We have 10ha under olives which we are planning on converting into a food forest/agroforest using permaculture principles. We plan to go slowly and are doing a trial on a small area. I am very grateful to Paul Barker for the help he has given with this trial. Will post a few images and comments on what we have done to date.
In early August (mid winter here) we put black plastic over all the weeds and cynodon dactylon growing between the olive trees and pomegranates. After 6 weeks all the weeds and grass appeared dead and we raked the dead cynodon runners and root out of the area.
In mid September we sowed the following seeds over the 1000m2 area. 0,5kg white clover 1.5kg red clover, 2.5kg lucerne, 1kg Lotus, 1kg Turnip, 4kg Cocksfoot (we inoculated the clover and lucerne). We actually mixed all the seed together in a few buckets with some coarse river sand to help with sowing the seed. Immediately after sowing we sprinkled a very light layer of composted organic matter over the seed. We kept the seeded area moist with overhead sprinklers. After 5-6 days the seeds started germinating and below is the first photo we took of the project.
Within a month the seeds had germinated really well. This image taken on 24th October 2016, shows a dense ground cover. The turnips definitely dominated but the clover and lucerne were also growing well. By this stage we also noticed that the olive trees had responded very well to the cover crop.
On the 9th November 2016 we made a decision that the cover crop had bulked up sufficiently to cut and drop. Before doing this we mixed 25kg of buckwheat seed with 40kg zeolite 1-3mm. This we sowed over the 1000m2 are and only then did we cut and drop the turnip, clover, lucerne and cocksfoot cover crop. This cover crop fell on top of the buckwheat seed. Areas where the seed was exposed to the air we covered with a very thin layer of organic compost.
Using trees in the agroforest/food forest we are developing
So far we have added the following trees to the 1000m2 area.
3 Acacia karroos (Sweet thorn). These trees are nitrogen fixers and their flowers attract bees. They wll also form part of the windbreak. Acacia karroo 2 Macadamia nut trees simply for their delicious nuts and as a windbreak. Not sure if they offer any other specific benefits to a foodforest
3 Tarchonanthus camphoratus (Camphor bush). These we hope will deter pests with their strong scent. See Tarchonanthus
We started off with an existing orchard 1000m2 in area with 30 Kalamata olive and 11 pomegranate trees. 3 Kalamatas have died, so we have planted the Tarchonanthus in their position. We plan to dig out and bag about 15 of the olives and replace them with a few other trees. These include date palm, plum, nectarine, walnut, neem and lucern tree.
Wow, what a fantastic project! And how amazing, I am in almost exact same situation - my husband and I have just moved into a farm in Stanford and we have 8ha of olives that we wish to convert (over time) to food forest. It looks incedible what you have done, it seems to be the way to go! I'm very excited to see the progress you make with it. All the best!
Thank you for these posts Carl, its very exciting and inspiring to see what your doing! I am hoping to do/experiment along the same lines---we have about 2 hectares under Frantoio, Coratina and Mission outside Magaliesburg, and I am trying to think of ways in which to transition to the kind of cover-crops you mentioned. Could you please tell me more about the black plastic you used (and maybe even photos if you can?)---where did you get the plastic? My intention is to also introduce Acacias and Lucern trees as well. Would love to have planted nut and/or fruit trees between the olives, but we share the land with monkeys and baboons, so I am still trying to figure out what would be left alone (besides lemons)...
Hi Niel. Glad this has been of interest. The black plastic I used was bought at the local co-op. Black building plastic, 3m wide, 150 micron in 30m lengths. I simply placed this on the ground and put some rocks on to the edges and a few spots in the middle to hold it down in case of heavy wind. Also made sure edges overlapped by 15cm to ensure no gaps. Fortunately we do not have monkeys or baboons close by, so nuts work well. Good luck!