We started building a food forest this year. I first read about food forests somewhere on the internet as I studied ways to have a positive impact on the environment. Because I couldn't find much information on food forests, I first purchased Edible Forest Gardens by Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier and then Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway. Armed with these books, I started planting.
Now I'll be honest, I didn't complete all of the steps suggested in Edible Forest Gardens. I'm more of an intuitive gardener and we have a relatively small area to work with. I did some research on how the sun moves in the sky during the seasons and determined how close together I could plant fruit and nut trees and still have some sun in the yard and on the greenhouse. Then I went out with the tape measure and some stakes and started planting the trees. A little shopping, a lot of digging and we had the foundation of our garden.
Next, we spread compost on the ground around the trees, put down a layer of cardboard, a layer of straw, a layer of composted chicken manure we found on Craigslist, and then a layer of composted alder mulch. I must say, there were times in the process, I was a bit worried. Until I got this idea of adding more sustainable agriculture to our backyard, we thought we were almost done with landscaping. As I started spreading straw all over the backyard, I had momentary visions of disaster but we forged ahead.
With fresh planting area available, I started planting. The plants came from a variety of places, starting from other plants in the garden, starting from my Mother's garden, a few new plants, and a lot of herbs grown from seed. We planted berries, perennial vegetables, a few vines, herbs and flowers. The idea is to provide food for us, nectar for beneficial insects and pollinators, and beauty.
The whole thing is now a bit wild-looking but beautiful as well. We've had lots of birds wandering in the garden as well as the neighborhood squirrels. So far, not a lot of food, but as the plants mature, we should find we have lots to eat. Meanwhile, I've been learning about weeds that are not only beneficial to the whole ecosystem, but that are nutritious and delicious to eat as well. We'll let those grow at will and see what kind of wonderful garden we have in a few years.