Learning something else new... edible forest gardening

The pineapple sage is in bloom right now and the hummingbirds are happy (taken 16 Oct 2012)

A couple of posts ago, I wrote about learning a new word--permaculture. The concept has had me transfixed ever since. Then a couple of days ago, someone I follow on Pinterest pinned a diagram of a garden design that had a link to a blog about permaculture. I followed it and was introduced to a new concept...

Edible forest gardening!!!
"Picture yourself in a forest where almost everything around you is food. Mature and maturing fruit and nut trees form an open canopy. If you look carefully, you can see fruits swelling on many branches—pears, apples, persimmons, pecans, and chestnuts. Shrubs fill the gaps in the canopy. They bear raspberries, blueberries, currants, hazelnuts, and other lesser-known fruits, flowers, and nuts at different times of the year. Assorted native wildflowers, wild edibles, herbs, and perennial vegetables thickly cover the ground. You use many of these plants for food or medicine. Some attract beneficial insects, birds, and butterflies. Others act as soil builders, or simply help keep out weeds. Here and there vines climb on trees, shrubs, or arbors with fruit hanging through the foliage—hardy kiwis, grapes, and passionflower fruits. In sunnier glades large stands of Jerusalem artichokes grow together with groundnut vines. These plants support one another as they store energy in their roots for later harvest and winter storage. Their bright yellow and deep violet flowers enjoy the radiant warmth from the sky. This is an edible forest garden." (www.EdibleForestGardens.com)
I read the above paragraph and found it wasn't hard at all to picture myself in that setting... because that's exactly what I have when I walk out my door into my own garden! I didn't even know that's what I had going on. Not a clue.  It's just so cool to think that by simply following my inner voice and the inspiration that kept coming into my mind when I needed it most, I've created an edible forest garden over the past 12 years. It seems like it was by accident but I don't believe in accidents. I think there was a divine power at work helping me with this all along.

I thought I'd share some photos from when we first bought our house in 2000 alongside some photos I took today. It was fun for me to compare how things have changed so much.

Our barren backyard when we bought the house in 2000

A Cecile Brunner rose bush grows like a tree with the lower branches
trimmed to form a natural walkthrough pergola along the side of the house.
Loquat trees grow up through the edges of the canopy of roses to reach the sun.
(photo taken 16 Oct 2012)
River rocks and flagstone hide the drainage system that drains rainwater away from
the house to prevent flooding of the crawlspace that we used to have every winter.
Warm climate lilacs and climbing roses grow along the fence line
with vinca major that was already here growing at ground level under their canopy.
The plum tree I planted in 2001 is big and mature (upper right)
(Photo taken 16 Oct 2012)
In the back corner the cherry tree that was already here forms a canopy for partial-shade loving plants.
The branches are good for hanging bird feeders. I fill them in the winter when the bugs are less active.
I've selectively allowed cherry saplings to grow to create a thicket for privacy and shade along the fence line.
In the spring, the cherry tree is covered with ladybug babies (ladybugs typically lay eggs on the forest floor).
(Photo taken 16 Oct 2012)

A pomegranate bush had been growing here when we bought the house,
but it had been cut down to the ground. I've let it grow back tall and beautiful next to
the Santa Rosa plum I planted in 2001. Together they provide shade for the pond and
a shady place to sit and watch the fish.
(Photo taken 16 Oct 2012)
This was the same view of the back of the house in July 2000 as the view
in the photo above. Such a huge difference!
The canopy opens up on this side of the garden and lets in lots of sun.
Lavender grows in pots around a water fountain to attract pollinators and ladybugs.
A bay laurel tree grows against the fence. We can use the lavender and bay leaves
in the pantry to repel bugs like weevils away from flour.
(Photo taken 16 Oct 2012)
There wasn't anything along that fence when we bought the house in 2000

In the center of the garden is the pond that is surrounded by potted subtropical plants
including aloe for medicinal uses, palms that will become habitats for barn owls when they get taller,
and a dwarf Morro blood orange tree (right) that gives us sweet fruit along with the other citrus trees.
(Photo taken 16 Oct 2012)

Strawberries grow in raised planters and pots under the protective canopy of one of the palm trees
next to the rock waterfall that flows into one end of the pond. The strawberries like the mini marine climate.
(Photo taken 16 Oct 2012)

What still amazes me is that we can have an edible forest garden on our lot that is only 50 feet wide. That's not very wide. Yet I'm still able to feel like I'm completely removed and secluded when I'm there...

...well, except for when the neighbor turns up his radio too loud. When news talk radio is blaring over the fence, I'm reminded I'm not in a secluded locale after all. Oh well. Fortunately, I have large spans of time during the day when I can pretend.
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  1. Just dropped by to say hello:)
    What a wonderful transformation, you have worked so hard to create such a beautiful garden. An edible forest sounds a great idea.
    I wish my edibles would stop being attacked by pests.
    We have paper wasps under the carport and they love basil, mint and any edible greens. I think they might get evicted soon!
    Pity we can't get rid of noisy radios that easy, my pet dislike:(
    Have a lovely day Cindy.
    Wendy x

  2. Cindy:
    I love the pictures of your lovely yard now. Such a restful place with all the shade and gurgling water. Very tranquil.
    BTW: Did you share the story of the birds dining on the paper wasp buffet? That's a good one.

  3. Wow, that's a transformation! I'd love to create a secret garden here on the property, but we're renting at the moment, so a garden patch and a few flowers will likely be the extent of my horticultural pursuits in the short term.

  4. Cindy, that is an amazing, incredible change. It is just beautiful! It takes vision ... and lots of work. I can appreciate what you have done. Bravo!


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