26. Spring – Oct 2011 Pictures

Here’s a picture update of the garden’s progress in early October 2011, springtime in Melbourne, Australia.



West side of the garden



The same west view from further back, the grapevine trellis in the foreground, the sultana grape is putting out its first leaves for the season.



Facing east, al wall of trees, shrubs, berries and everything else – this is what an ‘overstacked food forest design’ looks like



A Pink Lady apple tree in flower, with a ground cover or nasturtium, mint, violets, a herbaceous layer of pepino and yarrow, and a vertical layer of youngberries growing behind it all on a trellis.



The canopy layer is developing well now that the garden is three years old. The big tree in the background is a dual graft apricot, it’s only been in the ground two years, and it’s already about 5m (15’) high. The yellow flowering scotch broom, which is a nitrogen fixing plant, a useful companion to apricots, may have something to do with the prolific growth!



This picture shows the mandarin tree, with the heavy comfrey underplanting. the comfrey as a companion plant performs the function of ‘nutrient mining’ with its deep roots, accessing minerals in the soil too deep for the citrus to reach, and bringing it to the surface. When the leaves of the comfrey plant rot down, they create a rich ‘green manure’ for the shallow rooted citrus tree.



This is the ground view of the same area, it’s densely planted, no bare ground. the lush green ‘hedge’ in parallel with the fence is a three year old raspberry trellis. I have two of these 1.2×2.4m (4’x8’) raspberry trellises in the garden in the garden (because I like raspberries) and the total production this year was 5.7kg (12.5lbs), equivalent to 38 (150g size) punnets.



The canopies mingling to create a forest over-story – Mariposa blood plum, scotch broom with stunning yellow flowers, dual graft Moorpark-Trevatt apricot and seedless large mandarin variety.



The southwest corner, with tall tree mugwort windbreaks which stop the winter south-westerly winds, and along with the wormwood in the same corner, mask the scent of the edible plants, making it harder for pests to find their next meal. This 5mx1.2m (15’x4’) strip contains four fruit trees, one dwarf lime tree, a pink lady apple tree, a granny smith apple tree, and a Lisbon lemon. There are many other herbs, companion plants, vegetables and fruiting plants in this same bed too. This is a good example of Backyard Orchard Culture, a technique which allows dense planting of multiple fruit trees in small spaces.



The west side of the garden, a fig tree in the background, a mandarin to the right. These are two of the four mature established trees that were in the garden before I started, everything else was put in when the garden was built, and is three years old or younger.



In the northwest corner, more fruit trees, a apricot-plum cross, a Japanese blood plum, variety Satsuma, then its pollinator, the very heavy bearing and vigorous Japanese blood plum, variety Mariposa. Between then is a recently planted Chilean guava – a shade tolerant fruiting shrub, a Lawtonberry – a variety of thornless blackberry, and two blueberries. The shrubs, berries  and the plum-apricot cross are less than a year old, which is the only reason why a bare fence is visisble. By next year the layers of the food forest will establish, and it will become a wall of green foliage.



This 5m (15’) long leafy hedge with white flowers is a year old youngberry – three plants on a wire trellis. Vigorous is an understatement. Expecting very high yields of very large, juicy berries this year.



Here’s a close-up of the berry trellis, it’s constructed from one star picket, a three length of wire and turnbuckles, the other end is attached to eye-screws fastened to the brick wall. The extensive flowering is evident in this shot. They thrive on the rich, organic soil. Sheet composting the garden bed created a nutrient rich humus which berries love.



Facing east, grape vine trellis, vegetable patch behind it, with asparagus to the left with the ferny foliage. To the right is a lemon-scented pelargonium with pink flowers, it’s a great companion plant for grape vines, is pest repellent, and the bees love the flowers. I’ve planted a citronella-scented pelargonium on the far left hand side, which is not visible in this picture.



Here’s the north facing side, the direction of the midday sun in the Southern Hemisphere. The picture shows the intentional design strategy of putting the lowest plants on the north edge of the garden, with the plants getting increasingly taller towards the south side. this creates a sloped design, so the plants closest to the north do not shade out the ones behind them. Any trees located along this edge are dwarf trees, I have used a dwarf peach and dwarf nectarine, which are situated towards the background in this picture.



The dwarf peach and dwarf nectarine are visible in this photo, the two have the same leaves, the nectarine is the taller one behind the peach in the foreground. The lavender to its right is a companion plant, and attracts lots of bees. The understory of carrots aren’t visile in the picture, lost in the sea of green. A second raspberry trellis is visible in the background, with redcurrants and blackcurrants in front of it and to the left.



You can see more of the ‘sloped canopy’ with the shortest plants in the north once again, with progressively taller trees on the south side to shade the house. The two tallest trees in the background are the pomegranate on the left, and the grapefruit on the right.



Towards the south, I’ve placed the taller trees and plants. Here is an apple tree with a large black mulberry tree behind it. These shelter the house from the midday sun and help keep it cooler.



