Yesterday I delivered a class on food forests as part of Royal Oaks’s Horizon gardens Master Gardener’s series. I started with a quick introduction about the destructiveness of modern agriculture before explaining succession in disturbed landscapes and the productivity of edge areas. We then went outside and sheetmulched an area I have been turning into a food forest with a friend. The area is a grove of tamarillo tree’s which we had cleared of weeds and done our best to rid of wandering dew a plant which is virtually impossible to clear completely. We covered the layer of herbaceous weeds with about 15 layers of newsprint and then a 10 – 15cm thick layer of deadly nightshade and banana palms taken from the area scheduled to be developed in a few short weeks. We then covered the vegetation with a few centimetres of cosmetic hay.
During my research for the class I have come to alter my idea of the Ideal food forest, I’m now thinking that to ensure high production of edible fruit at latitude such as ours the food forest should be fairly open. This does not make the idea of a 7 layer food forest irrelevant but merely modifies it to the low light levels we experience in New Zealand compared to that needed for modern fruit trees. The Unitec food forest which I spent a lot of time working in over 2 years is very thick with almost complete canopy cover and perhaps as a result fruit yields are very poor.
Ornamental banana in food forest
Covering with paper
Covering with vegetation