Why make a food forest at home?

PHOTO: Turmeric crop, Dennis's garden, August 2013

Dennis wrote these notes when beginning to record his food forest blog in April 2013.

Everybody knows the world faces issues of food supply and food quality. I have the advantage of having a simple suburban Australian house block, luxurious in many other places, on which to experiment with better and more interesting ways of living and producing some food.

There are any reasons for getting rid of the grass and having a food forest!

We each have to act in our own space, if we don't act in our own spaces, no change occurs. Social change and environmental change do not occur simple by meetings, web clicking or bushwalking.

Among reasons:

  • It's a much greater creative challenge. You are dealing directly with, and included in, nature, rather than on the outside, seeking control. Your ecology changes and develops, day to day, month to month, year to year. New observations, new ideas, new adaptations, new ways of deflecting natural order to produce food. 
  • I incorporate art into the garden, with some included objects, but also the layout. In other gardens, not just my own, I have observed that the more you divide your suburban patch into rooms, the bigger the garden seems to get. And you have wonderful experiences of surprise, coming around a corner to something unexpected.
  • It may be that those people I see so often, pushing a mower up and down their grass, enwreathed in petrol and rye grass fumes, enjoy doing such repetitive things, but I do not. It seems to me that in a world of diminishing resources, a lawn is an anachronism except to the extent that it is used for family play.
  • Consider this information about gasoline and lawnmowing in the US
  • I eat better. I will write some other time on simple pleasures and advantages in going out and getting stuff for a meal, to contribute to a meal.
  • I am physically and mentally better. There is work for brain and body.

    photo: part of Helen's back garden January 2014

a small area of Helen's garden January 2014

Warnings/notes (mind preparation)
  • You have to be prepared to deal with change.
  • Your place may look a mess at times while it develops. You will have to live with attitudes of people who cut their grass every five days, cut their hair every day and their imagination every moment. 
  • You need to be on the watch for how the developing forest alters access to light and water for plants under trees. To maintain productivity you will have to make decisions to prune hard and remove some plants. Day-length is critical. For example, winter growing vegetables will simply bolt to seed if they are in shade (of fence or wall or tree) for too much of the day. 
  • If you plant everything that might grow at your place (which is a good idea, if you can afford to get the seeds and seedlings) be prepared for failures of some plants, if the climate is not right, if it is too susceptible to pests or diseases. If something is struggling, check the soil relative to the plant's requirements, noting that high humus allows almost anything to grow if the climate is right. And give the plant time, water and light. And then if it is not going to work, remove it. Don't make the plant do things it can't do well. Turn it into mulch or compost.
  • Have a plan: make it a conceptual plan, rather than some kind of map. You won't know the map until the plants advance, until you know who is most vigorous when. And the map will undergo big changes as plants grow and as you grow and change. Over time, your garden will develop microclimates, you say 'aha!' and change things!

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