Food forests and gardens

The food forest gardening approach is the creation of systems which are productive and abundant yet which require very little maintenance. It is entirely possible to design and plant a forest which, within a relatively short period of time is productive and relatively self-maintaining.
By exploiting the premise of companion planting, trees, shrubs and herbs can be intermixed to grow on multiple levels in the same area, as do the plants in a forest.
We can consciously apply the principles of ecology to the design of home scale gardens that mimic forest ecosystem structure and function, but at the same time grow food, fuel, fiber, fodder, fertilizer and medicine.

Monday, February 15, 2010


Kakabeak, Clianthus maximus, Clianthus puniceus or Kowhai Ngutu-kaka in Maori
is a woody legume shrub native to New Zealand's North Island
Both species have striking clusters of red flowers which resemble the beak of the Kaka, a New Zealand parrot. The plant is also known as Parrot's Beak, Parrot's Bill and Lobster Claw. There is also a variety with white to creamy coloured flowers.
Kakabeak grow to around two metres high, with spreading branches producing leaf stalks up to 15 cm long bearing several pairs of small leaflets. They usually flower from spring through to early summer, but can flower twice a year or even year round.
Kakabeak naturally grows in open, sunny, steep sites, often on rocky outcrops, slips, the bases of cliffs or edges of lakes and streams. It is a relatively short-lived plant, sometimes lasting 15-20 years. Kakabeak has a long-lived seed which may still be able to germinate 30 years after being produced, creating a ‘seed bank’ that holds many seeds ready to germinate when conditions suit. This enables it to grow in shrubland which is not permanently open but is frequently disturbed. The seeds wait for light gaps to appear, e.g. following a treefall or a slip, and then germinate in response.
Being a member of the pea family Kakabeak can fix nitrogen.
The seed pods are edible and the flowers attract bees and birds.
It grows as a sprawling shrub that can be trained as a standard weeping plant or pruned as an espalier or climber. Left to its own devices it will soon grow straggly and open and requires heavy pruning after flowering.
Propagation is by cuttings or sowing seed which should be scarified beforehand.

Here we have an excellent shrub with multiple functions, providing nectar for birds and bees, fixing nitrogen in the soil, providing protein/food for human or chickens etc. and mulch in autumn when pruned after flowering. And it's also a beautiful plant!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Permaculture Guilds

A Permaculture guild is more than fruit tree companion planting or planting companion vegetables and herbs. That's because Permaculture emulates the productivity of natural ecosystems by incorporating animals too.fruit tree companion planting
So, what is a guild?
A guild in Permaculture landscape design is a harmonious assembly of species (plant or animal) physically associated with a central plant or animal species to provide it with some benefit.why do we use companion
So, guild plant or animal species are strategically selected to boost the productivity of the central animal or plant element. The central element can be a fruit tree, for example. The guild members, then, must either improve its yield or reduce the work needed to manage it. fruit tree companion planting
By design, this enhances the overall self sufficiency and sustainability of the system. different methods of self sufficiency
The range of benefits that can be derived from guild species include:
Providing mulch:
Plants that either act as a living mulch (e.g. nasturtium, sweet potato,) or shed mulch onto the soil (e.g. banna grass, poplar) form a protective cover over soil thereby improving soil conditions and retaining moisture. planting companion vegetables and herbs
Nasturtium and borage are great in fruit tree guilds.
Offering shelter and protection from frost, wind or sun:
Hardy nitrogen-fixing “nurse” species (e.g. honey locust, acacia, tagasaste) interplanted with orchard trees can moderate frost effects, nutrify soils, and provide mulch and shading for sensitive fruit trees such as avocado and citrus.
Others planted as a windbreak bordering orchards (e.g. cane grasses, poplar, Casuarina) can be used to deflect or diminish frost and drying or damaging winds.
Hosting predators:
Many predators of garden pests (e.g. wasps) only hunt to feed their offspring, themselves being wholly nectar feeders. Providing forage for adult stages is thus part of companion planting for a bug free garden (most small flowered plants provide this, including umbelliferous plants such as carrots, parsnip, fennel, dill and coriander, and others like various daisies, acacias and tamarisk).companion planting bug free garden
Remove pest habitat:
Larval forms of orchard pests such as fruit fly flourish and multiply in fallen fruit, so seasonally introducing a forager such as pigs or poultry aids in pest control while adding fertilizer (and tilth if left too long) to soil.
Prey on or deter pests:
Insect eating birds (e.g. honey-eaters) can be encouraged by planting a few nectar producing and insect hosting plants (e.g. buddleia, banksias, dryandras, fuschias, callistemon, salvia) scattered around your orchard and vegetable growing zones.
Eagles and other birds of prey can be kept around to deter parrots and other fruit spoilers by keeping rabbits, pigeons or guinea pigs in your orchard. Alternatively, hawk kites flown overhead can be even more effective if not overused. A single alpaca or donkey amongst your sheep will keep foxes away.
Most duck breeds (not muscovy) will clean up slugs and snails and can be ranged through your food producing areas periodically when their appetite for seedlings will not compromise your yield.
Killing root parasites or pests:
(e.g. Tagetes marigolds fumigate soils against nematodes and grasses, while Crotalaria [Australian Bird Plant] disables nematodes that damage citrus and solanum plants [e.g. potatoe, tomatoe, eggplant, capsicum]).
Providing nutrients:
Nutrient enhancing plants can be allowed to grow then slashed periodically to provide mulch (e.g. nitrogen fixing plants such as clovers, tagastaste, acacias, lucerne, and casuarinas; and high humus producers such as bananas). Foraging animals periodically allowed into the system also provide nutrients in the form of manure.
Facilitating root penetration:
Unlike grasses some plants offer an open root structure that does not interfere with the central plant’s ability to feed at the soil surface (e.g. comfrey, winter and spring bulbs, comfrey, globe artichoke). Such plants should be established in orchards in place of grass to boost productivity.f
Grass is a poor companion to fruit trees as it interferes with surface root penetration
Convenient harvesting:
It’s an interesting fact that plants that make good companions often taste great together too! So growing them together not only improves their yield but also simplifies the job of harvesting. (e.g. marigolds grown with tomatoes, parsley, basil deter nematodes and contribute petals to eat in salads; dill grown under apple trees host predatory wasps and tastes great with apples raw or cooked). fru

Plant guilds

I've been thinking about good plant combinations that can be used in the garden.
Using plants with non-competing root structures is one of the most important issues i think.
Here are the root types of a plant guild i want to try growing for example...
The roots will generally be non-competitive, plant spacing will still be important, the cucumber (which will only needs one plant to every 7 tomato plants) will act as a general ground cover to reduce evaporation, the tomatoes will be the main over-story and the onions will fit amongst the middle of everything along with the parsely.
Also i want to use Calendula and marigold amongst the beds for attracting bees etc.
Adding more higher vertical layers will be easy too.
Gooseberry and other currents would work well, as they fruit quite early in the season so can be used to support the tomato plants.

Tomato salsa combination!

Tomato - Fibrous roots
(mostly lateral feeder roots)
Cucumber - Tap root

Onion - Fibrous roots (not much lateral growth)

Parsely - Tap root