Food Forest Gardens

Updating February 2011 with diagrams of my food forest gardens as they are now and future plans..

this is a diagram of the front yard gardens INSIDE of our fence, there is also a strip along the road outside the fence that is mostly evergreens and perennial wildflowers along the road, not included in the diagram.

In this diagram you can see a small plum tree and a grape arbor near the center top, these are in front of our house and to the south. Under these plants are lots of perennial and groundcover plants.

This diagram is the garden area around our house, just North of the above diagram. The grape arbor is continued on this diagram and in front of the house to the South are a 3 dwarf peach trees, a fruit cocktail tree, a Halls Hardy Almond tree and to the west at the corner a columnar Crabapple tree. To the North of the house are two cherry trees. All of these trees are under planted with perennials, shrubs and ground covers.

This next diagram is EAST of the above diagram showing the far end of the house (family and laundry rooms). To the East of the house are 3 dwarf Pear trees under planted with comfrey and other perennials and ground covers, there are some strawberries near the greenhouse and there is a nearly open lawn area to the East South of the Pond. You can see the decking around the house and the Tool shed (at deck level) and Furnace building and wood shed (at ground level) The house is up on a 4' rise above the surrounding area and the property gently slopes from the house to the ground level all the way around.

This next diagram is just directly North (rear) of our house and above the house diagram previously posted. There is a raised garden over the drainfield with a circular lawn and a semicircular garden around it. This Semicircular garden has two Columnar Red Apple trees on the south near each path (the paths go east and west down the slope from the lawn).
There is a grape arbor on the north end of the circular lawn with clematis vines and climbing roses as well as the grapes and to the West of that is a Gala Dwarf Apple Tree. North of the arbor is more lawn with a lawn path going down to the East (right) with an 8x8 deck with steps going down to the North under a grown from seed red apple tree that is full the right of this is a baby 5 on 1 apple tree, dwarf.

West of this garden is a lawn area that is low and damp and beside this lawn area is a windbreak of black spruce trees, and a grouping of 3 Canadian Hemlocks and a White Pine tree. All  of the garden areas also contain shrubs (Honeysuckle, Red Leaf Cotinus, Red Leaf Barberry, Spirea, Hydrangea and Lilac among others) . To the East of this entire area is a lawn and a pond.

This is a rough diagram of the area to the East of the diagram is mostly a lawn around a pond with trails going back on either side toward the woods on the North, there is a baby ash grove in the center of the back yard with some lilacs and the pond is being worked on (see pond pages) so it is in change right now.

This diagram shows the rest of the forest garden north of the previous garden diagram that was broken up between this diagram and the previous one.

South of this garden is a small tool shed built of pallets, then the first area to the North of the toolshed is a line of blueberry bushes with a canopy over them from two baby Serviceberry Trees, the West end has a sweet chestnut tree baby and to the East is a patch of horseradish. There is a path going along the East side of this patch that goes to a grape arbor. along the West side of this garden where the Sweet Chestnut is on the corner is a hedge made up of raspberry bushes (red, gold and black) and blackberry bushes, but there is also another baby Sweet Chestnut tree and a Large Fruited Hawthorn and a Buffalo berry bush, all are babies. To the East of this hedge are 3 circular gardens each with it's own dwarf Apple tree, to the North is a Little Big Sweet 16 apple, in the Center is a Dwarf Braeburn Apple and to the south of that is a semi dwarf Snow apple tree.
To the SE of these are two rectangular beds, the North one has a dwarf North Star cherry tree, it's mate is to the East of it in the asparagus bed.  There are asparagus plants under both.
To the south of the first bed is a hugel bed that is raised with some old treated lumber . North of the 3 round beds with apple trees is a hugel bed as well. All are surrounded with grass mown paths and edged with plastic edging material.

