29. Full Circle, Four Years In

Here are the annual figures for the garden yields for the period of Oct 2011 – Oct 2012, the garden’s fourth year.

The annual production for this garden was:

  • first year: 133 kg
  • second year: 204 kg
  • third year: 196 kg (as a consequence of a minor disaster!)
  • fourth year: 234 kg

The total garden bed area is 686 sq. feet (64 sq. metres).

The average monthly amount of produce was 19.5 kg.

 

Here are some statistics which break this down further:

image_thumb[2]

This graph is colour coded for season – yellow (summer), orange (autumn), brown (winter) and green (spring)

 

If we look at the monthly production figures:

2008 2009 2010 2011
Jan 22,203 6,385 14,769 17,620
Feb 10,860 13,891 9,478 4,282
Mar 11,018 16,700 20,813 16,563
Apr 3,748 49,056 15,413 17,584
May 15,566 28,277 5,304 39,538
Jun 11,251 40,136 39,995 45,658
Jul 14,341 3,085 44,176 17,417
Aug 4,128 21,804 - 26,446
Sep 11,155 846 4,426 4,577
Oct 11,252 19,351 20,393 18,846
Nov 6,149 1,170 9,542 8,701
Dec 9,556 1,274 10,067 14,960
Total 133,235 203,984 196,386 234,203
Average 11,103 16,999 16,366 19,517

Note – the years listed correspond to a 12 month cycle from Oct-Oct, as the garden was first completed in that month.
For example, the year 2011 refers to the period Oct 2011-Oct 2012.

If we break down the figures by type of produce (fruits, vegetables and berries), we can see the how much produce we got in each of these categories.

 

Fruit

Fruit (g)
apple 8,682
apricot 4,183
babaco 31,916
cherry guava 2,298
feijoa 203
grapefruit 5,826
lemon 9,884
lemon guava 2,352
lime 438
mandarin 64,523
orange 4,594
pepino 250
plum 12,813
pomegranate 12,968
total 160,930
2010 117,247
2009 127,723
2008 53,636

The yields of fruit have increased steadily as the fruit trees establish themselves. The trees are still very young at 4 years of age and have only started to produce reasonable quantities. In the following years their yields will increase further, and some trees which still have not produces and fruit will push the figures even higher when they reach a productive age.

The total of 160kg of fruit is quite good considering that the two largest and heaviest bearing trees, a fig tree and a mulberry, were blown down by the a severe wind with an unripened crop still on their branches. The figures would have been higher if they survived, but they have been replaced with young trees which will take a year or two to start producing a decent crop.

I have managed to add a few extra trees into the garden, a white sapote, wampi, almond, finger lime, a second fig tree and I have room for one more tree which I will decide on in the near future. While not trees but bearing fruit, I have also added a passionfruit to extend my vertical garden, and a dwarf banana too, so the future looks very fruitful!

 

Berries

Berries (g)
blackberry 43
goji berry 465
mulberry 1,140
raspberry 5,416
redcurrant 15
strawberry 768
youngberry 3,130
total 10,977
2010 7,116
2009 4,021
2008 2,584

The berry harvests have increased the most dramatically, nearly 11kg of berries from 7 berry species. Since then I have added many more species to the garden – loganberry, thornless loganberry, boysenberry, tayberry, silvanberry, lawtonberry, marionberry, thornless blackberry, native raspberry. Vertical gardening can radically increase the productive garden space while occupying very little garden bed space.

 

Vegetables

Vegetables (g)
asparagus 2,000
broad beans 14,342
carrots 556
climbing beans 2,892
edible canna 2,820
jerusalem artichoke 11,420
lettuce 2,740
oca 400
perennial chilli 512
potato 892
pumpkin 1,583
rhubarb 1,767
salad greens 775
silverbeet 3,088
snow peas 865
sweet corn 4,869
sweet pepper 26
tomato 2,658
water chestnuts 480
yacon 5,600
total 60,285
2010 70,013
2009 70,231
2008 75,052

The vegetables remain more or less constant at an average of 70kg, I produced 10kg less vegetables this year, mainly from not harvesting produce or not bothering to put in seedlings! These figures show that annuals will produce more or less the same amount of harvest for a given amount of space and effort, they don’t increase in productivity over time being so short-lived, lasting a single year.

I can increase yields here by being more systematic with planting seeds and seedlings on time, planting more root crops which are the most productive of the vegetables, and harvesting the produce instead of forgetting about it and letting it go to seed. The point is we all can grow annual vegetables, it’s no big deal, this just demonstrates that you can grow a reasonable amount of vegetables in a intensive perennial food forest system in a very small space.