The mulberry is about two years old, and is fruiting prolifically. This was grown from a cutting.



Like I said, lots of mulberries!



I employ the principle of ‘succession planting’ in all the beds, so when the broad beans occupying the majority of space in this bed start dying down, tomato plants will go in. By the time the broad beans have died off, the tomatoes will be in fruit. This way there is no ‘slack time’ when nothing is growing in the garden bed. All garden beds have trees in them, this one has a persimmon tree in it, the thin trunk on the right.



This is what the smaller western side of the garden looks like, this shot only captures about two thirds of thirds of it. the left hand side is not visible here.



Here’s the left hand side, to give the complete picture. There’s over a dozen fruit trees in the area shown in these two photos, the other twenty fruit trees are on the easter garden beds, which are twice the size.




This is front section of the larger eastern side of the garden, closest to the house. It’s tallest on this side to create shade against the house in summer. The trees, being deciduous, will lose their leaves in winter, allowing the winter sun to warm the house.simple but effective design technique.



And the middle section of the eastern garden side.



The rearmost part of the eastern garden section.



A peek under the canopy of the grapefruit and pomegranate trees in the rearmost corner. The vine-like stems in the middle are goji berries forming the vertical layer, with golden currants forming the shrub understory, pepino as the herbaceous layer, lots of sage and borage as companion plants.



This is the same shot, looking more to the right, this is the far corner, with the pomegranate stem in view. If you’re wondering, yes, those are ornamentals in the foreground, a ‘firefly’ flower, and the long, strappy leaves are cymbidium orchids, growing under the shade of the canopy. There are lots of ornamentals everywhere – there’s no reason why a food forest can’t cater to all of our senses!



Happy little Forget-me-nots growing beside the blue-flowered Borage plants.



Even ornamental trees grow here! This is one of two trees that create a wonderful scent at night. It not just food…



Same view, from a distance, the pomegranate is one of the four original established trees that was in the garden originally. The lush green plant hanging down is a pepino. It drapes down the terraced edge, utilising vertical space. This illustrates another useful tip, vertical gardening doesn’t just use trellises with plants growing upwards, you can also use plants hanging downwards off ledges, terraces and other raised structures.



The view looking diagonally across the garden from the southeast to the northwest.



The view looking diagonally across the garden from the northeast to the southwest.



The view looking straight across the garden from the east to the west.



Another green garden bed, overhanging over the pine-bark mulch covered path.



An espaliered fig tree, grown from a cutting, growing in a pot. A good way to utilise vertical space in two dimensions where room is not available for a ‘round’ tree.



A dwarf Valencia orange surrounded by herbs and companion plants.



The water garden in early stages or spring growth, miniature water lily leaves emerging.



The hydroponic grape vines, three of them in total, are growing for the second year now, hopefully they will both shade the wall from the scorching afternoon west sun, and provide lots of grapes. The brown drum on the left carries 220 litres (44 gallons) of hydroponic fluid, which should be plenty to survive the hottest summer days. I still need to extend the mesh support to cover more of the wall, and support more of the grapevine, more work to follow with this shading experiment.



And finally, the whole back yard isn’t all filled with plants, here’s one of the of living space in the backyard for people to occupy, and miscellaneous resident animals to, like the one pictured! After all you do need somewhere to sit and enjoy the view…

Next Page – 27. Full Circle, Three Years In



  1. Your garden and your efforts are really great. I’m embarking on the same sort of efforts in my garden and yours is definitely an inspiration. I particularly like your demonstration of the effectiveness of multiple, small fruit trees. That’s something I think I will try and emulate – tree clusters and their guilds.

    Can you tell me, does this garden fully supply your food needs? I note you say you often forget annuals – are your perennials enough to feed you? I suppose I am wondering what would be the best way to integrate a garden based on these fruit tree/guild clusters, while also maintaining a decent crop from tubers, brassicas etc.

    Thanks, Ben.


    1. Thanks Ben,

      Even though I’m not as disciplined as I can be with my annuals, I still produce a lot more than most conventional vegetable gardens! With the vegetables – 75kg in the first year, 70kg in the second year, 70kg in the third year, without trying too hard, and without any real focus on vegetables either.

      Do I ever go out and buy fruit, vegetables or berries? No, never. Does my garden supply all my food needs? No, I’m not a vegan. I also give away a lot of produce, I like to share it with people. It does produce a lot of food that is enjoyed by a lot of people, and the purpose of this controlled study is to demonstrate the amount of food that can be produced in a small backyard, and the benefits/increased productivity of a food forest design over both a conventional garden design and conventional agricultural methods.

      I often get asked the question, “what percentage of my food needs are met by my garden?” This is not a question that can be realistically answered because there are so many variables that cannot be controlled, and so many limitations to producing an sound empirical model to determine this in an inner city urban food forest environment.

