Hi to all the Permies out there! I was wondering if you all could help me out with some examples of food forests that more closely resemble conventional landscaping. Last Summer, my husband and I bought a house in a small, very close-knit town. All of the landscaping that I've seen around people's houses has been very classic suburban (lawn from the roads to the foundations, with some decorative trees or gardens). Our little slice of land is going to be totally different, but I also want it to be in it example of what a permaculture system can be while also not being totally different from the rest of the town. If anyone has some great examples of this, would you post some pics so I can shamelessly borrow ideas from you? Thank you!
sorry no pics to share but 5 yrs ago. i took my wifes 1 acre lawn and planted it with over 50 varieties of fruits , nuts and medicinal plants and trees. they are all planted in 15ft wide rows in a strait line perpendicular to the road. i planted the bigger trees to the west, smaller bushes to the east , near the road. i also mulch the rows with wood chips every spring. i never have to water once they get established . i also underplanted with native strawberries , blueberries and arctic raspberries all round my other trees and bushes. they are filling in well. only thing my plants get in spring is a topdressing of old chic. manure covered with more fresh wood chips. keeps the weeds at bay as long as you keep a fresh layer of chips on top. I'm hoping once the under plantings spread, they will fill in enough around the other plants that i won't need as much wood chips to keep the weeds out. also put mushroom spawn in the wood chips so i get 4-5 flushes of wine caps and blewits in summer/ fall. i have apples, sour cherry , juneberry, seaberry, mulberry, raspberries, strawberries hazelnuts, rhubarb, blueberry. honeybery, lingonberry, pears. plums currants, blackberries ,aronia, thimble berry, autumn olive, goumi and salmonberries. i have some thats have many different cultivars and types of each. as well as many mecdinals and of course comfrey. also have 3 big raised beds for veggies. ;)
Going with conventional landscaping in terms of design/layout shouldn't be a problem, you just switch out your plant species:
Shade trees in your area commonly ash and sycamore(or whatever)? - you plant pecan and mulberry instead(or whatever works best for your climate and palate)
Daffodils or other bulb flowers under trees? go for garlic and onions instead
Flower bushes or hedges? - blueberry and hazelnut instead
planter boxes or hilled beds usually holding annual flowers? prime spot for cauliflower and your lettuces, herbs, etc.
Cactus Garden? go for Cereus, indian fig, and dragonfruit, etc.
Lawn complete replacement might be tougher in terms of community acceptance, but you can expand your landscaped edges very wide so your lawn shrinks to only a little spot or two - can replace with flagstone patio or rock/mulch garden paths.
It's very commonly only the food forests that look like mini-agricultural farms, or the untrimmed, unweeded "messy and untamed" food forests that people seem to object to ferociously(and erroniously, in our opinion).
Experimenting and growing on my small acre in SW USA; Fruit & Nut trees w/ annuals, hoping to get Chickens, rabbits, and in-laws onto property soon.
Long term goal - Furniture & Luthier Stay-at-home farm dad.
I think in the sort of situation described, making sure you plant pretty (and possibly edible) flowers along with the veggies, berries and trees. For example if you put in a trellis over a path, have grapes climbing from one side and a rose climbing from the other. Choose showy but still useful flowers like calendula to put at the edges. I would not be in a hurry to get rid of all the grass. What makes grass undesirable is usually 1. the chemicals people add instead of supporting the microbes to keep it healthy, 2. the fuel and work needed to manage it which can be reduced by cutting it 3-4 inches high instead of putting green height, and 3. that it's a monoculture. I let flowers grow in my lawn, particularly crocus in the spring, and people have trouble getting mad at crocus! At the edges, I'd plant groups of edible plants that support each other, but again have pretty stuff too. I have day lily in my front bed (which are edible) with asparagus as a back-drop. In another spot, I've got a grafted plum tree with iris, walking onion and comfrey under it. If you find your neighbors are OK with the little changes, I'd consider expanding a little each year.
Thanks for all the awesome ideas! Designing for neighborhood kids to have the experience of a garden is an awesome idea! It's funny that I didn't think of it myself considering I teach elementary students how to read. Just goes to show that collaboration makes for a way better design! I also really like the idea of the gradual decline of the lawn so as to eliminate the shock factor. Our neighbors have a sidewalk, but it ends at the end of their yard. The sidewalk to Nowhere has always bothered me when I see it, so maybe we will continue the sidewalk with planter beds bordering it as the start of the lawn decline. I think I'm going to make a timeline diagram of my front-yard to plan it out (I love making diagrams).
It's great that you want to implement permaculture in your yard! I believe that edible planting designed according to permaculture principles can be beautiful too and that this is a good way to make permaculture easy to digest for more traditional gardeners.
Here's a video of the small edible forest in our backyard, maybe you can find some inspiration there:
And this is a slice of our 'big' garden which I designed as a sort of cottage garden with lots of edible plants (fruits, veggies and edible flowers e.g. cherry, gooseberries, blueberries, lovage, calendula, chamomille, alpine strawberries...) mixed with plants that attract beneficial insects or have other functions such as fixing nitrogen. I especially love multifunctional plants, for example, the sweet william flowers in front (a traditional cottage garden plant) are both edible and a great cut flower, lovage in the back is a culinary herb and attracts beneficial insects:
I hope this helps, good luck with your project!
I am in a similar boat, acre of land on the edge of town, where people still like to have pretty landscaping. I used bush cherries, mulberries, and larger fruits pruned small for the big statement areas of our yard. I found ornamental strawberries (summer breeze) and ornamental raspberries (Anne and Sophia) around fruit trees, filled in with purple cabbage, purple bush beans, red amaranth, purple chives, purple allium, and bee balm. Edged it all with purple lettuce. It was gorgeous this year, wish I had a picture.