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Who is growing a food forest?

 
gardener
Posts: 1774
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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We've lived in our place here in Los Angeles county for almost 17 years now, so our orchard/integrated food forest is quite mature.  I never set out to have what I have now, and only discovered permaculture 6 years ago, but it is tremendously satisfying to see how far its come, and it's tremendously productive—we can't eat even half of what we grow.  We've got about 50 producing trees right now.


Almond
All-In-One
Garden Prince

Apple
Anna (2 of them)
Dorsett Golden
Fuji
Gala
Pink Lady (Cripps Pink)

Apricot
Royal Blenheim

Aprium Interspecific
Cot-N-Candy White
Flavor Delight

Asian Pear
Hosui
Shinseiki (2 of them)
20th Century (2 of them)

Avocado
Fuerte
Haas (2 of them)

Cherimoya
Unknown variety

Cherry
Minnie Royal
Royal Lee  

Figs
Black Mission
Brown Turkey
Janice Seedless Kadota

Pineapple Guava

Lemon
Eureka
Improved Meyer

Lime
Bearss
Key (Mexican)

Mandarin Orange
Gold Nugget (semi-dwarf)
Satsuma

Mango
Manilla

Nectarine
Arctic Star - white
Double Delight -yellow  

Nectaplum Interspecific
Spice Zee

Orange
Moro Blood
Valencia
Washington Naval

Peach
Eva’s Pride - yellow
Mid Pride  
Red Baron
Babcock

Persimmon
Fuyu (Jiro)

Plum
Methley
Santa Rosa

Pluot
Flavor King
Flavor Grenade  
Dapple Dandy

Pomegranate
Wonderful


We grow a bunch of different cane berries, goji berries, and such.

Perennial greens and veggies include artichokes, chaya and moringa.  We've got a tree kale that just doesn't want to die—we've been eating off it for 3 years.

We've got bees that have sex with all the trees and give us lots of honey every spring. I sit and watch them.  They are my friends.  The chickens clean up whatever falls to the ground, giving us eggs and occasionally we'll raise a batch of meat birds.  As I've gotten older, its easier to buy a 10 lb. bag of chicken breasts at Costco than it is to butcher all those birds.

We growing annual veggies 12 months of the year (all the usual garden suspects)—right now in the winter, all our salad greens, lots of cabbage for making kraut, sugar snaps, kale, carrots, beets, herbs, onions . . . and in the summer, about 40 different hot weather veggies.  I'm known among friends and family for chilis—about 20 different varieties of peppers growing out there year round.

Our herbs just keep going and going and going—all the usual suspects, and a bay laurel tree.

We incorporate thousands of pounds of wood chips throughout, and that keeps water bills much much lower.  This past year, I've been working on rain catchment tanks and a grey water system, which has eliminated about 95% of our watering this winter (almost 4 months of nothing but rainwater, which is significant in Southern California).  I was doing Back to Eden a decade before that movie came out, and I was surprised to see someone else doing what I'd been doing for so many years (only I took a lot of crap from "knowledgable" gardeners until they saw that their garden's couldn't possibly keep up with the productivity of our system).  Now I just refer people to that movie and they leave me alone.  They walk away with a bunch of produce—NOBODY leaves my house empty handed.

I haven't started my tiller in 11 years—if I knew how to do such a thing, I'd have sold it on Craigslist a long time ago.  All no-till, all the time.

Just when you think there is no more place to plant another tree, you find a little spot where the sun is hitting the ground and being wasted—plop—in goes a dwarf almond.

I bring two 5 lb. bags of coffee grounds home from work 3 to 5 times a week.  We compost everything possible except our own poop (I don't think I'll ever be that hardcore).  I do, however, pee outside 90% of the time.  We are doing our part to capture carbon on a massive scale.  Speaking of which, our cover crop system produces tons of biomass and fixes nitrogen for the trees in the orchard.


Yeah --- I've grown a food forest.  It's one of the best things I've accomplished in the last 15 years.




