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.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Encouraging animals, insects, spiders and butterflys to live in the garden.

It feels good to know that your garden is not only providing you with food and of course tranquility, but is also a habitat for other wildlife.
A place to start is by building make-shift houses for native bees, lizards, hedgehogs, birds, spiders and insects to provide shelter and privacy so that they can go about their simplistic, non-materialistic lifestyles in peace.

There are plenty of easy ways to accomplish this task.

You can simply pile stones, rocks and pieces of wood in unused areas of the garden;
thick plantings of hedges, low lying shrubs and tall grasses will all become homes for many different animals.

NZ Jeweled Gecko

To encourage native geckos plant native groundcover shrubs with juicy berries like Coprosma and Muehlenbeckia and nectar-bearing flax and pohutukawa. and as above, provide plenty of places for them to live.


Build a Mason bee house.

to do this you just need to drill 8-10mm holes 100mm deep in a piece of wood. This could be a log or some unused offcuts of timber (un-treated), or you can make something fancy looking.
screw or nail another piece of wood at the top for a roof so that rain and midday sunshine doesn't penetrate inside the holes.
(The same idea can be accomplished by tying together a bunch of bamboo pieces)
Then mount it in a tree, on a fence or make it free standing somewhere in the yard.
Face the hive in an east direction, as the bees are stimulated by the morning Sun.

 or a bug house,
Same idea as above, just put bound up short lengths of bamboo in and around the garden to provide a dark, moist place for bugs to live.

 you can build the classic bird house.
My dad built a bird "apartment block" and winched it into the top of a pohutukawa tree in his front yard.  It is now home to a bunch of noisy tuis.
Plant native flowering and fruiting plants to attract native birds such as Kowhai, Kakabeak, Harakeke(Flax), Kawakawa, Rewa Rewa, Tanekaha, Cabbage tree, Tawa, Miro, Hinau, Puriri, Nikau, and Supplejack. As well as any other fruit or berry and nectar producing trees and shrubs. I've noticed Wood pigeons love Elderberry.

Wetas will quickly make a home out of any rotting logs with hollows where they can hide.

Tree Weta

All species of native Stick Insect will eat manuka, but only Clitarchus hookeri can be successfully brought through its entire life cycle on a diet of manuka alone. Other species will eat Karamu, Rata, Pohutukawa,  Rimu and Totara. With Argosarchus, Myrtus bullata, the Ramarama is the essential food plant. Willows, Cedars, Roses and Common ornamental garden conifers such as junipers are also eaten.

Stick Insect

Another idea is to dig small holes and line them with plastic, fill them with water and place rocks around the edges so that there are parts in the garden with water for animals to drink and other life to live in. You might complain about mosquitoes but i've noticed that fantails love eating them.

Another easy idea is plant flowers to attract insects, Asteraceae and Apiaceae family as mentioned in  previous posts are really good, especially Asters, Cosmos, Sunflowers, Daisies and Echinacea from the former and Dill and Fennel from the latter.
Sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima)  to attract hoverflies.

You can buy a Beneficial Insect Blend here From King seeds (New Zealand)

White Alyssum, Buckwheat, Yarrow, Bergamot, Lavender, Clover and Russian Sage are also good. 

I have heard that the best way to attract ladybirds to your garden is to leave aphids to live on plants in the garden. The ladybird will only lay its eggs where there is a good supply of food for the larvae.
So resist the urge to kill everything that looks out of place and let nature take it's course.

Common Copper Butterfly

Flowers that will attract butterflys in New Zealand include Hebe (Koromiko), Scabiosa, Cleome, Tweedia, Phlox and Buddelia

Plants that provide food for caterpillars in New Zealand are:

  • Asclepias (milkweed) the genus (named after Asclepius, the Greek god of healing) that includes the (common in New Zealand) Swan plant, Giant Swan plant, Common, Tropical and Swamp Milkweed are hosted by monarch butterfly caterpillars. Tweedia can also be used as a food plant.
  • Broom, Peas, Sweet Pea, Broad Bean, Gorse, Lupin and Tree Lucerne all feed the Long Tailed Blue Butterfly.
  • Natives including low-growing brooms (Carmichaelia spp) & Scree Pea (Montigena novae-zelandiae) and Clover and some other plants from the Fabaceae family will host the Southern Blue Butterfly larvae.
  • Most plants from the Muehlenbeckia genus as well as dock and sorrel will feed the Common Copper Butterfly larvae.
  • Large-leafed Pohuehue (Muehlenbeckia australis) & M australis & M complexa hybrids are host of the Glade Copper Butterfly.
  • Creeping Pohuehue (Muehlenbeckia axillaris) & Maori Dock - Runa (Rumex flexuosus) will attract the Boulder Copper butterfly.
  • Creeping Pohuehue (Muehlenbeckia axillaris) & Pohuehue (Muehlenbeckia complexa) will feed the Rauparaha's Copper Butterfly caterpillar.
There is another sub-species of butterfly native to new zealand called the Ringlet Butterfly and Tussock Ringlet.. There are 6 sub-species known of.
  • Black Mountain Ringlet
  • Butler's Ringlet
  • Forest Ringlet
  • Common Tussock
  • Harris's Tussock
  • Janita's Tussock
They reside mostly in the south island and feed mostly on various tussock grasses including Silver Tussock (Poa cita), Red Tussock - Haumata (Chionochloa rubra), Festuca, Agropyron, Snow Tussock (Chionochloa spp), Blue Tussock Grass (Poa colensoi), Other Tussock's (Poa spp) & some introduced grasses. Little is known about most of these sub-species.

