How would you like to have a food forest patch in your yard? Maybe dedicate an 8×8′ square bit of land, ideally removing some lawn? Imagine adding small fruits, food, medicinal plants right in your own back yard? One of the basic tenets of permaculture is to create a ‘food forest patch’ in our yards. What is that and how can I plan a ‘forest patch’ with food in my own yard?
When I hear the word forest I think of trees, lots of them, maybe pine needles and old leaves on paths. Understory trees and shrubs fill in that landscape sometimes making the area appear dense with foliage. Other times these lower story plants line a pathway. How can I mimic this system on a smaller scale in my front or back yard and include food?
My podcast guest this week, Micheal Judd, talked about creating a ‘food forest patch’ in our yards. Before I describe what he suggested I would like to remind all of us about the importance of our forests from a permaculture perspective. Let’s look at some facts:
“Forests are life ( from permaculture news)
- Forests are home to approximately 50-90% of all the world’s terrestrial (land-living) biodiversity — including the pollinators and wild relatives of many agricultural crops (Source: WWF Living Planet Report 2010)
- Tropical forests alone are estimated to contain between 10-50 million species – over 50% of species on the planet.
- Rainforests cover 2% of the Earth’s surface and 6% of its landmass, yet they are home to over half of the world’s plant and animal species.
From these basic facts, it should be evident that forests themselves are synonymous with life, biodiversity, and fertility. Where life gathers, complex and mutually beneficial relationships are created between organisms; natural harmonious communities form, and life forms multiply and proliferate.”
Forests are the best of life and offer ways for us to live in harmony. They provide food and are great examples of how species work together. Yet, we continue to tear down our forests for the sake of development, our thirst for lumber and other byproducts made from trees, and the need for fields for mass monotype agriculture and farming.
Michael suggested that we take (where possible) a small patch maybe 8′ by 8′ and plant a fruit tree. He includes nitrogen-fixing plants such as lupines, blue indigo in the same area. Add other perennials to the mix all planted within this 8×8″ space. Spreading mints can be added too. I had the chance to visit and be on one of his yard tours in MD. Mints were all over the place but didn’t give me the feeling of taking over. He chops and lets the plant material drop. Very easy and very cool.
As you cut back these companion plants, you leave the plant material right there which continues to build mulch. All of this adds beauty and diversity to your landscape. Check out pawpaw, juneberry, black currants, Aronia’s. Aronia or chokecherries are native to our continent. There is much to choose from.
Dedicate an 8 x8′ patch for new plants.
Add 8″ compost, layering the materials and leave over winter.
In the spring: Select a fruit-bearing tree appropriate to your region.
Add leguminous plants when you plant the tree; lupines, peas. Around the outer edges add more plants.
Michaels’ book shown above has great detailed ‘how to’s’ and photographs to illustrate his ‘food forest patch’. I highly recommend his book. I personally refer to his ideas over and over. Think about the gardeners in your life. This book is a great addition to any gardener’s library.
So, what would you do? Can you take away some lawn and create a’ food forest patch’? Let me know if you do. All comments are appreciated. Enjoy. Judith