To the East of these beds is a circular lawn with a Canadian Scarlet Ornamental Cherry tree in the center surrounded by 4 crescent shaped beds and paths going North, South, East and West. There are arbors or arches over each path and the arbors have seedless grape vines as well as climbing roses on them. 3 of the crescent shape beds NE, NW and SW have dwarf Pear trees in them, and the 4th has a Mountain ash  baby and a paw paw baby, there is also a Goumi seedling in one. The SE bed continues along the path on the South of the lawn and is planted with asparagus and Rhubarb and Irises. North of this garden area is a hedge. On the West end the hedge contains 4 American Plum trees and on the East the hedge alternates with 6 American Hazelnuts and 3 Mulberry trees. North of this entire area is an open area that I plan to move a hedge of Jerusalem Artichokes to (as they are in the garden beds now and growing well and need to be moved, they will make a barrier planting between the Walnuts and the garden). To the far West is a fenceline on the property line with several baby evergreen trees and across the property line on the neighbor's property are more baby evergreen trees which will make a large windbreak for our garden. To the East of everything is a pond that is being redug and enlarged and I have not completely drawn it in these diagrams but it can be seen in the pond pages. North of the entire area including the pond is a woods. On the south of the woods I have planted 3 walnut trees, (Black walnut West, Carpathian Walnut center and Butternut East) I plan to plant more nut trees elsewhere along the woods and pond boundaries..North of the pond a group of baby  trees, shrubs, perennials and ground covers have been planted. There are two clearings in the near woods surrounded by more woods and trails. The main part of the woods is aspen, wild cherry, ash and red maple but I am in the process of seeding and putting cuttings of other plants through out the woods along the trails. That will be for another entry.

In this final diagream you see a complete diagram of the garden area North of the house and South of the woods and Walnuts. The 3 round gardens with dwarf peach trees in them have not yet been added to this garden, this is a future plan..also the fencing has not been finished and some of the arbor work has not yet been completed. These are plans for 2011.

What is a food forest garden? The term was fairly new to me several years ago when I first heard it, but it was a type of planting that I had always just naturally embraced. A food forest uses the layout of the forest to gain inspiration for your own gardens. A forest has a canopy of large trees, a layer of understory trees and a lower layer of small trees and shrubs. Below the tree and shrub layer is a layer of perennial and annual plants and herbs, ground covers and vines that grow up through the trees, also there are the layers of fungi and of forest duff and microrganisms that live in the soil of the forest.

The trees and plants themselves feed the forest as do the wild animals that wander through, either with their manure or with their rotting body parts when they die.

A food forest garden attempts to represent the layers found in a natural forest. First you should have a high canopy of trees on your property, they may or may not have edible parts such as seeds, nuts, sap or fruit. There should be some openings in the canopy to provide some sunlight to the understory trees. In a food forest garden the main understory trees and shrubs should provide some type of food, but some of them may also be nitrogen fixers or craft supply plants, but it is best to provide plants for this story that have multiuse. In my property the main canopy trees here are white oak, red maple, white ash, alder, aspen, wild cherry, elm, as well as needled trees such as white and red and other pines, white, black, blue, alberta and other spruces, cedar and arborvitae, chamaecyparis and canadian hemlock trees.

I have brought in a large variety of understory trees, many of which produce fruit, some standard sizes and some dwarfs. Here are "some" of the trees I have brought onto the property, many are still babies, as understory trees, or baby canopy trees that have still to grow to their full size: amur maple, japanese maple, wild plum, plum, fruit cocktail tree, apricot, peach, pear, apple, crab apple, canadian cherry, sour and sweet cherry, mulberry, elderberry, blueberry, raspberry, blackberry, bearberry, hawthorn, paw paw, black walnut, carpathian walnut, butternut, hazelnut, chestnut, hickory nut, halls hardy almond, goumi, russian and autumn olive, lilac, honeysuckle, hydrangea, spirea and many others. These trees are planted in beds that are also under planted with perennial and annual food and ornamental plants, ground covers, herbs and there are vines growing both up and through trees and over arbors and pergolas.

As the understory trees are babies, the areas under them are more thickly planted with annual and perennial food crops, but as the shade increases these will be replaced with more  permanent crops so as not to disturb the soil with every harvest.

Hugel beds can be formed by burying wood, bark, sawdust, and mulch materials in the soil which will hold water and provide nutrient bases for the beds. Mulches are maintained on the top of the soil under the plants, and scraps are sheet composted on the gardens themselves in the times of year when they are not snow covered, a compost tumbler is used during the winter to store the compostables until Spring.

