How do we get more food forests into suburban yards?
We can start by planting a legume anytime that plant a fruit tree.
Joey D’Elia joins me in this episode to discuss just that – How can people start down the path of building their own food forest in their suburban backyard.
What are some easy ways to identify trees that will work in your system?
How to not get caught up in the design phase forever and start planting now.
This will be the first episode in a multi-part series about permaculture food forests. In this episode of the podcast we ask – If food forests are the coolest thing in permaculture, why aren’t there more of them? And what strategies could anyone do to start planning their food forest today.
There were a few good mental attitude takeaways from this episode.
The first is don’t get analysis paralysis. Pick a tree and plant it. Too many people obsess on the design and the research forever and they never get around to actually do anything. It doesn’t have to be that hard. There is no reason that an average PDC graduate can’t plan out their own food forest, complete with shopping, list in a few hours. Plants are generally cheap, transplantable, and forgiving. So don’t be afraid to screw up or make mistakes, we all do. Those mistakes are just learning experiences and in general they can easily be overcome.
The second is to ignore the vampires. Without going too deep, ignore people that bring a lot of negative energy into your life. Align yourself with people who embrace your goals, are excited about the same things that you are, and who can support you in a variety of ways in your permaculture journey. Sadly, like any other arena, permaculture is littered with these people. Foruntaetly most of the people within permaculture are extremely open armed and helpful. Align yourselves with those people, and be one of those people because permaculture needs good stewards. Leave the vampires to do what they do best, complaining, whining, and actually accomplishing nothing. You can read more about emotional vampires HERE.
So if you are down for the cause, and want to take your backyard fruit trees to the next level, where can you start?
Most people don’t incorporate any support species into their backyard fruit tree “orchards.” While there are a variety of support species that are useful, we will focus on adding the fertilizer trees – nitrogen fixers – leguminous plants to your system. Legumes offer a variety of benefits besides fixing nitrogen (fertilizer) – many have beautiful flowers that attract pollinators, many have nice shapes which add to the visual interest of your landscape, deciduous trees can provide you will a homegrown mulch source, and they provide shade to you and your system, a plus for hot areas. But everyone always asks – Where can I find the tree guide or template for food forests in _____ ??? The answer isn’t in a book, a forum, or in a blog. The answer is most likely right around you. Go outside and look around.
Walk around your neighborhood and look around. Find trees that you like the look of – the foliage, the size, the flowers, the growth pattern.
- Make a list of those trees.
- List out the functions of each of those trees.
- Select trees for your food forest and property from that list.
Actions that you can take today:
- Plant a legume in the same hole the next time you plant a fruit tree. Often times you can purchase a legume tree at the same place where you are buying the fruit tree. You can also try to add herbaceous legumes like fava beans to the soil after planting. These can be purchased at most grocery stores.
- Start adding leguminous shrubs to your future food forest and landscape. Shrubs can be easily controlled in size so they won’t dominate your landscape. They are oftentimes cheaper and easier to plant that trees, simplifying things for beginners.
- Can you figure out a way to get that tree that you wanted into your space? Maybe through a more columnar variety, grafting, choosing a dwarf rootstock, or a technique such as espalier. I bet if you really get creative you will be able to fit that fruit variety that you have always wanted into your landscape.
Takeaways from this episode:
- Need plant ideas? Look around the neighborhood, and see what is growing. Ask local arborists, garden groups, permaculture groups for ideas. Talk to neighbors and see what works and what doesn’t.
- Make a list of trees that you like in your neighborhood. Try to identify them. Then add the functions of those trees to the list. Select the trees for your food forest from that list.
- Starting trees from seeds is easy. Try propagating your own.
- Fast track your system by adding mulch, compost, and a lot of organic matter.
- Start your food forest with shrubs. They are easy to plant, small, wont’ take over your yard, yet they get your system moving in the right direction while you plan and figure out what trees you want to use.
- Expect success and don’t worry about messing up.
- Don’t get analysis paralysis, start with a simple plan, then tweak and make adjustments as you move forward and start to see results.
Back to Eden
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More great books on growing fruit and food forests:
Edible Forest Gardens (2 volume set) by Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier
The Holistic Orchard: Tree Fruits and Berries the Biological Way by Michael Phillips
Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway
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