good news is the leaves are down in the forest and we had an excellent herb garden which I will be able to propagate into the forest.

herbs
Edible Flowers      (Above) Here I have Thyme, Basel, Parsley, Rosemary and Chives.  All are Perennials and will easily be transferred into the woods this spring although my wife is fighting me on this.  I did plant several edible perennial flowers (Nasturtium) which is a Herbaceous layer. (Left)

 

 

      Next layer is the Rhizosphere (root crops).  This will go into the forest this spring.  Again I wanted to get the grass out of the way first so the plants would have plenty of nutrients and wouldn't have to fight the grass for water.  I'm planning on planting root crops that lay close to the surface so not to dig and disturb the insect life in the forest.  Garlic and a variety of Onions & Leaks should do the trick.  The idea is to enter the forest, pick about 30-50% (what you need), and leave the rest to go into seed.  That way we'll have a never-ending supply while free-up much needed space in my gardens. Wild Leaks  
  Wild Leaks/td>


strawberries       Next layer is the cover crop.  This one I am very excited about....STRAWBERRIES!  I planted two raise bed gardens consisting of about 60 strawberry and 6 blueberry plants.  I'm going to have hundreds of strawberry plants the full of 2011 & baskets full of strawberries.  They will be transplanted into the forest this spring freeing up 2 more garden beds.

     There're a number of good reasons for a cover crop in the forest. 
 
1.  FOOD!  Not only for humans but for the animals too.  Strawberry plants will send out runners so I wont have to replant them...ever!
3.  Cover-crop will keep weeds down and help reduce moisture evaporation (dry soil).
4.  With any plant the excess leaves & fruits will drop to decompose year after year...a continues supply of nutrience to the entire forest.

 

 

Beans Next is the Vertical Layer (climbers, vines)
Now this layer should be of the perennial type although I preferred keeping it annual for the first year.  One reason is, yet again, I wanted the grass to be gone and the trees to be more rooted so not to compete for nutrience & moisture. 
      So I planted beans, squash & zucchini in the forest.  I got a good amount of produce and it added much needed shade to my trees.  I'll look into perennial vines such as hardy kiwi and grapes this spring.

 

 

shiitake Here is something that, as far as I know, hasn't been done intentionally...an 8th layer.  MUSHROOMS!  I own a small company called, Mushroom Patch, Ltd.  My company produces mushroom spawn for logs, wood chips/sawdust, straw and soil.  So why not introduce an 8th layer to the mix?  In the spring of 2011 I'll be ready to include Shiitake and White Oyster mushrooms to the forest!  CRAZY!

 

 

     Actually Permaculture aren't all plants.  In order to simulate a true forests ecosystem you have to have water.  No less then 20% of the land chosen for a food forest should be dedicated to a water supply such as a pond.  
 A small pond has several advantages to the forest.
       A pond will attract wildlife to the area such as birds, beneficial insects, frogs & toads which will help control unbeneficial insects population and simultaneously fertilize the area.  Ponds also will cool the area down by evaporation & reflection of the hot sun.       

 

As of today, fall of 2010, I finally have leaves to begin simulating a natural forest.  Have you ever notice the soil in a forest or woods?  How soft, moist and black the soil is?  There is only one reason for this...leaves!  It's God's way of mulching, fertilizing and weeding.  So why aren't we doing it?   Well...I am. 
 
Here's what my forest looked like after the plants started growing and nature was starting to take hold in Spring 2010   Here is what it looks like after the summer is over and winter is just around the corning.  Notice the leaves?  Now it's starting to look like a real forest!  Red flags you see are marking my perennials so it will be easier to locate them in the spring since some of the are still small and lost their foliage.

 

 

Crowes in the Food Forest
So I created a small food forest in my backyard and it's winter now in Canada. Strange thing...the squirrels and crows like to hangout there. There must be 30 crows alone in JUST the little forest.  Makes you think.

 


 

      This is just the first year of work creating my new self-sustaining garden (Permaculture Food Forest).  With any luck I will finish planting in the spring of 2011 and be able to sit back and allow it to grow & take care of me for many, many years to come!  CHECK OUT THE VIDEOS BELOW!

 

 
Early Spring 2010   Summer 2010

 

 

Picking Fruits of my labor!  Fall 2011

 

 

See you in the spring!