      If I were to design such a study, these are the factors that I would need to address:

      1. The size of the group being fed – an individual, couple, family with children?
      2. Dietary habits – vegans, vegetarians or omnivores? What about grains, eggs, dairy products and meat?
      3. Can people leave the site to obtain food elsewhere? If so, how do you measure that food obtained externally, and work out the proportion of the total?
      5. Can any human waste leave the location? Is it recycled in-situ and reused in the garden or disposed off-site?
      6. Do people live on site, or work elsewhere?
      7. Is it feasible to restrict people to a single location and not share any food with anybody for an extended length of time, the duration of a study (years)?

      Such a study would be tricky to conduct for all these reasons.

      With that said, many people, only familiar with a moden lifestyle, still wonder whether it’s possible for people to provide all their food needs from their own property. While this may seem like something to aspire to for many people wishing to lead a more sustainable lifestyle, it’s common, everyday practice for many communities around the world, past and present, and no big deal, it’s commonplace fact. Don’t look to our modern, first-world agri-business farmers growing monocultures to supply supermarkets, this is a skewed and distorted (and dysfunctional) picture of a rural model. In many places around the world, there are no supermarkets, retail chains, fast food outlets – people have no choice but to supply 100% of their food needs.

      Our culture is going down a path of voluntary de-skilling and learned helplessness, but the skills to provide all of one’s food needs didn’t disappear that long ago in history past. In many cases, we’re only two generations detached, my grandparents on one side of the family not only did supplied all their own food needs, but also produced food for their local community too. As did their parents, and their parents before them. Funny thing, they live much, much longer lives than the average lifespans today, fit and healthy enough to work their whole lives. Imagine, no choice other than natural organic produce!

      It was done before, and it can be done again, in our generations, we just need to reclaim the skills we’ve lost and re-ignite our passion to become self-reliant once again. If we can also add all the knowldge we’ve gained in organic gardening, aguably the most valuable invention of modern western society, the future looks very promising.

      Just to show how possible it all is, if I can grow the equivalent of 12 tonnes per acre with a urban food forest that is stll establishing (as I currently am), and potentially around 20 or more tonnes per acre from an established one, Imagine how much food a family can grow on an acre? Could you feed a vegetarian family with 20,000 kg of food a year? Without doubt, and probably a good proportion of their neighbours too! Now imagine if the neighbours also had similar acre sized blocks and also grew food, and all the food forest owners grew different produce, and swapped it, shared it between themselves? What if others grew grains, produced milk, eggs, honey and so on? You would end up with a cooperative community that will more ofr less be a self-sufficient village.

      While this scenario may be an ideal, a noble goal, any move or progress toward it would be highly beneficial to the individual. their community, the environment, and the planet.


  2. Thanks for the answer! I understand your point – I’ve been reading the same sorts of messages in various permaculture writings.


  3. I am speechless. You really have a wonderful garden. I have three trees in my yard and I call it my garden. But I am really feeling ashamed now. I just build a new conservatory and was looking for some new ideas to cultivate my garden. I am dying to plant one like you.


  4. Thanks for sharing your wisdom, I’m going to shade a concrete wall with Canna lily to prevent the southwest sun from scorching / heating our house in summer.
    suberb of St Louis, MO kenL


    1. Scotch broom grows wild in some rural areas, in the bush and around farms, that’s where I found it, if you look around you can find some. There are also ornamental varieties on sale that are sterile won’t self-seed that you can use. Strangely enough, the one I’ve got has been growing for years and I’ve never had seedlings come up, ever.


  5. Hi,
    It is very nice to see how you have maximized the use of your garden space. I always hear that root competition is detrimental to fruit tree health that nothing should be planted within 3-4 feet of a fruit tree. This does not appear to be the case in your densely planted garden. That said, I was wondering if you would be able to advise me on a dilemma I am facing. I have a 3 feet by 3 feet flower bed which is in the middle of a concrete patio. I would like to put a peach tree in the middle and surround it by 4 boxwood plants in the 4 corners of this 3 by 3 feet area. Eventually this would give me a peach tree with a short square boxwood hedge (or so i think). I want it to give me an ornamental feature as well and do not really care if I am not able to get a commercial scale yield; just enough to feed my family. You think all 5 plants would do fine in this little area?

    Thank you and keep up the good work!


  6. Hi Angelo, I came across this article when searching for forget-me-nots and permaculture. Unfortunately at our community garden forget-me-nots are regarded as Public Enemy No. 1, and I have agreed to their removal if they can be replaced with something living (rather than just bare soil and mulch). Can you think of another less “invasive” plant which fills a similar function? We are thinking nasturtiums, marigolds and English lavender. Thank you, Rosemary


    1. Hi Rosemary, that’s a shame the community garden is so against forget-me-nots! You can use any other useful groundcover plant, whether it’s a companion plant or a culinary one as a living mulch to protect the soil. Culinary herbs such as thyme, oregano, marjoram and savory work well, as do companion plants such as calendulas, roman chamomile, land cress, pyrethrum daisies, and southernwood, to name a few! Nasturtiums work a bit too well and can fill very large garden beds very quyickly, I use them under my apple trees to repel codling moth. Hope this helps!

      Liked by 1 person

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