Food Forests Reign Supreme
Talk about food forests seem to be of growing interest this month as more people suddenly get excited about the possibilities of designing natural systems on their land that mimics how nature likes to build it’s forests.
But with a slight twist. Adding a variety of fruit trees into the mix to give you a veritable garden of Eden.
Building a food forest that is not just populated with native tree species but has a multitude of fruit trees included to lock in food security for the owner.
Such systems are not new.
A good example is Paradise Valley in Morocco that Geoff Lawton visited a number of times. Over 2,000 years old and still producing enough food for 800 farmers.
The problem is that establishing a food forest doesn’t happen over night and will fail if the mechanics, the landscape, the framework to encourage suitable moisture and soil fertility isn’t properly planned.
Take a look at ABC’s recent report on Matt Kilby and his work on bringing Trees back to Life in southern NSW in Australia. Matt is putting in three kilometres of swales on pasture depleted soil that will eventually run a native corridor of trees, fruit and animal sanctuary system connecting forest and farms together.
This is the kind of thinking missing in action by governments.
Matt for many years has been a lone voice struggling to get his message across. He’s a bit like a modern day Johnny Appleseed character. He just gets on with it knowing that every tree is alive and every tree carefully planted will one day change the landscape.
But its not idyllic work.
Watch this video clip to see the effort required.
Terra-Forming a Garen of Eden
Swales are a kind of a ditch that needs to be perfectly level to trap water and soak it gradually into the soil where it will be used to naturally keep your plants alive.
When you terra- form large sections of landscape you can’t depend on man to do the watering of plants for you.
Here we need to harness nature and cleverly design all the principles of Newtonian science to work in your favour. Geoff Lawton calls it “earth surgery” when you are working with heavy compacted soils due to poor pasture management.
Water will never run uphill – so understanding that law can make for creative possibilities when it comes to harvesting water.
Permaculture people like to rely on heavy machinery and an eye for reading the way the landscape rises and falls using dumpy levels to read the landscape. Capturing water runoff and directing it creatively is the secret.
Using natural biology – billions of bacteria to convert mulch into productive soil is what they do. Permaculture people are about actively building soil not depleting it. Imagine owning a farm that just gets better with age.
Is it possible?
Yes, but you need to be very selective and knowledge how you go about achieving the necessary ingredients. You need some species of trees to be the leaf mulch creators. You need some trees to be the canopy forming overstory to shade the smaller fragile fruit trees below. You also need nitrogen fixing trees – the sort of trees that produce these little white nitrogen nodules that build fertility into the subsoil. The mechanics is delicate but the results when you get it right – are spectacular.
What exactly are we talking about here? Nothing more than terra-forming barren, depleted, exhausted, trashed soils back into fertility. Can it be done? Yes. In the end what you score is a landscape rich in fertility, trees that moderate the climate, a habitat for an ecosystem and dare I say it – a Garden of Eden you can walk through. Such lofty dreams are worthwhile and give something back for future generations to enjoy. Wouldn’t you say?
Read about Establishing a Food Forest Here.