building a food forest

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The garden at OUR ECOvillage bursting with food (taken last summer)

I’m part way through a new project – this time in the front yard.

I’m very intrigued by the idea of food forests a concept borrowed from the tropics. For me the term ‘food forest’ brings to mind the stories of Robinson Crusoe and Swiss Family Robinson, both of which I read as a kid and now have fond memories of and both set in rain forests. I live in a rain forest too (temperate though), so why not try creating a food forest in my front yard?

I don’t know much about the complexities of food forests, I’ve only read about them. Unfortunately I’ve not visited a mature one. Last summer I took a cob workshop at a near by eco-village (OUR ECOvillage). As part of the day there we got a tour of the area. It was fascinating to see (I would love to live in a cob house), the sustainable system they are working to build is a great blueprint for what we all should be doing, and their garden was bursting with tasty looking vegetables. There was talk of a food forest but I didn’t see it. I even went back to the garden after our day was done, but I couldn’t find a food forest. All I found was a few fruit trees interplanted with herbs which probably will mature into a forest.

Armed with a complete lack of knowledge, I’ve started planting my own version of a food forest. We’ve started building a deer-proof fortification (necessary here) that encompasses the apple tree I planted a few years ago. I’ll attach netting to the poles when I’m finished sheet mulching the ground – I think easy access will be key when I mulch.

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The front yard before – the dwarf apple is in the bottom left surrounded in hog wire to keep the deer out. Every leaf that sticks out beyond the wire gets nibbled.

Within the enclosure I’ve already planted my medlar (the biggest tree) as the top layer, next layer down is the established dwarf apple and a sour cherry. For bushes, I planted the two blueberries and two honeyberries I had in pots. Finally, I have a yarrow to move into the enclosure. On our Christmas holidays I’ll sheet mulch the area with newspaper (I’ve been saving it for a while) topped with whatever organic matter I can find. In the spring, I’ll plant more and hopefully the ‘forest’ will become an attractive feature in my front yard.

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The fortification is up and trees are planted (the medlar is right in the middle). The next step is sheet mulching to kill the grass.