 
Posts: 643
Location: Northern Maine, USA (zone 3b-4a)
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yeah mine will look like that pretty soon. have 4 apples , 2 man. apricots, 4 hazelnuts, 4 elderberry. 4 honeybery, 3 blueberry, 2 mulberry, strawberries, 3 types raspberries, aroniaberries, black currants, goumi berries, goji berries, juneberry , autumnberry, seabuckthorn  and rhubarb. the juneberry , mulberry, seabuckthorn, autumn berry, apples, hazelnuts and apricots  can get over 20ft. tall. just ordered some hardy blackberries and 2 new raspberry cultivars to add to the jungle!
 
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Marco Banks wrote:

 We've got about 50 producing trees right now.

We grow a bunch of different cane berries, goji berries, and such.


I do, however, pee outside 90% of the time.  We are doing our part to capture carbon on a massive scale.  
Speaking of which, our cover crop system produces tons of biomass and fixes nitrogen for the trees in the orchard.



thats pretty hardcore.
i collect urine also most of the time.
i just knocked down a banana. it had produced fruit and pups
thats a lot of biomass.
My Muntingia Calabura died back to the trunk in the cold
more biomass...

i am in a suburban lot, so sunlight is a premium
i have several rental properties i plan on putting extra plants
( i have like 10 guava 2ft tall in pots) - larger trees +nuts like Tamarind.

I have a few Eleaegnus and Honey locust for nitrogen.
i plant beans here and there too.

i am in touch with a guy in Brazil that gets me seeds of rare species
most in the Myratecea family, similar to Jaboticaba.
Eugenia brasiliensis (and several others) Hexachlamys etc...
most have some cold tolerance since Southern Brazil gets a light frost here and there.
it may be 3-5 yrs before i get fruit, even 8 yrs for some species
But thats OK for me.
im 54 but plan on eating fruit till i am at least 75

I am hoping to find the right species and push the city to plant them in parks and even roadsides.

Jaboticaba would be great, but its a slow grower
might work in certain situations.

How cool would that be ?

i have 4 types of Jaboticaba. the larger one has been producing fruit over a year
in 2-3 years i should be getting a hundred +

But i found even very small plants can be valuable.
i have several ground cherries and cape-gooseberry
visitors go nuts over them
they are about 1 ft tall.
i just spent the morning transplanting 25 seedlings all over the property.
and another 25 cherry tomato that re-seeds itself easily.

I wish i had more room. Maybe one day i will make use of the roof
groundcherry and tomato would probably work well.

Jaboticaba - excellent taste !!!
i cant wait till my 4 are this large.

Jaboticaba_004.jpg
Jaboticaba - excellent taste berries
 
Marco Banks
gardener
Posts: 1774
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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Brad Mayeux wrote:

Jaboticaba - excellent taste !!!
i cant wait till my 4 are this large.



I've looked at Jaboticaba and wondered if I should grow one.  I'd have to find space somewhere.  I'm hoping to buy my neighbors house when she eventually moves out (she's in her 80's)—its a massive back yard (for Los Angeles standards) with all sorts of possibilities.  Jaboticaba certainly are a funky looking tree.

Right now my problem isn't having enough fruit—we give away hundreds of pounds of fruit a year and my stone fruit trees (and apples and pears) are still in their adolescence.  But the chickens clean up the tree fall and there's always the compost micro-herd to feed.  Do the little Jaboticaba berries (is that the right term?) fall off the tree when they're over-ripe?  Do birds eat them?

What I'd like to add to my system is more grains to feed the chickens.  Right now I grow white oats as one of the plants in my winter cover crop mix.  The girls go crazy for them when I chop and drop the winter cover crop, but I'd like to investigate another grain crop to feed them inexpensively.  Milo?  Good old fashioned corn?  I've never grown amaranth.  I plant sunflowers throughout the food forest and they are always a hit with the girls.  I'll just chop off a sunflower head and toss the whole thing into the chicken tractor.  They polish it off in minutes.

For those whose experience with a food forest is this passively managed thing where you only have to work for a couple of hours a week (as Mollison seemed to promise), that is far from my experience.  I need to be out there all the time.  There is always something to plant (annual veggies).  Always something to harvest.  Always something to be pulled out and composted.  There's always the compost pile to turn and volunteers and weeds that need to be pulled.  Perhaps mine isn't a true food forest in that regard.  That's why I call it an integrated orchard or integrated food forest.  Yes, a watermelon may come up volunteer from time to time, but if I want to enjoy them, I have to take the initiative to plant them, make sure they are getting adequate water, and they don't harvest themselves.

