The before and after photographs in this article were taken at the very beginning when I first finished planting up my urban backyard food forest, and then approximately three to four years later. Each pair of photographs was taken from roughly the same view point, so the same garden beds are visible, to shown the garden’s growth over time.
Just how much of an ecosystem can be created from scratch is astounding. It’s important to point out that what differentiates this setup from a regular garden is that it’s a living ecosystem which maintains its own balance, it’s a food forest with seven distinct layers, tall canopy trees, dwarf trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants, vines, groundcover plants and root crops, which emulates the layers of a temperate forest. Every tree and plant has a purpose, is strategically planted in a specific location to maximise the benefits it delivers, and is planted with appropriate companion plants. For such a small-scale intensive permaculture system, there is natural order and careful intentional design in the dense plantings, and there is sound design rationale for the inclusion and location of everything in the food forest.
At the end of these photo pairs, I’ve included some photographs taken from a high vantage point showing most of the garden ten years after its construction. The semi-aerial photography was necessary because the garden is now a lush established small urban backyard forest garden in the literal sense.
Food Forest Garden – Facts & Figures
- Melbourne’s first urban back yard demonstration Permaculture food forest
- Time to build: 3 months (1 person!)
- Completed: October 2008
- Total Size of back yard: 150 sq. m
- Total size of garden (including paths): 85 sq. m
- Total area of garden beds: 64 sq. m
- Fruit trees: over 30 (not including ones in pots!)
- Berries: over 20 different types
- Medicinal herbs: over 50 different types
- Fourth year garden yields (2012) – 234kg from 64 sq. m with only 2/3 of trees established and fruiting, most berries just planted
- This is equal to 14.8 metric tonnes per acre (36.6 metric tonnes per hectare)!
- Australia’s average wheat yield is only 2 tonnes per hectare, and even in Europe the yield does not exceed 6-8 tonnes per hectare
- This garden is water-wise, runs on Stage 3a water restrictions (2 hour long waterings a week) and rainwater in warm seasons.
- The irrigation system is switched off completely half the year (April-September).
- Only 2 hours a week of work on average to maintain.
- No chemical fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides – and no pests (other than snails from the neighbours!)
Yields for First 4 years
There are now three times as much berries, all the trees are productive, and many more trees have been added, both in the ground and in pots, so productivity after tens years will be obviously much higher.
Before and After Photos (3-4 years later)
East facing view of the garden, with fence on right hand side
Southeast view, with grapevine trellis in centre of photograph.
Northwest view of the garden
Southern view from centre of the garden
Southwest view of the garden
South view of western-most side of garden
Western view of garden
Northeast view of garden
North view from side corridor
A Tiny Glimpse of the Produce
Goji berries and babaco (champagne fruit)
Peaches, apples and cherries
Mulberries, grapes, persimmons and pomegranates
Citrus, pepino, figs and plums
Various berries and currants
A List of What’s Growing in the Food Forest
Here is a list of the trees and berries growing in the garden as at the start of 2019, herbs and perennial vegetables, annual vegetables and aquatic edibles aren’t listed here, otherwise it would be a very long list!
- Apple, Cox’s Orange Pippin
- Apple, Pink Lady
- Apple, Red Jonathan
- Apple, Royal Gala
- Appleberry, native
- Apricot, Moorpark
- Banana, Dwarf Cavendish
- Banana, Goldfinger
- Banana, Rajapuri
- Black Sapote, Tahiti (in pot)
- Blackberry, Thornless
- Blackberry, Waldo compact (in pot)
- Blueberry, Sunshibe Blue (in pot)
- Cherry Guava, Red
- Cherry Guava, Yellow
- Cherry, Starkrimson
- Chilean Guava
- Currant, Red
- Currant, White
- Elaeagnus x ebbingei, Ebbing’s silverberry (in pot)
- Elderberry, American (in pot)
- Elderberry, Black (in pot)
- Fig, Dwarf Brown (in pot)
- Fig, White Adriatic
- Goji Berry
- Grape, Flame Seedless
- Grape, Red Globe
- Grape, Sultana
- Jaboticaba (in pot)
- Jujube, Li
- Lemon, Eureka
- Lime, Tahitian dwarf
- Loganberry, Thornless
- Loquat, Champagne dwarf
- Mandarin, Imperial dwarf
- Mango, Bowens
- Midyim berry, native
- Mulberry, Black
- Mulberry, Black English dwarf (in pot)
- Olive, Manzanillo (in pot)
- Orange, Valencia dwarf
- Orange, Washington Navel dwarf
- Pear, Williams
- Persimmon, Dai Dai Maru
- Persimmon, Nightingale
- Plum, Mariposa
- Plum, Satsuma
- Plum, Sloe (in pot)
- Plumcot, Flavour Rouge
- Pomegranat, Wonderful (in pot)
- Raspberry, Heritage Everbearer
- Raspberry, summer bearing variety
- Wampi, Guy Sam (in pot)
- Wax Jambu, red (in pot)
- White Sapote, Kampong (in pot)
- White Sapote, Wilson
- Youngberry, Thornless
The Food Forest Garden Ten Years Later
Due to the density of the foliage in a food forest, pictures are easier to take from above! The tall white round object in the background is a netted tree by the way.
These pictures show close to three quarters of the garden, there’s still more on the far side that wasn’t photographed. The previous photo pairs were taken with fairly primitive digital cameras nearly a decade ago, these pictures were taken with a decent DSLR camera and wide angle lens, lighting wasn’t ideal but it had to do, they give a good impression of how dense the garden is in late summer.
There might be a little room to squeeze a few more things in if we’re lucky!
This is what’s possible in an average urban backyard with a bit of experimentation and a lot of learning and practice, and when you’re enjoying what you’re doing, it isn’t work at all, and that’s how life should be.