Early Summer 2019 Food Forest Update

The food forest has grown some. After late frosts, one of my mulberry trees and my Hardy kiwi lost their leaves for good. I got replacements for both and the replacements are doing well. My black and red currants put on some fruit while my honeyberries have quit for the year. Raspberries are slow as they are just getting established. I have gotten maybe a dozen berries from them so far.

I still have not finished mulching the food forest. I am low on wood chips, and have considered buying my own chipper. But for now I am focusing on mulching thickly around the trees themselves and weed whacking the weeds down in the rest of the area.

I am still waiting on the thimbleberries to get tall enough to put on fruit. While pulling up some weeds around them, my dog and I got into an underground wasp nest. Only each got stung once or twice though. I might wait until fall before venturing over to this part of the food forest again.

One of my peach trees seems to have gotten a fungus or bacteria, so I might spray it as peaches usually die around here if not sprayed.

Hopniss is growing well. The yacon is getting big. Both are growing among weeds as I did not have enough mulch at the time. Come fall, I plan to get rid of the weeds when I do not have to worry about hurting the good plants.

My grapes are around a foot or two tall now. I hope they get tall enough for the trellis this year.

Two of my apple trees have a few apples in them. We are excited to try the pink fleshed apple especially.

Some bugs are eating some pear leaves.i hope they recover. Some small worms we’re eating some cherry leaves. I picked them off.

Hopniss growing up a basic trellis among weeds
Yacón growing among weeds

How to Start a Food Forest (a Permaculture Orchard)

Comice Pear

Imagine you lived near a forest of all sorts of food that grows with our without your input. It is lush and grows every kind of tasty berry, nut, and veggie. Sound like the garden of Eden? Yes, but we can get as close as possible with a food forest.

First, what exactly is a food forest? Think of an orchard but instead of only fruit trees, all kinds of different varieties of edible plants. Vines, strawberries, shrubs, tubers, you name it, growing alongside each other in mutually beneficial relationships. This is a permaculture combination of a garden and an orchard.

Evergreen Huckleberry

First, what are your favorite fruits? How many grow on bushes or trees near you? Do some research into your hardiness zone and maybe what others are growing in your hardiness zone. Permies is a great source for some of this info. Make a list of all the different trees, bushes, vines, etc. that grow near you. Any native plants are all the better as you know they already do well in your area.

Pink Fleshed Apple Tree

Now how much space do you have? Only enough for a couple dwarf trees or room for an entire forest?

Choose your favorites and plant dwarf trees if you have limited room. Otherwise semi-dwarf still get 10-15 feet tall with lots to harvest but allow room for more trees than standard size do.

Here are some of what I am growing in or around the food forest:

  • Pink Pearl apple
  • Two 4 variety grafted apples
  • Ever bearing mulberry
  • Crimson sky pomegranate
  • Chicago Hardy fig
  • Comice and Bartlett pears
  • Lapins cherry
  • Frost, Late Ross, and Reliance peach
  • Red and black currant
  • Poor man gooseberry
  • Goji berry
  • Evergreen huckleberry
  • Thimbleberries
  • Raspberries
  • Seedless red and green grapes
  • Hardy kiwi
  • Oregon grape
  • Salal
  • Blackberries
  • Wild strawberries
  • Hopniss
  • Yacón
  • Scarlett Runner beans

Try not to plant two species right next to each other to avoid giving pests an easy time getting to the other tree. The Permaculture Orchard movie goes into this. You can plant an apple then a nitrogen fixer like honey locust, then a pear or peach tree, for example. Planting a variety attracts a variety of bugs and birds as well (including predators of pests). Variety can keep one pest or disease from ruining the whole harvest. Consider it a safeguard that you will have a harvest each year of at least something.

Another way to achieve nitrogen fixing (automatic fertilizer) is to plant many nitrogen fixing shrubs around your trees such as Siberian pea shrubs or currants. Look into the invasiveness of species in your area too.

Check your local nurseries for the different plants. If they can be grown from seed, that is the least expensive option but will take longer. Feel free to shop around. I got several of my trees and shrubs from online as my local nurseries did not have several items I wanted.

Once you have drawn up your plan, now it is time to buy and plant. Most trees are best planted bare root in winter, but some may do fine whenever.

Also consider the watering needs of your plants. I use drip irrigation for mine and it works efficiently without too much cost. This was about $70 for me, but I have extra parts now. Drip irrigation kits on Amazon are the most cost efficient way to start (I use RainBird, but many are comparable).

Fencing is a must if you have deer or bears. I use t posts and electric wire. This was about $100 for my 60’x60′ food forest not including an electric fence charger ($50-100).

This is an investment, so it may take hundreds of dollars to get established. If that is too burdensome on your finances, start with a small fence and add a few trees each year. Either way the return could be decades or even a century or more of fresh produce with minimal maintenance.