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…