The hand aches and the brow sweats, as Wendell Barry once wrote in one of his poems.  

It certainly feels "foresty" in so many respects.  The birds, the cool air, the abundant bio-mass that accumulates beneath, and the amazing fertility that seems to grow year after year.  Yet I continue to haul in wheel barrow after wheel barrow of wood chips to replenish those that decompose.  Slugs and snails are an ongoing battle.  Cabbages don't plant themselves.  Corn must be picked (not a day too late, or it loses its magic).  Fruit trees need to be thinned if you want decent sized fruit (people will always exclaim, "How do you get your pomegranates so big?"  Thin them aggressively in the spring.)  If you want it to look beautiful and to be productive, I know no other way than to be attentive.  

And I wouldn't have it any other way.  I cherish those hours in my food forest.  I talk to the trees and they offer rest and perspective back.  
 
gardener
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I feel the same way you do, Marco.

I guess some people would call it work.

I call it forest bathing, or nature meditation time.

I'm often tying a limb to create a better tree shape, mulching, pruning, or just observing.

Eating weeds and letting vegies go feral will hugely decrease your required work time.  That is the majority of my veggies.

It's a big part of my retirement plan.

I feel like I'm going back through millions of years of human-ish history every time I wander out there.

When it's warmer my doggie can be out with me, chasing off the squirrels.

I think it's good for her too.
John S
PDX OR
 
Brad Mayeux
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Marco Banks wrote:



 But the chickens clean up the tree fall and there's always the compost micro-herd to feed.
Do the little Jaboticaba berries (is that the right term?) fall off the tree when they're over-ripe?  Do birds eat them?



Never heard them clled berries, just fruit.
honestly, i dont know if they fall, or rot on the tree. ?

that tree in the pic is many years old.
they grow pretty slow and fruit slower.

the fruit is very much in demand, and very tasty
i can ever see me letting even 1 Jabo fruit go to waste.
the sell for a good price online too.

I would think mulberry would be great for the chicks.
supposedly it makes the eggs better, and is very very healthy for them
as it is for us also.
pretty sure even the leaves are good for chicks
ive had them in salads. very young ones arent bad. not the best green, but adding 3 or 4 leaves to a salad or tea
is supposedly very healthy.

they grow so fast, i often use them as mulch, especially leaves in the fall.

-----------

Marco Banks wrote:
For those whose experience with a food forest is this passively managed thing where you only have to work for a couple of hours a week (as Mollison seemed to promise), that is far from my experience.  I need to be out there all the time.  There is always something to plant (annual veggies).  Always something to harvest.  Always something to be pulled out and composted.  There's always the compost pile to turn and volunteers and weeds that need to be pulled.  Perhaps mine isn't a true food forest in that regard


And I wouldn't have it any other way.  I cherish those hours in my food forest.  I talk to the trees and they offer rest and perspective back.  



If you do what you like, you  never have to work.

yeah, i am in the yard all day (or maybe 1/2 the day) as well.
i am semi-retired, but i also plant on making a few bucks down the road
on selling seedlings, seeds, or ? who knows.

 
gardener
Posts: 2371
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
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This conversation is reminding me something I read once about how hobbyists used to be who the professionals would go to when they needed expert opinions. Because the professional was working for the pay check they didn't develop the depth of knowledge of the person who did it for the joy of the work. I had a conversation on similar lines at an SCA event where a participant was discussing being contacted by universities when they needed expert level information on medieval topics. Once again, the hobbyist was happy to take all the time and do all the work necessary because it was a labor they loved.

I love 'working' in my garden. Someday I'll actually be good at it. This takes hours of my time every week, every month, going on for years. It's easy to make the time when it's so pleasant to do.
 
pollinator
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Location: Denton, TX United States Zone 8a
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Speaking of food forests and experts looking to those with less institutionalized authority-

scientists 'discovered' the largest food forest in the world
 
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