  • Urtica genus (stinging nettle) will provide food for red and yellow admiral Butterflys. 
  • Groundsel/Ragwort will provide for the Cinnibar moth and Magpie moth (Mokarakara)
  • Puriri moths are New Zealands largest native moth and live for only one night. Plant Puriri, Putaputaweta and Kanuka.
Magpie moth (Mokarakara)

 For more information on New Zealand butterflys see
Red Admiral Butterfly

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Fungi, and healing the earth.

The main aspect of fungi that we want to utilise in the garden, is the symbiotic relationship that plants have with fungi. Over 90% of all plant species engage in mycorrhizal relationships with fungi.
This relationship includes:
  • intra/extra-cellular nutrient exchange
  • nutrient exchange between different plants through the fungal network 
  • mechanisms of increased nutrient absorption (chemical and physical)
  • increased disease and pest/herbivore resistance
  • improving soil structure
  • enhanced resistance to drought, environmental stress
  • breaking down lignin in dead organic matter to create humus
  • consuming carbohydrates and returning minerals and acids   

Two major types of mycorrhiza occur in Nature - endomycorrhiza (common in more than 80 % of terrestrial plant species) and ectomycorrhiza (specific to conifers and some broadleaved woody species).

Endomycorrhizal fungi develop mainly microscopic spores in the soil whereas most of ectomycorrhizal fungal symbionts develop aboveground fruit bodies.

An endomycorrhizal fungus forms hyphae that penetrate the cells of plant roots where they form balloon-like vesicles and branch out manifold to develop big surface areas dedicated to the exchange of minerals and carbohydrates.
Ectomycorrhizal fungi form a symbiotic relationship with a plant forming a sheath around the root tip of the plant. Ectomycorrhizal relationships are common in our forests. Most trees will only form one type of mycorrhizal relationship with fungal partners.


Paul Stamets has been a dedicated mycologist for over thirty years. Over this time, he has discovered and coauthored four new species of mushrooms, and pioneered countless techniques in the field of edible and medicinal mushroom cultivation.

He has written six books on mushroom cultivation, use and identification; his books Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms and The Mushroom Cultivator (coauthor) have long been hailed as the definitive texts of mushroom cultivation. Other works by Paul Stamets include Psilocybe Mushrooms and Their Allies (out of print), Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World, MycoMedicinals®: an Informational Treatise on Mushrooms, and many articles and scholarly papers. His newest book is Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save The World.   Video-- Paul Stamets -- Mushrooms as planetary healers  Mushroom cultivation, Mycoremediation, the importance of the fungal genome, the old growth forests, the use of fungi in early Europe, and now the re-discovery of these fungi in helping preserve, repair and balance ecosystems.

There are also many health benefits from mushrooms

Here's some other interesting video's relating to psychedelic mushrooms -


by Terence McKenna

I am old, older than thought in your species, which is itself fifty times older than your history. Though I have been on earth for ages I am from the stars. My home is no one planet, for many worlds scattered through the shining disc of the galaxy have conditions which allow my spores an opportunity for life. The mushroom which you see is the part of my body given to sex thrills and sun bathing, my true body is a fine network of fibers growing through the soil. These networks may cover acres and may have far more connections than the number in a human brain.
My mycelial network is nearly immortal--only the sudden toxification of a planet or the explosion of it's parent star can wipe me out. By means impossible to explain because of certain misconceptions in your model of reality all my mycelial networks in the galaxy are in hyperlight communication through space and time.
The mycelial body is as fragile as a spider's web but the collective hypermind and memory is a vast historical archive of the career of evolving intelligence on many worlds in our spiral star swarm. Space, you see, is a vast ocean to those hardy life forms that have the ability to reproduce from spores, for spores are covered with the hardest organic substance known.
Across the aeons of time and space drift many spore forming life-forms in suspended animation for millions of years until contact is made with a suitable environment. Few such species are minded, only myself and my recently evolved near relatives have achieved the hyper-communication mode and memory capacity that makes us leading members in the community of galactic intelligence. How the hyper-communication mode operates is a secret which will not be lightly given to humans.
But the means should be obvious: it is the occurence of psilocybin and psilocin in the biosynthetic pathways of my living body that opens for me and my symbiots the vision screens to many worlds. You as an individual and Homo sapiens as a species are on the brink of the formation of a symbiotic relationship with my genetic material that will eventually carry humanity and earth into the galactic mainstream of the higher civilizations.
Since it is not easy for you to recognize other varieties of intelligence around you, your most advanced theories of politics and society have advanced only as far as the notion of collectivism. But beyond the cohesion of the members of a species into a single social organism there lie richer and even more baroque evolutionary possibilities. Symbiosis is one of these. Symbiosis is a relation of mutual dependence and positive benifits for both species involved.

Symbiotic relationships between myself and civilized forms of higher animals have been established many times and in many places throughout the long ages of my development. These relationships have been mutually useful; within my memory is the knowledge of hyperlight drive ships and how to build them. I will trade this knowledge for a free ticket to new worlds around suns younger and more stable than your own.
To secure an eternal existence down the long river of cosmic time, I again and again offer this agreement to higher beings and thereby have spread throughout the galaxy over the long millenia.
A mycelial network has no organs to move the world, no hands; but higher animals with manipulative abilities can become partners with the star knowledge within me and if they act in good faith, return both themselves and their humble mushroom teacher to the million worlds to which all citizens of our starswarm are heir.

-- Taken from Psilocybin: The Magic Mushroom Growers Guide