Edible forest – 18 months review

Going away in late spring / early summer never seems a good idea with so much going on. So naturally I was a bit apprehensive about disappearing for an effective 10 days to attend permaculture teachers training in Ballarat. However, coming back in prime growing season, especially since we had 21mm of rain while I was away, was quite an eye-opener. This is a photo essay review of our edible forest garden after 18 months.

So it was about a year and half ago that we started working on the blank canvas we named Dreamland.

How it looked before we started…

At that time, I hadn’t done my PDC yet, but we worked out of David Jacke’s books (Edible Forest Gardens, Vol 1 and 2), almost page for page, documenting objectives, listing plans,  drawing a concept design and so on. Looking back now, we applied a lot of permaculture principles in that design.

Fast forward to today, 18 months later, and we are still on plan, in broad terms. We are still implementing a savannah style forest garden, which suits our climate (as well as our resources and the critters in our area) better than a lush thick forest design. There have obviously been minor deviations where we changed our minds, changed the design to be more practical, or to improve the flow through the landscape.

Some of our paths flowing through the landscape

Two secret gardens

(Note to self: both secret gardens need to be re-seeded with our fescue /clover mix.)

The major landscaping features are still to plan. Well, it’s a bit late to change now!

However, our plants list has changed considerably. In addition to our original list of fruit trees (minus a few who didn’t make the last dry summer, plus a few replacements – which are doing very well), we have added many native plants and bush tucker specimens.

FG - native walk

“Native walk” with muntries, midyims and other native species 

I always complain that things grow slowly in our neck of the woods, but if I look at some of the guilds, I can’t complain too much. Most of the little treelets even have fruit on them.

FG - view through apple tree

View through the apple tree

FG - peach and herbs

Peach and herbs guild

FG - cherry hill

Cherry hill – our latest guild with tagasaste and tea tree in there too

FG - apple and cherry

Apple, cherry, herbs and wild flowers

I’m sure the bees will be happy!

Bee food

One of the changes we made was to use some of the understory spaces for diverse (i.e. mixed planting) no-dig potager style forest garden beds (as we call them). We have already harvested a lot of vegetables from these.

FG - corn

Corn, beans and pumpkins (and a few other things) in one of the potager beds

Of course, there are areas where we still need to do the underplanting, but we made the conscious decision that we have to source and propagate those plants ourselves. So to those cuttings and seedlings in the greenhouse: “grow!!!!” But it’s this on-going development, and retro-fitting guilds under the few existing fruit trees (not shown in this essay) that keeps the project interesting. Just yesterday I sowed some seeds and made more cuttings for these areas.

FG - apple and plum to be underplanted

One of the areas still to be underplanted

All in all, it seems that our soil improvement efforts (mulch, biodynamics, composting, nitrogen fixers and more) are all contributing. At places, we have better growth than next door at Homeland. Whether that is due to soil history or due to our improved soil management practices is hard to answer.

FG - view from top

Cross section as seen from the filtration area

If we can continue to get good bursts of unseasonal rain throughout this summer, and keep up with our irrigation efforts, we should slowly see more and more shade getting established in and around the forest garden, which should reduce our watering efforts  considerably. The same applies for organic material. One day, it will almost manage itself… but in the meanwhile, there is work to be done!

FG - pond and shade

A bit of shade developing near the pond

About martin@muchmoremulch.blog (105 Articles)
My name is Martin Rennhackkamp, I now live happily in Lara, Victoria, Australia with my wife, two children and two dogs. My interests, apart from the obvious Organic, Biodynamic and Permaculture Gardening and Farming, include sustainable living, surfing, horse-riding, a wide variety of music, dancing, nature, birds, reading, Christianity and a few other things which I never get to...

12 Comments on Edible forest – 18 months review

  1. It will great if you can get your own tea-tree oil!

    Anyway, the forest garden is looking good. More shade will definitely be a bonus in terms of watering 😊.

  2. It looks amazing. It brings it home what different conditions you are dealing with. Compared with your next door plot, yours looks far more lush, and of course, varied!

    • Thank you Ali – the dream is slowly taking shape. We’re finding it very hard to “lushify” Homeland – it’s much harder to reverse-engineer the understory in, especially in areas where we inherited a lot of kikuyu and couch grass.

  3. The expansiveness of the flat area is enviable. We have plenty of space, but very little of it is flat!

    • Tony, some days we wished we had a bit of slope to work with, but I guess the flatness is much easier to work with – no water run-offs to deal with.

      • There was a difference of of elevation of more than three hundred feet from the bottom to the top of my small nine acre parcel! There were only two small usable flat spots, one in the middle, and one near the top. My former home was in the Santa Clara Valley, where the slope was not perceptible.

      • martin@muchmoremulch.blog // December 3, 2018 at 2:37 pm //

        Wow, that is steep! That would be hard work to work with.

      • Exactly! It is not a constant slope of course, so some spots are cliffs. The flat spot where I lived was at the same elevation as the top floors of the old World Trade Center.

  4. Love your words and pictures. inspiring me to keep at it. The joy is there most days. The pottager has a relation here . x yvette

    • martin@muchmoremulch.blog // December 6, 2018 at 10:21 am // Reply

      Thank you Yvette. Some days you just have to step back a bit and appreciate it – otherwise you get too bogged down in to-do lists, projects, weeding, and the list goes on and on!

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