 

Projected Yields

This garden is only starting to get established, that is the nature of perennial systems, they do take time. This garden has the potential to increase in productivity over the next few years to much higher levels than the present ones. Now for some conversions of yields, to see how this demonstration food forest system stacks up with other food production methods.

Now, if we look at my garden, still quite new at four years of age, its best production to date is:

  • 234kg/64 square metres

To convert this to acres, we do dome simple maths: 4047/64 = 63.23 (so you can squeeze approximately 63 of my whole gardens into one acre!)
Now, a bit more math to get the yield per acre: 234×63.23 = 12,773kg/acre

The calculated yield per acre: 218×63.23 = 14,796 kg/acre, almost 15 metric tonnes per acre.

So, my 4 year old garden that is is producing the equivalent of 14,796 kg/acre (36,561 kg/hectare), in other words, close to 14.8 metric tonnes per acre (36.6 metric tonnes per hectare)!

(Conversion factor – 1 Hectare = 2.4710439 Acre)

For my non-metric friends, that’s the equivalent of 32,619 lbs/acre (80,602 lbs/hectare)

(Conversion factor – 1 Kg = 2.2046 lbs)

 

It’s important to note that I haven’t factored in the harvest figures is any of the herbs harvested, and there are a serious amount of herbs in this garden. Furthermore, unlike many conventional gardens, this system is highly productive and produces another high value output – plants and trees! Useful plants grow so well, that they multiply with great ease, I’m forever pulling up spare plants and providing them to community gardens and local gardeners, for free. Either that or i mulch them and add them back to the soil… I propagate many tree cuttings for very little effort, and usually have dozens of trees a year to show for such little effort. Over the last four years, this garden has easily produced many thousand of dollars worth of plants and trees. So, it’s not just a sustainable, intensive food production system, it’s almost a small production nursery due to the fertility of the system.

 

Conclusions

Considering that it takes an average of 2 hours a week to maintain such a system, and that it’s chemical free, weed free, and almost completely pest free, this is living proof that Permaculture really works!

This project, even at its current early stages, is evidently a successful proof-of-concept for the productivity of food forest systems. It clearly shows food forest systems can be scaled down to urban backyard sized gardens, and they do work extremely well at this scale. This four year study has conclusively proved the point with hard facts and figures, but this study is by no means over.

 

The Future…

The effort of weighing and recording all produce from a garden every day for four years is quite labour intensive, I’m doing this all on my own, as one person, so I have decided to take a break for a while, and resume the counting at a later point. It’s clear that productivity is steadily rising, the intention is to give the garden some more time, then begin recording the yields once again. This is a long-term study. so I’m sticking with it, but I’m hoping to feature some articles on other gardens I’ve been working on in public spaces, and hopefully follow their progress also.

Stay tuned for more, as we push the boundaries of urban agriculture further, and show what really is possible!

 
 
 

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6 Responses to “29. Full Circle, Four Years In”

  1. narf77 Says:

    As a fellow horticulturalist I am wildly excited about each and every post that I get in my Rss Feed Reader from Deep Green Permaculture. Aside from the incredibly positive message that permaculture brings to anyone with any consideration about the land and how to work with it to produce food, the results and the careful progression that allows us to follow carefully and take active notes is amazing. You write an amazingly positive and wonderfully instructive blog and after the horrible summer we just had (only just started raining in Northern Tasmania after only 3 rain events since last November) the message of permaculture has never been clearer. Get your soil right, get cycles going, plant en masse and forget about regular gardens, use clever ways to keep water in your soil (water wicking, mass planting, heavy mulching, increase the organic matter in your soil etc.) and so much more and you CAN produce food even in the desert. Cheers for this post, it came at just the right time to get me re-energised and wanting to head out into our poor parched garden :)

  2. Frogdancer Says:

    My gardening group visited your gaden last year. It was fascinating to see how you organised everything in such an efficient way.
    Your raspberries and rhubarb are alive and well in Bentleigh East!

  3. Roy Nordblom III Says:

    Hey, I just discovered your website, and it is like you have written down a whole bunch of stuff that I have been meaning to write down myself. I am an urban farmer and retired greenbuilder in San Jose, CA (the capital of Silicon Valley) and I install greywater systems and teach classes and workshops on greenbuilding, greywater, permaculture, urban agriculture, aquaponics and living outside the money economy – in the city. I re-landscaped our home with edibles years ago, had so much extra that I started up produce share program for local urban farmers: http://www.produceshare.com

    Love you, man!
    Roy III

  4. Tamara Griffiths Says:

    This is awesome Angelo! LOVE YOUR WORK!!!

  5. Abijah Says:

    This is great and super interesting! Thanks for posting all of this info, I love your website!

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