Despite a bad drought, our forest garden is coming along nicely thanks to truck loads of compost, lots of hand irrigation and some decent rains. The garden has grown significantly since my last forest garden update.
The fruit trees have added lots of new leaves and are now starting to produce some fruit. Some trees are 11’-14’ high. Not bad for just a little over two years. It’s hard to argue with success, so we’ll continue doing what’s working well. However, there’s always room for improvement. From my current research I believe we can double production in our forest garden/food forest using all natural organic methods. The main idea here is making better use of space.
Steps to increase production:
– utilize unused space: turn the wide paths we currently have into giant sweet potato beds. They spread like wild so might as well give them good soil to grow in. Walking on the plants occasionally doesn’t seem to affect them much. Wheelbarrows can still be used for harvesting and spreading compost);
– our new banana circle increases production and makes better use of space. It has a compost pile on the inside to help feed the bananas, papayas and other plants (there’s only one banana plant and four papayas, so maybe we should call it a Papaya Circle);
– it turns out we didn’t need the shade structure since I decided to encourage native worms in the garden beds rather than raise non-native earthworms. We’ve replaced the shade structure with a new veggie bed (no trees, just intensive polyculture vegetables);
– start making compost and compost tea using Dr. Elaine Ingham’s compost method that significantly boosts beneficial microorganisms;
– primarily compost in place: continue our current practice of gradually adding layers of low cost organic matter such as sugar cane compost, leaves, straw, topsoil, etc. (do not mix or till, just add layers like in nature and let earthworms etc. do the work)
– add more mulch since you can never get enough;
– plant 1,500 vetiver starts to reduce erosion and generate an ongoing source of biomass for mulch (done, now they’re growing nicely);
– *keep ‘roots in the ground’ 365 days/year to stimulate microbial life: add lots more soil building ground covers such as clover, peanuts, comfrey, mint, peas, beans, vetiver, etc., along with lots of vegetable starts and seeds. This concept is hugely important, because most of the time our beds have not been covered with plants since up till now we were still building the beds. (I added about 4” of soil amendments.) Now the beds are the desired height and shape for drainage and can be fully planted year-round. (Update: most small plants have now been added.)
– I’m eager to try plants such as daikon radish. Its nickname is ‘tillage radish’ because this root vegetable is able to break up hard soils. You can eat them of course, or leave them in the ground to build the soil and make it easier for other roots to penetrate the ground.
– add some planters so we can grow more small trees. (Update: We added 10 lime trees in planters, and have 5 other planters ready for fig trees.)
Coming soon: Watch for a video update of our forest garden in the coming days.