Mulch plants are grown to chop and drop in the garden, such as comfrey and rhubarb, which provide large leaves filled with nutrients to add to the mulch during the growing season, all weeds that aren't eaten are pulled and dropped on the mulch in the garden. Manures are deposited from the wildlife or brought in as available, as are mulch materials to build up the soil.

In my food forest gardens I chose to have mown lawn paths between most of the beds so they can be maintained by a mower, and there is edging between the paths and beds wherever possible to inhibit weed grasses from growing into the beds.

There are fruit and nut trees all around the house and drainfield in the sloped beds as well as in the beds throughout the property, and fruit and nut trees and shrubs are being planted along trails developed in the woods and around the pond. Most of the trees are still too young to bear, but many are bearing. Grapvines are grown over several arbors and pergolas around the property, both seeded and seedless varieties and other fruiting vines over the property for the wildlife. Future plans are to bring in honeyberries, kiwi and other edible fruiting vines.

I salvage some lattice fencing from west of our house and south of Joel's house after we had windstorms that took down the fences. I used the broken off posts, salvaged 2 x 4's and the broken up lattice to fence in the perimeter of our rear food forest garden. Here are some photographs that I took today, I'm not done with it, there is a lot of damage to the lattice and I have saved broken up panels to use the parts to repair the damaged lattice. I'm also building 3 more arbors in the garden, one will go where that white metal arch is (replacing it as it is falling apart) and I'll build another arbor with cut up telephone poles like the south one that has the swing on it now, and I'll move the swing also..I still need to build gates.

Eventually all the lattice will have vines or bushes or brambles growing up over or through it.

This is the south side of the can't really see them but in that bark mulch is my 9 baby blueberry bushes and 2 baby serviceberry trees and at each end 2 Juneberry bushes, spring is just arriving here so they aren't even leafed out yet...the bed on the right has asparagus just now starting to come up and there is a baby North Star Cherry tree (with the yellow tag)..that white metal arbor will be replaced with a wooden one over a path, and the swing will be moved to a new arbor and gates will be added.

This is the SW corner of the food garden, going up to the left on the inside are baby raspberry plants and baby blackberry plants as well as on the corner and side are two baby sweet chestnut trees (they'll take forever to grow large enough to matter here).

This is a photo of the East (Pond) side of the food garden, this is a new arbor that I just built this weekend out of salvaged materials, I have planted 2 gold clematis vines one on each side and will be planting 3 hardy kiwi vines to go over the lattice fencing and the arbor ..

the existing telephone pole arbor has 3 grape vines and 2 climbing roses planted on it..and there is another area that also has 2 grape vines and 2 climbing roses that will need an arbor straight north of the first telephone pole one, I have a telephone pole waiting to be cut up to make the second pole arbor with..they will be in line..north to south..

where the white metal arch is will be another 8' wide lattice arbor just like the one photographed will also have vines growing on it.

on the far side (in above photo but not seen) are 3 dwarf apple tree (babies) as well as 2 gooseberries, 3 black currants and 2 honeberry bushes in a bed to the north..(right)

on the far north along the lattice (right) are 4 wild plum trees, 6 baby hazelnut trees and 3 baby mulberry trees.

in the center of the photo above is a lawn with a red leaf ornamental cherry, and around the center circular lawn are 4 beds and 4 paths..north, south, east and the bed to the NE, NW, and SW are 3 pear trees and 2 Hansen bush cherries, and in two other beds are 2 north star cherries.

I am far from finished with the food forest garden and it is less than 3 years old, so all the trees except the ornamental cherry are all babies yet..

Hoping to maybe get a few berries or fruits out of the garden this year but not expecting a lot.

There is a small greenhouse and 2 coldframes to extend the growing season into the winter months.

Prunings are either added to the soil and mulch, or piled along the edges of the woods as "habitats for inhumanity".  Wildlife is totally encouraged in the gardens and plants specifically to feed them are planted along the wildlife corridors which are set to bring the animals safely across the property from our woods to the crossings over the roads to neighboring properties.