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forest gardening in tropical rainforest

 
                                
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Hello all.  I am planning on purchasing some land in tropical rainforest cllimate.  I understand however that the soil in this climate is poor for gardening since most of the biomass is above the soil and alive.  From my research, the topsoil is very shallow and probably clay underneath.

I dont seem to be able to find much information on food foresting in the tropical climates and dealing with these issues.  I beleive alot of the farmers use slash-and-burn methods to clear the land for corn, yuca, etc.  I dont think that would be good for me, as it would allow for the topsoil to wash away, right?  I had the idea that maybe i should just clear plots of land and shred the trees to create a series of raised beds.  Is it bad to clear the land this way?  If so, what is a good way to make way in such thick forest while increasing the amount of topsoil?

I am looking to start a garden that is sustainable for 3 people, hopefully mostly fruit trees.. Where can I look for information on these kinds of things?
 
                                      
Posts: 172
Location: Amsterdam, the netherlands
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you could look up some video's in google video's about tropical forest gardens. but mot of those start out as bare ground.

i havent seen many examples where the tree's are cleared out first


to get a better understanding of the possibilities of forest gardening (not necisaraly the same as gardening in a forest) you could watch the dvd/film 'how to build a forest garden', from geoff lawton.

Another appraoch is possible as well,

is it possible to buy land that is not yet forrested, but is bare or has bare patches in it? partly reforesting in a way that you build a forest that is completely productive for your needs will be easier. Also you dont have to clear trees that are allreay established, always a plus in my view.

How to go about building and conserving topsoil in tropical depends partly on the situation of the land, is it intact or damaged, is it sloped or flat, etc.
 
Jason Long
Posts: 153
Location: Davie, Fl
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For starters, watch Tropical Permaculture Strategies by Bill Mollison:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdpT6r370ik
 
Jonathan 'yukkuri' Kame
Posts: 488
Location: Foothills north of L.A., zone 9ish mediterranean
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Raised beds with good drainage can relieve some of the problems that can come with lots of rain and clay soils.  A bit of sand can also do wonders for drainage. 

The tropics are amazingly abundant, just know it is going to be very different than gardening in a temperate zone.  One of the biggest adaptations may be to give up some of your familiar leafy greens for tropicals that can tolerate rain, heat and pests.  Lots of tropical greens grow on shrubs, trees or vines.  Stuff like malabar spinach, okinawa spinach...  Moringa may do well with enough drainage.  Sweet potatoes put out lots of edible greens and are perrenial in the tropics...they can be a staple...a great plant to let run.  Gingers and turmeric are low-maintenance.  Bamboo is great as both food source and literally hundreds of practical uses. 

The list of tropical fruit and nut trees is extensive...

Avocados, bananas, coconuts, and various nut trees can be staples, in addition to the fruit trees, like mango, papaya, loquat... 

Nothing categorically wrong with shredding some branches to get yourself started, but also consider that organic matter  can break down really quickly in the tropics even without your help.  The canopy drops blankets of leaves constantly.



 
Michael Wilson
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I too am heading to the tropics, the Peruvian amazon to be exact, to start a sustainable agroforestry project. I am interested in networking with others in the same boat. If you plan to do something similar or are already working the land in a tropical area of the world, please make contact and let's help each other out. One group I will be working with in Peru is Eco Ola at eco-ola.com. They have been at it about three years now and are doing wonderful stuff. If anyone has any new resources or ideas, let me know and I will share our experiences as we go.
 
Anthony Anderson
Posts: 42
Location: Central Minnesota USA and Paris France
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I think the eco-ola people will really make a big impact there. I know Noah from there and he is definitely on the food forest ways - I Would check what has been done at the vietnamese suburban food forest that Geoff Lawton visited (on youtube) and even the indian farmer in gujarat who used masanobu's methods. Youll be building soil as you go and bringing in woodchips so Im sure things will be fine. Build up some raised beds for the guilds and load it with rock dust and diluted ocean water which is usually mixed with 10x freshwater (1500-2000 ppm on the tds meter) - youll be getting 400 coconuts per tree in 10 years if you really go for it
 
Robin Hones
Posts: 50
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There is a book called "Tropical Food Gardens" by Leonie Norrington. I have it on my Amazon wish list so I cant tell you anything about it beyond it's existence. I believe it is an Australian publication.
 
Michael Nickel
Posts: 1
Location: Peru
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Greetings all...
I am currently working on a regenerative agroforestry project in the Amazonian rainforest. This is only my second year and I started with a 2 hectare area that had been slashed and burned for corn, yuca, bananas, and rice in the recent past, and was mostly fast growing pioneer tree species regrowth, wild plants, and kudzu. After selective thinning, we have planted mostly plaintains, bananas, papaya, cacao, pigeon pea and then a some yuca, Inga sp, coffee, achiote, chacruna, and other medicinal plants. I am trying to work out the ideal cacao guild, too. It has been tough working mostly alone and in an area where deforestation and slash & burn ag are the norm, but day by day with lots of love and sweat we are seeing the plot develop nicely. As far as gardening annuals and/or perennials in raised beds, I am not there yet. However, I believe having a way to protect your beds from heavy downpours, powerful sunlight, and unwanted visitors would have to be taken into consideration. Also, a good way to generate and maintain rich soil would have to be worked out. It would be important to actually live where your garden is. I commute daily 30 minutes to Isulawasi because I chose a rainforest environment with lots of primary forest intact, which by the way is slowly disappearing due to growing population pressure. Soon, though, I will be able to live inside Isulawasi. Anyway, it is hard work dealing with all the challenges, but for me, very rewarding and beautiful. It will be interesting to see how climate change will affect my watershed in the years to come. The dry period this year was particularly intense lasting approximately 5 months! Certainly not the norm according to the locals. There are some cacao farmers that are even considering investing in sprinkler systems in the rainforest! Lastly, like any other place, lots of protracted and thoughtful observation will do you well. Take time to really get to know the environment, ecology, and surrounding human communities. For further info try these links: http://www.agromisa.org/ and http://www.agroforestry.net/.
Good luck!!...
 
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