Urban Food Forest Garden Yields, Four Years In

garden yield graph 2011

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:

garden yield graph 2011
Garden yield figures for 2011

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

If we look at the monthly production figures:

 2008200920102011
Jan22,2036,38514,76917,620
Feb10,86013,8919,4784,282
Mar11,01816,70020,81316,563
Apr3,74849,05615,41317,584
May15,56628,2775,30439,538
Jun11,25140,13639,99545,658
Jul14,3413,08544,17617,417
Aug4,12821,80426,446
Sep11,1558464,4264,577
Oct11,25219,35120,39318,846
Nov6,1491,1709,5428,701
Dec9,5561,27410,06714,960
Total133,235203,984196,386234,203
Average11,10316,99916,36619,517

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)
apple8,682
apricot4,183
babaco31,916
cherry guava2,298
feijoa203
grapefruit5,826
lemon9,884
lemon guava2,352
lime438
mandarin64,523
orange4,594
pepino250
plum12,813
pomegranate12,968
total160,930
2010117,247
2009127,723
200853,636

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)
blackberry43
goji berry465
mulberry1,140
raspberry5,416
redcurrant15
strawberry768
youngberry3,130
total10,977
20107,116
20094,021
20082,584

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)
asparagus2,000
broad beans14,342
carrots556
climbing beans2,892
edible canna2,820
jerusalem artichoke11,420
lettuce2,740
oca400
perennial chilli512
potato892
pumpkin1,583
rhubarb1,767
salad greens775
silverbeet3,088
snow peas865
sweet corn4,869
sweet pepper26
tomato2,658
water chestnuts480
yacon5,600
total60,285
201070,013
200970,231
200875,052

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!

22 Comments

  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. 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. This is awesome Angelo! LOVE YOUR WORK!!!

    1. Angelo (admin) says:

      Thanks Tamara! 🙂

  5. Abijah says:

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

  6. Anel says:

    Hi, Angelo! Was just reading through this whole thing over several days.. how wonderfully inspiring. Was just wondering: what happened to the 2 espalliered pears you planted on the north facing garage wall in the beginning? Thanks

    1. Angelo (admin) says:

      Hi Anel, one of the espaliered pears, the Nashi, didn’t survive, it perished very early, that would suggest that something was wrong with the tree from the start. The other pear, the Williams, is now growing happily across the whole wall and has produced its first pear in its fifth year of being planted there, pears normally do take a while to establish, but that’s understandable considering they’ll last a few hundred years!

  7. Anel says:

    oh, WOW! That’s fantastic. I suppose someone else in your neigbourhood has a Nashi, because you mentioned somewhere the two pears are each other’s pollinater. Also looking forward to an update after 2 years of “drought”.. hehe. Good luck.

    1. Angelo (admin) says:

      Thanks, there are probably a few pear trees in the neighbourhood, I’ll post an update soon.

  8. gregknibbs says:

    Fantastic design and implementation. Permaculture design does work but only when action on the ground is put into practise by a motivated guy like Angelo. Fantastic functional diverse urban design,fantastic applied horticultural skills and design . Let him loose on all the nature strips and public open space he would feed Melbourne .
    Greg knibbs
    http://www.edge5.com.au

  9. Marigold says:

    Absolutely stupendous achievement ~ your urban permaculture garden surely reflects your own high level of productivity — such an inspiration when reading your excellent website — in all the sections! I admire your generosity in sharing so much of yourself/your knowledge/your produce. I wish I could get a various of these plants you have, but here in another continent, is difficult But I am surprised not to see some other plants in your garden — ginger, gooseberries, sweet potatoes for instance. Chooks vine = chayote (Mexican) I think — locally called “sjoe-sjoe” here in SA. Many thanks for all your efforts that enrich us all.

  10. One of the most phenomenal permaculture gardens ever, and sooooo beautiful!

  11. Hi Angelo,

    I’ve just read your whole garden story – what an achievement! I was wondering, though, if you know what your variety of ‘ever bearing’ raspberries are called? I’d love to be able to eat fresh raspberries for 6 months of the year.

    Thanks for taking the time to document the process and progress for the rest of us to see.

    1. Angelo (admin) says:

      Thanks! I suspect the everbearing raspberries are the ‘Heritage’ variety because they have a similar fruiting time and duration.

  12. SUNNY says:

    Hi,
    Jus read about your 600+ sq ft garden producing soooo much.
    Am also interested–can you mail me a rough layout and inputs required.
    Am living in a temperate region in INDIA–maybe if it works then can teach others also
    and help fill ever-so-many malnutritioned kids and people.
    Excellent piece of work.

    1. Angelo (admin) says:

      Thanks for your comments.

      The layout is already published on this site, see here – http://deepgreenpermaculture.com/my-garden/building-a-better-garden-design-construction/

      Diagram is here – https://deepgreenpermaculture.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/updated-garden-design-2.jpg
      This has all changed considerably and is due for an update though, the problem is it’s constantly changing as I experiment.

      You can find a good summary of detail in the article I wrote for PRI – http://permaculturenews.org/2011/04/13/lessons-from-an-urban-back-yard-food-forest-experiment/

  13. DeeDee says:

    I have just discovered this site and I am so grateful for the effort you have gone to, documenting a fabulous experiment, now a proven urban masterpiece. You have provided such an amazing tool for others. We – well my husband is the gardener and I am the cheer squad- have an edible garden that is doing well. But the effort is huge and the sustainability aspects have not been as well considered or carried out as .thoroughly and brilliantly as you have.
    Thank you for your generosity in sharing your efforts and please keep us all informed of your ongoing progress, even if you need to cut back on the time and detail.
    Thanks heaps
    D

    1. Angelo (admin) says:

      Thanks, you’re welcome!

  14. Sandra McKay says:

    Hi Angelo
    Just discovered your site and am reading through your posts, would love to know how you are getting on now, since its a few a few years on.
    I’m looking to get my own garden going in the near future (6mths-1yr) looking at your page has given me extra inspiration to get a move on : )
    Thanks
    Sandy

    1. Ana Maria says:

      did you hear from him? i am also really interested to see the progress and how the garden is doing now

      1. Angelo (admin) says:

        I will post up another article with plenty of pictures to show everyone how the garden is looking! 🙂

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